Light a candle

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Imelda Marcos lost to Fidel Ramos in the 1992 presidential race, and her only son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr. lost in his bids for the Senate in 1995 and for the vice presidency in 2016.

Instead of wallowing in the despair of defeat, the clan picked itself up and kept aiming for the top prize no less: total vindication, through Ferdinand Marcos 2.0.

The success of this never-say-die attitude should inspire the camps not only of the kakampinks but also those of Marcos’ other opponents not to give up on their advocacies.

Their common campaign theme is good governance. Instead of being weakened by the majority mandate of the victor, an administration whose matriarch is Imelda Marcos deserves greater and sustained scrutiny for any abuse of power and misuse or theft of people’s money.

Believing it to be the main issue against Marcos redux, the fight against corruption was a key campaign message not only of Vice President Leni Robredo but also of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao and labor leader Leody de Guzman.

If the message about the importance of good governance to ordinary lives didn’t resonate among 58 percent of voters, the losers should simply try harder to get the message across.

The effort should be as focused and organized as the campaign for full rehabilitation of the Marcos name.

*    *    *

Bongbong Marcos had his eyes on the prize even before he ran for vice president. From his political career trajectory, you could see he was eager to follow in dad’s footsteps.

Imeldific also made no secret of her wish to see her only son bring the Marcoses back to their home of 20 years, Malacañang.

All the while, they were already busy presenting their version of the Marcos years to the people, using the media platforms most heavily used by Filipino information consumers.

By the time the keepers of the anti-dictatorship flame noticed, it was too late. Even today, correction of the revisionism is just starting to gather steam.

This can be attributed in part to the disorganization in the non-administration ranks, aggravated by the resounding rejection of the opposition Otso Diretso slate in the 2019 Senate race.

Robredo, probably trying to avoid the fate of presidential aspirants who declared their intentions early, and under relentless criticism by President Duterte and his minions that she was gunning to replace him, hemmed and hawed about her plans until the eleventh hour.

She could have listened to her supporter Antonio Trillanes, who kept egging her even before 1Sambayan was organized to announce her bid already, so that the campaign could be organized against Marcos who, even in early surveys, was looming as a formidable opponent.

But Robredo probably had in mind the come-from-behind landslide win of Duterte in 2016, after he also declared his presidential bid even beyond the deadline for the regular filing of candidacy.

Robredo’s belated entry in the race sealed the fracture within the non-administration camp. All the pent-up bitterness gushed out in that unfortunate Easter Sunday press conference of Lacson and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno (with Pacquiao spared by fate from attending).

In contrast, the administration forces showed discipline, unity and humility within their ranks. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, despite enjoying higher ratings than Bongbong Marcos, agreed to slide down to the VP race, disappointing her father who initially lambasted an unnamed “weak” cocaine user aspiring for the presidency.

Duterte’s niño bonito and preferred successor, Sen. Bong Go, broke down in tears after Inday Sara scuttled his aspirations first for the presidency and then for VP. But Bong Go also dutifully fell in line behind Daughterte, and so did his faction in the PDP-Laban.

The Commission on Elections, packed 100 percent with Duterte appointees, also fell in line, redefining tax dodging and moral turpitude. The Comelec then awarded the party co-founded by Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel to fight the Marcos dictatorship to the party faction that supports Ferdinand Jr.

*    *    *

This resounding defeat at the hands of Marcos Jr. should be a wake-up call to the so-called genuine opposition and non-administration forces to get their act together.

The dramatic 1986 people power revolt spoiled the anti-Marcos opposition. Many analysts have lamented that the post-EDSA leaders behaved as if everything would fall into place after the revolt, and neglected the heavy lifting needed for strengthening democratic institutions and building a strong republic.

There was no follow-through on Corazon Aquino’s stand for justice first before reconciliation; the justices handling the Marcos cases, unfortunately, were easily compromised.

People power icon Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin often lamented the self-serving kanya-kanya attitude that dominated post-EDSA Philippines.

Last Thursday I asked former defense chief Gilbert Teodoro to assess the voters’ choices for this year’s Senate race. Teodoro, a nephew of Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco, previously said he assisted lawyer Estelito Mendoza in Bongbong Marcos’ tax-related disqualification case.

Teodoro is one of the members of the UniTeam Senate slate who failed to make it, but he told us on One News’ “The Chiefs” that he was elated to have garnered some 12 million votes.

Did he see a common thread in the voters’ preferences for the Senate? His reply: a repudiation of the post-EDSA narrative.

*    *    *

This year’s losers must remember that the greatest victories can spring from the worst defeats.

Bongbong Marcos is a good example of this, and a constant reminder that reversal of fortune is possible.

The campaign for good governance transcends administrations. Perhaps the Marcos comeback would lead to a more aggressive campaign to increase public awareness of why everyone is better off with a clean government without crony capitalism, where the rule of law and meritocracy prevail.

Any such effort should include imparting to Filipinos notions of civic responsibility, and what the government takes from their earnings in terms of value-added tax on the most basic necessities for survival: water, food, electricity, fuel, medicine.

Any taxpayer should feel outrage when tax money is misspent or stolen, and when billionaires evade taxes.

A nation where poverty incidence is at 23.7 percent with 9.9 percent at the subsistence level, which hands the coalition of the richest dynasts the reins to consolidate and expand their mind-boggling wealth (whether unexplained or legit) is headed for perdition.

With proper strategy, determination and organization, and learning from mistakes, the battle for good governance can still be won.

For now, have a good cry; it is de-stressing. When the tears have dried, forge ahead. Don’t let that passion manifested in the campaign go to waste. More than ever, the times call for the passion for reforms to be kept alive.

When darkness falls, light a candle.


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