Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Mothers are effective campaigners on behalf of their politician children–they can gather sympathy votes by displaying their love for their children and they can vouch for the sincerity and humanity of their politician children, especially those embroiled in controversy.

Last Monday, 86-year-old Curita Villar addressed the media for the first time at her Las Pinas City home to defend her son, presidential candidate Manny Villar. The Villar matriarch cried in front of the cameras when expressing her pain after hearing negative reports about her son. She said that all corruption allegations hurled by other parties against Sen. Villar are false and insisted that Villar was telling the truth when he claimed that he came from a poor family in Tondo before becoming a billionaire through his real estate business. Tondo is a working-class district in Manila. Ms. Curita Villar ended the press forum by singing ‘Stardust’.

Asked if it is wise to use their mothers in the campaign, one of Sen. Villar’s siblings reminded the media that it’s the other party that’s drawing on memories of a dead mother for their campaign. She was referring to presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino, whose candidacy only materialized when his mother, former President Cory Aquino, died last August. After sensing that many Filipinos had renewed their support for the Aquino family during the wake and burial of the former president, Sen. Aquino was immediately nominated by his party as a presidential candidate. In his various infomercials during the campaign, Sen. Aquino has been invoking the name of his good mother.

After learning about the public appearance of Curita Villar, former President Joseph Estrada described it as an ‘act of desperation’ on the part of Sen. Villar. Estrada is also a presidential candidate. But critics reminded Estrada that he also has used his mother in the past to advance his political objectives. When he was still detained for plunder charges, Estrada always cited the need to visit his ailing mother in the hospital every time he asked for court approval to temporarily leave his jail. One of the reasons why he was granted a pardon by President Gloria Arroyo was to allow Estrada to be close to his dying mother.

But the most famous active matriarch in the Philippines is former first lady Imelda Marcos. At 80 years-old, she is aggressively campaigning for her two children who are running for governor of Ilocos Norte Province and senator of the Republic. Imelda is also aiming to win a seat in Congress this year. If she becomes a congresswoman again, one of her colleagues will be another matriarch–President Arroyo, who is almost a sure winner in her bid to represent the second district of Pampanga province in the House of Representatives. The two sons of Arroyo are also candidates in the elections.

It’s often said that behind every successful man is a woman. In the Philippines, we could say that behind every successful politician is a mother.

…and mistresses

All candidates are open during elections, or at least they are about the dark secrets of their rivals. They perform a public service by exposing the hidden wealth, extra-marital activities and illegal government transactions of their rivals. These revelations are all black propaganda, but this does not necessarily mean they’re not true.

A few days ago, vice presidential candidate Jejomar Binay publicly admitted that he was unfaithful to his wife. He made this confession after the internet was flooded with unflattering pictures of Binay’s alleged mistress. Binay confirmed that he once betrayed his wife, but said this was a long time ago and that he had already apologized to his family. Stories and pictures about Binay’s mistress surfaced when he placed second in pre-election surveys.

Binay’s decision to admit his marital infidelity is brave since religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, can use this confession to weaken his candidacy. But as a veteran politician, (more than two decades as Mayor of Makati City, the country’s premier financial district) Binay may have calculated that this issue would have little impact on his chances. By immediately confronting the issue, he may have gained some sympathy votes from voters who dislike the campaign tactic of invading the privacy of candidates and their families.

Maybe Binay is also aware that politicians who are unfaithful to their spouses continue to get elected to public office. He should learn some tips from his running mate, former President Joseph Estrada, who has not lost a single election despite the public knowledge that he has at least 11 children by six women and some other rumored mistresses.

Binay should talk to his former mistress and convince her not to disclose anything that could further ruin his reputation. Pictures were uploaded on the web, but there could be videos as well. Binay should remember how the mistress of former President Ferdinand Marcos shocked the nation when she called a press conference in 1970 and proved her special relationship with Marcos by playing an audio recording of their lovemaking.

If Binay really wants the issue to die down, he could leave the country for a while. This is what the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo did when a senator exposed his alleged extra-marital activities a few years ago. President Gloria Arroyo defender her husband from critics, but on one occasion she said that she would just focus on her job as president because she is married to the country. Will Binay also claim that he is married to the country?

Binay’s critics and rivals will use his confession to remind voters about his moral weakness. They will argue that since Binay cannot remain loyal to his wife, he’ll also betray the country if he becomes vice president. As Binay’s numbers continue to improve in the homestretch campaign, he should check his closet and hide the remaining skeletons that could be unearthed by his rivals.

And the question now is, will Binay retaliate and throw some dirt at his enemies?

Related articles:

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