By Herbert Vego
TRADITIONAL politicians who pretend to care for the people to perpetuate themselves in power are said to be “Machiavellian,” their “goodness” stemming from selfish motives.
This truism seems to be behind the announced decision of Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson to run for vice-president and president, respectively, in 2022.
It’s like saying they are giving up their loyalty to President Rodrigo Duterte, who has also made known his intention to run for vice-president (assuming he could legally do it).
Add to the complication the presumed inclination of presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio to run for president with a still unknown non-Duterte as vice-presidential running mate.
Unless they are joking, Lacson and Sotto would inevitably project themselves as “knights in shining armor” against the allegations of graft and corruption now haunting the Department of Health that could implicate President Duterte himself. No need to elaborate on this; it’s all over the mainstream and social media.
In fact, a few days ago, Lacson accused Duterte of “double standard” in his alleged war against illegal drugs.
“Kapag kakampi, libre. Kapag kalaban, tutuluyan,” he said in a TV interview.
The unwritten message seems to be that the whole spectrum of graft and corruption could only be uprooted in a post-Duterte era.
Given the chance, Lacson said he would run the government “efficiently, like a big corporation.”
That’s easier said than done, considering that he and Sotto, are the principal authors of the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” that allows detention of suspected “terrorists” without warrant of arrest for 14 days, and extendable by 10 more days.
We senior citizens have not forgotten that Lacson was the deputy commander of the dreaded Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) that jailed dissidents during the martial law years from 1972 to 1981.
Vice-President Leni Robredo, a child of seven in 1972, has certainly read about it. It could be one of the reasons why she junked Lacson’s offer of “unity”.
The late President Ferdinand Marcos, in declaring martial law in 1972 “to reform society and create the New Republic,” could have been influenced by Niccolo Machiavelli.
“Machiavellian” is the adjective derived from the name of a gentle 16th-century diplomat from Florence, Italy. Niccolo Machiavelli authored the book The Prince (1513), which is still a favorite among power players.
We are surrounded by politicians who promise us free education, livelihood, empowerment and even happiness. Remember former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who campaigned, “Gusto ko happy ka,” but did nothing about it afterward.
Machiavelli, however, had never intended The Prince to be “the textbook” of politicians who thrive on the perception that “might makes right.” On the contrary, he had intended it to be read by only one person, Medici, the ruler of Florence whose passion was to unite Italians and restore their ancient glory.
Based on the conditions in Italy in the 15th century, Machiavelli wanted Medici to do away with conscience in railroading himself to the peak of power.
But Medici, a devout Christian, not only turned him down but also condemned and imprisoned him as “spokesman for the Devil.”
Strangely, it was not until the 19th century that Machiavelli’s principles “ripened” as basis for a new school of political thinking with global impact.
One of the jokes whispered during the martial law years was that Marcos was a reincarnation of the abusive King Luis XVI who inherited the throne of France in 1776.
And for collecting 3,000 pair of shoes, First Lady Imelda was likened to the king’s wife, Marie Antoinette, who had accumulated 3,000 pieces of garments by the time the king lost his crown in the Fall of Bastille in 1789.
Machiavelli stressed in The Prince that the rulers who had succeeded were those who could cow the multitude into quiet obedience.
The Philippines, ironically the only Christian nation in Asia, has repeatedly been governed by Machiavellian rulers who would “serve the people” to achieve their ambition. The candidate who wishes to replace an incumbent official prefabricates dirty linen against the latter.
One recalls an epochal event in history: the mad scramble for leadership of the revolutionary movement pitting Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo in the 1890s. The power struggle ended with the sudden death of Bonifacio in the hands of Aguinaldo’s men in 1897. Thus, Aguinaldo moved on to become the first president of the Philippine Republic in 1897. He never admitted having committed the crime.
Politicians struggle to be elected on the pretext of public service to the extent of spending more than what they would earn from wages. Any perceptive voter would decipher their true motive. Since their expected earnings would not suffice to break even, they would have to deal under the table with contractors and suppliers for a share of the projects funded by their “pork barrel.”
While promising to elevate the well-being of their constituents, most political leaders nurture personal aggrandizement, not their constituents’ welfare, in mind.
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