‘User-friendly’ candidates? (1) | Inquirer Opinion

General Santos City—While on my way to a supermarket for our weekly groceries last Monday, I was surprised to see a long line of sports utility vehicles practically stopping traffic on the national highway near a newly-opened hotel here. All vehicles were bearing tarpaulins of presidential candidate Isko Moreno, side by side with that of vice-presidential bet Sara Duterte.

Isko, as we all know, is running for president under the Aksyon Demokratiko party, and his official running mate is Dr. Willie Ong. On the other hand, Sara Duterte is the running mate of Bongbong Marcos Jr., the standard-bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.

Seeing the two on the same campaign platform in General Santos City raised a lot of speculations from many constituents here on whether this temporary “unification” of two candidates from different parties is the result of a presidential maneuvering (because of presidential daughter Sara) or just plain and simple “gamitan.”

Gamitan, from the Tagalog root word “gamit” (use), is a strategy of using someone else’s achievement and claiming it as one’s own. It could also mean “using” the friendly relationship of a person with a top official in order to gain something—it could be a position in a government office or some huge pecuniary benefits. Some people are now using the term “user-friendly” to refer to a person who practices gamitan at every step of the way toward success in his or her career.

Politicians tend to showcase their abilities to be “user-friendly” every step of the way. They are the least worried that being user-friendly is not a good trait of a future leader; what they care about is winning by all means, honestly or otherwise.

I am seeing this trait in the newly-formed tandem of Isko-Sara. Clearly, Isko is using Sara’s avowed “acceptability” and popularity in Mindanao to promote his own candidacy. For her part, Sara is using Isko to shield her from possibly getting rebuked by many survivors and descendants of the thousands killed allegedly upon orders of the dictator Marcos, the namesake of the presidential candidate in her UniTeam slate.

In interviews with local media here, Isko denied he is abandoning his running mate Ong at this stage in the campaign. He said that it was not his decision that he is paired with Sara in his Mindanao sorties. He claimed that Ong is still and will be his vice-presidential candidate, and he is not turning his back on him. It is just that the local organizers of his sorties here made it clear to him that they want Sara to be their vice-presidential candidate, not Ong. But why did he accept the offer of the local organizers? This early, Isko’s user-friendly colors are already showing. Will he become more utilitarian with people around him when he gets elected?

Unfortunately, Sara kept mum about why she was paired with Isko. She has chosen to keep silent at a time when she needs to be friendly with media practitioners. Why is she becoming media shy at the height of the campaign period? Or is she letting her being user-friendly with Isko work, so she does not have to say anything?

But these two candidates’ user-friendliness pales in comparison with the “original” master of this trait—the late dictator Marcos. He engaged a group of writers (some critics called the writers “intellectual prostitutes”) who wrote a revised version of Philippine history, in the two-volume “Tadhana: A history of the Filipino people.” The writers are “ghosts;” they are not seen as such in this work. The late dictator claimed he wrote these books. In this “reconsideration” of Philippine history (Curaming 2018), Marcos Sr. promoted his image of an intelligent and “nationalistic” leader. The writing of the books was considered an “ambitious” history writing project because, among others, it was a way to popularize a “new history” largely based on long tales about Marcos Sr. as a “great savior-leader” and of the “mythicization of the nation” under his leadership.

(To be continued)

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