Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I DARE say that May 9 will turn out to be the ultimate “hugot (love)” fest for Rodrigo Duterte.

Love is a strange partner for the Davao City mayor, whose trademark symbol is a bare-knuckled clenched fist, an image in consonance with his most outstanding campaign promise: to wipe out crime within three to six months if he becomes the country’s next president.

I make this fearless prediction based on what I have seen and heard. Those who will vote for Duterte do so out of great affection for him.

Charisma is unpredictable but palpable in a politician’s relationship with the public, who reserve nicknames for those they have taken to the bosom like “one of them”: Digong, Leni, Miriam.

Even I, who will vote for Mar Roxas out of a pained sense of social obligation, refer to my candidate by his family name, specially when I’m repeating to myself the reasons why I will vote for a contender weighed down by the Yolanda and Mamasapano debacles and the rest of the public’s frustration with the Aquino administration.

So it is not without a sense of envy that I notice how the public dotes on Duterte. At an uptown Cebu mall, I observed how the crowd waited patiently for an hour and 45 minutes to witness the Visayas leg of the presidential debate.

When the wide outdoor screen finally showed the four contenders (Defensor-Santiago had a medical appointment) standing on the stage of the University of the Philippines Cebu, more mall-goers joined the audience. The delay meant there were three or four levels of diners also witnessing the debate from the terraces.

This well-heeled crowd, pacified by smartphones and tablets during the debate delay, erupted into cheering and clapping whenever Duterte argued or joked. In this age, when social media turns everyone into a journalist or an analyst, digital empowerment means the rise of infotainment.

Having never witnessed the eruditeness and eloquence of Lorenzo M. Tañada Sr., Jose W. Diokno and Jovito R. Salonga, we crowned the “most entertaining” as the winner of the past two debates. When neighbors watching Duterte campaign in our village turned our streets into an unscheduled fiesta, I realized again how the man epitomizes the “change” voters want.

Tañada, Diokno and Salonga served the people; their personal and public lives attested to this. Are we bothered that we now confuse spontaneity with authenticity, humor for sincerity, irreverence for depth? There’s little time to reflect, given the energy we devote to posting, sharing, tweeting.

In Dumaguete City, Duterte is already a winner had a survey been conducted on the most visible politician seen on wristbands. The waiter serving us, the boulevard trinket vendors, the pretty coed taking a selfie in an SUV with a gigantic decal of the clenched fist, the beauty parlor with the Sto. Niño shrine, finger-scrawled graffiti on the dusty bumper of a bus.

One evening, our stroll outside the Dumaguete wharf was interrupted when a man with a backpack was chased and collared near a pier checkpoint. Tourists and residents, we stared at the man protesting his innocence in the harsh crossfire of light. Two cops, with drawn guns, dragged the suspect from the middle of the street.

What will it take for Duterte to clean the streets in six months or 180 days? Will we be sweeping bodies or broken promises? Neither appeals.

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 0917 3226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s March 27, 2016 issue of “Matamata,” the Sunday editorial-page column

Saturday, March 19, 2016


THERE were three of us, having a chat after lunch. The three of us discovered we were voting for Mar Roxas, the Liberal Party presidential contender.

Two of us are not yet ready to let others know that Mar is their man.

Even while I argued that going public about our choice may help swing the undecided in his favor, I realized that this is the burr roughing up a campaign that otherwise marshals impressive munitions: the resources of the administration, the political machinery of the ruling Liberal Party, and the old wealth and extensive influence of the Roxas and Araneta clans.

Everything perfect except for the man.

When I was in a hospital lobby on my way to visiting my mother a couple of weeks ago, I saw a “Sale” sign on an Esquire Philippines copy displayed in the newspaper and magazine stand.
The November 2014 issue featured the Interior and Local Government Secretary, sitting on a pile of lumber, smiling and waving a hand at the person snapping his photo. “Hello from Tacloban… one year later,” read the magazine liner beside Mar, a loopy grin plastered on his bared teeth but not quite reaching the eyes behind the spectacles.

