COLUMN: THE MESSIANIC TEMPTATION; IT'S NO LONGER FUNNY!

MANILA, January 9, 2004 (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - Sorry for FPJ, but so many entertainment, movie, television and show biz characters have jumped into the fray that this election has turned into a bad joke on the Filipino people. Sadly, the joke is on us – and it’s our fault.

Just review the Senatorial line-up of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s so-called "Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan" – a jawbreaker stupidly designed to be cutely called, in acronym, K-4. Do they want to resemble F-4 of "Meteor Garden"? Sanamagan – the list looks like the movie credits which scroll after every motion picture of the puting tabing, or some TV telenobela.

On GMA’s roster, we see Lito Lapid (who got the most applause, Susmariosep, when the K-4’s registered at the Commission on Elections along with President GMA. Was it Lapid’s record as a Pampanga governor that got him those handclaps of adulation from the crowd – or his "action star" fame? No need to guess. Then there’s the school drop-out but drop-dead guapo Bong Revilla, whose current fans, the kids who adore him as "Captain Barbell", can’t vote – but, hey, "name recall" he hopes will work for him.

We mustn’t forget GMA’s pick for vice presidential running mate, television’s part-time Senator Noli "Magandang Gabi, Bayan" de Castro. Is it true that at Senate sessions, Bayan is severely "intellectually challenged"?

Is it black propaganda? The story about the good Senator going around is that when Oakwood Mutiny spokesman, Navy Lt. s.g. Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes was being interrogated in the Upper Chamber, Senator Noli in his patented-baritone asked him: "Married, single, or widow?" (When an aide nervously whispered, "Sir, sir – widower is the right word," De Castro allegedly shushed back that "it’s the same thing"). Okay, the tale may be apocryphal, but too many people believe it.

As for Movie Idol "Da King" Fernando Poe Jr.’s own ticket, let’s start with Senator Loren Legarda – whose TV stardom catapulted her to the Senate. At least, winsome Loren accomplished much in her Senate stint, including an emotional weeping outburst directed against FPJ’s pal, former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, in the impeachment drama.

She will now slug it out, toe to toe, with her ABS-CBN ex-comrade, De Castro.

Then, why on earth did FPJ agree to take aboard ex-San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, who also comes from the "action star" (junior grade) storyboard, but was very obviously pushed into the ticket by his over-eager father, Erap? Isn’t Jinggoy still facing charges in the Sandiganbayan? If he keeps on showing he can be pushed around by Erap, the great two-fisted FPJ will betray that he doesn’t have, as they say in the old Western movies, "sand in his craw".

And who’s Ronnie Poe’s most audible and visible spokesman and campaign manager, but fellow show-blitzer, Senator Tito Sotto?

This celluloid invasion of the political scene, it must be said, is not new. The electorate has been voting so many "stars" into public office, from mayor, to governor, to congressman, to senator, that our blessed republic has begun to look like "That’s Entertainment", rather than a res publica of the serious variety.

Sure, it’s a free country, and in a democracy, anyone can aspire to leadership. But now, to our dismay, it’s turning into a tidal wave of celebrities. "Too much of a good thing" is bad, as the old saying goes. What about too much of a bad thing? It’s catastrophic.

The problem is that so many of those with solemn college degrees and great academic achievement have turned out to be "bad actors" when they came to power. When Ronnie Poe’s school drop-out status and lack of college education, or "unpreparedness" is assailed, many from the masa to the blue-collar and lower middle class – his admirers – testily retort: "So what? This country was run by Bar topnotchers, men and women with degrees from our universities as well as American universities, etc. But here we are, even poorer than before!"

What bothers me – forgive me if this paragraph makes me sound like the usual scaremongers and doomsayers in the neighborhood – is that at one point, those restless young men in our armed forces, whether of the Oakwood variety or the ROTC, may "try again" in disgust, and this time in greater numbers, to "save the country". After all, they have college degrees. After all, they see things are going to wreck and ruin. The "messianic complex", as it has in many other countries, may rear its head once more within our military.

I’m not speaking of the generals, who have incorporated themselves into the Establishment, but the younger idealists, along, with the hotheads and the ambitious. The RAM, which has now long gone to pieces and pot-bellies, in their heyday came close to overthrowing the government in December 1989 – and their Scout Rangers (again!) had occupied Makati’s Golden District for an entire week. Lest we forget.

Beware, the messianic temptation. That’s all I’ll say.

* * *

Did GMA talk her half-sister, former Pampanga Vice Governor Cielo Macapagal, out of running for Congress in the 2nd District – against GMA’s son Mikey (who’s currently vice-governor)?

The latest hot tip is that the President had an earnest one-hour telephone conversation with Cielo, as an offshoot of which, Cielo desisted from filing her "certificate of candidacy" by last Monday’s Comelec deadline.

Now, Miguel Arroyo Jr. (Mikey) will be running for congressman against an otherwise unknown Councilman, whose surname is Lapid. He’s expected to win in a breeze, without Auntie Cielo’s challenge.

