Yes, the title is correct. Congratulations to the current administration.
When 1Sambayan - the political coalition seeking to present a unified opposition and ultimately unseat Rodrigo Duterte and his allies from power - revealed its list of six personalities who it is considering to field as president or vice president, there was... nothing. Nothing at all.
Granted, they made their announcement on a Saturday. It may have been symbolic considering it was Independence Day, but nobody really pays attention to anything on a weekend - especially now that every boundary has been blurred - unless it's catastrophic. But then, the politically-minded people on my social media feeds - those who don't want another six years of whatever Duterte started - didn't seem that excited either. I doubt it's only because they made the announcement on a Saturday.
I think the reason's much more simple, if not much more uncomfortable: the names they presented don't really inspire anything.
Leni Robredo? Grace Poe? Antonio Trillanes? Eddie Villanueva? Vilma Santos?
Well, all right, Chel Diokno is there too, and I think he still inspires some fervor among his supporters, but he quickly shot down the suggestion, saying he's focused on his legal advocacies. Poe and Santos (okay, I should say "Recto" as that's more accurate, but I already started with the former) also said they aren't interested in seeking higher office. That leaves us with three names.
Villanueva may still have political ambitions, but I think it's more for his son Joel than for himself. I mean, why else would the new ident for his TV outlet Zoe TV - updated after over two decades of the old one - feature "Tesdaman" prominently? Also, Bro. Eddie should know by now that people just aren't jazzed to see him become president. Deluding yourself that the Philippines is still predominantly religious - and will therefore elect a televangelist to its highest office - is one step too far.
Antonio Trillanes? He's certainly angling for higher office for himself. I'm not saying it's his only motivation for continuing to ring the alarm for perceived shortcomings of the current government, but anyone who does things so loudly must have entertained such thoughts, more so someone who's made a brand out of having stronger political convictions than most. Thing is, especially for those who are predisposed to support Duterte, the fact that he once led a coup disqualifies him from being president. Why elect someone who tried to take down the country in the service of his so-called principles?
That leaves Leni. And you all know what I have to say about that.
I'll repeat some of it anyway. The opposition should present an alternative vision for the country, more so now that the thought of the current government botching the response to COVID-19 continues to linger, if it wants a shot at winning in 2022. The problem is, they did precisely the opposite. They didn't go for a vision as much as focus on the personalities.
Sure, there should be nothing wrong with that, especially since, arguably, the easiest way to present that alternative vision is to say "Duterte and his allies aren't in power". But the opposition should be the first to know that their leaders continue to be seen as "incompetent" at best and "evil" at worst among the people whose minds they have to change - the people who support the current president. What they're doing is hardly inspiring. Them saying "we're thinking of Leni as president" is as good as saying "we're thinking of losing on purpose".
Of course, they can always build their vision around a personality - one of unquestionable integrity and impeccable values - but considering how Duterte won on the back of "Noynoy fucked it up" and reinforced his popularity on the back of "do you want Leni to fuck it up?" I highly doubt they'll change minds. Perhaps they'll even harden established positions.
So, congratulations to the current administration. There's still eleven months to the election and you have pretty much won it. You have reinforced the idea that anyone other than you will just screw things up - especially those fucking dilawans - and you have managed to build a bridge or two. That should do it.
Oh, and there's the vaccination. Regardless of how botched the government's response to COVID-19 continues to be - between the lack of a proper tracking and tracing system; or the lack of economic stimulus for businesses, freelancers, and pretty much anyone who lost their livelihood to the pandemic; or the laziness that led to some missed opportunities to get out of this hole sooner - the fact that some people are getting vaccinated should make many feel good. It heavily implies that the end is in sight. Yes, the roll out is still slow, and we're only really out of the hole once we have roughly 80% of all Filipinos, across the country, fully inoculated. But let's face it - what's important to many is that they themselves have been vaccinated. Screw everyone else. The end is in sight for me, and that's what's important.
It's perhaps why the current administration's allies have started to go to election mode. There has always been a disconnect between the ongoing pandemic - one we still haven't gotten under control, considering we've slowed cases down in Manila only for them to spike elsewhere - and all the talk of Sara Duterte or Bong Go or Bongbong Marcos or whoever running as president to "succeed" our great beloved leader and "continue" the progress he's made. And why wouldn't they? The race is on to claim credit for the successes of the past year and drill in the minds of voters that only they can continue the momentum.
But then, even if the messaging around who the older Duterte thinks is "deserving" of becoming the next president is starting to coalesce, the fact remains that his side has a lot of ambitious people who want dibs on the highest office in the land as soon as possible. Anything can happen in the next eleven months. Maybe I said congratulations too soon.