Commemorating the first year after Super Typhoon Yolanda, this Esquire PH magazine cover stirred a furor on social media. Many netizens were insulted and furious that the magazine chose Mar for its cover. What did the man do after all? Just bungled the relief and rehabilitation efforts, bringing on more suffering for Yolanda survivors.

I read the magazine from cover to cover. I read thrice the cover story by Boo Chanco, each time more slowly. It wasn’t just because I’m a fan of the writing found inside this magazine’s pages. I kept looking for an article about the man on the cover.

The man didn’t exist in the inside text, the soul and heart and sinew of storytelling. It was as if by using only Mar’s image—the incongruity of that smile in a place where at least 6,000 died and 4 million were displaced—the editors chose photojournalism to express all that had to be said.

Like my two colleagues, I’m made uneasy by my choice for president on May 9. Aside from Yolanda, there is the Mamasapano debacle, which exposed that Mar didn’t enjoy the confidence of his commander-in-chief and was bypassed for other men.

Yet, after he refused to abandon a beleaguered President Aquino, facing calls for impeachment and public shaming, Mar showed that his inability to make waves applied even when he could have otherwise acted for self-preservation and political survival.

Unlike supporters of Rodrigo Duterte, who hold on to his promises of action and radical change, I vote for Mar because I think what the country needs most is the status quo.
Voting for Mar means risking a leadership that is vulnerable to reprising another Yolanda or Mamasapano scale of mishandling.

Balancing this risk is the near certainty that the gains earned during the Aquino administration are consolidated and sustained: accountability, the fight against corruption.

The political future of running mate Leni Robredo is hinged on Mar’s victory on May 9. Leni, with her track record of working with the poor, women and other marginalized sectors, will infuse inclusiveness in an economic agenda that benefits the middle class and the elite.
For his better half, I vote for Mar.

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 0917 322 6131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s March 20, 2016 issue of “Matamata,” the Sunday editorial-page column

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Voting by brand

ON bank business for two successive afternoons, I overheard a common thread among clients waiting for their number and the employees serving them at the new accounts section.

The talk turned to “Probinsyano,” the soap opera anticipated after the evening news.

In the format that’s the trademark of Filipino soaps, the “serye” is about the exploits of an upright cop who, in the time-honored tradition of melodrama, triumphs against evil and is unaware of the universe of admirers he is collecting.

Cardo, the hero, is currenty played by Coco Martin, who doesn’t possess an awkward angle, even when he goes undercover as a heavily made-up street walker out to rescue his sister-in-law from human traffickers.

Martin only makes me fidget in discomfort when he appears in a leather jacket, an instrument of torture in our sweltering weather. I forgive this lapse in sanity because Martin is staying in character.

In 1997, Cardo was played by another jacket-lover, the late Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ. In this nickname-loving country, box-office kings and action stars are branded by their famous initials, the same treatment the news media gives to presidents and politicians.

In today’s political heat, few even split distinctions: that, unlike FVR and GMA, FPJ was never a president nor even a barangay captain. FPJ aspired to become a president and, according to those who followed the true-to-life “serye” in 2004, was emerging as the most likely next occupant of that residence beside the Pasig River when the Pretender-We-Will-Not-Name stole the election from him.

Life imitates art, even the low-brow. Just as the mini-plots of “Probinsyano” end happily ever after in the land protected by its leather-jacketed guardian, the country might still even be led by the late FPJ’s daughter, Grace.

Frontrunner of the 2016 electoral race, foundling who spectacularly won a disqualification case in the Supreme Court on International Women’s Day, and champion of all the right buttons of political correctness, including the freedom of information bill, beloved cause of journalists, Grace shares her father’s taste for sartorial branding: a well-fitting long-sleeved polo as pure as the driven snow.