All the deal-making which has been going on makes you dizzy. Cielo would have made a formidable opponent. Certainly, she was not bribed or cozened into withdrawing. She’s a fine, upstanding lady, known for her idealism and zeal, and had racked up a good record when she was Vice Governor. She lost to Lito Lapid, however, when she ran for Governor.

What must have irritated Cielo no end was when her younger half-sister Gloria picked Lapid to "dress up" her Senate ticket, when she could not help knowing Cielo has a pending anti-graft case against Lapid in the Sandiganbayan. Cielo has accused Lapid of a "quarrying scam" in Porac – you know the multimillion-peso traffic in Porac sand. (This sand came from the first eruption 600 years ago of Mt. Pinatubo, in which the ancient lahar became excellent sand to be utilized in the finest glassmaking.)

Originally, Cielo’s brother Arthur Macapagal had been scheduled to run against Mikey, but he too had been "talked" out of it by La Presidenta.

Both Cielo and Arthur are, of course, children of GMA’s father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal with his first wife, the late Purita de la Rosa – a sister of the movie idol of his day, the late Rogelio "Roger" de la Rosa. (Roger, too, was famed as Da King, even Da Emperor of movies). They were all from Lubao, Pampanga.

Purita died in 1943. Cielo, who was born in October 1940, was only three years old when her mother passed away. Cong Dadong later married Dr. Evangeline Macaraig Macapagal, from Binalonan, Pangasinan. The late First Lady, Eva, was the mother of GMA and her younger brother "Buboy", i.e. Diosdado Macapagal, Jr.

In the Philippines, family relations are paramount, but so often complicated. * * * Don’t underestimate President GMA. She has the edge, thus far, in this election. What’s more, the Opposition – as has frequently been observed – is throwing punches at one another, with more telling effect than on GMA.

FPJ’s group calls itself the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, KNP, which I roughly translate as "Coalition of United Filipinos". But the Opposition Filipinos are far from united. Behind-the-scenes negotiations may be ongoing – although I’ve no proof of this – between the FPJ camp and Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson’s camp. Possibly, Ronnie and Ping may already be slated for a one-on-one meeting. Yet, Lacson still says he is determined to run for President. It’s strange he has posted no vice presidential runningmate, nor has he permitted any Senatorial hopefuls to run with him.

You’ve got to give the former Police Chief, the twin-barreled anti-crime and anti-kidnap fighter full "A" marks for courage and tenacity – even with his survey scores in extremis. The GMA Administration tried with might and main to hammer him to his knees, and break him with the Kuratong Baleleng rap which was resurrected against him, time and again, but he verbally outgunned and out-Pidaled his tormentors both in and outside government. But being tough and gutsy doesn’t guarantee someone the Presidency. What’s happening is that FPJ and Ping, egged on by their merry men, may in the end marginalize each other.

Shame on the Commission on Elections for the sneaky way in which it offered both Opposition "parties" the poisoned apple! The offer to split the election inspectors on that weird basis is being interpreted all around, not as a "Solomonic" decision, but as a demonic one.

King Solomon, after all, did not cut the baby in half. He had used the dodge, as any Bible reader will tell you, to discover who was the disputed infant’s true mother. C’mon, Chairman Ben Abalos: what was the Comelec’s "true" intention? Presidential Defender Mike Defensor quickly sprung up to declare: Don’t blame that on us! One can only say that the former Congressional "Spice Boy" spices up the dialogue, but too frequently bumbles. He should be in show biz.

* * * APOLOGIES.

This goes under the embarrassed label of Ooops. Mourning Becomes Electra, although it was inspired by Sophocles’ Greek tragic heroine, was not written by Sophocles but by Nobel Prize winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953), reputed to be the most renowned American playwright of the 20th century. Forgive me for this lapse in scholarship, but oncoming senility plays tricks on the memory.

By the way, O’Neill’s incomparable, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which he completed in 1940 – his autobiography, really – is currently, once again, a big hit on Broadway. It’s remarkable how that resurrected, unhappy tale (he’s sometimes more pessimistic than Ibsen) continues to draw crowds of playgoers, long after it was first staged in 1956. In the drama, the youngest son is dispatched to a sanitarium with tuberculosis, and never forgives dad for locking him away, while mother is destroyed by drugs, and his older brother is wrecked by drink. Contemporary American audiences must love tales of torment and frustration – and today’s Broadway playgoers, tormented by the Iraq crisis and the terrorist threat – might be seeking solace in O’Neill’s dark play.

His other famous plays are Under the Elms, Strange Interlude, part of Trilogy, and his four plays, Beyond the Horizon, The Emperor Jones, Anna Christie and The Hairy Ape.

O’Neill, strange to say, denied his torment. "I am far from being a pessimist – On the contrary, in spite of my scars, I am tickled to death at life!"

As for myself, I am tickled to death at today’s politics.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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