“IT’S not the end of the world,” I keep repeating to myself.
These are comforting words I usually reserve for many like-minded others and now dispense around liberally as a Rodrigo Duterte presidency becomes inevitable. But I wonder if any comfort would be had in those words if Ferdinand Marcos Jr.—who, after all, led early in the count—beat Leni Robredo, the latest leader, in the race for Vice President.
Perhaps clutching at straws, I find great consolation that Mar Roxas came in second, beating Grace Poe. For me it’s proof enough Mar acted rather decisively “for country” when he offered that he and Grace unite, an offer she brusquely dismissed on the mere presumption she would be asked to sacrifice for him.
Forced to good
If Duterte at that point had been past beating, Leni, who had for a poor-performing rival a provincemate of hers and the running mate as well of Grace, might, by some common strategy, have been spared an uphill battle against Marcos. But again, I suppose, it was too much to expect in an election so bitterly contested it ripped families apart.
On election morning, at any rate, my husband and I realized we had focused all our efforts almost exclusively on the presidential and vice-presidential contests, such that we had to cram preparing to draw up an entire list of choices.
Apart from Mar’s case, the outcome of two local elections broke my heart: in Makati, where we live and vote; and in Manila, where I have sentimental ties. We had had a good chance to deal a decisive blow against two political dynasties. The heartbreak in these cases causes a particular pain, because the counts came to a margin of a few suspicious thousands.
In the end, victors and vanquished, in the national contests in particular, came together expressing unity for country, a cue that their followers hopefully pick up—“forced to good,” as Vergel would say.
But listening to Duterte’s defeated vice-presidential candidate, Cayetano, still incumbent senator, worries me. On television, in a tone I found rather threatening, he announces that everybody and everything, including Congress, will have to do things “Duterte-style,” which he describes as “efficient and fast.”
I anxiously wonder, at what cost?
The man who follows Duterte like a shadow, Bong Go, for his part, tells a chilling tale about an office that didn’t do things Duterte-style: It was closed down, and everyone, from boss to janitor, fired.
A congressman-elect from Davao and a Gloria Arroyo Cabinet man, Pantaleon Alvarez, warns even before he can become Duterte’s dream Speaker of the House that Duterte’s “urgent” bills better be acted upon fast, starting with the return of the death penalty.
I did get a text meant no doubt to reassure me from one of Duterte’s childhood friends, an old friend of ours, too, Sonny Dominguez: “Rody will work hard to improve the quality of life of all, especially the disadvantaged.”
I have no reason to doubt my texting friend’s intentions. If only things were up to him indeed! But his promise is as nebulous as just about anything that has come from Duterte.
In fact what I’ve heard from him that has stuck is all scary—words that, as Vergel describes them to a BBC correspondent who came to ask, mock “not only civility and decency, but the rule of law and democracy itself.”
I almost wish to God he had been less than honest, that they were just campaign gimmicks, as his supporters would like us to believe. But then that would make him a liar and a fraud and would make things probably even worse. When then can I believe him and when not?
This close to triumph
As it is, I’m already having a hard time erasing the memory of the Skype chat between Duterte and Joma Sison, the aging absentee communist who probably never imagined he would ever find a Duterte in his lifetime to proselytize and use. Not even the bombing of Plaza Miranda brought him this close to triumph.
Anyway, whether Duterte was joking or not, Joma is holding him to his promise to visit him in Utrecht, even before his inauguration, to draw up a joint agenda. Apparently already feeling as much a winner, Joma urges Duterte, who calls him “Sir,” to arrest outgoing President Aquino and his Budget Secretary, Butch Abad, for plunder in the misallocation of the budget, among other expectations.
I’m shaking in my boots remembering Duterte’s threat to declare a revolutionary government and abolish Congress. But Nene Pimentel has found his man. Another old man who understandably can hardly wait, Nene has found a President to share his federalism dream.
All these changes seem too dangerously drastic to me. They seem to create an atmosphere of crisis that smacks too much of an imitation of the TV movie “Our Brand is Crisis,” and we all know how it ends—in spectacular tragedy.
When I listen to the men around the presumptive President, I am neither consoled nor appeased. Rather, I’m watching out for the devil in the details, which will make all the difference.
I think I’ll take it easy with my it’s-not-the-end-of-the-world counsel.