After the glory

She sits on a striped green couch in a white suit and gold-and-white heels, bare legs demurely pressed together, hand to chin, all wide-eyed wonder as she poses questions to the plump columnist in the big armchair. “Is that Camus? It’s a French saying? You know, I used to read Camus a lot. Would you know how that line translates into French?”

The mirrored walls reflect a gold salver from the King of Malaysia, and a marble elephant from the Prime Minister of India. She talks of communists with a smile, preaches about prayer, and talks of reforestation and disaster reduction and opening the Press Office on Saturdays. “I didn’t know Sunday had the biggest readership.”
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Apr 24, 2010 under Politics | no comment

The undecided

When Albay Gov. Joey Salceda announced he was bolting to the opposition, it was as if Judas came prancing down the road to Calvary in glitter disco shoes.

“He did not only betray Gibo. He betrayed us,” says Antique Gov. Salvacion Perez. Salceda, former economic adviser to the country’s “lucky bitch,” bolted the administration party to accept Noynoy Aquino’s offer to act as Liberal Party’s chair in Bicol.

To the men and women behind Teodoro, staggering under the dead weight of a decade of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the defection of one of its strongest governors was the height of betrayal. It was Judas blowing kisses to a bleeding Jesus. In this story, Jesus wears green, Judas is in yellow, and the 30 pieces of silver make a happy jingle as Albay’s godfather moonwalks his way to the court of the yellow king to offer Albay’s 3 million votes.

And so the camp of presidential candidate number two Manny Villar points a finger at the apostles robed in yellow and the man who stood with them. There, says Villar and his men, there is your proof. Judas-lover, pretender to the throne, yellow-bellied, yellow-skinned, watch him smile at the devil’s own. There is no Jesus, they say, no Messiah, only a false prophet wearing his father’s shoes.

Aquino’s disciples preach another gospel. Their Noynoy is the true Messiah, son of the virgin mother and the righteous father. Their Jesus is a good man, a forgiving man, barefoot, heart-whole, welcoming sinners and tax collectors into his fold, blessing prodigal sons and Magdalenes with yellow ribbons in their hair. See the little children follow him. See the angels at his shoulders. See the kindness in his smile.

I am told that the elections will be a fight for the soul of a nation. God and country, good and evil. This is the time for the great fight between Good and Evil, says Conrado de Quiros, in a voice ringing with destiny—between Cory and Marcos, between Obama and Bush, between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Eye of Mordor, between Luke Skywalker and the Evil Empire.

I am told that if I were objective, I would see that Benigno Aquino III is the right and only choice for the presidency. And so Jesus will rise again, will lead his thousands, will save this nation from the fires of corruption and poverty. That I have been told the same thing, in language of varying degrees of violence, about Teodoro, and Joseph Estrada, and Villar, and Nick Perlas, and, for reasons unknown, Jamby Madrigal, means I have very little faith in the high drama of a savior coming to crucify himself to save the nation. It matters that I hold the grim honor of being accused within a two-month span of being a paid Villar hack, an Aquino toady, and a Gibo apologist who doubles as a communist informer. I can tell you this much: whatever color Jesus wears today, he’ll shuck off the robe the moment there’s blood on the linen.

I do not write this today as an opinion columnist, committed to publishing 6,500 characters every week in exchange for rent money and the doubtful privilege of presenting a direct target for left, right, center and the small but loud minority that disapproves of the alignment of my nose. I write this as one of Pulse Asia’s rising percentage of undecided voters, the statistical one in 10 who does not know which circle to color in Smartmatic’s humidity-sensitive 2010 ballots. I write this as a 24-year-old female voter with a 4-year-old niece in pre-school and a square little box of a nephew who has the digestive capacity of a trash compactor. My parents are pushing 60, my brother is in Dubai, my rent is rising and the stability and safety of my career is subject to the vindictiveness of whoever is in power. When I vote, I vote for the two smartasses who are now hounding my father for lollipops, the same way I’ll vote for the half-mad sot who sleeps naked at the front steps of the next-door building.

Politics is always personal, and it is why the blood is rising hot and heavy online, on the street, and on air. I am not objective, and have never claimed to be without biases. I believe in free speech and free education, in the right to contraception, gender, food, shelter, equality, pornography and red lipstick. I believe no one is above scrutiny, that there are jackasses in the Supreme Court the same way there are jackasses in Congress and in the military and in the sacred cathedrals of Holy Mother Church. That I am female, educated, and in the media does not mean I will vote only for women, or only for the educated, or only for those in my profession. That would mean a vote for Loren Legarda, and that would compromise my other, more specific bias—I like candidates who can at least pretend sincerity.

I’m not looking for a messiah, I need a man who will not shove this sorry country down a sorrier hole: who will not lie too often or demand too much, who will not cheat or steal, who will not be the mouthpiece of elite factions or the Catholic Church, who will have the balls to make the decisions that have to be made and will take responsibility when he fails, who will say what he stands for without weaseling out of it the next day, who will not invoke dead brothers and mothers, who will not put his mistresses in mansions while thousands starve, who will not put God over the law and bigotry over democracy, and who will, in the end, remember that his mandate is to the people. And because I know that is asking for too much, I am willing to vote for the lesser evil, once I figure out what the lesser evil is. I have discovered that the system demands men to make compromises and make promises, and that man is not only Joey Salceda. Every man waving from the stage is subject to the vested interests of families and factions and friendships and the smell of government money, and any man who claims otherwise is either a liar or a fool.

I know that a man without the will to rein in sisters and uncles and varying factions during his campaign has little chance of reining in rebels with AK47s. I also know that a man whose entire campaign is based on his rocketing rise out of poverty loses credibility when it is proven he was never truly poor, and I am well aware of the irony in a man damning the elite after having held hands with half the nation’s Chinese tycoons. I know, for example, that a man who disclaims responsibility for crimes made possible under his watch cannot be trusted to be accountable to the 90 million whose lives are in his hands. And yet I would like to vote for a man with a fair chance of winning, as I have little use for blind mavericks with Goliath egos.

This is my attempt at full disclosure. I am 24, I am a Filipino, and I need someone to vote for

Apr 4, 2010 under Politics | no comment