Saturday, May 7, 2016

To Die For Digong

You need to understand. Mayor is our heart and soul. He protected us. He is not a dictator and he listens to us. That's why we are emotional. He is like our father, he will do anything to make his children safe from any harm, he provides what we want and he understand what we need.

Please excuse us if we are too affected and emotional.

Again you will never understand cause you are not from Davao and you haven't been there.


Let me tell you a story of a boy who grew up in a city in the south. This city has known peace since the time he blossomed into manhood. He feels safe when he walks down the streets even at past midnight. Local businesses are booming despite the conflicts in the restive regions of the island, and social institutions, like hospitals and schools actually serve the needs of the public. Even the jails for women are clean and well-maintained. There is a stand-by response team for fires and other emergencies. While issues of poverty or petty crimes still persist, there is a pervading sense of order. Mayor makes sure everyone follows the law. He doesn't steal. He lives a frugal life. He drives a taxi from time to time to hear personally what the people need. Impressive feat, in a country where most politicians feel entitled as they go on with the business of governing.

This boy, by stroke of luck, had to relocate. In the imperial capital where everything is a mess. Road gridlock makes commuting a daily pain. Trains break down all the time. His phone gets snatched, his wallet, stolen. Hospitals and schools operate beyond capacity. Corruption is rampant, the elite feels they own everything. The government protects its interest, unlike in the south where he feels the city serves its citizens. He had thoughts of giving up, to return to his homeland if not for the good pay. Then one day, the Mayor decides to run for President. The boy knew him well, like how he knew his own father: Imperfect, but effective. Reasonable, but applies discipline when needed. Protective to the point of using measures, outsiders will frown upon. 

Overnight, he dons his colors to campaign for the man. This is our Mayor, and change is coming.

Unfortunately, I am not the boy and in my eyes, I will never see what the Mayor has done for his city. Perhaps, his accomplishments are possible given its small population. Maybe, they knew him, like an old patriarch who they must follow like obedient children. I do not know. And often I do not care. Except that from time to time, I remind myself to spare his city when portraying the Mayor as the candidate who shouldn't be the next president.

He doesn't represent me. That, I posted on my Twitter account.

And for a number of reasons.

For one, he kills drug peddlers. This is all over the news. Even the Human Rights Watch has confirmed this. What if his death squad mistakes an innocent teen from a drug pusher? Who will account for the life that had been lost? Then he curses and treats women like sex objects. One that should be seen as conquests, and not partners in progress. He also doesn't mind engaging diplomats in verbal spats. Remember what he said to the Australian and the United States ambassadors after the rape joke? The Mayor doesn't even have the social niceties when describing countries and their local problems. I won't be surprised of the diplomatic snubs should he becomes the next leader. Whispers also tell of his allegiance with the Communists, his alliance with Beijing, and his plans of giving up the islands in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for a railway system in Mindanao. There is so much to tell that would make me a hater, but nothing compares to the brutality of his supporters - some personal acquaintances - who have marked me as the enemy because I speak against the Mayor.

Only a few nights ago, a friend of a friend suggested that I should consult a doctor implying that I was mad. He had the gall to block me, then speak my name when I can't read it on his Twitter feed. Fortunately, word had reached me through a concerned friend. Screen-capping his comment, I posted the update on my Twitter account for his barkada to find out. There was also another friend, of a friend, who told me through a sub tweet that I was an animal who had no achievements. This was after I told his bet that he's "yawa" for duping his supporters. When confronted about his remarks, he didn't reply to my direct message, letting his friends instead to speak on his behalf.  

Rabid dogs without balls.

If there is one thing I've learned this election, it is that politics is personal. What you say against a person who speak out against your chosen will stay after the ballots have been counted. No doubt, I will remember what they said, not because of the Mayor and his forgettable antics. But because of how I was treated by boys whose choice of candidate I never judged. So much for helping me appreciate who their Mayor is.

Fortunately, there are people who are patient enough to reach out - not to win my vote - but to see their mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, in a better light. They are the ones who shaped this entry, and by extension, my personal assessment of their candidate. It helps too, that my favorite Aunt is for the Mayor. It is because of her that I was able to distinguish the trolls from genuine supporters. She may hate the candidate I am supporting, but it doesn't change my fondness for her.

So is my willingness to recognize her leader.

