THE horn has been sounded for the start of opposition research, contrasting messages and character assassination of candidates left and right as we prepare for the October filing of certificates of candidacy. It appears no one seems to be willing to stand up and declare to the people his/her intentions, which is quite unlike what Vice President Jojo Binay did soon after winning the vice presidency in 2016. Binay made clear to everyone, as logic would dictate for a person in his position, he was interested in the presidency.
The Balay-Samar factions that had worked for the victory of Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd (BSA3) in 2016 became the fork in the road at the start of 2016 and began to be felt more by the midterms. By that time, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), under former vice president Binay, fielded its own Senate slate while the Liberal Party had its separate slate. UNA combined the forces of Binay's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). The three political heavyweights - Binay, Erap and Enrile - were in one force.
That declaration led to groups digging for dirt, hitting a high decibel in the midterm with three senators orchestrating a maneuver to use taxpayers' money for 33 Senate hearings, led by Sen. Koko Pimentel (who ended up Senate President in the first three years of President Rodrigo R. Duterte), Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano (who ended up running with President Duterte as vice president) and the proverbial "opposition," former Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th (who ran for vice president in 2016).
The pressure started with former Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and the ruling of the Ombudsman which perpetually disqualified him from running for public office. And with the consistent and virulent attacks on corruption against Elenita Binay (when she was mayor) and vice president Binay, the meltdown of support as well as the distancing between Benigno Semion Aquino 3rd and the vice president Binay ensued.
Candidate Rody Duterte was nowhere in these movements. He came on the scene very late in December 2015 as a stealth candidate not exposed to all the negative operations and contrasting messages. In fact, Duterte had a mystery. People did not know him, especially those from Luzon. But there was enough opposition research already made by then justice secretary Leila de Lima on alleged human rights violations. But the use of the same was too late in the ballgame.
Today, since no one is declaring, the opposition research is being used against the incumbent and invariably the yet undeclared candidate, the mayor of Davao City. We now see various heated arrows aimed across the air at Sen. Manny Pacquiao, from his work to his degree and his offensive jabs against President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
As for the other side of this Binay effect, the non-declaration by prospective candidates has led to various organizations floating names, urging individuals to run as if there is groundswell when everything is just astro-turfing, all for media launch hence very manipulative. If you look after the launch, you don't see the snowball. Why? Because there is nothing in the launch and that is the problem when certain individuals do not form a coalition early on (a slow burn). It takes time to knit a good coalition, if the effort is serious. If it is just for propaganda's sake, one launches and waits but there is no investment of time and agreement on issues.
Hilariously, when asked why one is supporting a candidate, the response is canned. Truly, a launch for a media offensive, as if running for the highest seat of the land is a media launch. Consequently, our politics remain very personal. No one has in fact presented any plan post-2022 and how each candidate is planning to reboot the economy or fix our health care system, while in Singapore, there is already an economic direction towards the new norm where the pandemic is inputted as one of the risks in governance.
The Binay effect has resulted in individuals wishing to offer themselves to the nation playing coy, timid and under the radar. They know attacks will land everywhere, essentially not debating on issues but dishing out personal attacks and destroying everyone on path. How would someone willing to offer his/her brand of service uniquely stand out? How can issues be the defining moment for voters to choose? How can we elevate our politics and not just be shooting each other down into the mud? Or drowning each other with too much animosity everything is just a two-sided argument among those for the opposition (and there is no clear opposition) and those for the incumbent (when the incumbent is about to end his term with a constitutional prohibition for reelection). Then when one says, positions are inherited, one wonders whatever happened to elections?
In the end, we are reminded it "takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." Still, some do not see things clearly.
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