POSTSCRIPT / May 28, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Maytime, rains, Erap: Some refreshing change

THE rains have come in earnest to this thirsty city, washing away the grime clinging to everything like a death mask, like the fetid presence of politicians refusing to accept the fact of their rejection at the polls.

In Manila, thank God, it’s been raining almost every day now. The temperature has fallen by about five degrees from the searing 37 degrees at the height of the election fever. Grass, grown brown and brittle, has started to shoot tiny green blades even in the most unlikely crannies. The long-suffering trees raise their leafy arms to catch the precious pearls of water wafted by the rain winds.

One is tempted to romp in the rain as in those simple days of one’s youth in the province.

There is flash flooding as drains remained clogged with discarded plastic and garbage, but never mind. The incessant rain will soon flush them clean. We dash into office buildings for our appointments with damp hair and soggy shoes, but it’s all right.

Sometimes, like this time, one feels good being a little wet. Because it’s now Maytime, and rain time.

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LIKE cleansing rain, Joseph “Erap” Estrada descends on the scene with an unsaid promise of something refreshingly different.

I did not vote for him (I left the blank for president blank), but studying the way he has been acting since he posted a four-million-plus lead over his closest rival, I discern a promise that Erap could be refreshingly different.

One quality that strikes me is his humility, despite his slaying of the Lakas dragon and his incredible two-to-one lead over the runnerup. This might be traced to his awareness of limitations, but lesser men would still thump their chest and roar at the moment of their triumphant kill.

Another Erap quality that shines through is his being forthright. Even when he could get away with ambivalent remarks to squirm out of a ticklish question, he speaks his mind. He leaves no room for guessing where he is coming from, even if somebody he might need later might get sideswiped.

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ALSO, Erap has not lost his sense of jest. Maybe it has not fully dawned on him that he is the president-in-waiting and must weigh his every word. But I still find his candid remarks a refreshing departure from trapo talk.

When asked early on if he would invited Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of his severest critics, to his inauguration, he said in Tagalog that maybe he should not – because, he said, the prelate might just get crushed in the expected big crowd.

Many commentators failed to catch the light tenor of Erap’s remarks. Of course, the Cardinal would be there, but Erap could not resist delivering that light tap on the vociferous Cardinal. Having said his piece, he later confirmed that the Cardinal would be invited. But his dense critics said he executed a turnaround.

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WE saw the same scenario in the case of Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was elected as his Vice President although she comes from the rival Lakas party.

Some media men asked Erap if he would appoint Gloria to his Cabinet. He said she could head the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, the same group given him by President Ramos.

It was incredible that some serious commentators took that seriously. Imagine the diminutive Gloria as vice president leading a pack of grisly policemen tangling with crime syndicates!

There are simply certain ad libs that Erap must say now about certain people, including his political foes, that he can no longer say when he is already formally installed as president reciting from a script.

His remarks at this testy stage of the pre-presidency should be viewed in that light so we do not get lost in the dialogue.

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REGARDING Gloria, note that Erap has just designated her secretary of Social Welfare, a major member of Lakas (in fact the incoming chairman of the party) recruited to a major slot in his Cabinet. This shows the for-effect-only line about her heading the PACC.

Reacting in kind, Gloria has joined the growing crowd at Erap’s residence on Polk Street in Greenhills, San Juan, to congratulate the President-elect and, but of course, to accept her designation.

Other Ramos administration officials recruited by Erap in a skillful political play were Executive Secretary Alexander Aguirre (to become national security adviser), Public Works Secretary Gregorio Vigilar (retained), Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. (retained) and Bangko Sentral Gov. Gabriel Singson (retained).

President Ramos towed Gloria as he pursued a conciliatory line with the incoming president. Another one he dragged along was badly beaten Speaker Jose de Venecia who had been pressed to attend meetings with Erap and come out smiling when press photographers start shooting.

De Venecia finally shook hands with Erap when the President invited the two protagonists to a four-hour breakfast meeting aboard the presidential yacht RPS Ang Pangulo to discuss a smooth transition and the possible forming of a “government of national unity.”

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