(Note: This is a fictional reconstruction of several conversations with a number of people that I’ve become friends with over the course of about 15 years of being in and around election campaigns. Why? Simply because it’s Sunday and it just feels right to say it this way. As usual, I’m not going to even try persuading any of you to believe what I say here. Take it or leave it, I don’t really care.)
The smell of desperation is almost palpable and the people, political operators working in different campaigns, say it’s hovering over the Mar Roxas’ camp.
Political operators, those who actually lead the ground troops of every national election campaign, find time to swap “intel” on candidates — theirs and everybody else’s — because it’s just a more interesting way to pass the time while waiting for funds or a green light on another operation.
When political operators gather, people over hearing their conversation might think it’s like a drunken post-poker night booze binge or that “lost in translation scene” in Ocean’s 12. They don’t talk in code, but to the uninitiated, it might as well be.
After years of working with one another and against each other year after year, they’ve developed a peculiar way of talking that won’t make any sense at all if you haven’t spent enough time with them. To make it even more difficult to understand, the words they use change and these words make up just about 60 percent of what is said. The rest of what is said is said through gestures, facial expressions, body language, and pauses between words — the last one actually carries the most meaning, because the most crucial information just can’t be put into mere words.
From just how they look on any given day, you wouldn’t figure them out to be the sort that talks regularly with any of the multi-billionaire politicians like they shit their pants while holding hands together in kindergarten. The clothes they wear and the cars they drive are precisely chosen to make it seem that they aren’t the actual people who can make one candidate win or another candidate leave town indefinitely after a defeat.
The rules of dealing with them are simple enough. The first thing you have to keep in mind is that politics is deception and if you take something as true when it isn’t, it only means you have no business being around these people. The second thing you have to wrap your mind around is that you can only trust these people if you don’t have to trust them and that’s a pretty difficult parameter to work with when hundreds of millions of pesos are involved. The third thing is that nothing is ever really forgotten or forgiven and you’ll pretty much pay for whatever it is you did or didn’t do when the time is right.
That’s why some people lose their shirts, others lose their minds, and some lose their lives. Brutal, yes, but that’s the way it is when political and economic fortunes are at stake.
Anyway, the most recent meet up happened a couple of weeks ago at a run down bar somewhere in Pasay City. Hardly anyone remembers it or knows that it is still open after all these years. It used to be where journalists and ex-pat intelligence types came to exchange “intel” or just plain gossip.
In the strange dim red light of the place, the words of the first toast — which tells everybody what the agenda is — erupted with a flourish from Jake Lee, “GOD SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY!”
Jake is probably one of the oldest political operators I know personally. He’s in his 50’s, had heart surgery three years ago, and during the political off-season, hangs around the Supreme Court as well as the Philippine Senate.
“Jeez, who picks these meeting places? It smells like moldy bacon. But yes, God save our democracy and damn Roxas,” answered Fat Bastard, a tall thin man who could pass for a retired basketball player turned network marketing godzilla. Fatty, as we call him, runs a number of large printing presses in Quezon province and was once a municipal councilor
“Amen to that,” Jake cuts in, then sips on his shot of Yamazake before blurting out, “I hate it when I’m right, but that’s how I get paid. I called it as far back as 2014 and you guys wouldn’t believe me. And you call yourselves operators? You can’t even see beyond next month’s bank transfer.”
“Frak you Jake. You say a lot of things, half of them don’t make sense and the other half came from Adobo Chronicles,” said Fatty’s cousin, Tito Boy. Not much is known about what Tito Boy actually does apart from his auto parts business that has him driving between Bacoor and Pampanga almost every day.
Jake flipped an arthritic bird at Tito Boy and went on.
“Well, whatever! If you really still have any brains, you will remember that I said that the only way Roxas will win in the 2016 elections is if they find a way to eliminate all of his rivals. Lo and behold, Binay has been indicted by the Ombudsman and they’re going to try to get him jailed.
“After that, we have Grace Poe and several cases seeking her disqualification as a presidential candidate have already been filed. Whether or not that gets resolved isn’t important, because they’re counting on it to sow just enough doubt to make her campaign go sideways.
“Now the thing with eliminating all of Roxas’ major rivals for the presidency is that he may end up running alone and that would look kind of funny. So they needed someone like that guy Ferdinand Marcos used to run against, that nominal contender. Thing is, some bright boys actually talked to Rodrigo Duterte to run against Roxas. But that thing got scuttled quick after they realized that Duterte could actually prove to a stronger candidate than old pussyfoot Roxas,” said Jake, just as the waiter set down his two pound steak in front of him.
“Hey, isn’t that thing bad for you? With your heart and all?” Fatty said as he lit a cigarette.
“Everything will give you cancer, what’s your point? Going back to Duterte… Boy, that Duterte guy is angry as frak at Roxas! He says it was because of the throat cancer thing, but it was more because they made fool of him. First they egg him on to run and then when the money starts pouring in, they put egg on his face. They called up all the guys who donated to Duterte and I don’t know what they said but they stopped giving the Davao City mayor money pretty fast,” said Jake, before shoving a thick wedge of meat into his mouth.
“Luckily enough for Mar, his old friend Miriam Defensor Santiago agreed to run against him in this perverted moro-moro. She’s popular enough with the kids but has no real base of support, plus this: Ever wonder why she’s running with Bongbong Marcos as her VP? Ever wonder why Bongbong hesitated to say that he was running with Miriam?
“Bongbong doesn’t have his old man’s brains, but he saw through the ruse, that’s why he held back on confirming Miriam’s announcement that he was her running mate. Imelda, of course, still being politically astute in her old age urged Marcos Junior to run for president. Of course, we have to ask, what is in it for the Marcoses? That’s something to think about. Could it be that they also made a deal with Roxas? After all, Roxas is an Araneta too and Irene is married to Greggy Araneta. It kinda ties in somehow, don’t you think?
“In any case, Miriam isn’t going to win. She has been known to flake out, on account of so many reason — the moon is out, her cancer has returned… pick one. You can also consider all those Marcos victims and leftists to get back at Miriam because she’s running with the son of their oppressor.
“So, basically, the stage is set for Roxas claim to have won by a landslide! Nice, very nice indeed,” said Jake, swilling his shot of whisky, “Which makes me wonder how he arranges to get laid. Maybe there’s a bit of reluctance and some crying involved.”
The booth erupts in laughter.
“The very essence of democracy is the freedom to choose. But what is freedom if there are no choices? In his desperation to win the presidency, Roxas is making sure people have no choice but to vote for him. God damn Roxas! GOD SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY!”
(End of Part One)
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