Never since the loud Hawaiian shirts of the late Raul Roco has a piece of clothing fixed a politician’s image so indelibly in this voter’s imagination. The man of the masses thumbed his nose at the snob values of the elite; the fool of an emperor pretended to take pride in his invisible new clothes; and Grace, cool in voice and temperament but steely in her campaign promise to bring back “heart” in governance, wears an absence of color, which we associate, in this intrigue-loving land, with lack of taint, of shadows, of the usual political baggage.

While Mar Roxas, my candidate, languishes in survey after survey, thousands of us sit down with the Poe family on weekday nights: Coco Martin as FPJ’s reincarnation, minus the sideburns but still wrapped in the signature jacket; FPJ’s widow, Susan Roces, as Cardo’s wisdom-spouting Lola Kap; and, during the commercial breaks peppering “Probinsyano,” Grace and her white promise.

More than anything, this election will test voters, not just the voted. The academics urge us to research our choices. The church wants us to contemplate and discern.

Judging by the survey trends, many of us want to be entertained.

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 0917 322 6131)

*First published in the March 13, 2016 issue of the Sun.Star Cebu Sunday opinion-editorial Sunday column, “Matamata”

Saturday, March 05, 2016


IS there a women’s vote?

Proclamation No. 227, series 1998, recognizes “Women’s Role in History” in March. This year, the theme for Women’s Month is “Kapakanan ni Juana, Isama sa Agenda”.

The challenge to include the welfare of women in the agenda for governance has set my choices for the May 9 poll. The welfare of women and children is not among the 10 issues listed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as national priorities that should guide voters in selecting the next Philippine president.

However, a re-examination of the Inquirer’s agenda for the 2016 election reveals that women’s welfare is embedded in all issues. Poverty, which tops the list, is rooted in inequality, according to studies cited by the paper.

While others argue that women are also part of national concerns and dismiss singling out this sector, I contend that this perception also contributes to the problem of marginalizing women.

If victims have a gender, it would be female. In poor families, they are beasts of burden, sexual slaves without rights to their bodies, and victims of domestic abuse.

Saddled with children and less education and opportunities, many women are sidelined by men in the competition for jobs, livelihood, and security.

Society expects women not only to survive but also to provide for their children’s upbringing, education, nutrition, health, and safety. Society makes excuses for men, and dumps all the blame on women.

When peace and order break down, traffic congests, and predators prowl the Net, who are the most vulnerable? Women and children.

So why should the welfare of women be assumed and taken for granted in national development when social ills put women and their children at the top of the list of victims?

As early as October 5, 2015, when she accepted to run with the Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, I already voted in my mind for Leni Robredo.

Of all the contenders for the top posts—of the vice-presidency, as well as the presidency—she alone has the integrity. For more than a decade, she worked with the Public Attorneys’ Office, the Naga chapter of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pang Legal (Saligan), the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga, the Naga City Council for Women, and the Federacion International de Abogado.
Through alternative lawyering, she served the powerless: farmers, women and children.

After graduating from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she returned home to Naga. She was shortlisted as a presiding judge for any of the three regional trial courts in the Bicol region when she was thrust into the limelight by the accidental death in 2012 of her husband, former Naga City mayor and interior secretary Jesse Robredo.

Her public and personal life meshes in her campaign agenda of zero hunger, shared prosperity and gender equality. If Leni served then in anonymity, with few resources, and no political backers, imagine her potentials and opportunities as vice-president. Leni’s “tsinelas” advocacy deserves to be spread throughout the country.

Two of the five presidential contenders are women. Neither Grace Poe nor Miriam Defensor-Santiago will get my vote.

More than anything, I question these women’s choice of vice-presidential running mate. For choosing Bongbong Marcos—who compounds the sins of his parents with his historical lies and lack of atonement for the past—shame, shame, shame, Miriam.

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 09173226131)

*First published in the March 6, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column of Sun.Star Cebu, “Matamata”