Game over?

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Game over?

By Artchil B. Fernandez


Is it game over for liberal democracy in the Philippines? Has the illiberal project finally won? People are pondering on these questions after the administration swept the senatorial seats in the recently concluded elections.

The administration sweep stoked fear among Filipinos. The last bastion of independence, the Senate has fallen, many exclaimed. Now, Du30 can do anything he wants. He can now have his way.  

Disgust over the results of the election was so widespread that migrating was the top search in the internet among Filipinos immediately after the results were clear. How did clowns, thieves, nincompoops, murderers and other foul creatures of the dark win? Dark clouds however hover over the election results. The Comelec had yet to give an adequate and satisfactory explanation for the seven-hour delay in the transmission of data from the transparency server to the public. The computer glitch tainted results of the election, particularly in the Senate race.

Given scale of victory of the administration in the Senate race is the over-turning of liberal democracy in the country inevitable?  Shall we see the upending of the current political set-up and the rise of a new political arrangement according to the will Du30?

While amending the 1987 Constitution is now a possibility given the election result, its inevitability is not certain. True, the administration achieved a political rarity – victory of all its Senate candidates, but a close examination of the composition of the slate shows that it may be not solid DDS as many assume.

The administration slate is composed of pure Diehard Du30 Supporters (DDS) and allies of Du30. It is inaccurate to attribute their victory solely on the so-called Du30 magic.

Re-elected senators Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay and re-turning senator Pia Cayetano can be classified as allies of Du30 not die-hard supporters.  While being in the administration slate is a big boost to their candidacy, it is also erroneous to assume they would not have won without Du30’s backing. Grace Poe was re-elected and landed at the second spot (she was number one before), as an independent candidate.

Lito Lapid has been campaigning several years before as mainstay in the very popular, high-rating and enduring teleserye Probinsyano. He does not need Du30’s endorsement to win. (Ang Probinsyano and Probinsyano Ako party list groups are also big winners in the last election, placing 5th and 8th respectively).

Imee Marcos, on the other hand cannot be considered a DDS. She and Du30 have intersecting interest but she is not beholden to Du30. Instead it is Du30 who is indebted to her, the Marcos family being one the financial backers of his presidential run. It was just payback time for the Marcoses.  

Only three elected senators can be considered DDS. They are Bong Go, Bato de la Rosa and Francis Tolentino. The three heavily benefitted from extensive use of government resources during the campaign. Koko Pimentel is a gray area.

It is gross exaggeration to purely ascribe the election results to the “Du30 factor.” If the so-called Du30 magic solely defined the recently concluded election, why did the other candidates personally endorsed by Du30 and who belong to his party, PDP-Laban failed to profit from his magic? Rafael Alunan, Freddie Aguilar, Dong Mangudadato and Jiggy Manicad all lost. Some of them are already established and well-known personalities compared to Bong Go and Bato de la Rosa. Their defeat and Go and de la Rosa’s victory exposed the limit and extent of the so-called Du30 magic.

More telling is the trouncing of AA-Kasosyo party list of Mocha Uson.  Uson, the crowned “fake news’ queen is the epitome of a DDS. She has more than five million followers on Facebook. Yet her group only got a measly 110,753 votes or 0.41 percent of the party list votes (94.47% reported).  How can the embodiment of a Du30 fanatic lose the election in the Age of Dutertismo?

The clean sweep of the administration in the Senate race is brought about by a combination of a number of factors, chief among them advantage of the incumbent, trapo politics and the so-called Du30 magic. In the case of trapo politics and the so-called Du30 magic, who benefitted from whom? Did trapo politics benefit from the so-called Du30 magic or was the so-called Du30 magic enhanced by trapo politics? What will define the shape of the country’s political landscape in the next three years is the dynamic interaction between traditional politics and the so-called Du30 magic. The interplay between them will also determine if it is really game over for liberal democracy and the ultimate victory of Du30’s illiberal project is at hand.

On the surface, Du30 has a super majority in the Senate with twenty senators. A careful look however reveals there are only three DDS in the Senate (Go, de la Rosa and Tolentino). Pacquiao can be added to the group and the gray Pimentel.  

The inter-play between the interests of trapo politics and Du30 will be fascinating to watch in the coming years. There are convergence and divergence in the interests of the two political blocs. As Du30’s term comes closer to an end, the cleavages between them will be more pronounced. There could be a point of departure between them especially when these traditional politicians chart their future in the post-Du30 era. It is still a highly contested assumption if Du30 will succeed in over-turning the current political structure and impose his illiberal project.

Before the “Yellowtards” gnash their teeth and the “Dutertards” open the champagne, both sides should take a long pause. The future is still open-ended and there are imponderables in politics. A single incident or event is enough to reconfigure and restructure the balance of power in the country.