It takes one good man in the presidency to get us at least hoping again, no small triumph in itself. It’s been a while since we had someone with the moral ascendancy to lead the fight against the national contagion, corruption and, its running complication, poverty.
The poor themselves may not really recognize their true champion. All these years, after all, they have allowed themselves, for short-term gain, to become politicians’ tools, even as they actually end up their long-term victims. And few may have done them worse than Joseph Estrada, who, although now a convicted, if pardoned, plunderer, is able still to pass himself off as champion of the poor. No one has been more successful at making political profit out of one’s box-office popularity.
You’d think the detention on charges of high crime of the very president who pardoned him and the impeachment of her own midnight-appointed chief justice—not to mention, the people-power ousting of Ferdinand Marcos, dictator for 14 years, in 1986, and of Estrada himself, president for two, in 1991—were enough to alert the nation to the likes of them. But, no, they in fact ride on—and not into the sunset either. And the most conspicuous of them is Estrada, this time running for mayor of Manila.
Looking younger than 75, he has confessed to being better held together by the rejuvenating magic of stem cells. In a TV interview recently, he offered “a new leadership to the city,” a promise hardly intelligible, never mind credible, dribbling out of his mouth. Stem cells apparently failed to correct his drunken-like slur, which in fact seemed thicker.
A new leadership! Whah! (as Madame Miriam might herself remark if Erap were to her a persona non grata.) I myself thought the phrase the punch line, although I couldn’t quite decide which was the funnier word—new or leadership.
But what is there left for Erap to do after having entrenched his dynasty in San Juan other than to covet another city as he would another woman? He definitely isn’t out of heirs, but all seats are taken in San Juan. Anyway, he seems the type for whom the grass is always greener and the women prettier on the other side.
But, again, what is it about power that drives men and women to hold on to it even when their turn is past, even if the mere coattails of power are all there’s left to clutch? Is it that without power they feel they’re nothing?
Nevertheless, let’s not get demoralized. A new fashion has hit town. Its material is dirty linen, and it’s being washed in court, in the media and other forums, and elsewhere. In the public wash right now is the Chief Justice’s. Since where there’s dirt, there are definitely trapos, this seems a promising development for the nation, but not for Estrada, who’s out of fashion, the very model in fact of the unreformable trapo, for whom hakot, for instance, is a chief trick.
Costumed in orange, Estrada leads a premature electoral parade, driving a customized jeepney, his own Trojan horse, to his newly bought house in Manga Avenue, Sampaloc, to beat the deadline required of a mayoral candidate to have resided for at least one year in the constituency in which he’s running.
It’s promiscuity gone political: A faithless man discards San Juan like an old wife and chases after a new prospect.
With his likes, our gains are in danger of being squandered—gains like Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, to name a few. We already had a Gus Lagman in the Comelec—a pity, ganged up on at his Senate confirmation hearing, he was given up by the president without a fight.
Noynoy himself isn’t perfect, to be sure, but, like his mother, he would seem a genuine destiny’s child. How else do we explain the groundswell of support—affection, I dare say—for Ninoy and Cory’s son if we ourselves didn’t feel as orphaned as he? He is president because he gave us hope of escape from the scourge of our lives—corruption.
Unexpected until it began to emerge upon the death of his iconic mother as a sort of prophecy, Noynoy’s presidency must be part of some plan, one that, providential as it may be, needs to be helped along by its intended beneficiaries.
That’s us, the people, who get another chance at redemption after passing up all other chances by simply standing and waiting to be served.