As a transitive verb, to dupe means to hoodwink, deceive, or trick. As a noun, a dupe is a puppet or a fool. Whether used as a verb or as a noun the word appropriately describes the decision of Francisco "Isko” Domagoso to vie for the highest office in the land along with social media superstar Willie Tan Ong.
Both were surprises. Coming from entirely diverse backgrounds from which politics does not typically sprout albeit there are one-off precedents, here are two who exemplify blind corners.
Domagoso’s is a Cinderella tale, a rags-to-riches story with profound populist political appeal where he achieved spectacular heights despite the odds. In that, he provides the similarly situated poor that elusive hope ordinarily denied them.
Ong, on the other hand, is a cardiologist. His foray into politics was helped in no small way by his presence on social media where, through free advice and health tips, he nurtured a substantial following among locals and overseas contract workers.
As Domagoso seemed to represent hope where he epitomized victory over poverty on one end and the kind of hope Ong might represent where he does not have the typical DNA of a politician, their foray into the presidential and vice presidential derby compels peeking under the rug.
Admittedly, it might still be a case where the public is wary of blind corners. Unexpected counterpoints and sharp turns are often greeted with healthy albeit cautious skepticism. Unfortunately, that may not be the case here.
It is unfortunate their decision to run as a tandem may not be what people expected and indeed, where what appears as a legitimate attempt at the highest positions may not be what it seems.
It was not so much the announcement that Domagoso would run as president. That was expected and, for some sectors, prayed for and desperately anticipated. Rather, it was what he would quickly declare in his acceptance statements and, upon analysis, in his choice of a running mate. He was conciliatory and offered Rodrigo Duterte a significant role in his administration. Justice be damned. And rectitude can go to hell.
Against his intent and on his pick, social media erupted. Many felt deceived, especially those who saw in him hope that we would finally have youth, honesty, diligence, and competence replacing the diametric antitheses festering in Malacañang.
The zarzuela, played out in the weeks prior to his declaration, provided a titillating tasteless tapestry. Duterte feigned annoyance and had gone sociopathic and excessively vulgar in insulting Domagoso.
On the surface, the faux repartee made sense. Trojan horses are typically striking from the outside. Domagoso had packaged and aligned his motherhood views with the opposition, proposing change, intelligent management of the bureaucracy, and displaying a work ethic that Duterte does not. As a populist he would have attracted the popular vote. But from the duped opposition, he could cannibalize from Leonor Robredo’s mass base, whittling enough to create a minority mandate and resurrect demons long-exorcised from Malacañang for over a third of a century.
To discern deeper, simply view the landscape comprised of Duterte and his surrogates and proxies as a single frontier, a radiating arachnid’s web and not a collection of separate parties with individual candidates. Domagoso deliberately chose a benign, disposable running mate relative to either Duterte or his anointed proxies and provisional placeholders. Whoever runs for president from that realm, someone with short puppet strings albeit fully funded with plundered present and unrecovered billions, might then offer reconciliation, a move-on agenda, alter history, and endeavor to protect Duterte from accountability, the International Criminal Court, and accusations of crimes against humanity and plunder.
Domagoso’s playbook is not about hope. It is the opposite. As Dante passed through the gates of hell he was greeted with the words, "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate". Abandon all hope, you who enter here.
(Dean dela Paz is a former investment banker and a managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.