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The smell of power

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Leandro DD Coronel

Leandro DD Coronel

By Leandro DD Coronel

 

I consider Joseph Estrada the luckiest politician in our history.

He parlayed his kanto-boy-against-the-rich movie image to get into small-town politics. From being mayor of San Juan City he rose to become a senator, vice president and finally president.

He was impeached and dismissed as president, jailed but later pardoned. And now he wants to further inflict himself on the people of Manila as reelected mayor.

Estrada could never have reached the pinnacle of politics without help. When he showed promise as a winnable candidate, power brokers and people with money gravitated around him. They were attracted to him like moths to a flame.

And so they flocked to him in droves. What did they want? Power. That’s what drives the ambitious and the opportunists. They like the smell and taste of power. They don’t care and are not bothered where that power emanates. All they care about is the power itself.

And so it is today.

What to make of the likes of Alan Cayetano and Koko Pimentel? These guys had gotten us used to seeing them as crusaders in the Senate. They used to go after high officials who had helped themselves to the people’s money.

These two guys who used to be enraged by crooked public officials now can’t find anything wrong with a guy who curses practically every time he opens his mouth. They’re not appalled at reprehensible remarks about raping a woman ahead of others. They don’t seem bothered by the EJKs.

And yet people of means and reputation supported such people wanting to be president. Campaign financiers, strategists and volunteers are in the game for the power. They want to be on the inside when their candidate wins and is installed in the presidency.

That happened during Estrada’s campaign and administration. If you think back to those days, you will recall people from politics and the business sector whom you wouldn’t normally think as Estrada boosters but were there during the campaign and in Malacanang.

And so it was also in the 2016 campaign. You could see the strangest bedfellows in Rodrigo Duterte’s camp. And don’t forget, people like Fidel Ramos and Nene Pimentel urged Duterte to run.

Another example. During the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, technocrats occupied high positions in the government despite the excesses and oppressive nature of martial rule. Their lame excuse was that their presence in Marcos’ government somehow tempered the abuse.

Which was a faulty rationale because what they helped do was to prolong the dictatorship. At the fulcrum of that thinking was the leader of the technocrats, Finance Minister Cesar Virata, which is why I call their misguided justification the “Virata Fallacy.”

Some of the Marcos technocrats today sit on the boards of large banks or corporations, enjoying the perks given to those who know how to place themselves in the corridors of power.

The power brokers and the hangers-on aren’t bothered by the character or lack of leadership and/or intellectual skills of their principal. All they care about is the power they will wield and enjoy once their principal is neatly ensconced in the presidential palace.

 

***

Tantrum Ergo. The administration says if we insist on our rights over the islands in the West Philippine Sea that would lead to war. Is the alternative really down to subservience or war? Whatever happened to diplomacy as a substitute for war? Or are they just using the specter of war to scare us off the idea of insisting our rights?

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