Friday, February 23, 2007

An Absurd Senatorial Election

Faced with a dearth of suitable senatorial materials for the May elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo decided to entice some of the more flexible elements of the “United Opposition”(UNO)---now renamed “Genuine Opposition” (GO)----to join her “unity ticket”----“Team Unity” (TU). Some senators who had won as her candidates in 2001 now shunned her official backing as a “kiss of death,” but former Senators Teresa Aquino Oreta and Tito Sotto, who used to call her a “bogus president,” readily jumped in from GO. Then Sen. Edgardo Angara, LDP president, followed suit.

For their part, former President Joseph Estrada and other GO leaders packed their ticket with candidates from outside rather than from their own ranks. This erased nearly every trace of the Estrada-led opposition which had succeeded in polarizing public opinion against the administration these last few years, in favor of an amalgam that has no distinctively oppositionist character. At least nine of GO’s 12 candidates had played a part in Estrada’s ouster in 2001 and in the opposition debacle in 2004. PMP, Estrada’s own party, the biggest in GO, is not represented, while much smaller parties are, two of them by dynasty candidates whose next of kin are sitting in the Senate until 2010.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition has two candidates with TU --- Oreta and Sotto, and four with GO -- Nikki Coseteng, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and John Osmena ---or a total of six.. NPC’s former president Ernesto Maceda is also GO’s campaign guru. But party boss Danding Cojuangco is with Mrs. Arroyo. For its part, the Liberal Party has Michael Defensor in TU, and Noynoy Aquino and Francis Pangilinan in GO. The Nacionalista Party has Ralph Recto in TU, and Alan Peter Cayetano and Manuel Villar in GO. This has not happened before, despite our recurring history of political insanity.

Were these details less deranged, the senatorial race would still not pass the test of rationality. Contesting the election are an administration that has tried but failed to abolish the Senate, and therefore forfeited its right to field senatorial candidates, and an opposition that now wants to destroy what the entire nation had fought for by turning it into the family estate of a few self-seeking families. Neither side has anything to say to the electorate.

What can the TU candidates possibly say? That they regret having failed to abolish the Senate, but that they promise to get rid of it, as soon as elected?

And what can the GO candidates possibly say? That since the Senate has been saved, the Pimentel family in Cagayan de Oro should now be allowed to have a larger presence in that body than the whole of Muslim Mindanao, and that the Cayetano family in Taguig-Pateros now be allowed to claim a privilege denied, in principle, to all those who ever sat in the Senate, and denied to the 18 million or so families who make up the national population of 90 million Filipinos?

Never has our politics sunk so close to the sewer. It is totally unprincipled. No single moral principle defines the campaign, no moral advantage puts one camp above the other. With opposition defectors now eating out of Mrs. Arroyo’s hands, and Estrada’s old enemies displacing the original opposition, no one will be raising the legitimacy issue against Mrs. Arroyo anymore. GO’s naivete, rather than Mrs. Arroyo’s acuity, has buried it forever.

With candidates Cayetano and Pimentel insisting that the constitutional ban on dynasties is meaningless without an enabling law----and the other candidates entombed in sepulchral silence ----morality has lost all meaning to our would-be legislators. Since they refuse to be bound by the simplest moral rule, they cannot in turn bind anybody else to any moral rule. But since morality is the basis of law---every law, then they have rendered themselves totally unfit to become legislators. Yet they are obsessed with becoming senators for no other reason than that they want to become senators.

Just what are the prospects for clean and honest elections? Nil. The generals mentioned in the Garci tape are now in total control, and despite earlier reports, the military will yet again be on active poll duty in the May elections. Meanwhile, some of those most vocal in denouncing former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano for his alleged role in manipulating the last presidential elections were reported to have already sought his “help” to ensure their election. To his credit, he reportedly rejected their proposition.

Given the death of moral principles, and the dim prospects for clean and honest elections, renewed political turbulence looms large on the horizon. The people have the right to choose, but they have nothing and nobody to choose from. There is no longer any distinction between moral and immoral, between administration and opposition; one is no longer an alternative to the other. The people need an alternative to both. They need to replace the entire political elite, now rotten to the core.

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