POSTSCRIPT / September 21, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Who really needs martial law badly?

BOTH President Rodrigo Duterte and the Opposition presumably want martial law declared nationwide this early, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the People Power Revolt that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 — because they need it.

> To Duterte, imposing martial law before his popular support wanes beyond recovery could help consolidate his hold on this fractious nation that he wants to lead to a federated setup under a new Constitution written according to his designs. Waiting longer might prove too late.

> To the Opposition (not the Liberal Party, but to a still ill-defined oppositionist mix), this may be the opportune time to go for it – considering Duterte’s declining popularity marked by fumbles in such key areas as corruption and crime, including the drug menace.

Once Duterte’s decline hits a tipping point, beyond which he starts to skid, he and his team may not be able to arrest his early tumble. How far ahead is that hump before the irreversible slide?

Declaring martial law now could help him control the elements that still linger around him because of their misimpression that the 16 million voters who carried the then Davao mayor to Malacañang are still intact. Are they?

The trolls, whose number is padded by handlers in their cheat sheets, may seem ferocious in social media, but cannot be counted on to march in the streets. And the bots, those computerized creatures bought wholesale by the thousands, are unable to walk to the hustings.

The dwindling number of warm bodies to rely on could be offset if the Commander-in-Chief is assured that the armed forces, a 160,000-strong bureau under the defense department, is solidly behind him.

This iffy point is still subject to validation – which could explain Duterte’s relentless, and inordinately expensive, courtship of the military, as well as of the national police, the uniformed civilian counterpart of the armed forces.

As for the Opposition, they have smelled the blood of a wounded quarry. It would be a mistake for them to slacken the chase while Duterte is slowing down and exposing his vulnerabilities in such areas as narcotics, corruption, foreign affairs and gut concerns like jobs and wages.

It could happen that the Opposition want Duterte to blunder into declaring nationwide martial this early. Such a precipitate act could electrify people who suspect that a resort to authoritarianism is just a cover-up for incompetence.

Many times, Duterte’s worst enemy is his own mouth. So as not to further sully the dignity and credibility of his office, he may want to assign to his subordinates and apologists the dirty job of prevarication, equivocation, lying and cursing.

When caught lying about supposed foreign bank accounts of Sen. Antonio Trillanes, for instasnce, he claimed that he was just disseminating misinformation to mislead the senator. With that and previous false statements, the President’s credibility has been seriously shattered.

Who believed him when he flipped on human rights and announced he was inviting United Nations human rights officials to set up a Manila station and monitor his drug drive? The idea sounds as ludicrous as his plan to jet-ski to disputed islands to plant the Philippine flag.

It is worrisome to see the President improvising from one problem to another. Declaring martial law this early might provide a break, but would it not be downhill after the hump?

• Fil-Am girl poised to win AGT?

EVERYBODY will have to step aside today while this Pinoy fan declares Angelica Hale, a 10-year-old Filipino-American, the likely champion in the 12th season of the “America’s Got Talent” competition even before the popular votes were counted Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Manila).

The only shadow in my crystal ball is Darci Lynne, a 13-year-old singing ventriloquist who surprised us by bringing two puppets instead of her usual one. It’s difficult enough making one puppet sing, so the novelty of a second singer (with the ventriloquist a third!) could make US fans gloss over the quality of the singing.

The finalists, in the order of their performing, were: Angelica; Chase Goehring, singer/songwriter; Sara & Hero, dog act; Diavolo, dance troupe; Evie Clair, singer; Preacher Lawson, comedian; Kechi, singer; Darci, ventriloquist; Mandy Harvey, singer/songwriter; and Light Balance, dance group.

In a golden-hued dress and her usual sneakers, Angelica was the first performer in the AGT show at the Dolby theater in Los Angeles. Carried by her rendition of “Symphony” of Clean Bandit, the British electronic music group, this Pinoy fan immediately claimed her as the best!

Forgive our preempting the four judges — TV host Howie Mandel, model Heidi Klum, recording artist Mel B, and executive producer Simon Cowell – and the millions of Americans who are still casting their votes electronically as we write this.

After giving her a standing ovation, the judges gushed over Angelica, as show hostess Tyra Banks held her close: “What a way to open a show… and this is the finale!” (Howie); “You’re only four feet tall, but you’re a giant… the best we had in the show!” (Heidi); “You look comfortable, confident… you controlled every note, everything, absolutely amazing!” (Mel); “It seems to me you (yourself) made the choice (of song). That’s relevant… this is the moment your career starts (like) it was with Britney (Spears), Christina (Aguilera), and Justin Timberlake.” (Simon).

By the way, her mom Eva, who hails from Iligan City, gave birth to another girl just days ago. In 2013, Eva donated a kidney to then six-year-old Angelica whose kidneys started to falter after a bout of double pneumonia.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 21, 2017)

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