It is as if we’re in 2009 again, when false prophets were pitching the idea of an immaculate, God-given, and incorruptible savior who could lead the country to the Promised Land.
These false prophets demoted the Proclaimed Candidate to Second Fiddle, spread necropolitics, and proceeded to destroy the savior’s foe and his reputation through a publicity war. They hurled an avalanche of very serious charges, and enlisted the support of mass media whose editors were only too eager to publish them.
When the savior emerged as winner, the nation was made to feel that an army of one billion angels was descending on the country to clean up government and society, and to usher in untold prosperity.
Second Fiddle stuck with the savior through thick and thin, thinking that his loyalty would do him wonders and ensure that he would be his anointed new savior. Of course, Second Fiddle cannot be more wrong.
By 2013, the people have seen that the one billion angels were actually one billion pigs flying. Pigs fattened by the lard of presidential and congressional pork barrel. The savior, it turns out, corners up to now the biggest slice of pork barrel, discretionary and lumpsum funds in the nation’s history.
By 2014, mass public transport was in chaos, thanks to a Public-Private Partnership where the public gives the private players billions in taxpayer money and fares but get nothing in return. Elsewhere, the devastation brought by a super-typhoon turned into a man-made disaster of epic proportions: Incompetence, lack of empathy, politicization, and corruption.
By 2015, only eight trains are left running. In his megalomaniacal drive to act as a savior, his incompetence and friendship led to the death of dozens of police commandos. From 2010-2015, the savior practically did nothing to defend and save the life of a trafficked OFW – culminating in his factotums’ plea for the public to accept the inevitability of the firing squad.
Second Fiddle cannot be more wrong. His own unpopularity coupled with savior’s incompetence, hubris, and mismanagement consigned him to the role of cellar-dweller in surveys. He thought the demolition job against the long-running No. 1 Contender, who beat him in the last battle, was for him. How naive of him.
It turns out that his own teammates and the savior himself are courting Someone New. Someone New and untainted – which means untainted by the savior himself. Someone New who actually railed against the savior’s own broken promise about Freedom of Information, among other issues. The very public courting of Someone New and the high-profile demolition job against No. 1 Contender already paint a message in big bold letters addressed to Second Fiddle: “How’s the view from under the bus?”
We still don’t know the plans of any of those aspiring to replace the savior. But whether it is the Second Fiddle, the No. 1 Contender, the Someone New, the Feisty Senator, the Ex-Fugitive Ex-Senator, or the Fearless Mayor, no one has told us how they intend to lead, what solutions they offer to the biggest problems of the nation, and what role they wish the public to take.
As of today, the savior and his false prophets cannot wait to get rid of Second Fiddle not only because he would surely be defeated. They cannot wait to get rid too of No. 1 Contender because they don’t like him and his gang. They want a sure winner in Someone New, not so much to continue its tradition of incompetence, hubris, and mismanagement – but to be protected from prosecution over such horrible record.
At a time when the people want change, the savior and his false prophets are crudely insinuating that they and only they can claim and proclaim the Agent of Change that people profess to need – in terms remarkably similar to the advertising trash they used to sell the savior.
It is too early to tell what would happen by the time the aspirants finally launch their formal campaigns. Many things could still happen. Like Someone New waking to the fact that the savior and his false prophets are not exactly the best team to associate with as Agent of Change. The savior and his false prophets were in fact part of the 2004 coalition that demonized and cheated her father of victory. Like Second Fiddle discovering courage to reject the savior and be his own man and more than Mr. Korina Sanchez. Like the Feisty Senator launching an improbable new bid for leadership, regardless of health issues. Like the Ex-Fugitive Ex-Senator reinventing himself. Like Fearless Mayor doing something great and humane.
It is also too early to tell what the people could and would do. Are we going to fall for the 2009 redux of the savior and his false prophets? Are we going to pin all our hopes again on a new savior? Or are we going to start to put the jerk parade in its proper place? Are we going to demand from each of them a concrete and measurable plan about the biggest issues of our time and the future? Are we willing and able to make the 2016 elections a consequential election, so much so that the candidates and parties would be afraid of voters, respect us with actual pledges and commitments, and change its ways from guns, goons and gold?
That would be the ultimate plot twist in the story that is now being written exclusively by political hacks, candidates, and parties. That is what they are scared of – when people find their bearing, stop thinking we are defenseless, discover our power to uppend the rotten traditional political system and lay the basis of a new political order that is not built by advertising trash, necropolitics, and variety show type of rallies. One where the majority of ordinary people could win against the tiny minority of corrupt bureaucrats, political dynasties, warlords, landlords, and big business.
If we want change to happen in 2016, it is up to the people who have the biggest stake in change – farmers, workers, professionals, entrepreneurs, overseas Filipinos, youth, women, soldiers, and the Bangsamoro – to form a movement for change to influence the parties and candidates, and perhaps even form new parties and field its own candidates. The thing is, it is not any of the candidates – but we as the sovereign people – who are the real Agent of Change.
The alternative is to let the same cast of characters prevail. The alternative is to fall for the same plot. We all know where those lead to: Frustration, disenchantment, apathy and cynicism because the rotten system’s leaders never fail to disgrace us, and do not solve but make worse our most pressing problems as a nation.
Here’s to hoping that we Filipinos give a twist to the old plot and write something new. It is too early now whether it would happen, but I hope that it wouldn’t be too late before the Enemies of Change grab yet another victory at our expense.
First published in the Manila Bulletin, 23 May 2015. Republished here with edits for clarity.