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LOOKING ASKANCE - Atty. Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

That’s the second time candidate Marcos Jr. has made himself scarce for the presidential debates. After skipping a GMA News-sponsored live interview, he then proceeded to decline the KBP-organized forum, because of an alleged conflict in schedule.

What are we to make of this evasive, elusive wannabe president?

The natural conclusion is that his strategists don’t want him to appear live before an audience, be exposed to curveballs, and then perform horribly. Which shouldn’t be a real risk if the candidate was taking the time to bone up on issues and prep himself for possible questions. As with the other candidates who were ready to handle journalists’ probing inquiries into matters of state like the infrastructure projects, healthcare, and China, Marcos Jr. should have been primed to spouting glorious sound bites.

But nope, we’re not getting any of that. No catchy quips that can turn to viral memes and gifs. Nada. It’s as if it’s a foregone conclusion that Marcos Jr. will crash and burn once spotlit by inquisitive journalists. Thus, a boycott is better than damage control.

And so what have we to fall back on in assessing this candidate? There’s no microscopic scrutiny to help guide us. No critical gaze, not even a gut reaction. Just Marcos Jr.’s carefully-built public persona that has been nurtured by his publicists, an artificial construct made of social media propaganda, self-printed comic books, and adulterated children’s textbooks. And perhaps, even rumors, wishful legends, and tall tales seeded into the populace by well-oiled machinery and deep pockets?

All of that could come crashing down if he so much as utters the wrong thing. Or be subject to unfavorable side-by-side comparisons to the others who have been earnest in building up their platforms, and explaining them carefully. So we have nothing except a carefully controlled narrative about Marcos Jr.

But this is a problem if he does become president of this republic. Where will he be during the tough times that will surely come and test this nation? What will he say to the countrymen who are looking to him for leadership? How will he account for controlling the national coffers? For deploying our national wealth? For maximizing our natural resources?

Will he step up and face the governed, and assure them that all is well, that the worst has been squarely met in the eye, and that better times are ahead? Or will he attend a cooking show instead, and give the electorate his recipe for some quaint family dish?

My previous column (Robredo enemies, Jan. 31) listed a few ills this country must face, and that Vice President Leni Robredo identified as necessary to vanquish. The trollish comments that piece received online focused on my use of the word “stellar” to describe Robredo’s performance in the debate, rather than on the substance of the column --the various challenges we indeed face. None of them disagreed that those were indeed vital issues that need addressing. They just wanted to rip apart the very idea that VP Leni was stellar.

Which probably underscores the importance of perception in deciding this election. It’s all about building up or pulling down a candidate, and brainwashing the uninformed. The path towards this presidency will be all about shaping image in the minds of the voters, rather than a dedicated quest to be the best.

That’s not how we judge beauty pageant contestants. Those candidates go through the eye of a needle, aside from the eyes of many lechers. They have to disrobe, flaunt all their assets, be grilled about abortion, same-sex marriage, and world peace, and shine in front of the lens of a critical, global audience. Yet, we get less than that from candidate Marcos Jr. Much, much less.

I bet Catriona or Pia would do better in this electoral exercise.

GMA

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