The circus officially begins this week when those aspiring for national office start trooping to the Commission on Elections at Intramuros to file their respective certificates of candidacy. The whole exercise will be marked by all kinds of gimmickry which people will try to pass off as ceremonial pomp and pageantry. There will be ati-atihan dancers, marching bands, cheer leaders, confetti, and hordes of placard-waving and shrieking supporters garbed in whatever colors the candidates have chosen to represent themselves.
What all the extravaganza has to do with the occasion baffles the mind. When we come to think about it, the filing of certificates of candidacy should be a solemn, if not sacred, moment. It’s when a candidate declares under oath his or her sincere intention to serve the people. It is supposed to mark the moment when the proverbial die is cast, when a candidate makes a date with destiny. Why candidates cheapen such a potentially poignant moment is indicative of their character and the value they attach to elective positions.
Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista has laid down the specific guidelines to be followed during the filing of candidacies this week. He has particularly asked that candidates limit to a certain number the supporters who would join them inside the Comelec offices. Let’s see if Bautista is able to implement his guidelines—we all know from experience that most candidates and their supporters have the tendency to flaunt laws. The irony is that these people claim to be messiahs representing change and reform, yet they cannot be bothered to follow basic laws of courtesy and responsible citizenship. For example, most of them will be organizing motorcades that will create monstrous traffic jams that will inconvenience hundreds of thousands of people—the same ones they swear they will serve. And we can all be sure that all of them will be leaving behind tons of trash at Intramuros that most of them cannot be bothered to clean up. So right at the very start we already know that many of these people are hypocrites—their actions are not aligned with their supposed intentions.
This week, therefore, we really should be on the lookout for the candidates who will treat the filing of their certificates of candidacies with the decorum required of the occasion. It’s when we separate the clowns from the earnest public servants, the buffoons from the sensible ones, the grain from the chaff.
But then again, we’ve already known the real worth of certain candidates prior to this week’s filing of certificates of candidacies.
For example, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who declared his intention to run for the vice presidency last week, made big declarations about the supposedly bold and revolutionary transformation that he wants to initiate once he gets elected into office. In the interest of disclosure, I will state for the record that having personally suffered from the political repression that was prevalent during the Marcos dictatorship, I loathe the Marcoses and what they represent. However, I will respect, albeit grudgingly, anybody’s right to run for any office and to make an utter fool of himself or herself in the process. In the case of Marcos, his bold pronouncements about the kind of movement that he will initiate and pursue once he gets elected as vice president come across not only as hollow and insincere —they were also, quite frankly, ridiculously implausible.
Unless the line of succession is invoked, the post of vice president in this country has no value; he or she serves at the pleasure of the President. Of course we all know that the vice president is next in line to the President, but there’s no guarantee that he or she is treated as such. In many instances in the past, we’ve even had Presidents who deliberately bypassed or ignored the vice president. Let’s call a spade a dirty shovel—the post of vice president is basically a decorative or ceremonial position. Worse, if the person occupying the post is not on the good side of the President, he or she ends up doing absolutely nothing, usually given token responsibilities hardly worth crowing about. So how Marcos intends to initiate his grand movement as vice president is perplexing.
We all know that Marcos is not exactly a moron, so we know that he knows about the limitations of the functions of the vice president. All those grand pronouncements, therefore were just that—an exercise in rhetorical discourse. That’s what Marcoses do best. Seriously, folks—we’ve been there before, haven’t we learned our lesson from the Marcos dictatorship yet?