Yorme and Doc

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

As of yesterday, there was no more trotting out by Malacañang of half-naked photos of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno from his show biz days.

The last one gained Moreno more fans so perhaps the Palace has decided to be circumspect this time.

As for Moreno’s fielding of a cardiologist against veteran politician Rodrigo Duterte, the Palace announced that the President had already signed the certificate of acceptance and nomination as vice presidential bet of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, a.k.a. the PDP-Laban, the party founded by the late senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel to fight the Marcos dictatorship.

Pimentel’s son and namesake, Sen. Koko Pimentel, chairs a faction of the PDP-Laban that has picked Sen. Manny Pacquiao as its standard bearer in 2022.

Among the presidential aspirants, only ex-scavenger Yorme Isko has a compelling rags-to-prominence life story that can compete with the equally compelling rags-to-riches story of boxing billionaire Manny Pacquiao. Both picked themselves up literally from the gutter and realized their full potential.

What people think of Moreno’s decision to seek the presidency will be reflected in the coming days in the number of politicians who will gravitate toward his party that was founded by the late senator Raul Roco, Aksyon Demokratiko, referred to as the current “Volkswagen party” because of its tiny membership.

Thanks to Yorme Isko, this is rapidly changing, according to the party’s chairman, Ernest Ramel Jr. On One News’ “The Chiefs” last Wednesday, Ramel told us that there was already a line of people wanting to join Aksyon Demokratiko.

There are also those who are not (yet) joining but have expressed their support for Moreno’s presidential bid, among them the Nacionalistas’ Ralph Recto and former senator Serge Osmeña. Clearly, they don’t agree with those who think Moreno is still too “green” for the presidency.

Recto, currently the Senate president pro tempore, brushed aside the breaking of the traditional pairing of a candidate from Luzon with someone from either the Visayas or Mindanao in the tandem of Moreno and Dr. Willie Ong, both of whom were born and bred in Tondo, Manila, although on different sides of the tracks.

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The selection of Doc Willie as Yorme’s running mate is generating excitement in the vice presidential race. Ramel told us that someone even described the move as “genius.”

We know what is causing the excitement: a cardiologist-internist, a health frontliner in this pandemic, is taking on Rodrigo Duterte as well as Senate President Tito Sotto, the veteran politician who is the running mate of Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Doc Willie is no newbie in politics. He placed 18th in the 2019 Senate race with 7,616,265 votes, garnering the highest number among overseas Filipinos with 15,656 votes. He now has 16 million followers on social media.

Healthcare workers have been neglected in this administration, even during the pandemic, Doc Willie said at the formal launch of his tandem with Moreno.

President Duterte, in his latest rant to the nation, admitted giving priority to the welfare of soldiers and cops, who are the frontliners in his administration’s priority program: eliminating drug personalities, communist rebels and sympathizers.

Doctors and nurses, left behind in the government’s priorities, exhausted, underpaid and exposed to Delta-driven breakthrough infections, are leaving hospitals in droves in the middle of a raging killer COVID surge.

Duterte has ordered the military and police to assist even private hospitals that now face acute shortages of healthcare workers. The Philippine National Police itself, however, is grappling with COVID among its personnel, and is also in need of HCWs.

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The launch of the Moreno-Ong tandem raises questions about the prospects for fielding a common opposition candidate and the plans of Vice President Leni Robredo.

A convenor of the 1Sambayan opposition coalition, Etta Rosales, personally does not consider Mayor Isko an opposition personality. Moreno’s criticisms of Duterte stem from personal affronts, Rosales notes. Even Doc Willie is for the restoration of capital punishment – something that is anathema to human rights advocates in 1Sambayan.

Recto has a more pragmatic take on this: anyone fielded against administration candidates is part of the opposition, he told The Chiefs.

Moreno is promising to be a “healing president” for this divided nation: a message that, combined with his running mate who is a healer by profession, is capturing the imagination of certain segments of society.

As of Wednesday night, there was no comment from Malacañang about the Moreno-Ong tandem. Yesterday, pressed for a reaction, the Palace simply repeated its comment on Pacquiao’s presidential aspirations: anyone has a right to run.

Maybe the Palace is still ruminating on the significance of Doc Willie being pitted against Duterte. Or maybe the administration genuinely belittles the chances of Doc Willie at the polls.

*      *      *

At Wednesday’s harangue, Duterte devoted an hour to lambasting Richard Gordon, the Red Cross and the Senate, spewing vitriol that sounded like it was running in a loop.

Duterte was apparently livid about the Senate’s detention of Pharmally executive Linconn Ong, and of Gordon fighting back and calling him a “cheap politician” who is not worthy of public respect.

There is an admonition that we should pick our enemies. In going after Gordon, Duterte is also training his guns on the Philippine Red Cross. But people who have gone through the nightmare of COVID will tell you that the PRC happens to be one of the few bright spots in the pandemic response in this country.

Even Duterte’s potshot at Gordon’s face displayed on PRC vehicles, although a valid observation, falls flat when delivered with one of the country’s top epals by the President’s side.

Perhaps after being stung over the reactions to its brandishing of Moreno’s show biz photos and insults heaped on Pacquiao, the Palace has lost its appetite for denigrating rivals in 2022… at least for now. And Duterte is genuinely focused on Gordon, who hasn’t officially announced any political plan yet for 2022, although he has expressed openness to a second stab at the presidency.

The 2016 race offers a lesson in picking one’s targets.

In that contest, the administration threw everything including the kitchen sink at early frontrunner Jejomar Binay, and later fed doubts on the citizenship (plus campaign donors) of Grace Poe. And the one who emerged victorious out of left field was… Rodrigo Duterte.


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