Wed. Dec 8th, 2021

By Antonio Contreras

POLITICS is ideally a noble profession because it requires sacrifice. Plato even wrote about rulers abandoning their private properties and families in order to serve the collective good. Thus, in an ideal world, those who are running for office should be ready to abandon everything that they hold dear as individuals, and subordinate this to the common interest is that which is not just about what one sector holds valuable, but that which will be the lowest common denominator to everyone.

It is easy to talk about reaching a consensus about the common good in Plato’s city-state. But the task has become infinitely complex now that we deal with a republic with over a hundred million people. This is precisely why in order to forge unity despite diversity, there must be a willingness to compromise, forgive and forget in the same manner that Plato urged his philosopher-kings to abandon and forget everything they hold dear and just focus on governing. Unity in a fractured political community cannot be achieved when there are people who are so blindly loyal to particular personalities or narratives that they would label those who disagree with their preferences as enemies to be conquered and not as fellow citizens to be understood and accepted.

It is most unfortunate that our political landscape has been severely torn asunder, where vitriol and toxic discourse have reigned, even in a terrain that is labeled as “social” and where groups are referred to as “communities.” Social media has become the perfect example of a contradiction, a technology that was primarily designed to bridge physical separation, but has now further divided friends, relatives and peers.

It cannot be overstated. What our divided country needs is a unifier, one who can transcend political differences and gather all our various political orientations to address the biggest challenge of our time.

While in past elections, candidates focused on distant problems, or even imagined ones that are translated into campaign brands, what we are facing right now is a very real crisis of a pandemic that has killed friends and undermined livelihoods of people we no longer just imagine or hear about, but actually are familiar with.

This is a time when people no longer give a hoot about the jaded anti-Marcos narrative, of seeking justice for the desaparecidos and victims in the past, but of people crying for answers and solutions so that no more friends will lose their lives and their livelihoods.

This is a time when people do not have the patience to hear politicians talk about unity, while their supporters do everything to alienate a huge swath of voters. This is a time for immediate action.

If we play scenarios in our mind, in order for a candidate to be able to unify, he or she must bear a narrative that sincerely transcends political differences. And this cannot be achieved if the base from which such a candidate would launch a campaign is already starting from a position of moral purity, self-righteousness and the inability to forgive and forget.

This is precisely why while I am not saying that Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has no chance of unifying the country, it is safe to imagine that it would be terribly difficult. And the reason behind this lies in the political culture of her base.

Her campaign has rebranded from yellow to pink, and has issued marching orders to its loyal troops to penetrate the grassroots and become “kakampinks” to engender what Bam Aquino, Robredo’s campaign manager, anticipate as a “pinksplosion,” hoping to enlarge her base. But it is easy to rebrand a name, and conjure a cute play of words, but the main question is always authenticity.

And any social scientist will tell you that Filipinos hate inauthentic and insincere people, whom we label simply as “plastic.”

Robredo supporters will be met with a huge problem of descending on the general population, composed of people many of whom idolize Marcos or Duterte, or both, people they look down on.

They hope to convert supporters of other candidates who witnessed how they savaged Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso. Ordinary people will easily spot insincerity and can easily brand pink as the color that just pretends to be not — or denies that it is — yellow.

This is not saying that it will be impossible. But the climb for Robredo will be steep. Robredo supporters want the Marcoses to apologize for their father’s sins. They might as well also apologize to all the people they have offended before they can even make them change their minds and consider Robredo.

The Robredo base proudly shouted they will never forget and cannot forgive the Marcoses. Yet, they will seek forgiveness from people they have alienated with their divisive and toxic rhetoric.

And this challenge is even greater if Robredo manages to eke out a comfortable pluralist, but not a majority, victory in a crowded race. She will be facing a determined, angry, offended, and equally unforgiving Marcos and Duterte base.

Letting Leni lie

I once read a devoted Robredo supporter threaten that a civil war may ensue if former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. wins next year. Actually, I am not worried since Robredo supporters are known to be noisy but not violent during the six years of the reign of a man they hate.

What is even more likely is that if Robredo wins, we may just see the level of political violence — both verbal and physical — increasing.

After all, we have not seen the DDS when they are out of power. With the purist and unforgiving nature of the Robredo camp, it is doubtful that they would accommodate the migration of possible DDS turncoats into their ranks. In fact, if Robredo wins, we may be a bit closer to civil war not only in social media.

You are free to disagree. But Robredo is not the candidate, or president, that can unify this country.

The Americans are not too far behind the fink campaign. Loida and Mely Nicolas are championing the cause from New York City. They were the moving force behind President Noynoy Aquino’s failed regime through the US Pinoys for Good Governance, suspected of funneling millions of dollars into the Philippine political system and social media. Some of the sources of laundered foreign financial intervention come from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Omidyar Network which are overt fronts of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Soros Foundation.

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