Pink or sink!
NEW YORK — A widow versus a strongman.
A neophyte versus a skilled politician.
Maganda versus Malakas.
Yellow versus Red, with its unintended allusion to the War of the Roses.
In 1986 Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, ran for the presidency against Ferdinand Marcos, the despot who along with his partner-in-crime Imelda R.Marcos, reigned over the republic for twenty years.
He had all the advantages of tyranny: guns, goons, and gold.
Her only advantage, if that, was widespread support of the masses, though given how the odds of this being a fair election were less than favorable, no one banked on her popularity translating into an electoral triumph. Everyone expected the elections to be a Lutong Macao, or more accurately, a Lutong Macoy, a colloquialism that referred to an outcome being predetermined ahead of actual balloting, and thus would have the incumbent retain his seat.
But the widow did indeed defeat the strongman, and in late February 1986, a furious populace drove the Marcoses into the arms of Uncle Sam, their main backer.
Thirty-six years later, we seem to be seeing somewhat of a replay of those fateful February days. We again have a widow, Vice-President Leni Robredo, running against the son of the late and unlamented dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., BongBong and/or BBM as he is more popularly known.
This time around, the colors are a bit different: Pink versus Red.
It is also a replay of the 2016 electoral contest for the vice-presidency, between Robredo and Marcos. The former won, and her base hopes, as this writer does, that this will be repeated in May, but now for the highest seat in government.
There are eight candidates for the presidency, including Senator (and champion boxer) Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, trade unionist and Socialist labor activist Leody de Guzman, and Senator Panfilo Lacson, but Robredo and Marcos are the frontrunners. The polls have Marcos leading Robredo, which many of her supporters are disheartened by, but they would do well to recall that polls do not elect presidents; people do. In 2016, the dictator’s son was leading in the polls as well but lost.
Still, there is the unsettling possibility that Marcos Junior could be sworn in as the president of the country. And should Sara Duterte be elected as his vice-president (elections for the Veep in the Philippines are separate from that of the president), Marcos Junior would have a tough, smart politician at his side—everything that Marcos Junior isn’t. That relationship could be like that of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney during Dubya’s first term, where Cheney was clearly the power behind the throne. As vice-president the daughter would do her damnedest to shield her father from the reach of the International Criminal Court.
Incidentally, Duterte peré recently declared that the best candidate for the presidency would be a “compassionate lawyer,” a statement hugely ironic, given that quality’s complete absence in his six years as president. The man is congenitally unable to feel anyone’s pain—unless of course it’s his own. On the contrary he seems to relish demonstrating his lack of compassion.
There is also the intriguing possibility of Robredo as president and the younger Duterte as her Veep. Will Robredo treat her nemesis’ daughter in the same way that she was treated by the father, i.e., ignored, insulted, kept out of the corridors of power? Given Robredo’s character, one capable of compassion, smarts, and with acute political instincts, most likely not. And with Sara seemingly more pragmatic than her dad, the unlikely pair might yet govern capably. To have the tandem occupy the land’s two highest public offices would of course be a first.
The other intriguing and even more unlikely pairing would be BBM as president and Walden Bello—Leody de Guzman’s running mate—as the vice-president. Bello, a left-wing, well-respected public intellectual, former professor and congressman, in an interview broadcast live last October told the interviewer,”This is a family that has raped the country. It has not apologized to the country and he now wants to rape the country again. F*** you, Marcos! I mean, come on, these guys are jokers. Especially the biggest joke of all ay si (is) Marcos.” Bello refused to back down from his diss of Marcos Jr.
Such are the pitfalls of an electoral system where the president and the vice-president may be at loggerheads both personally and ideologically. On the other hand, such a system did mean that Robredo as vice-president could and did act as a counterweight to the brutal rule of Rodrigo Duterte.
One hopes that Vice-President Leni Robredo and Senator Francisco Pangilinan top the balloting this May and start the long and arduous process of regaining so much democratic space lost these past six years.
Pink or Sink!
Copyright L.H. Francia 2022