The Long View: Stranger things


Stranger things


Back in March, the OCTA Research Survey (the only other firm I pay attention to aside from the veteran firms Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations) snapshot of political preferences provided this picture, as described by Dr. Guido David: “31 percent supported Marcos administration, 20 percent supported the Dutertes, 4 percent supported the opposition, 29 percent were independent, and 15 percent refused to answer the question.”

The intriguing 44 percent who comprised the last two groups aside, other snapshots were just as revealing. I’d pointed one out in two recent columns (in March and May) that the Duterte machines (whether the bigger one of the father or the tiny one of the daughter) hadn’t been holding their own and were, in fact, not merely shrinking but caught in the middle of a kind of Marcos-Romualdez sandwich. Related to this was that the taps had been turned off, with the Vice President’s loss of her audit-proof intelligence budgets. And the woes of fugitive pastor Apollo Quiboloy were shared by the former president because the pastor’s media empire started getting Duterte-style loving from the current Congress.

If March to May was already grim, the official parting of ways between the Vice President and the President has left things looking positively strange. Both have kept things civil with neither the President nor the Vice President directly attacking each other, preferring, wisely, to let things speak for themselves. And so it can be said that since June, there has been a remarkable amount of “rough air” (as turbulence is now called by airlines) but almost totally within the two Duterte camps.


The Vice President herself took to muttering darkly about having been attacked, without giving specifics as to when, or how, much less by whom—“all of them” did it, she said—and then announced her father and brothers would run for the Senate in the midterms. Only for her father, after interest in the news had died down, to revive the story by saying his daughter knows how to grab the headlines—just like him.

The former president then said he knew where Quiboloy was hiding, which caused a buzz because he basically dared everyone to make him accountable for harboring or concealing a fugitive from justice.

Both events were accompanied by a side story: supposedly planted rumors of the former president having died, which became news when the former president’s real protégé, Sen. Bong Go, denied that Duterte had died. Though Go, doing the rounds to raise awareness ahead of his seeking reelection next year, himself got a dose of bad publicity when it started being reported that one of Duterte’s sons was criticizing him and that one of Go’s proof of life pictures for Duterte rang a bell among some observers who pointed out it served as proof of a visit by now-disgraced Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo—which the former president had to explain away as her visiting as part of a larger delegation of local officials.


This, in turn, brings us to one of those things that is a very public manifestation of opposition to the Marcos-Romualdez combination, which is something called the Hakbang ng Maisug which has been busy trying to stamp the Duterte brand on the very thing it had crowed it killed: people power, including rallies here and abroad, and having professor Anna Malindog-Uy addressing overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong to hold on tight. Except it was reported by Quiboloy’s Sonshine Media Network International, and she is identified with the pro-China lobby, which brings everyone back to the question of Philippine offshore gaming operators—the overall optics, as they say, ending up not being good.

But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. If money’s tight, and if what’s left of the media is no longer firmly in your pocket, then all you have are social media numbers which are themselves an exercise in diminishing returns. If there’s any family fight going on, you could argue that the one the public cares about is whether the Capinpin family or BINI are entertaining them: Only occasionally will something political momentarily break the surface of public consciousness and attention.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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