Politics, Machiavellian style

By Herbert Vego

“MACHIAVELLIAN” – the adjective derived from the name of Niccolo Machiavelli, a 16th century diplomat from Florence, Italy who authored the book The Prince (1513) — is how we brand traditional politicians who pretend to care for the people to perpetuate themselves in power. Their “goodness” springs from selfish motives.

They are leaders who do not hesitate to use cruelty, deception and dishonesty to perpetuate themselves in power.

No wonder “Never again!” has become the catchphrase heard these days from people who oppose the possibility of a Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. winning the presidency in May this year. Being the “junior” of the late dictator, he reminds us of the latter’s deception behind the declaration of martial law in 1972 — “to create a New Society.”

Like other lovers of power, the elder Marcos could have been influenced by Machiavelli, who wrote, “Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.”

No doubt Bongbong misses those good old days with Dad in Malacanang Palace.

What sounds discordant, however, is that he is running in tandem with Sara Duterte-Carpio as his vice-presidential bet. Why would she – the Davao City mayor and daughter of the incumbent President — play second fiddle when she had previously been adjudged “No. 1” in presidential surveys?

Without her replacing her father, Duterte could find himself highly vulnerable to charges of graft and corruption in his six-year reign.

Assuming both Bongbong and Sara win despite the resounding “Never again” cries from their parents’ critics, there must be a reason behind her settling for the “spare tire” post. Is it only because Bongbong would not settle for the second seat?

That is highly unnatural, hence doubtful. There could be a Machiavellian reason, which only time will tell.

As the May 9, 2022 national and local elections draw near, we realize that we are surrounded anew by politicians who promise us scholarships, livelihood, empowerment and even happiness. To most of us, they are insincere.

“Gusto ko happy ka” has become one of the familiar but hollow political slogans.

Going back to Machiavelli, he had never intended The Prince to be “the bible” of politicians who thrive on the perception that “might makes right.” On the contrary, he had intended it to be read by only one person, Medici, the ruler of Florence whose passion was to unite Italians and restore their ancient glory.

Based on the conditions in Italy in his time, Machiavelli wanted Medici to do away with conscience in railroading himself to the peak of power.

Ironically, Medici, a devout Christian, rejected his ideas and imprisoned Machiavelli for being “spokesman for the Devil.”

But the abusive King Luis XVI, who inherited the throne of France in 1776, made use of his writings.

One of the jokes whispered during the martial law years in the Philippines was about Marcos as the “reincarnated” King Luis XVI.

And for collecting 3,000 pair of shoes, First Lady Imelda was likened to the king’s wife, Marie Antoinette, who had accumulated 3,000 pieces of garments by the time the king lost his crown in the Fall of Bastille in 1789.

Machiavelli stressed in The Prince that the rulers who had succeeded were those who could cow the multitude into quiet obedience.

Nobody will disagree that the Philippines, ironically the only Christian nation in Asia, is full of Machiavellian politicians who would prefabricate dirty linen against their opponents to project themselves as the better choices.



WHILE passing by the Department of Education’s Division of Iloilo office, I noticed construction going on. The frontage of the four-story building has “grown” a second-floor extension above the pedestrian pathway from the gate to the front door.

I heard that provincial board member Rolando Distura had expressed his displeasure over the alteration of the façade, and so would soon deliver a privilege speech about it.

Well, I understand his “righteous indignation” because he was chief of staff and a relative of the late Congressman Narciso Monfort, who had facilitated the construction of the “centennial building” – so called because it was completed in the year 2003, marking the 100th anniversary of Dep-Ed’s Division of Iloilo.

Dr. Raymundo Lapating, who was the division superintendent at that time, told me on the phone he was also sad because a “nose” has jutted out, spoiling the front and side views of the building.

Well then, stand by. I intend to interview them both for another column.



In a previous column, we commended MORE Electric and Power Corporation for joining the Task Force Kapatid – a power restoration and relief operation for those affected by typhoon Odette in Negros Occidental.

MORE is walking an extra mile by spearheading a donation program aimed at raising donations in cash or in-kind (i.e. drinking water, canned goods, rice, noodles, blankets, old clothes) for the victims of Odette.

To donate, you can hand over your in-kind items to any MORE substation, to the GST Corporate Center, or to its Customer Services Office in Hotel Del Rio. To donate in cash, please visit the Customer Care Department at the said hotel.