Paras: I would advise the President to endorse BBM

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Presidential adviser on political affairs Jacinto “Jing” Paras went public yesterday and told Philippine star news editor Marichu “Ichu” Villanueva that, if it were to him, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte would surely endorse ex-senator and presidential bet Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior as the administration’s bet. And his reasons are simple: first, BBM is a “friendly” of the administration. As an ally, BBM will not harm the retirement days of the 76 years old president with all sorts of legal suits. And third, Paras thinks that Duterte is the key factor for BBM’s poll win come May.

Evidently, the palace is making what experts call “kingmaker” moves. Yesterday, when Paras went on air during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum of Ms. Villanueva, a faction of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban (PDP Laban) led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi also came forward and said that their party is finally endorsing Marcos junior as their administration bet. Seems like all these personalities with questionable performance records as bureaucrats are now trying to use their remaining time in office to become politically relevant.

This following the previous clarificatory statement by Melvin Matibag, secretary-general of the Cusi faction, that what Duterte meant when he says he prefers a lawyer as his successor was uttered as a “generally preferred” statement instead of referring to some specific personality. Vice president Leni Robredo and Atty. Jose Montemayor are lawyers running for the top seat this May.

These palace men– Paras, Cusi and Matibag– are singing just one tune. Have they already jumped ship towards the BBM chorus line? Paras is an oddity. During the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt, Paras led idealistic Filipino soldiers in occupying channel 4, the government’s television and radio network.

Paras even got his first government job as head of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) before he ran for Congress. Previous attempts at re-election failed.

During the 2016 elections, Paras sided with the camp of Vice president Jejomar Binay, the frontrunner for many presidential surveys before being ousted by Senator Grace Poe a month or two before the elections. Eventually, Duterte won in a maverick move that made many political analysts scratch their heads.

After many months, Paras became an undersecretary of Labor and then was asked to transfer to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office after a highly public altercation with his boss, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello. Last year, Paras was appointed Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs.

Actually, Paras’ announcement was not at all a surprise. The public already knew of the strong ties of the Duterte family and Marcos family. Duterte’s father was a previous member of the Marcos family before he resigned several days prior to the EDSA revolt outbreak. However, many also know that Duterte’s political inclinations were more inclined towards liberalism, as he ran and managed his political career as a petty government official in Davao either as a member of the Liberal Party or as PDP-Laban.

The fact is, in 2010, Duterte campaigned and supported the candidacy of Benigno Aquino III, the son of former president Cory who gave Duterte his first job as administrator of the city of Davao. During the tumultuous years of the Arroyo presidency, Duterte was also close to the palace powers yet at one point, also expressed his contrary views publicly and in support of idealistic members of the AFP. Duterte once fiddled with the Left and flew to the Right as a manner of political survival.

I disagree with Paras on his presumption that a Robredo presidency would do more harm than good to Mr. Duterte. I think that under a Robredo presidency, there would be healing. At 76 years old and afflicted with several illnesses, Mr. Duterte would probably elect to just fade away politically rather than exert energy in meddling with politics.

The fact is, Duterte would actually be more in danger in a BBM presidency rather than a Robredo’s for one thing: the oligarchs surrounding BBM right now are the very ones whom Mr. Duterte tried to crush during his administration. They would surely retaliate one way or the other. Why?

I am definitely sure that whoever the political gods favor, one person is sure to get the heat eventually, and that is, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go. And Mr. GO will get it not just from the political front, but on all fronts, be it military or business. And Mr. Go will not have Mr. Duterte at his side the minute the heavens fall on him post-administration.

Unfortunately for those who count themselves as Go’s subalterns at the palace, they will get their just desserts whether Leni or Bongbong assumes the presidency. And even worse if Sara wins the vice presidency and eventually assumes the presidency after several years. These people might as well ready their monies already, identify a friendly country and leave here and stay there, wherever that is.

The best advice I think that Mr. Paras is responsible for giving is this: neutrality. Mr. Duterte ought not to side with any political camp and just remain politically neutral. That way, the next president, whoever that is, will not be as vindictive as former president Aquino when he “punished” his successor, Gloria.

Another thing: these palace men must be realistic and admit that their time is up. The Robredo campaign is heating up and getting so much momentum that it poll victory is already assured. Paras even admitted such during his interview with Villanueva.

Paras was quoted as saying that BBM needs that 20% that Mr. Duterte still holds as his political capital. A Duterte endorsement, says Paras, would seal BBM’s victory. The thing is, even if Duterte does follow Mr. Paras’ advice, it will all be too late. Why?

First, even if Duterte finally endorses BBM, there is not enough time to “spread the dough” so to speak to local government officials also running their own campaigns. The only reason why LGU officials are still keeping their cards close to their chests is the prospect of them benefitting from the projects that remain unfulfilled and reportedly, funded. With just a month before the elections, such funds are not at all forthcoming.

Second, most local government officials are keeping their ears close to the ground as possible because there is a veritable difference between what they are reading and listening above ground with that happening right under their noses. Admittedly, there is a slow yet increasing grumble below ground that is potentially a game-changer coming to the polls. Ask any Duterte DDS and they will tell you that these “ground shakes” are the very signs that they saw during Duterte’s campaign.

Metaphorically, people are beating their chests, attending humongous rallies and plastering their homes with Leni-Kiko posters, unheard of several months ago yet becoming a social phenomenon only seen twice in Philippine history: the snap polls prior to EDSA revolt outbreak and the Duterte campaign. Isko Moreno for all his bluster is still not gaining enough points to better Leni’s. The same goes for Ping and Pacquiao. These presidential bets had already lost momentum. The delicious thing is that Robredo’s campaign could actually muster enough to snatch a victory.

Even if Moreno’s numbers catch up to double digits, Robredo’s might actually reach her maximum rating of 30% before the elections. If Robredo’s numbers do reach that 30% level, it just means that BBM’s numbers had peaked already. Consider this scenario:

Robredo–32%

BBM—30%

Moreno–20%

Pacquiao–10-12%

Lacson–5%

the rest 1%

Yes, it will be close but it ensures a Robredo victory. Why is this scenario possible?

First, Robredo got her 16 million votes during the 2016 vice-presidential elections. BBM also got his 16 million. I am definitely sure a huge chunk of Mr. Duterte’s base had already been decimated and most are now going to different camps: BBM, Moreno, Lacson, and Pacquiao. Remember: these are DDS votes going to separate camps. Despite their migration, did anyone benefit from this? Yes, only BBM. Yet remember that even if DDS forces go to BBM eventually, they will only reach a level of between 16 to 17 million.

There is this youth vote and mostly first-timer votes that one needs to observe because they could be the game-changers in these polls. Many had dismissed them but surely they will be a force to reckon with come May 9. Their presence in these Robredo rallies should already give all the other parties and political camps some to ponder.

More on a separate piece…

 

 

 

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