Bothered and bewildered

This was my column last Monday. The President announced she was running for Congress the same day this column came out.

Tomorrow is the deadline for the filing of candidacies for the May 2010 elections.

As I write, the question that’s foremost in everyone’s mind is whether the President of the Republic will make history yet again by filing her candidacy as representative of the second district of Pampanga. In the last few days, we’ve seen what is being made to appear like a major clamor from her cabalens for her to represent them in Congress.

Quite frankly, the whole hullabaloo looks like a badly conceptualized, poorly staged moro moro acted out by awfully hammy actors. I haven’t been able to stomach watching those people declaim their appeal for the President to “please listen to them.” One of them delivered this hair-raising monologue about how the President is still young and how she is still their best hope in Congress. Even the first son, Representative Mikey Arroyo has joined in the chorus, making a dramatic appeal to “Her Excellency, my mother” to heed the people’s call. I know; it’s enough to make sober people run out of a room screaming.

I have a strong feeling President Gloria Arroyo will win if she does run for Congress. Randy David will give her a good fight, but my fearless forecast is that she will still win even in an honest and clean election. She will win for the same reason that the Marcoses have always won elections in Ilocos Norte or the Romualdezes have always won elections in Leyte despite their infamy. And I am not talking about recent elections—both families won elections in their home turfs barely a few years after their fall from grace. It’s the same reason why the Ampatuans will mostly likely still win some positions of power in Maguindanao despite the unspeakably evil massacre that happened there recently.

We all indulge in wishful thinking that the electorate has matured and that Filipinos are now more discerning in their choice of leaders. The reality, however, is that people in this country don’t get voted into office on the strength of what they are saying, or because of their platforms, or because of moral issues. People get elected into office because of highly personal, emotional, as well as practical reasons.

As can be expected, Mrs. Arroyo has done more than any other politician for her cabalens than any other politician especially in the last few months. Of course it can be argued that she and her administration also did a lot of really awful things for this country; it can even be pointed out that she brought shame and embarrassment to Kapampangans and to Filipinos in general, but to many voters in Pampanga, in her hometown of Lubao particularly, all those are abstract, ephemeral concepts that pale in comparison to the roads, bridges, public structures and other political largesse that they have received from her patronage.

All these will not make the whole idea right, or comprehensible, or even remotely logical. Why someone who has already reached the pinnacle of power would deign to settle for a lower elective post defies reason.

At the personal level, why someone would willingly put herself through the gauntlet again—subject one’s self to more humiliation and public ridicule—is something that baffles the mind. There’s the possibility of megalomania, of course, even perhaps extreme narcissism, or a bloated sense of self-importance. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, it has been said. People who are drunk with power become numb. All these are convenient analyses to explain this madcap idea of a President of a country running for a seat in Congress after her term.

But as Representative Teddyboy Locsin (who probably has the combined IQ of half the representatives in Congress) remarked publicly recently, the President is one smart woman. Mrs. Arroyo is a lot of things, but she is not stupid.

Of course she has not openly admitted that she will run for Congress, but her body language seems to confirm the message. It is within the bounds of reason that given her legendary short temper she could already have squashed the supposed clamor with a quick dismissal if she weren’t so inclined to heed it. The truth is that at the very least, she is playing coy and even seems tickled pink at the clamor of her sycophants.

So what then is the political masterplan behind all these attempts to confound the general electorate?

The general drift of the speculative drivel out there is that the President wants to run for Congress, become Speaker of the House, and then marshal forces to push Charter change ultimately leading to her installation as Prime Minister. There are a lot of gaps in this conspiracy theory, foremost of which is that it cannot happen without the support of the Senate and everyone knows there is absolutely no way Mrs. Arroyo is going to have enough senators supportive of her or of charter change. Let’s not act naïve here by thinking that any senator’s objection to Charter change is borne out of altruistic reason—the simple fact of the matter is that supporting Charter change is tantamount to political suicide on the part of any senator. They might as well hang themselves in public.

In addition, everyone knows the specter of having Mrs. Arroyo at the helm of the next government is anathema even among those who are politically neutral; let’s not talk anymore about the greater majority of people who hate her with a passion. Mrs. Arroyo becoming Prime Minister? It’s not going to happen.

There is the other scenario being floated of course: The President becoming Speaker of the House and using the vast resources she has presumably amassed as President to control the House of Representatives purportedly to protect herself and her allies from political persecution, or simply to make things difficult for the new administration in the event that the next administration is unfriendly or hostile toward her.

Again, there is a flaw in this logical deduction. The basic truth is that there is no need for all that rigmarole. This country has a rather dismal record of bringing to justice powerful people who have committed serious offenses and wrongdoings. The list includes the Estradas, the Marcoses, the Romualdezes, even the long list of former renegade military men who have not only escaped the so-called long arm of the law but have even bounced back to power. Even if Mrs. Arroyo isn’t in power anymore, she will still have allies, not to mention family members in power who can do everything to block her persecution.

We can all give this bothersome, bewildering enigma of the President’s political plans our best shot at analysis. Mrs. Arroyo rose to power and survived numerous crises because of a confluence of events that ordinary people would ascribe to destiny. Perhaps Mrs. Arroyo is waiting for—nay, anticipating—another confluence of events that would propel her to political center stage again. I think she is pushing her luck too far this time around.


It is because of people like her that at least in our situation, the death penalty is a must-have
Sidney said…
I guess power hungry people just think differently... as recent events show us... some people are ready to kill to remain in power...
Who are you endorsing for 2010? Thanks!
Danton Remoto said…
Dear Bong,

Yes indeed, the circus is on -- and sadly (gleefully), I joined it. I want to communicate with you privately. Could you kindly send me a short note at

Then and now, your blog is provocative ;-)
Bong C. Austero said…
Unfortunately, not even the massacre in Maguindanao will convince the Catholic church to support death penalty.

Or risk being ridiculed and demonized over and over and over and over again.

Am leaning towards Gordon. But nothing final yet.


I heard you filed for senator. Of course i will be supporting you all the way! I emailed you privately.



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