Leni is VP but BBM won differently

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

It is best for Bongbong Marcos not to contest anymore the results of the 2016 vice presidential race, in which he lost to Leni Robredo by a mere 263,473 votes. Understandably, such a slim margin can be difficult to live down, and it is not just because of the amount of time, money, and effort he spent in the campaign but of what it all means to him. Nevertheless, while he did lose the vice presidency, Bongbong actually emerged a far bigger winner in something much more significant.

Consider this: At no time in the campaign, in fact, at no time in his post-martial law political life has there been any let-up in attempts to weigh him down for being the son of his father, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Bongbong is forever a marked man in a country that, for all its Christian pretentions, never really knows how to forgive freely and unconditionally.

Thus, the entire campaign against Bongbong was never about his capability, or the lack of it, to hold office as vice president. By the same token, it was also never about Leni's own qualifications for the same position. Always - whether in debates, interviews, analyses and commentaries - the issue was about martial law and Bongbong being a Marcos, and Leni for being on the opposite side of it all.

The vice presidential election thus became not a contest for the most qualified person to fill the second highest office in the land but a referendum about how Filipinos still regard Marcos and martial law exactly 30 years after he fell and all democratic institutions had been put back in place. Reduced to such simplicity, it came as no surprise therefore that Leni Robredo would win.

But her winning is not the story. What is really amazing in the outcome, what is truly remarkable in the result, what is clearly the more compelling narrative, is the manner in which Leni won - she won by nothing more substantial than the skin of her teeth. In other words, she barely escaped with the victory. The election could have gone either way.

The total official count in favor of Leni is 14,418,817 votes. The official count in favor of Bongbong is 14,156,344 votes. That makes for a difference of only 263,473 votes. It is a margin so slim even a cock will not crow about it. To put that into perspective - there are more people in the towns of Minglanilla, Cordova, and Consolacion, all in the province of Cebu, than the number of votes separating Leni and Bongbong.

Considering that the vice presidential race had become a nationwide referendum on Marcos and martial law and, considering further, that Marcos and martial law were supposed to have been the darkest chapters in this nation's history, for Leni to escape with only the slimmest of victories is, to put it fairly, the biggest blow against the continuing spin spun against Marcos and martial law.

That, to me, is the real story of the vice presidential race. It is not about Leni winning but about how Bongbong, despite the Marcos and martial law baggage he carried, took the contest to a point where, but for the votes of no more than three fairly-sized towns, he could have actually won. The results of the VP election constitute a political statement that is as forceful as it is unequivocal.

You cannot abide by the results of the vice presidential election only in the aspect of it that Leni won. You also have to abide by it in what it says about the Marcos and martial law issues. And what the VP race says about these issues is that enough is enough. This country cannot forever be nailed to things that happened in the past, no matter how painful they may have been.

This is not to say that, judging by the results of the election, this country must now forget Marcos and martial law. No, far from it. What the results of the election show is that there are enough people in this country who would rather move on and perhaps find their chances in a new tomorrow, instead of being hobbled by a past from which this country has clearly never learned any lessons from.

This country has carried this chip on its shoulder for far too long. It has been 30 years since democracy was restored in this country, a democracy that is far more free-wheeling than many of its own neighbors. Begun by an Aquino, it is about to close another chapter with another Aquino. Yet the curse of a dark past continues to hound us. Maybe it is because we simply refuse to see the light.

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