Between hope and historyBy Sylvia L. MayugaINQUIRER.netMANILA, Philippines -- " And so it came to pass – the five-ring circus of the May 2004 Philippine presidential elections siring the wild masked ball of the May 2007 congressional and local elections. Again, 70% of election expenses will go to funhouse distorting mirrors called political advertisements, mocking both the Filipino voter’s natural intelligence and hungry stomach.Beginning with the ruling party’s sole binding philosophy of surviving the dubious mandate of 2004, here are scandals aplenty, but strangely enough, no real surprises.Behold its senatorial candidates – turncoats, party lackeys, and “winnable” movie stars of dubious political sanity and training in public service. (Cesar Montano, you’re a great actor with a first-rate filmography – why on earth did you sign up for this major casting mistake?)This brings us to a Commission on Elections in the ruling party’s pocket, its chair Benjamin Abalos the smooth-talking survivor of the infamous Hello-Garci election followed by the P2 B-vote counting machine scandal. The same Garci now runs for a congressional seat in Bukidnon in thick carabao hide as the Comelec continues along its idiosyncratic course.This past week, Abalos casually pronounced the third Aquino candidate, dual citizen Theodore “Kuya Ted” Macabulos-Aquino, unqualified to run for the Senate because of “non-residency in the Philippines.” Aquino counters that he’s a part-time resident and international engineering consultant in the Philippines. As such, he submitted his ownership papers for a condominium in Makati, cedulas, and Philippine Immigration stamps on his passport when he filed his candidacy.Information technology does not seem to be the Comelec’s strong suit, but these claims can be checked on a website built by Fil-American “Friends of Kuya Ted.” They say they’re rallying to share the fate of the homeland with their education and future investments – and could have no better representative in Congress than Kuya Ted.(Noynoy Aquino filed a case for the Comelec to classify him a “nuisance candidate.” Kuya Ted counters that he’s a distant cousin willing to give all questionable Aquino votes to Noynoy, should it come to that.)Meanwhile a pattern emerges in the Comelec’s record on party list candidacies, a provision in the 1986 Constitution meant as an instrument of post-EDSA people empowerment. Power to grant or refuse party list accreditation in the Comelec under Abalos continues to be a henhouse door wide open to the wolf of trapo politics.This Armida Siguion-Reyna illustrates in her column, noting the recent accreditation of an association of tricycle drivers called Biyaheng Pinoy - with one Arsenio Abalos, elder brother of the Comelec chair, as director and national council member. She asks, why has Ang Ladlad, (“The Laid Out” or “Out of the Closet”) which applied for accreditation “at the same time if not earlier,” been rejected twice?Ang Ladlad is of course the first-ever Filipino Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Trans-gender NGO cum political party, with students, intellectuals, and professionals in a stated nationwide membership of 16,000. Public curiosity has been pricked. For one, Miguel Antonio Lizada of the Sun-Star Davao wants to know if this rejection has “something to do with the fact that Ang Ladlad was leading in the race, next to Bayan Muna (Country First)?”It is of course slightly different for Richard Gomez as a ruling party candidate for the Senate, another casting move for politics as showbiz. Blame the director for using Richard as nothing more than eye candy on the political stage. But blame Richard for seeing nothing wrong with running under the same pragmatic party that refused to accredit his cause-oriented NGO, Mamamayan Laban sa Droga (Citizens Against Drugs) - after he won as a party list candidate in the 2001 congressional race.But what have we in the ranks of the opposition on the other side of this masked ball? There’s the real estate tycoon/ reelectionist senator Villar and his fellow reelectionist senator Pangilinan, both refusing to campaign on one platform with the “Genuine Opposition.” Does this have anything to do with the incarcerated ex-president Erap looming over them, moneybags ready to buy his freedom with a new dispensation?Hardly over the trauma of the Hello Garci election of 2004, can the people prevent another vote-counting and canvassing fiasco in 2008? Such is public cynicism that the first sound of “boycott” emerged from a circle of former street parliamentarians the other night. The day before, it was a former Arroyo Cabinet member theorizing that creating confusion could precisely be a tactic of ruling party strategy – to turn off enough thinking voters from going to the polls at all, making it easier to manipulate results.The mood is uncertainty. Not only are we confused about what the season’s candidates stand for besides themselves, we can only guess what’s behind their masks and try to remember where they really belong.Armida Siguion-Reyna, sister of lifetime politician Juan Ponce Enrile, puts it well, “Our multi-party structure is no longer simply multi-party, but multi-multi party, with splinter groups further splintering. It’s as if national affairs are run by Partido Starbucks, with a branch in almost every kanto. It didn’t use to be like this.“Our political landscape has been littered with turncoats, but at least in the older days one knew if a candidate was a former Liberal Party member who had skipped to the Nacionalista side.Now you have to figure out how the former Liberal joined the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) , and then went with Lakas ng Bayan (Laban), to Lakas/National Union of Christian Democrats (Lakas/NUCD), then Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), to LDP/Laban ng Masang Pilipino (LAMP), and finally the National People’s Coalition (NPC), if not the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI). ”Under the umbrellas of those acronyms, the names presently on offer with their mixed motives, crossover platforms, and eccentric fundamentalist platforms don’t even add up to an acceptable half dozen for the Senate, but strangest of all is how this chaos is turning out to be a learning place.Another instinct is kicking in from somewhere between hope and history. My take is to forget “winnability” for the moment, and instead vote for time. What do I mean? Think of these elections as a live exercise in the power of ideas in minds free of the old fears and compulsions of traditional politics. Think of it as a gamble to get those new ideas, if not voted into power, at least heard nationwide for the first time.Last week was about Noynoy Aquino’s coming of age as an aspiring Senator for a new generation of Filipino voters. This week, beyond his shock value as the first professed gay candidate for public office in Philippine history, it’s all about the eminent sense Danton Remoto makes behind that trademark swishiness.Seen for what he is, this multi-awarded Filipino poet, Ateneo professor, and associate member of the Manila Critics Circle behind the National Book Awards bears his scholarship and solid reputation with the deceptive levity of true intelligence. He is also the last of his blood family to stubbornly remain in the country, all the rest (five successful engineers included) already in Diaspora. Here’s Danton Remoto, unedited.On that shoestring campaign supported by students, OFWs, closet gay businessmen and professionals, schools and fellow artists in People Power 2007, Remoto continues to fight for accreditation as Ang Ladlad party list candidate in a deeply compromised Comelec.A globalized gay world is watching our masked ball. So are the poor in the slums, the broken-backed teachers of the Philippine public school system, and the marginalized members of Ang Ladlad watching and learning from this “snowball’s chance in hell.” Its lessons are investments in the future. "
Such are words of wisdom from Sylvia L. Mayuga