New Kid On The Block

by Juan L. Mercado

“Do not look  at the heavens  through a bamboo reed.”  Can  we use  this Meiji-era Japanese proverb to consider the mixed bag that the May 13 elections dumped?

Ma. Leonor Robredo never thought of seeking elective office. Things changed after her husband, the respected Interior Secretary and former Naga Mayor Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash. People kept badgering her to run for Camarines Sur’s 3rd district.

She did and trounced her politically entrenched rival: the Villafuertes. Headed by Luis and Nelly, Villafuertes dominated for almost 40 years.  Robredo dismantled that with 102,694 votes. Villafuerte’s  well-funded machine scraped up 31,364.

Grace Poe shattered the survey crystal  bowls  when she topped the 2013 senatorial race. And Vice-President Jojo Binay suddenly broke  into cold sweat.  The Makati  kingpin  reveled in being touted, by Erap,  Juan Ponce Enrile and syncophants, as “the next president”.  That’d collapse like a pack of cards, if Grace Poe ran.

Going for the presidency in 2016 didn’t cross Poe’s mind.  But she’s  aware of  the track record. The late Chino Roces rounded up  a million signatures urging a reluctant Cory to run.  P-Noy had his arms twisted, before he signed on.

Suppose Grace Poe runs. Flustered would be a mild term for Binay — and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. Both know that history has a replay button.

In Makati, Senator-elect Nancy Binay  came in  third, garnering 165,666 votes,. Grace Poe topped  the Senate in  Binay “heartland” — where control levers  are kept  in family hands. Binay served as  mayor for two terms, Rappler notes. Wife Elenita held the job from 1998 to 2001. Son Junjun begins his second term as mayor. His daughter, Mar-Len Abigail, will be a second-term representative for Makati’s 2nd district.

Until Grace Poe emerged, the 2016 contest seemed locked into Binay vs. Roxas: “That’s Scylla and Charybdis, that’s a rock and a hard place, that’s the devil and the deep blue sea”, Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros wrote. We’ve got three years to change things, we’ve got three years to look for an alternative. Otherwise, we won’t be going back to the future. We’ll be rushing forward to the past.”

We’d be also “looking at the heavens thru a bamboo reed” if these political changes are seen in isolation.

Some political dynasties have crumbled, Inquirer’s Solita Monsod notes. That includes:  Garcias in Cebu, Fuas in Siquijor,  Antoninos in South Cotabato and  Jalosjoses in the three Zamboangas. Will they be accountable for past  lapses? No  basta  decir  adios. “It ‘s not enough to say good-bye.”

Other dynasties were  sapped by  partial losses: Josons  in Nueva Ecija, Tañadas in Quezon, Sumulongs in Rizal, Teveses in Negros Oriental,  Dazas in North Samar, Villarosas in Occidental Mindoro,  plus Tupases in Iloilo,   Some dynasties are  emerging: Pacquiaos in Sarangani and  Alvarezes in Palawan. In  37 provinces, dynasties still “look at the heavens with a bamboo reed.”  But disapproval is rising.

Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu rode a Simba armored personnel carrier, escorted by a military convoy, to his proclamation as Governor of Maguindanao, reports  Mindanews Carol Arguillas. Three years  back,  a Simba also  ferried him to oath taking.

No one bitched. Mangudadatu’s wife, sisters, relatives plus 32 journalists from the media were slain November 2009 in Maguindanao. “It was the worst pre-election violent incident in Philippine history and the worst worldwide in terms of the number of media workers killed in a single incident.”

Mangudadatu’s running mate, Dustin Mastura, who ran against Andal Ampatuan, Sr. won 173,111 votes against Ampatuan’s 142,783. “The political foes in 2010 had become allies by 2013”.

A “two-year window of opportunity” to ram thru measures to consolidate initial reforms has opened for the administration with it’s 9-3  poll victory  Key measures from a new mining law, to completion of the Bangsa Moro peace talks have a better chance now, write Romeo Bernardo and Marie Christine Tang for Global Source Partners.

“There’s  little risk of  Aquino becoming a lame duck president (soon), they note. He should hit the ground running when the new Congress opens…”

“Poverty is the worst form of violence,”  Ghandi  wrote. Today, 28 out of every 100 Filipinos scrounge below national poverty lines — unchanged over the last six years, says the latest National Statistical Coordination Board data.

About 20 percent of the poorest get  six percent of total national income. The “upper crust” of 20 percent  corners nearly half  of the total national income  You see that in slum families or  scrawny kids cadging for a handout. “Children from the poorest households run twice the risk of dying before age five.

Aquino’s ace-in-the-hand is  unsullied personal integrity.  He must harness that as his new team  grapple with what Historian Barbara Tuchman called the “tyranny of the urgent”. The capacity to govern, she said, is sapped by sapped by interlocking crises. Overwhelmed by today’s demands, “few can plan for tomorrow.”

Filipinos were the first to wage People Power with cell phones. Today, there are 106.9 million cell phones in use. Internet access is 21 percent — and rising  slowly. This audience is monitoring  Binay, Roxas — and the new kid on the block:  Grace Poe.

What lies ahead?  Banquo wistfully complained to Macbeth:“If you can look into the seeds of time. And say/Which grain will grow and which will not”.


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