Not enough crazies


    ‘Do you have to get your brains knocked around so often in a ring, or your acting and singing talents exposed on stage in order to break into the inner circle
    of the political elite?’

    A FEW days ago, the names of nine potential members of a PRRD-backed Senate slate went public.

    Released by Politico, the potential Duterte slate consisted of key Cabinet members of the President: legal counsel Salvador Panelo; Spox Harry Roque; Labor Secretary Bello, Public Works Secretary Villar as well as Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. Others on the list were vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Transport Secretary Art Tugade, DTI secretary Ramon Lopez and one more.

    The list didn’t surprise me consisting as it does the most visible (if not exactly the most effective) of the Cabinet members; and that there were only nine names on the list opened up opportunities for re-electionists to be adopted, or for more independent-minded others to appear.

    Let’s get back to the independents in a minute.

    Being invited to run on a ticket backed by the President – even an outgoing one – is almost a no-brainer. It eliminates one of the biggest hurdles anyone thinking of throwing his or her hat into the political ring has to face: the question of resources. You may not have resources of your own to spend (or even if you did you may not be willing to do so) but if you were campaigning with the President you automatically get exposure. Better if you are seen whispering into his ear every now and then, whatever it is you are whispering to him.

    Could be the winning numbers for jueteng, for all we know, yes? For tomorrow’s jueteng, that is!

    With the resource problem behind you one can now focus on the message, and for the Filipino voter that message is simple. As we have seen you can promise them the moon and for as long as you sound sincere enough, sprinkle your delivery with off-color jokes that would make your decent mother, wife and daughter cringe in shame, you’ve got it made. Competence? That matters less than being seen as “may malasakit.” And with the country peppered by natural disasters so frequently, compounded by human ones, a serious hopeful is never bereft of opportunities for Instagrammable relief drives. Malasakit established.

    Which brings us to the question: how does a capable independent minded Filipino become a viable candidate? Under these circumstances? He will have to Tik-Tok like crazy.

    He will not have resources that can match those of the incumbents or those of slates backed by the incumbents. How can he hitch a ride on an Air Force plane unless he hijacks it, or be seen in a Presidential event unless maybe he streaks across the stage? And yes, he or she may have had their share of outreach activities for disaster victims but they aren’t documented by camera crews and still photographers. So the resource-poor but capability-rich chaps remain below the radar. And when you remain below the radar how can you win?

    It takes crazies, I suppose, to even dream of breaking into the establishment and stunning them in an upset. The way Trump did in 2016, or Obama in 2008, or Governor Clinton in 1992 or even Governor Carter in 1976. But that’s US politics: in that jurisdiction, somehow, outsiders can still break through, once in a while.

    But in the Philippines? Do you have to get your brains knocked around so often in a ring, or your acting and singing talents exposed on stage in order to break into the inner circle of the political elite?

    That’s conventional wisdom. Not enough crazies exist to turn that wisdom on its head.


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