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Sunday, April 21, 2024

The end?

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"Are these signs that the electorate has matured politically, and that the dynasties are seeing the winter of public discontent?"


Everybody has written about the whys and hows of some “unbelievable” upsets in the elections just past.

Many read the surveys correctly, like Isko Moreno who had the natural advantage of being young compared to his rivals, the 82-year-old former president and the 90-something former mayor.  Both were nationally known political brands; Isko, though also quite familiar with many, was not quite as famous, nor resource-laden.

I always wrote in this space about the comparative ages of these candidates, not delving on anything else, such as their performance or lack of it, because I knew it would be the decisive factor.  Friends who like me are close to President-Mayor Erap disputed me, trotting out “surveys” which first showed the two in a neck-to-neck race, and later with Erap already leading.  Politely I just smiled, because I knew otherwise.

It was the enormity of Moreno’s win that came as a surprise.  That could not have been attributed merely to summer youth compared to winter age. Especially when you factor in the defeat of the mayor’s daughter, Jerika, running for a mere councilwoman’s post in the fourth district.  That was rejection.

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Further I shall write naught.  Erap is a dear friend and a kind former boss.  Both Isko and Fred are friends, and all of us are Manileños.  I just pray and hope that Manila’s new mayor will bring forth needed changes to make the historic and legal capital of the country truly premier, world-class, and a decent place to inhabit.

Which makes me particularly happy about Benjie Magalong’s election as mayor of the country’s ageing and decaying summer capital.

Benjie is another friend whose qualities as a police officer are highly regarded even within the Philippine National Police, and if I may add, even within the military.

I have always said that Baguio City has had the misfortune of never having had a good mayor in the last half century.  I do not mean to disparage the memory of those who have gone to their graves, (I don’t even remember all their names), but just looking at and smelling Baguio year-in and year-out will tell you I must be right.

It’s not going to be easy to revitalize Baguio City.  It will be a case of good sense over whatever is politically “correct,” correct defined as “vote-getting” but a determined leader with mission and purpose can do it.

There are many Gordian knots that have to be cut.  Which is why lowlanders who have come to love the Baguio of old, and long-time residents who have seen their beloved city die slowly but surely, pin their hopes on the leadership and vision of Benjie Magalong.

The world, my friend, always gives way to those who know where they are going.

Finally, Baguio is being given a new lease on life, by a new mayor and a congressman, Mark Go who defeated the long-time mayor and alternating congressman, Mauricio Domogan. Mark is a non-traditional politician with excellent professional qualifications.  Would that this duo could revive Baguio from doldrums back to old glory.

My congratulations as well to Francis Zamora of San Juan and Vico Sotto of Pasig, the new dynasty-slayers in the National Capital Region.

Francis I knew would win.  He almost won in 2016 but the Iglesia swung their support to another good friend, Mayor Guia Gomez.  But Francis did not mope, and kept his eyes on the ball.  When the time came for the INC to decide whom to support, Francis had already piled up a certain lead over his rival, the daughter of former San Juan mayor Jinggoy, whose family ruled the town, later city, for some 50 years.

Francis presented a program and worked relentlessly, going from street to street to explain why change was needed.  It’s really hard work when it comes to local politics.

Vico Sotto I have never met, reading only that he is the son of Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes, both cinematic luminaries.  I must confess his victory came as a surprise, but the young man in his  encouraging post-election statements, shows much promise.  We wish him and Pasig the best.   

Jojo Binay’s loss in the first congressional district of Makati stunned almost everybody.

Clearly, his daughter Mayor Abby would prevail over the brother; surveys and anecdotal evidence showed that.  But presumably, the man who ran the municipality turned city since the fall of Marcos could not possibly lose to Kid Pena of Palanan.

It pained the patriarch who won as vice president in 2010 against insuperable odds to see his children quarrel publicly, much more I suppose than having to endure all the brickbats he got when he was gunning for the presidency in 2016.

There are three reasons for this upset: First, Mayor Jojo must have been complacent, over-confident even.  Second, Makati citizens could have “punished” him for being unable to rein in his Junior and his Abby.  But the third reason, given by an insider in the Binay camp, is that the junior junked his old man, supporting stealthily his own father’s opponent, Kid Peña.  I saw sample ballots that spelled a Jun-Jun for mayor and Kid Peña for congressman.

All out of spite?

Old folks have a saying in Tagalog that translates: “Children can malign their parents but parents would never do anything against their children.”

My wish for Jojo is that he will be given the strength, the fortitude and the wisdom to forgive, and for the siblings to understand that in the end, family is bedrock.

Are these signs that the electorate has matured politically, and that the dynasties are seeing the winter of public discontent?


I recall the last scene in the movie about the Boxer Rebellion entitled “55 Days in Peking,” where the Empress Dowager played by Flora Robson left the Imperial Palace disguised as a commoner, ruing “The dynasty is dead.”

For some in this country, it is likely the end.  Others are still alive and getting stronger, a testament to public satisfaction, for now.  I have always maintained that it will take an overhaul of the system to hasten change.

Note that it is internal rot within dynasties, where former proteges turn against dynasts, or greedy quarrels within the dynasties that have discombobulated their entrenchment.

Yet only systemic change can truly alter our abysmal political landscape, from personality-driven and money-greased superiority to one where visions, platforms and principles prevail.

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