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‘Handjobs’ and dumbification

Herbie Gomez .

I DON’T get it when warring politicians make a big deal about which one of them was endorsed by who.

First, it reduces them to mere commercial commodities, much like laundry detergents or menstrual pads that some manufacturers think require celebrity endorsers. It doesn’t speak well of the candidates’ “salesmanship” — of their ability to sell themselves on their own, and to make themselves shine without the aid of someone with a celebrity status.

If the endorser is President Duterte or his daughter Sara Carpio, forget it. Both have actually demonstrated time and again that they do not necessarily think before they raise the hands of candidates.

Last month, the President was in Zamboanga City where, on separate occasions, he raised the hands of reelectionist Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar and her challenger, outgoing Rep. Celso Lobregat. Duterte also did the same thing for San Juan mayoral candidates Francis Zamora and Janella Estrada. Zamora’s hand was raised during a PDP-Laban sortie in Laguna in late February while Estrada, who is currently San Juan’s vice mayor, had her hand raised by the President three weeks later. Simply put, the Duterte “handjobs” are actually meaningless, most likely spur-of-the-moment responses to requests, spoken or communicated only through body language, to ward off awkward situations.

His daughter Sara has done the same thing for rival politicians in Pasay City, mayoral candidates Cesar “Chet” Cuneta and Emi Calixto-Rubiano. Not only that, she has also raised the hand of a politician in her father’s so-called narco-list. Inday Sara’s explanation is that she “will never turn down politicians who would publicly request her to raise their hands.”

Meaningless. That settles it.

Second, celebrity endorsements contribute to the dumbification of voters.  It is actually an insult to voters’ intelligence in that it presupposes that they are incapable of discernment and critical thinking, and that all it takes for politicians to win their votes is to make them follow the sound of a magical pipe played by the Pied Piper of Hamelin. For the sake of this country, shouldn’t politicians, who should know better, encourage voters to think for themselves rather than exploit their gullibility and dumb down the process of choosing candidates?

In Cagayan de Oro, we see three candidates whose hands were raised by the President — mayoral candidate Jose Gabriel La Viña of the Padayon Pilipino-Centrist Democratic Party, and PDP-Laban’s Yan Lam Lim who’s running for congressman, and former Davao-based TV broadcaster Girlie Balaba who is aspiring for a seat in the city council.

If La Viña, Lim and Balaba trust the President and are with him all the way (and I mean, all the way), why won’t they publicly support and vote for each other then? Or isn’t it the case that, to them, only one hand-raising event matters and that the others are meaningless?

If the Duterte “handjobs” really have meaning to them, then they would be supporting each other. But that is not the case, obviously, because, like many voters, they are not really with the President all the way because they have the ability to think on their own. And so, they cherry-pick the Duterte “handjobs” that only suit their agenda — not the President’s but their individual agenda.

Politicians can’t really expect voters to do what they are unwilling to do. There is still no substitute for good and decent salesmanship, and a functional organization that won’t bog down in the days between now and election day.

***

This week’s Lihuk forum at Xavier University was a good opportunity for Liga ng mga Barangay president and Councilor Alam Lim to sell himself to the voters in the city’s 2nd District but he missed it for reasons, although obvious to many, only he can discuss but not necessarily, articulate.

***

Just because the critical press remains critical despite the Duterte administration’s bullying doesn’t mean they’re plotting to oust the President.

Why can’t Duterte and Co. understand that journalists observe and report, and that in the exercise of freedom of speech and expression in a democacy, there has always been a space for editorials? That is not an ouster plot. In the context of what is happening in the Philippines today, that is a pressured press holding the line while democracy is under fire.

***

Mamasapano pales in comparison to what this President did to Marawi City. His administration burned an entire city to hunt down rats, and left thousands of innocent citizens homeless and bankrupt. Until now, people from that city are suffering.

No, what the Duterte administration did there cannot be justified. Like Mamasapano, the so-called “Marawi siege” was a result of a botched police operation to arrest an Abu Sayyaf man who had sought refuge there.

The government’s caliphate narrative defies logic. The Duterte administration wants us to believe that the Maute group’s plan at that time was to turn an entire city in the middle of the country’s second largest island into some kind of religious kingdom with laws of its own, isolated from the rest of Mindanao. But how is that possible?

The widely circulated video recording of the Maute-Abu Sayyaf meeting doesn’t prove that there was really a caliphate plan. It just shows the men meeting about something, but that was not necessarily an impossible Marawi takeover mission.

What really happened was that while Duterte was in Russia, a poorly executed police plan to arrest Isnilon Hapilon resulted in resistance. Hapilon and the Mautes fought back. And then Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law, and started bombing Marawi to pieces. I doubt that was a smart thing to do.

***

“Duterte tells rights groups: You defend criminals; I kill criminals.”

Nice sound bite, just like a line in a movie. But here’s what’s problematic about this: Only he, not our courts, say who’s criminal and who’s not. Pastilan.

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