Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ombion: ‘Ping-pong diplomacy’


THAT of building bridges, family of families and cooperation, is perhaps what we need now instead of fighting each other and in the process destroying all the elements that could nurture life and society. I am offering this positive thought amid a climate of constant hostility, more so this election season.

Unlike in the past two-three elections, I am not involved anymore whatsoever in electoral contests in Bacolod and the province. My present professional work and related engagements do not provide me anymore of such privilege. At any rate, I am not blind and deaf on the political currents in Bacolod and Negros province.

In Bacolod, the triumvirate of Mayor Evelio Leonardia- Vice mayor El Cid Familiaran-Congressman Greg Gasataya remain as the most formidable team to beat. They are the incumbents which means they are in full control of the power, forces and logistics of the City Government despite the Department of Interior and Local Government and Commission on Elections prohibitions not to use such to their personal advantage.

Then they have the official support of the President, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago and the PDP-Laban. Whether or not they are sincere in their support for the President because of their past political affiliations is now secondary because their support to the ruling administration has put them in the political high ground, equivalent to being the Malacanang’s shock troops in Bacolod.

On the other hand, their overwhelming strength and the support they enjoy from the administration does not mean they are morally upright. A growing segment of our population has been criticizing and hating the ruling administration, especially its war on drugs, crisis, lawlessness, immoralities, violence and killings, subservience to China, among others.

By aligning with the ruling administration, they have also become the object of the growing public condemnation against the Duterte administration.

How the issues will affect them will depend on their ability to confront them, cover them up, or deflect criticisms to something else. They are veterans in the politics of expediency.

Given the well-entrenched machinery of the triumvirate, their incumbency advantage, and the support of the administration to them, it is likely that Leonardia, Familiaran and Gasataya will retain their seats, as well as majority of their team in the City Council, but not 15-0.

Still, the camp of Jocelle Batapa-Thaddy Sayson-Monico Puentebella, though the obvious underdogs, should not be taken for granted. With the reported all out support of 3rd District millionaire congressman Albee Benitez, Governor Freddie Maranon, and the partylist machinery of Abang Lingkod, anything could still happen.

Their camp could play the opposition card, and win the support of the victims’ kin of Duterte’s so called drug war and extra judicial killings, the civil society organizations, the churches, opposition bets in the local and national, and all other critics of the administration. Some say though that they could not go the opposition because they are also supporting some the administration senatorial bets like Go, Bato, Tolentino, Villar, JV Ejercito.

The more interesting and exciting would be in the vice mayoralty race. It is my analysis that the game plan of the group is on getting Thaddy win the vice-mayoralty race and once in, it would be easier for them to maneuver and dislodge the mayor later. The game plan on Thaddy is the easiest way for them to regain political control of the city than through mayoralty because Jocelle is the weakest link, and Monico, despite his mastery in the game of surprises, also faces enormous odds.

The other reason for the Thaddy game plan is the assumption that he nearly defeated Greg in the congressional race last 2016 elections by more or less a thousand votes. That was a thin red line, and anybody who understand that outcome knows when the next killing time is. Certainly, El Cid is a no push over, but assuming Thaddy is able to maintain that votes, he could give El Cid a hell of a fight.

The only cutting edge of the Leonardia team this time which was not present in 2016 elections is the support of the ruling administration. But even that support has also its downside because of the growing opposition to Duterte’s administration, including here in Bacolod and Negros where crisis, lawlessness, violence and extrajudicial killings have become regular occurrence.

Essentially, while the incumbents have the bigger advantage, they also have downsides which if not handled well, could pull them down to their defeat.

The challengers, a mix of recycled old politicians and newbies in “trapo” politics, have lots of disadvantages; there are few holes of opportunity though which if they could manage well and translate into a mix of excellent tactics and brinkmanship politics could realize their game plan, if there’s any at all.

The loose ends of both camps will depend on the market votes, the A and B and the youth voters, so they say, because the C, D and E are already captured voters by the politics of machinery, personality, money and some goons.

Whoever gets the market votes, will have greater chances of winning. But how they would do it, I couldn’t care less.

All I hope and pray, are some little reforms and changes in the city politics that could usher some array of hope and goodies of alleviation for the poor and neglected.

Maybe the incumbents could try the ping pong diplomacy, reaching out, building one family, forging cooperation rather than pursuing the politics of numerical tyranny and incumbency that have only brought social antagonisms in the city.

And maybe the same could be done by the challengers, not to be obsessed how to get back to power or get even with the incumbents but how to make that power shareable for everyone, and how to make the city a truly interesting place to live and as an institute of political learning than political killings.

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