A political obituary

posted October 08, 2015 at 12:01 am
by Jojo Robles

On Saturday, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will declare for the presidency together with his vice presidential running mate, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The announcement ceremony is tentatively scheduled to be held in the historic district of Intramuros in Manila.

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I’ve been one of the harshest critics over the years of Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino. And I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I’m sad to see him go.

But there’s still hope, I think, for the man. After all, under intense pressure to resign as MMDA chairman and to quit the Senate race, Tolentino did just that.

And for good measure, Tolentino apologized for his involvement in last week’s twerking incident during a Liberal Party swearing-in ceremony in Laguna. As we all know, accepting blame is somewhat of a lost art under this totally self-righteous and blame-tossing administration.

Of course, Tolentino never really admitted his role as the contractor (through intermediaries, of course) of the now-famous sexy dance group known as The Playgirls for the birthday bash of Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao. Nor did he admit that he’s been a regular client of the dance troupe over the years.

I also believe that Tolentino resigned and decided not to run for the Senate for the wrong reason, which is the fallout of the twerking incident. I believe Tolentino should have resigned long ago for messing up the traffic in Metro Manila.

Again, I must clarify that Tolentino didn’t create the traffic mess by himself. And the ever-worsening gridlock that millions of Metro Manila residents have to deal with daily will not be solved simply because Tolentino is now gone.

No, the traffic that copped the top prize as world’s worst in a survey conducted by the people who made Waze was not entirely Tolentino’s fault. His participation was limited to pretending that it could be fixed with band-aid measures and then staying on even when it became perfectly clear that these would not work.

The world-beating traffic mess was the direct result of an administration that did not think more infrastructure was needed in Metro Manila despite the very obvious growth in the number of vehicles purchased every year for the past five years. And it was aggravated by the failure of the same administration to maintain and improve the mass transit systems that it inherited, the fully-functioning MRT, LRT and PNR train networks that it has allowed to break down.

Tolentino just dreamed up gimmicks like asking a priest to bless Edsa and making traffic enforcers wear shorts. He must have known very early on that even if he had superhuman powers (which he did not), he could not succeed until his boss President Noynoy Aquino disabused himself of the belief that traffic is actually a good thing, because it was an indicator of economic growth.

Of course, the real reason Tolentino stayed on was to raise his profile in order to make himself a viable contender for a Senate run in 2016. His mistake was to believe that his Sisyphean task of managing Metro Manila was going to make him senator.

Because the truth is, no MMDA chairman, without the stalwart and constant support of the incumbent President, is going to succeed in his task. And even if he does, he is not going to be a popular person, especially among the mayors who will attempt to block his every move to protect their own turf (if you don’t believe me, I refer you to Bayani Fernando).

I understand that Tolentino, a lawyer and longtime mayor of Tagaytay City, was first offered a job at the Commission on Elections as his reward for helping make Aquino win in 2010. But for some reason, Tolentino thought that being MMDA chairman was more to his liking and in consonance with his future political plans—never mind if, as mayor of a provincial resort town, he was awfully unprepared for the job of running the daily lives of 16.5 million (as of 2010) residents of the country’s biggest and most chaotic urban area.

I’m told Tolentino is returning to Tagaytay and will run as mayor of that city again, now that he has quit the race for the Senate. I hope he attempts to give The Playgirls some bookings during his campaign in the city, to make up a bit for all the foregone revenues of the group, now that he is no longer going on a nationwide campaign.

More importantly, I hope Tolentino has learned that he cannot substitute dancing girls for actual performance on the job. And I hope, for his sake, that he stays in his city for good.

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