The “Langgam” Formula

(Note: The Langgam Formula was first published in The Manila Times on 7 July 2021)

IN April 2021, pollster Pulse Asia reported that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio led other probable presidential candidates in the 2022 elections. Its survey results showed that the first daughter was preferred by 27 percent of respondents, followed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (13 percent), Sen.Mary Grace Poe (12 percent), Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso (12 percent) and Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao (11 percent).

Political names have been shown to be fungible. At the highest level – the presidency – the examples of the Macapagals and the Aquinos stand out. At the rate present partisan preferences are being expressed, the Dutertes are a shoo-in to soon barge into that list. Bongbong’s genealogy likewise augurs well for the Marcoses to join that elite clique of political dynasties.

In Dutertes’ case, there is more. No doubt encouraged by the enduring popularity of the incumbent president, Mr. Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, power brokers are busy hyping up what amounts to be a two-in-one, buy-one-take-one proposition of daughter-and-father tandem for president and vice president.

If it happens – please allow me to speculate – that Sara and Rody do vie for the country’s top two jobs, that might be a first in human history since Plato thought about a “Republic” in 375 BC. And if they go on to win the actual balloting, that might be a first in the entire universe as well, heaven and hell included. A bandwagon seems to have started rolling already. At least five political parties are coming together to support Sara, according to a recent report quoting Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.

Looming large is a show of Dutertes’ flood of supporters drowning everyone else that gets in its way. That should end any dispute on how expressive people’s love for the president is. To dissenters, however, that can also indicate how intolerant and perverted our political culture has become.

A Duterte-Duterte candidacy, even if either one is paired with somebody else, is too otherworldly not to invite reaction. Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod – who was also one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution – remarked in a media forum that Rody running for VP “is an ingenious and insidious attempt to get around the constitutional ban on presidential reelection,” or something to that effect.

The argument, in my view, aims to prevent legal complications in the future, and should be understood in the context of promoting a more democratic allocation of political power. Given its merit, the ban on outgoing presidents seeking the position of vice president right after their terms have ended is probably better served if it found a more explicit language in the Constitution. At any rate, the democratic ideal trusts in the ultimate wisdom of the voter, and any court that may hear disputes on the matter later on should find it hard to argue against the will of the sovereign.

The burden therefore still lies with the voter. In that sense Monsod does the country a favor by trying to guide the voter away from an inundation of recycled shareholders that subscribe to a political monopoly. Others have taken bolder steps, like facilitating unity among splintered groups in the political opposition.

How The Langgam Formula Works

Potential participants in the presidential derby (especially those who managed to merit some mention in that Pulse Asia survey) should have particular interest in rising above the flood of dynastic debris. It is a glasnost test, of offering oneself in the service of those who cannot swim, should they wish to contend and present themselves as alternative stewards of sovereign power. The quest seems quixotic at this stage, but they can learn something from the survival trick of the langgam (ant). According to scientists at Texas A&M University, ants “form floating ‘rafts’ by locking their legs together when their mounds are flooded. These rafts contain the entire colony – worker ants, eggs, larvae, pupae, winged males and females and queen ants – and float until they come into contact with something to adhere to.”

langgam formula - credit Google Images
The Langgam Formula – credit Google Images

The key is to lock themselves together into an agreement (bawal ang usapang jet-ski) that whoever performs best in pre-election surveys leading to the filing of candidacy, should get universal support from fellow ants. And, as clincher – like thieves planning on how to divide the loot – lesser ants can be offered the VP post, Senate presidency, House speakership, et cetera.

On the surface, political parties are important for the langgam formula to work. Electing a Senate president and speaker, after all, has its own process where party inputs can be helpful. But being party-less is hardly a problem for a would-be candidate. Political parties in the Philippines collect dust in the garage during the off-season. When the time for their resuscitation comes, they can be rented on demand. Some may even come knocking at doors to woo the one who ranks high in surveys.

Spoils of war explain why seasoned politicians tend to outfox the rest of the world in consensus building. Where one has lots to spare, the other has nothing but noble intentions. The 1Sambayan organized by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio may resonate among his kind, but its capacity to satisfy competing interests is in doubt.

The flood of social media trolls will have their usual wicked means to sink floating rafts. But for as long as the entire colony of dissenters can cling to a mission, they may survive and continue to “float until they come into contact with something to adhere to.”

Pacquiao may have started with doodles of that “something.” But while he grabs attention, he needs to box with relentless aggression, as if Floyd Mayweather is in front of him. The way it looks, his newfound fury against corruption is in search of a megaphone, trying to generate some noise like then Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Alan Peter Cayetano did when they trolled Vice President Jejomar Binay. The early survey leader eventually lost steam in the middle of what seemed to be a wide path to the presidency in 2016.

Will the ants step up to challenge the early presidential favorites? I guess at this point nobody knows.

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