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Who will be the last man/ woman standing?

I can’t start this column without first extending to the family of the late Senator Joker Arroyo my sincerest condolences. I condole especially with his wife, lawyer Fely Aquino.

I knew Joker well. He is as old as I am—88 years. In fact, when I was taking up my Bachelor of Arts degree in Ateneo, we were classmates in some law subjects. Joker was my ROTC commandant since my former classmate, former vice president, foreign affairs and justice secretary Tito Guingona, could only reach the rank of sergeant.

When Joker became senator after serving nine years as Makati’s representative, we engaged in some kind of “word war,” calling each other names in print, until my wife told me to stop it.

Thus, I wrote, to Joker: “I am ending this word war because my wife threatened to stop talking to me if I don’t.” After that,  Joker and I again became good friends as were in college.

I cannot forget Joker when he described the Aquino administration as a “student council.” Well said, Joker, and may flights of angels sing you to your rest.

* * *

If I am not mistaken, it will be a four-way fight for the presidency in 2016.

First, there is Vice President Jejomar Binay, who never looked back when he announced years ago his bid for the No. 1 position of the land.

Then came former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, President Aquino’s anointed one.

Soon enough came Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, a first-termer in the Senate without an iota of experience in governance. She believes that since she topped the 2013 senatorial race and she is leading  in the poll surveys, she is automatically the people’s choice.

Now, comes Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to announce his candidacy for President in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, a Marcos bailiwick. Why there? Why not in Davao City, his homeground and bailiwick. Speculation has it that it will finally be a Duterte-Marcos tandem, aimed at solidifying vote-rich Ilocanda and the Cebuanos.

At this stage of the presidential race, It’s still anybody’s game.

While I have written earlier that Binay remains the frontrunner, I could only make a fearless forecast. I have been a journalist for 65 years. I know that having funding and grassroots machinery is crucial to winning the presidency. 

With Roxas being fielded by the administration—with all its advantages—the return bout with Binay can be interesting to watch.

Of course, Grace Poe will be somebody to watch as well—unless the Senate Electoral Tribunal disqualifies her for not being a natural-born Filipino.

The game changer, as some opinion writers say, is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. People want a strong-willed president. If it comes to pass that we would have a Duterte-Bongbong Marcos teamup, it could well make the difference in the presidential race. But while we want to be crime-free and drug-free, many also fear that Duterte can cross the line to dictatorship.

* * *

Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino continues to receive flak over the lewd performance of The Playgirls in last week’s birthday party of Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao.

Reports state that MMDA Chairman Tolentino arrived at the event at the same time as The Playgirls. This led the emcee to mistakenly announce that it was Tolentino who brought the group supposedly as entertainment gift for Agarao’s birthday.

Unfortunately for Tolentino, this is political season. He has become convenient target for those itching to engage in political grandstanding and mudslinging, but also among his rivals in the administration party’s senatorial slot. Understandably, some of Tolentino’s rivals are now calling on the party bosses to drop Tolentino from the LP ticket.

The Gabriela party-list is even threatening to charge Tolentino, ignoring his insistence that  he had nothing to do with the presence of those bikini-clad girls.

It is, however, quite ironic that Gabriela’s Liza Masa should be at the forefront of the group’s plan to charge Tolentino when she is said to have been featured in social media together with VP-aspirant  Bongbong Marcos and former Rep. Satur Ocampo watching the “kembot girls” doing a similar dance number.

Santa Banana, if there are people who should be charged with exploitation and abuse of women, it should be the managers of these girls and those who recruited the group and convinced them to simulate the scandalous, explicit sexual acts.

The girls themselves are not to be absolved from blame even if their job calls them to do sexy numbers. They or their managers should have at the very least noticed the presence of women and minors in the gathering and appropriately tame the performance.

As for those advocacy groups railing against the incident, maybe it would do well for them to undertake a program that would educate the vulnerable groups among women on how to respect themselves and maintain their dignity even as they struggle to earn an honest livelihood.

Like it or not, these have become accepted facts in the evolution of our culture and our society.

There are noontime shows viewed by countless number of impressionable young people where girls are induced to wear skimpy costumes. I am no prude but I do believe that scenes as these have no place in family entertainment.

What is worrisome is that Comelec itself said that there’s nothing in the Omnibus Election Law banning the acts of The Playgirls.

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