Fri. May 27th, 2022

Let us take time now to recall the memory of Pascual Racuyal, the quintessential Filipino politician who made running for president his lifelong vocation.

Racuyal is forever etched in Philippine lore as the one who tried the most and to the last to become the president of the Philippines. Like the Republic’s 15 presidents, Racuyal left behind a motley progeny, some of whom we see on display today in the current election campaign.

Racuyal is among the few Filipinos who are honored with a biographical entry by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia writes of the man:

“Pascual B. Racuyal (Cebu City, 1911 – Bulacan, 2004) was a Filipino eccentric and aspirant for the Philippine presidency, whose persistent attempts at the presidency earned him folk status. Racuyal sought the presidency in every Philippine presidential election beginning in 1935 against Manuel L. Quezon and Emilio Aguinaldo until 1986 (against Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino).

“He grew up in Barangay Tinago in Cebu City and eventually became a mechanic at an early age. An unknown fanaticism and will urged him to run for the presidency, eventually leading to his flight to Manila, wherein he argued and debated with prominent political figures and became a constant mock-up comedian of sorts in every presidential election.

“Racuyal, a mechanic or garbage collector by profession, was never a credible political figure at any point in his life. His final attempt at the presidency in 1986 was thwarted after the Commission on Elections disqualified him as a ‘nuisance candidate.’

“There were questions as to Racuyal’s mental stability. Among his promises should he be elected to the presidency was to construct roads out of plastic to prevent their further deterioration. When he invited Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson to be his running mate in the 1953 presidential elections, the latter called Racuyal ‘strictly fiction, utterly fantastic and incredible.’ Nonetheless, as time passed, his repeated candidacy provided for an amusing mild diversion to a frequently heated election atmosphere.

“Racuyal made it to the ballot twice. In 1935, he got 158 votes, or less than 0.01 percent of the vote. In 1969, he got 778 votes, or just over 0.01 percent of the vote.”

Significantly, Racuyal’s percentage of the votes is not unlike the numbers that are being drawn today by opposition candidates in the pre-election surveys. They, like Racuyal, are implacable in their refusal to allow any form of reality to intrude on their candidacy.

Trailing candidates’ press conference

Pascual Racuyal is relevant to the 2022 election because of the way some clearly losing presidential candidates are now desperately trying to prop up their failing campaigns through various stratagems and gimmicks to catch attention.

Last Easter Sunday, April 17, three of these candidates called a press conference at the Manila Peninsula in Makati, to announce the latest twist in their campaigns.

The press conference, featuring Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, was weird.

Its principal objective was to lambaste the efforts of Vice President Leni Robredo to unite the opposition candidates behind her candidacy and create a united front against the frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The three candidates accused Robredo of pressuring them to withdraw from the race and support her.

They felt insulted by her presumptuous suggestion that they have no chance of winning and should just support her.

“She treated us as garbage,” declared Moreno, who very likely paid for the press conference.

The press briefing was supposed to be attended also by two other presidential candidates: Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Ernesto Abella. But they did not show up.

Lacson identified Robredo as the politician responsible for getting his party Reporma to junk him as its candidate last month and support Robredo instead. He also named former Quezon City mayor Jun Simon as the one who urged him to withdraw in favor of Robredo.

Isko Moreno was the most virulent of the three. He declared that Robredo was the one who should withdraw from the presidential race.

WATCH: Let Leni Withdraw                       

When Moreno sounded his call for VP Robredo to back out of the race, Lacson quickly distanced himself from Moreno’s move.

Norberto Gonzales in turn apologized to Robredo for earlier suggesting that she should withdraw. Manny Pacquiao rejected Moreno’s call and said that Robredo should pursue her candidacy to its conclusion.

Robredo, meanwhile, remained unfazed by all the talk about her; she urged her supporters to focus on the campaign.

The three candidates at the Peninsula press conference — Lacson, Moreno and Gonzales — jointly declared that none of them would withdraw from the contest.

But they may only have succeeded in damaging the vice president, who remains buried under the shadow of Marcos Jr.’s sustained popularity and advantage. With only 19 days left to election day, Marcos has not lifted his foot from the pedal.

Incapable of statecraft

The confused press conference exposed not only the differences and disagreements among the anti-Marcos candidates. It displayed even more the utter incapacity of these candidates for statecraft and negotiation to promote among themselves the littlest agreement concerning the campaign. It seemed as if they had fallen into the spell of “impossibilism”, the doctrine which believes in the futility of all effort at change.

For politicians proposing themselves as the next president of the republic, they individually lacked a basic understanding of statecraft and its importance in politics.

In a much-praised book entitled Statecraft (Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2007), former US diplomat and chief peace negotiator Dennis Ross defined statecraft as the art of using the means of influence leaders have to affect the behavior of others, whether friendly or hostile.

Those who are most effective in statecraft are known as statesmen. In the 20th century, heads of state, such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, applied statecraft techniques to advance their nations’ interests both domestically and abroad. Churchill was known for using statecraft to make decisions about how Great Britain would aid in defending other nations during World War 2, while Roosevelt’s proficiency in statecraft was instrumental in developing the foreign policies that allowed America to expand its global power.

Negotiation is considered the most essential tool of statecraft. Problems or crises can be resolved through negotiation.

Negotiation is about mutual adjustment. This is the essence of compromise. Our values do not get in the way of negotiations, but our self-image does. It gets in the way of reaching productive agreements.

In a telling comment, Ross wrote that one reason Woodrow Wilson was not an effective negotiator was that his principles were inviolable. There could be no concession or adjustment to others.

Racuyal lives on

Here we get to the heart of the failure of the opponents of Bongbong Marcos to forge a united challenge against him.

They are all enamored with their quest for the presidency.

While there were clear efforts to negotiate or broker an agreement, the initiatives floundered when it was asked what they would talk about. The idea of one candidate giving way to another, and especially of the majority giving way to a single candidate, was unthinkable to them.

They were all prepared to suffer defeat in the election, rather than accept the indignity of withdrawal from a losing or hopeless fight.

Up to the very end, Pascual Racuyal never quit. His spirit lives on.

Rejoinder by SPH editor.

Leave a Reply