Two Morenos, Alma and Isko, made it to the list of the Top 25 senatorial candidates, according to surveys. Why?
I’ve already given up trying to figure out how Manny Pacquiao got elected congressman and why, despite his dismal attendance record (he appeared in Congress only four times), he’s still among the Top 10 senators. Have I any reason to doubt that, if he appears at the Senate five times, he will be rewarded with the presidency next?
I’ve made an effort to try to understand us as voters in relation to candidates like Pacquiao, and from the deepest and kindest place in my heart I’ve come up with a few possibly useful observations.
By the very nature of our lopsided society, the masa constitute an overwhelming majority of our voters. And their numbers are yet steadily increased not only by the natural process of birth but also by other forms of addition, such as when some of the middle class slip into the ranks of the poor.
A teacher paid P50,000 a month (a salary only an exclusive school can afford to pay) brings home only P35,000 after tax; on the other hand, one who makes P10 million brings home P7 million, thus well-hedged. It seems only wealth is the sure hedge against poverty.
Only suddenly remembered at election time, the masa may just take their revenge by doing something memorable; they may take the ultimate gamble with their vote and go for either of two types of candidate. In the first type belong the plunderer who promises to share his loot with them and the dark character who promises quick fixes, summary executions in the interest of peace and order not necessarily excluded.
In the second type belongs the candidate who has a clean record, although only because it’s an empty one; the untested candidate who makes the same rosy-future promises as the others, although has yet to break them; the miracle worker who offers them the shortest cut by “lifting them all together out of poverty in one go.”
It is this last character, this self-styled sort of messiah, that particularly intrigues me. A foundling, she would seem to possess just the right mass appeal. What particularly puzzles me about her is the great tardiness in her search for her mother or father. I’ve always thought that solving that mystery is every adopted child’s first instinct.
As happens, our character seems to have begun looking in earnest only when she became interested in the presidency. And the effort, even then, smacks of protracted theatrics—or why would she be looking at the unlikeliest suspects?
If our choices for leaders have come down to shadowy characters and mysterious unknowns, we must be in graver trouble than we think. Every Third World election, such as in our case, is a moral fight, which presents an irony for us, the only Christian society in these parts. As my husband puts it, “Our religion is not Catholicism; our religion is fatalism; Catholicism has been largely reduced to rituals, and any sense of morality has tended to be lost in them.”
Maybe that’s why the Filipino voter is still looking for a candidate with that sentimental and irrational attraction called “dating.”
Compared, on the other hand, with the charges his rivals face— charges already proved or needing little or no proving—those they throw at another candidate look like nothing: bland, rather slow to decide, disassociated with the poor. He has never been poor himself; he cannot look poor or crude. He’s also not just well educated but well schooled, thus tending to be fastidious. Anyway, in or out of politics he’s the same man.
Fortunately for us, heaven can’t seem to keep its hands off our elections—my husband has this theory about “accidental presidencies,” and he prefers that presidency, or leadership, be homegrown. I myself prefer to look at such accidents as divine interventions, whether for punishment or reward.
And to me, only Leni Robredo comes close to a leader delivered by divine intervention; her late husband, Jesse, would have made a good president himself, but she is running for vice president herself, not president, although again that’s promising enough.
Heaven usually reserves its miracles only for presidencies. But, when heaven does show its hand, the phenomenon can be quite clear and dramatic. Who can forget the impact of Edsa or of Ninoy’s funeral, which gave us Cory, or her own funeral, which gave us Noynoy?
I wonder what’s up the divine sleeve come May: plague or manna?