The son also rises

The son also rises Featured

LAST week’s column touched briefly on presidential daughter Sara’s Shakespearean quandary, not exactly a Hamlet-like soliloquy as she was conversing with the charlatan “appointed son of God” on the future of the presidency and her possible role in it. This week’s is a discussion of the curious behavior of Rep. Paolo “Polong“ Duterte, and the son’s presumptions of his role in affairs of state.

Term sharing
As a backgrounder, the fight for the Congress speakership was a heated one fought over by three avowed sycophants of the President. Polong, the neophyte, expressed dismay over reports that two of the candidates, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, had agreed to a term-sharing arrangement. “If it’s term sharing they want, then let’s all have term-sharing,” the President’s son said, reprimanding his elders. Obviously, he was against such compromise and declared his own bid for the speakership. But sister Sara pricked his balloon by announcing Hugpong Ng Pagbabago’s (HNP) choice of Representative Ungab as candidate for speaker a day after younger brother declared his bid. Perhaps chastised, Polong withdrew his bid. All these came to nought as the Deegong stepped in and supported the term-sharing formula, catapulting Cayetano to the seat of power.

Congressional unifier?
It should have ended there. But Polong, buoyant in his self-appointed role, announced: “The House is divided, I might be able to help unite it…in unity there is strength. Let us show the Filipino people that we can all be united toward one common goal. This would be a first in Philippine politics…” blah, blah, blah. Thus appeared the would-be unifier of a divided Congress — a budding legend in his own mind or upon the sufferance of an indulgent Congress majority. The hardnosed politicians and old hands in Congress, used to this outburst of clichés, may have decided to play the upstart along given that he carries a formidable name. He was rewarded a deputy speakership (1 of 22), a patent sinecure for a tenderfoot.

But this is not to disparage the younger Duterte. Au contraire, I would even laud him for his chutzpah toward his congressional elders enduringly cowed by Polong’s surname inducing their collective tails between their legs. Polong’s and my path never crossed, though we were locally bred but several generations apart. But both of us are public figures; him wielding influence and power; and I, simply the power to influence — by bearing witness. I am therefore compelled to write about his assertions as my representative to the halls of the mighty, entrusted with the majesty of the law and a descendant of a president whose legacy, if nurtured well, could be a boon to the next generations he leaves behind.

Like the President, a Davaoeño, I am very concerned. Not in a hundred years since the Spanish regime has one from my birthplace been catapulted to national prominence and gifted the privilege to make such a difference in the lives of my countrymen. And he can’t afford to botch this one, despite his profane mouth and the conduct of his children. One can’t help but draw parallel lessons from the immediate past when another son, PNoy, besmirched the legacy of his mother, consequently causing those that wore yellow to be vilified as a symbol of emancipation from the abomination of the Marcos regime. The Davaoeños looking beyond the flaws of the man’s character are appreciative of DU30’s accomplishments thus far and are reluctantly proud; but we will not tolerate shortcomings from untested offspring.

Yet lately, Polong managed to intrude into the national discourse by joining the National Unity Party (NUP). The significance of this move is his attraction as a prominent son, nothing more. Consequently, 24 legislators bolted from PDP-Laban, emaciating his father’s party and making the NUP the third largest conglomerate in the House.“In a speech delivered in Taguig, Duterte criticized Paolo for switching political parties. President Duterte jokingly suggested to his son, Rep. Paolo Duterte, that he should just join the New People’s Army (NPA).” (Politico Mindanao, July 2019.)

But the greater implications and nuances of his deed utterly escapes him, that of our convoluted and dysfunctional political party system, as evidenced by his weird pronouncement: “To all other political groups out there, I am still up for adoption! If being adopted by most, if not all, political parties is to be of service to the people, then I am more than willing to join all of you…help me fulfill this task of unifying all members of Congress.”

Politically clueless
What’s with the Polong? His very act of jumping from one party to another and his invitation to be adopted by all is in itself a dramatically disuniting act. Does he even know what a political party is and its role in a democracy? Clearly, he needs basic political science 101 lessons. Taken from my blog several years back, I quote: “Political parties are the backbone of democracy in modern societies. They are primarily formed not only to contest elections and hold power in government, but they must possess an ideological core, aggregating the needs and aspirations of a diverse segment of our society. A party must write and adhere to a unique platform or vision of governance with a set of principles and strategies. This vision defines the ideological identity of that party, and members are expected to go by these principles and strategies. Voters must be given a choice as to who must govern them based on what candidates and their political parties stand for.”

What could be outrageous is he took it upon himself to be the unifying force. Can you believe that! This tyro’s main claim to fame is not his experience in governance or expertise in political technocracy but by the accident of birth and his membership in a newly minted political dynasty.

The Deegong has never shown the kind of warmth to the son as he does the daughter. Perhaps this is ingrained in the DNA of any father. In March of last year, PRRD said “…he would have his son killed if drug trafficking allegations against the younger politician were true, and that the police who carry out the hit would be protected from prosecution. ‘My orders are to kill you if you are caught, and I will protect the police who (will) kill you.’“ (Politico Mindanao and The Guardian, September 2017).

Furthermore, he intimated that “…he could only trust his daughter, Mayor Sara, but not his son Paolo, whom he described as a ‘gangster’ following his resignation as a city vice mayor at the height of the controversy that surrounded the smuggling of shabu out of the Bureau of Customs last year.”(PhilStar Global, March 2018.)

Perhaps these are words of exasperation to a son who does not measure up; yet a peculiar way for the President to express endearment and love for his children, if at all. Whatever, his children’s exploits are proving to be a serious distraction from the business of governance. And the Deegong must understand too that he must serve his extended larger family, the Filipino people. To do that, he needs to discipline his immediate one.000
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