YES, I PROMISED to write on Kris Ablan, the congressional son who now wants to be congressman. But I will reserve that for next issue as something more pressing has come up.
Entering Laoag via the Gilbert Bridge at dusk is the most soothing part of my work day. It marks the end of my travel from a workplace tens of kilometers away. It means I am home.
On Tuesday (July 21), however, what I felt while crossing the bridge can only be as soothing as a root canal performed without anesthesia by a sadistic pseudo-dentist. That afternoon, plastered on the lampposts of the bridge were tarpaulin streamers welcoming Ronaldo V. Puno, the Interior and Local Government secretary of the Arroyo regime.
Having worked for a national politician in the past, I am quite sure those tarpaulins were funded by Puno himself and were posted by his own staff. The tarpaulin, which beamed the face of the VIP visitor, read, “Welcome to Region I, Ronaldo V. Puno.” The initials RVP, of course, drumrolled his ambitions to be VP (Vice President) of this country.
I am usually uncomfortable seeing the faces of politicians, most of them aesthetically challenged, displayed in public spaces at the expense of taxpayers. God knows how much I cringe at my seat whenever I approach the end of Gilbert bridge where a digital screen wide enough to contain the face of a local chief executive is set up. When Bayani “Hitler” Fernando’s posters went down recently, I actually looked up to the high heavens in gratitude. It was, however, just the calm before the storm (literally and figuratively) as Ronaldo Puno’s streamers turned out even more extraordinarily appalling.
It is my duty to explain to you why.
Ronaldo Puno embodies almost everything that is wrong with Philippine politics. He is the alleged original architect of dagdag-bawas and is called by many names, like “kingmaker”, “horseman of the apocalypse”, and “chameleon par excellance”, but “election magician,” owing to his trailblazing successes at poll manipulation, is my favorite.
His legendary role in the desecration of our electoral system began in 1992 when he headed the special operations team of then presidentiable Fidel Ramos. Directing the vote-rigging show at the Sulo hotel, Ronaldo Puno pulled off his sleeves a rabbit that stole the presidency from Miriam Santiago who, to this day, claims, and sanely so, she “won in the voting, but not in the counting.” From then on, Ronaldo Puno has become the country’s most sought-after kingmaker. A true-blue balimbing, he jumped ship from FVR to Erap, and now to La Gloria of “Hello Garci” fame.
He actually started at an early age. Pushed by his father who was then one of Marcos’s justices, his career took off as fast as a congressman would raise his hand to vote “Yes” for the approval of the pork barrel fund. In no time, he was undersecretary of local governments and one of the dictatorship’s fastest rising stars. From what I gathered, the chameleon also tried to broker arms deals, lobbies, and consultancies during the Aquino administration.
The 61-year-old Puno justifies turncoatism by saying that his loyalty “lies alone to the Filipino people”. I actually believe him as much as I believe that greedy pharmaceutical companies and the oil cartel have the best interests of the Filipino people in mind.
Last Wednesday, July 22, Puno, also the President of Kampi, the regime’s political party, convened thousands of local government officials and barangay volunteers, including Ilocandia’s two most powerful Michaels who were seated beside him, left and right. In the said affair, they pretended to talk about the peace and order situation, the drug problem, blah, blah, blah. But any person with an iota of reason would easily know what it was about: it was Puno’s first campaign sortie in the province.
Thousands of “volunteers” from barangays all over the region were transported to the venue. They were tasked to help maintain peace and order in their communities. Good idea, I say, but patently hideous. With the national elections set less than ten months from now, it seems that Puno has just recruited his first batch of Ilocano rah-rah boys and girls.
But let’s give them doubt’s benefit, they may actually be maintaining peace—Puno will have peace of mind knowing that he has taken to his advantage, yet again, the barangay system. Let’s wait ‘til we see what their uniforms will look like. Will they be imprinted with “Ronnie’s Voting Patrol”?
You might think I am imagining too much, but never underestimate this man.
He is one of the brains of this regime’s oppressive measures that have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, including CPR (Calibrated Preemptive Response), which tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to suppress the people’s right to air their grievances in the streets; and E.O. 464 which, violating the dictum of transparency in governance, derailed congressional investigations on the alleged anomalies in the Arroyo government. He is the same animal who issues suspension orders left and right to local politicians who are not chummy with the bemoled queen.
Now, Ronaldo V. Puno wants to become Vice President although he doesn’t have a massive fan base. In fact, I’d say he has none at all, save the political bootlickers who competed for his sweet attention during the sortie. But who can blame Ronaldo Puno for loving himself enough? He has helped others become presidents, why can’t he take his shot at it? To put it in other words, if he has indeed cheated for others, as is widely alleged, why can’t he cheat for himself?
Ronaldo Puno cannot win in an honest and credible political exercise. I am so certain enough about this, dear karikna, that I am confident to make this wager: If he does win, fair and square, I will quit writing forever (and God knows how much I love to write), swim across the Padsan River every afternoon instead of simply crossing the Gilbert bridge, and have “I LOVE RONNIE PUNO SO MUCH” permanently tattooed on my shining, shimmering, widening forehead.