Of tissues and nocturnal emissions

By Jose Mari Tirol

It is said that the personal is political.

Sara’s supposed open letter on her Tatay and Bong Go’s candidacy, and the latter’s response, are political master strokes. These evidently spring from just one playbook, and from just one script.

Their statements make them more relatable, more within our reach, more “human”, and seek to distance Sara from her Tatay and project her as somebody independent of him. Their statements tap into and feed on the Pinoy’s penchant to wash their dirty linen in public, and to eavesdrop into and be entertained by the private lives of others. As shown by the popularity of the tv shows of some alleged journalists.

Sara and Bong seem to have succeeded in piquing our interest on their personal, political, and familial relationships. The question is, why? I submit that they do so in order to shift our focus and attention away from the things that really matter: their leadership and governance, and on good government.

One can only imagine the quantity of tissue paper that have been used to stanch the gallons of tears – of sorrow, joy, and crocodilian – that have been shed as a result of their antics.

The words and deeds of Sara and Bong, as well as the late-night rants of their Tatay the raconteur (who does not really provide us with the information we need but instead spends his time pleasing his patrons, preening his pets, and punishing his pet peeves), are proof that they are master strategists who know the ins and outs of politics and of human behavior. They have the ability to attract the peoples’ attention and to sway public opinion at the snap of their fingers. But who is the “public” whose opinion they are swaying? And for what purpose, and for whose benefit are they doing this?

If it is their supporters, then their words and deeds are no more than entertainment. If it is their detractors, then these are designed to confuse and confound. And if it is the populace, then to what end? Remember that they are supposed to lead and govern, not to entertain and distract. Good governance is not synonymous with politics, much less show business.

We are already at the tail end of their Tatay’s 6-year term; despite all the platitudes and alibis, the benefits of the change that he promised to bring have not really trickled down to the basic sectors of society.

Sara, Bong, their Tatay, and many others are masters of the political game. But it is not enough for them to be such. They must use their power, influence, authority, and gravitas for the benefit of the citizenry. They must address current and foreseeable problems – societal inequalities and inequities, drugs, Chinese incursions, Covid19, corruption, to name a few – instead of engaging in diversion and whataboutism. And they must never forget that they derive their authority from the Constitution, the rule of law, and their oath of office, to which they must always be true.

Especially their Tatay, a “promising” candidate in 2016, and again a “promising” candidate for 2022. While he continues to make outrageous statements and promises which he (or his spokesman) will later claim are hyperbole, it should be noted that while in 2016 he campaigned on a platform of change, he will now obviously campaign on a platform of continuity – for himself, and/or for Sara, and/or for Bong. The question is, can we and our society bear another 6 years “promising” leadership, showbiz government, and alleged family feuds?

(The author is the dean of the College of Law of the University of San Agustin)