If surveys are indication of who the next leader is, Digong will be the next President of the Republic. It will upset the rest, while vindicating those who stood with him, including the fictional boy in this entry who yearns nothing but a better Philippines. Being the outsider who is suspicious of those I don't know, and for the trolls who have hurt so many instead of trying to create bridges of understanding, the Mayor will not get my vote. But deep down, my sincere wish is to one day send a message to the men who overlooked my hatred and tell them I was wrong and they are right.

That beneath the facade, their Mayor has nothing but love for this nation.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Saving Grace

I might have thought this was an exaggeration if I had not caught that report by Aladdin Bacolodan in the news. Bacolodan had gone to the place where FPJ spent his last moments on earth, the studio where he gasped his last while hosting a party. In a corner of the studio was a huge pile of goods that FPJ had been collecting, which reportedly cost him a pretty penny and which he meant to distribute to the typhoon victims. None of the goods carried a label, least of all FPJ's name, on them. The cartons were unmarked completely. Based on his interviews with people close to FPJ, Bacolodan reported that FPJ was like that: he refused to advertise himself when he gave.

Conrado de Quiros

The ties that bind are strong.

Once, in the brashness of my youth, I did invoke her father's name when I thought of a headline that perfectly fits the breaking news. It was on the day he announced his presidential bid. Elated to know that there is someone who stood against the oppressive incumbent, I asked for my dad's approval (the publisher) when I put in bold and capital letters "The King For President" on the front page of our newspaper. I knew I would break a cardinal rule in Journalism, and even sought the wisdom of a teacher in my university for assurance. With hesitation, I was able to secure his blessing, and from the day we openly supported him through a thinly-veiled banner story, we were the only tabloid to be welcomed with open arms by FPJ in his campaign sorties. 

He lost that election and died while repacking relief goods for the disaster-stricken a few years later. But it didn't stop his adopted daughter in following his footsteps when she ran for senator nearly a decade after his passing. With her father's defeat in the hands of a cheating president still fresh in the nation's collective memory, the daughter gained the highest number of votes in the last election.

The father was at long last, vindicated.

The daughter did quite well as a legislator. She was calm and collected and lead a number of Senate hearings that improved her standing among political observers. There was no doubt the future is bright for the King's daughter, and this was reflected in the surveys a year before the coming election. 

The president even stepped up to broker a power deal that would groom her to become the next leader of the country - in 2022. 

The problem, however, is the unchecked ambition. It blinds people. It makes you believe that your anointment (from certain groups with vested interests or ambivalent gods who have nothing to do with the daily lives of men, whichever comes first in your head) is self-evident that you tend to overlook your limitations that make you undeserving of a promotion. In her case, this promotion is to lead a nation of over 100 million people. A task that may require a lifetime of experience, or a vision that springs from the depths of one's soul.

Personally, I don't find either.

And in spite of her lacking accomplishments, or of years of residence required to become a legitimate President, or of a strong party that will support her candidacy, Grace Poe, decided to repeat what her father did believing that time is ripe to claim what has been theirs all along. It would have been a fitting narrative in a political drama that is the Philippine elections, except that her personal storyline - believable or not - may never have a happy ending once the business of running the government drags her family name down the drain. 

I have heard of her campaign platform - mostly improvements in the programs that are already being applied by the government. Except for the passing of the freedom of information bill, a creation of a separate cabinet for Information and Communications Technology, and acquisition of more trains for a metropolis with serious infrastructure problems, all I heard were motherhood statements: Populist blabber that is good to hear, but lacking substance on paper. So far, I have yet to digest some attainable ideas on job creation, protection of overseas Filipino workers' rights, or even steps to defend our islands in the West Philippine Sea. She has yet to say something on climate change, the promotion of the agricultural sector, or even how to improve the quality of education in the country.

Silly as it may sound but his father was even worse. Not a single chance he graced the media for an interview. He turned down the national debates, and instead appeared on makeshift stages to charm the folks who knew him as the Panday. And even in the absence of experience or ideas on how to govern a nation, He would still have my vote if I had the privilege to cast it in 2004.

Because I knew he would bring decency and honor back in the government.

Given this revelation, and the occasional rage on social media every time I read Grace fumbling in the face of newsmakers, I still keep a soft spot when I look at the lady and recall her good father. Ms. Poe may not have my vote this time, but I can live under her leadership, certain that she would never step over my rights, or hear opponents disappearing into the dead of the night.