POSTSCRIPT / March 8, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Real men know how to kneel and pray

The short video surprised me, a Filipino Catholic, when I opened YouTube by accident yesterday while searching for updates on the 12-day-old Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Massed in orderly long lines on a wide street in Warsaw were hundreds of men enduring the zero-degree winter cold – all of them on their knees, praying the Rosary… “Zdrowaś Maryjo, łaski pełna…” (Hail Mary, full of grace…) its Polish rhythm filling the air.

Rosary rally of Polish Catholic men in Warsaw. Photo: Twitter/ @Sachinettiyil

Massed in orderly long lines on a wide street in Warsaw were hundreds of men enduring the zero-degree winter cold – all of them on their knees, praying the Rosary… “Zdrowaś Maryjo, łaski pełna…” (Hail Mary, full of grace…) its Polish rhythm filling the air.

To catch that March 5 moment yourself, go to YouTube (and skip the ads):

The one-minute video struck me because it has been years since I saw men, especially feeling-macho Filipino men, praying the Rosary actually.on.their.knees facing in one direction.

The solemn street scene called to mind the cocky menfolk in my old hometown during Sunday masses who slipped out to smoke or chat when the priest turned to deliver his “sermon”. (They went back in when the homily was over.)

The video did not indicate it, but we presumed that the “prayer rally” in Warsaw was part of the catholic (meaning universal) search for a peaceful end to the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine lying across Poland’s eastern border.

We remember the visits in 1981 and 1995 of Pope John Paul II, who was born Karol Józef Wojtyla in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. He first came to the Philippines in 1973 when he was still the relatively-unknown Karol Jozef Cardinal Wojtyla, the archbishop of Krakow.

Filipinos must feel an affinity with the Polish people, 93 percent of whom are Catholic (compare to the Philippines’ 86 percent, and Ukraine’s 72 percent).

In the Vatican, Pope Francis launched last week a series of appeals for ending the war, the opening of humanitarian corridors for refugees, and finding a political resolution of conflicts in Ukraine and in other places.

The Pope lamented that in every conflict, “ordinary people are the real victims who pay for the follies of war”. He expressed special concern for “the elderly, those who are seeking refuge at this time, for mothers fleeing with their children.”

 Duterte needs clear exit plan

As President Duterte is a lame-duck, we try not to mind him as he coasts along in his three remaining months in office hobbled by the pandemic and its negative impact on the economy.

Still, we cannot help noticing his tentative steps as he nears his June 30 departure with no clear (to us) exit plan. It is possible, however, that the apparent lack of direction may be just to confuse his foes and those trying to second-guess his political moves.

The guessing began when he announced early last year his intention to run for the lower position of vice president in the coming May elections. He was candid enough to say that he wanted (needed) to enjoy continued executive immunity from suit.

Apparently convinced by advisers that being vice president won’t shield him from prosecution in the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity (although charges filed in local courts could be manageable), he aimed instead for the Senate – a plan he dropped later.

To remain relevant, Duterte must do more than simply think aloud about what he might do in preparation for May 9 (the elections) and for June 30 (the last day of his term).

The PDP-Laban Party that is supposed to be the “ruling” party after delivering him to Malacañang in 2016 looks forlorn without a standard-bearer for the big electoral fight just two months away.

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To address this sign of weakness, the party wing led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has adopted Duterte’s daughter Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as its vice-presidential candidate although she had filed her candidacy under another party.

Significantly, that faction – which is chaired by President Duterte –  did not adopt in the same move as its presidential candidate the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who is Sara’s running mate.

If the idea is to ride to victory using the Marcos-Duterte tandem to recapture Malacañang (for the Marcoses) or retain a hold on it (for the Dutertes), the $64-million Question is: What’s preventing or delaying the partnership?

Has not Duterte paid his political debts to the Marcoses by allowing the transfer of the refrigerated remains of the late dictator from the family mausoleum in Batac, llocos Norte, and approving his burial with full honors in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani?

Is there something else, from either side, that has not been delivered?

 Can Leni come from behind?

The election campaign appears, meantime, to take interesting turns. Followers of Vice President Leni Robredo, independent presidential bet, seem to be growing at a dramatic rate that the psychological Marcos lead suggested by the table surveys may find hard to stop.

Worth studying are not just the number and composition of the crowd flocking on their own to the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan rallies but also the infectious energy animating the turnout.

To plot his moves, Duterte needs at this point an assurance from the likely winner of at least fair treatment and a safe landing when he leaves Malacañang.

Can the Marcoses give Duterte that assurance when they themselves still have to work out their own redemption? This assumes the Marcoses could regain the Palace that they abandoned in their hurried escape in 1986.

In such a slippery situation, Sara Duterte as the presidential spare tire may not see herself installed in the get-away vehicle needed by her father.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 8, 2022)

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Dear Sir Pascual, In addendum to the commentary regarding war and the collateral damage among the innocent, there is the old sayings: (1) When elephants fight, it is the ants who suffer; and, (2) War does not determine who is right; it only determines who is left.

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