MANILA, NOVEMBER 28, 2003  (STAR) GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc - Whatís wrong with the picture? Show biz stars and movie fans are at the appointed place as early as 10 a.m. The buzz is that Fernando Poe Jr., Da King of Philippine cinema, would finally end months of suspense and declare his availability for the highest office in the land. Supporters blare that an opponent has emerged to give President Gloria Macapagal a tough fight in 2004. At past noon the matinee idol enters the hall to say he has made the hardest decision of his life. And then he proceeds to answer questions from the movie press. Why today? Because itís a Wednesday, his luckiest day of the week and the eve of his late dadís birthday, he explains. And heís wearing royal blue, he goes on, because itís his lucky color too. And he chose the Manila Hotelís Champagne Room for the momentous occasion because thatís where he met his wife 35 summers ago.

So whatís wrong with the pix? Well, somebody apparently forgot that in announcing oneís candidacy, he must also unveil his vision and plans for the people. More so if heís bandied as the candidate of the masa.

There was no such enlightenment. The rest of Wednesday afternoon was devoted by radio, the medium of the masa, to details about FPJís life in Tinseltown. His first bit role and starrer, his first award, his patience for reading long scripts, his no-frills cocktails with lowly stuntmen. It was all about the glitterati and the masaís love for it. No wonder the literati and the business community scoffed at the seeming "beauty contest" slumbook of presidential selection.

One rare, learned commentator noticed the void and compared it to how adoring fans of Gary Cooper in 1936 touted him as the next President of the US because he had shown his political skill in the box-office hit Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Citing FPJís own movies, the radioman deadpanned that the action star ably has battled against jueteng as barangay captain in Dito sa Pitong Gatang, against corrupt judges in Kapag Puno na ang Salop, and against poverty in Lagot Ka sa Tatay Ko. The commentator also wondered if RP would lose Japanese aid and investments, since FPJ mows them down by the dozen per bullet in war flicks.

Some of FPJís advocates noticed the void, too, and rushed to come up with meaningful lines on why he would make a good President. Aware of the biggest twit about FPJ, one of them went on several television stations to say that "his having no previous work in politics is a plus in a country messed up by politicians." But since the apologist was himself a politician, the statement didnít wash. Another said an FPJ Presidency could solve the Moro secession since he is idolized by Muslims in Mindanao. But that only drew guffaws at armed moviegoers who shoot at screen villains creeping up their idol from behind. Senator Tito Sotto, the former TV comedian who convinced the actor to run, also said "experience and competence is secondary (sic), even tertiary, to one with public trust." But coming from someone who once said in a Senate hearing that "if this paper is fake, then there must be an original," it sounded like a gag from a skit. And many who caught the news just couldnít get over FPJís own revelation that the reason heís joining the presidential race is because "nahihiya na ako sa maraming kaibigang nanghihikayat (Itís already so embarrassing to many friends whoíve been egging me)."

Truth to tell, FPJ did utter some sound bites that make for a platform of government. Asked why he thinks heís right for the top job, he told The STAR, "I am not beholden to anybody." In what could be a heeding of the cry for clean government, he said, "I am not corrupt, so when businessmen see that there is no corruption, especially at the top, they will invest their money here."

Jailed ex-President Joseph Estrada claimed surprise at his bosom buddyís decision to run. Only last September, though, he had said he was close to convincing him to do so. And as FPJ declaimed on camera, "Since last year, when I went around the Philippines, I saw what the people need and I saw their clamor, and I cannot turn my back." Inevitably there were groans about the possibility of another actor running the affairs of state. But that comparison is unfair-to Estrada. Although now facing charges for the heinous crime of plundering the public coffers, he at least had first served as town mayor, senator and vice president before going for the big-time.

While her political aides welcomed FPJ to the fray, Ms. Macapagal had no comment. It was too close for historical comfort. Her dad had had to run for President against a popular actor too in 1961.

The most stinging remark of the day came from Senator Panfilo Lacson, FPJís rival for the nomination of a united Opposition that never was. After saying only last week that he will abide by the decision of his party, the FPJ declaration now has Lacson grumbling that he would run for President even if he doesnít get the draft. To which Sotto obliquely replied, as if foreclosing any more attempt at unity, that FPJ would get Loren Legarda, from the Senate majority, as vice presidential runningmate.

Lacson brags he has more qualifications than FPJís mere popularity to go for high position. His whole life, he has worked in government-first as a lieutenant of the dreaded Constabulary during the martial law regime, then rising up the ranks to become head of the corrupt National Police and finally senator of the realm. Throughout those years, he has accumulated much experience, including the artful dodging of heinous crime cases.

And thatís exactly whatís going for FPJ.

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Catch Sapol ni Jarius Bondoc, Saturdays at 8 a.m., on DWIZ (882-AM).

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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