POSTSCRIPT / April 8, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA likely to beat Poe -- if elections were today

MATER DOLOROSA: We saw “The Passion of the Christ” two weeks ago out of curiousity, what with all the excited exchange whipped up by this newest grand opus of Mel Gibson.

The advance hossanas must have generated excessive expectation in us, so when we finally saw the movie we were not that impressed. In fact, we found Gibson’s earlier film “Brave Heart” more compelling.

What moved us most in “Passion” was the poignant portrayal of Mary the mother with nary any speaking lines. Second only to Jesus, she suffered the most as she witnessed her only son, the very flesh of her flesh, being brutalized.

The silent-movie-type flashbacks in Mary’s mind recalling how it was with them when Jesus was just a child were heart-rending. She would rush to comfort the boy when he stumbled, but could do nothing when he fell with the cross. Seeing her dolorous helplessness, one sometimes wanted to rush to the screen and do something.

Having had liberal doses of film violence — plus the fact that we knew the storyline and could even predict the dialogue text that would appear below the screen — the gory abuse of Christ did not add much to this jaded viewer’s being moved by his suffering.

It was Mary’s maternal Calvary, more than the passion of Christ, that affected us in a significant way with Gibson’s rendition of the greatest story ever lived.

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LICKING THE WOUNDS: The Holy Week break will afford politicos returning to base a chance to look deeper into their campaign and assess their likely fate on May 10, Election Day.

They will need honest consultations outside their cordon sanitaire if they want to recover their bearings and reprogram to win. The veterans among them already feel in their bones by now how they have been faring.

Comparing notes with insightful observers and media colleagues who also joined the sorties of the presidential teams, our impression is: If elections were held today, President Arroyo would be the likely winner, followed closely by Fernando Poe Jr. Trailing far behind will be Raul Roco, Ping Lacson and Eddie Villanueva.

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PATRONAGE VS PROMISES: Something dramatic has to happen in the next four weeks if that ranking, with Ms Arroyo leading, were to be revamped.

Poe is indeed popular, especially with the fans. But translating into votes the showbizzy screaming and filmfest-type crowding in the streets and having those votes counted — may be something else. He could still just lose the election.

Looming large at the homestretch is machinery and money, an ample supply of which the incumbent President has. These two elements will be crucial as the administration works on the command votes at the fingertips of local power brokers.

The local politicos, many of whom are also running or sponsoring some candidates, have been recipients of Malacanang’s largesse, with more coming if they play along and help Ms Arroyo win a fresh six-year term.

Poe has nothing of that sort to offer. He can only make promises that sometimes fail to get through his dark glassses getting in the way of eye-to-eye contact so crucial in close-quarter wheeling-dealing.

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PING & EDDIE RISING: While Poe’s rating on the charts has gone flat (not improving), or may actually be going down if the surveys were more in-depth, the popularity ratings of Ping Lacson and Eddie Villanueva have been picking up.

Lacson’s being able to gain ground among some sectors can be traced to his straight answers to specific questions on what ails the country. In addition, he leaves the impression that he could and would do exactly what he promises to do.

Thrown side by side Poe in a recent race for campaign contributions in Chinatown, among the most sensitive to security problems, Lacson’s fund-raising left Poe’s by the proverbial mile.

But there is a lingering fear that Lacson is a “dangerous man,” who would become more dangerous if elected president. Also, despite his stout denials, he has been unable to shake off suspicions that his campaign is largely fueled by drugs money.

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PAGBABAGO: A rising star to watch is evangelist Villanueva, who has been replacing Poe as the better alternative to the traditional politicians or “trapo” running for president. (Only Poe and Villanueva can be considered non-trapo.)

As we have said in an earlier Postscript,  many of those who settle for Poe are not really casting a vote for the actor because of his box office appeal, but are repudiating the trapos who have dragged the country to the cliff.

Some of these protest votes thrown Poe’s way are suddenly being retrieved and given to Villanueva. An undecided voter who listens to thte preacher is liable to get hooked by his intensity.

Villanueva has added a moral dimension to the political exercise. An increasing number of people are realizing that the ills afflicting the nation are basically moral, that solutions to our myriad problems would follow more easily once we restore morality in society and government.

Villanueva would be a serious contender if only he had more time, say two more months, to spread his gospel of “Pagbabago” (Rebirth, Renewal).

Oh yes, as regards Roco, too bad he peaked too early and is now unable to make his rating go up.

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AMATEURISH TERRORISTS: Those six alleged Muslim terrorists presented to media by the police better go back to training camp, if indeed the gang came from there.

They — especially one identified as Alhamsar Manatad Limbong, alias Kosovo — must be stupid. Imagine, he was reportedly carrying in his wallet a list of high-profile establishments that they allegedly had targetted for bombing.

The way their capture was described by the chief of police intelligence, we half-expected Kosovo’s wallet to yield also an ID card bearing his picture and signature identifying him as a charter member of the al-Queda terror network.

Had the police searched hard enough, they could have found maybe the usual computer diskettes with files on mission orders, an operation plan and diagrams on how Madrid-scale bombs are assembled.

This sounds similar to press releases about suspected NPA fighters being captured with “voluminous subversive materials” and the usual “paltik” and “several rounds of ammunition.”

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CHANGE OF JOBS: If these Sipadan kidnapping commandos are the clumsy type of suicide bombers now being sent out by al-Queda, we predict this early that their sinister operation will drop with a big thud.

But please do not get us wrong. We commend the police’s arrest of suspected terrorists. We support their campaign to nip any attempt to blow up public buildings and other likely targets.

While they are at it, btw, the police might help clear the smoke if they exerted some effort to explain the difference, or the relationship, between the suspects’ old occupation of kidnapping for ransom and their suppposed new preoccupation with terrorism.

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PINAY BAGS PULITZER: Dallas-based Filipino photojournalist Cheryl Diaz Meyer, together with Dallas Morning News senior photographer David Leeson, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in the category of breaking news photography.

The most prestigious in global photojournalism, the award recognized their works such as Leeson’s shot of an Iraqi rolling out of a burning vehicle only to be shot by an American soldier; and Meyer’s scene of US troops risking their lives to save a wounded civilian.

The awardees were among the journalists embedded with US military units onway to capture Baghdad. Meyer was with the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 1st Marine Division.

In April 2002, she was in the Philippines and Indonesia photographing Muslim and Christian extremism and violence traced to religious animosities.

Her works have appeared also in the New York Times, the Washington Post , the Chicago TribuneNewsweek and Spiegel magazine as well as several TV news programs. Visit www.dallanews.com for more on her and her photographs.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 8, 2004)

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