The Agony of Danding

“The right merchant is one who has the just average of faculties we call common sense; a man of a strong affinity for facts, who makes up his decision on what he has seen. He is thoroughly persuaded of the truths of arithmetic. There is always a reason, in the man, for his good or bad fortune … in making money. Men talk as if there were some magic about this…. He knows that all goes on the old road, pound for pound, cent for cent—for every effect a perfect cause—and that good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882),
U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher.
“Wealth,” The Conduct of Life (1860).

Danding Cojuangco no doubt has the unenviable distinction of having seen at close range the intellectual gamut of Ferdinand Marcos.From 1965 to 1986 he was FM’s top lieutenant. If he were a chess piece, Danding was a bishop, a knight, or a rook. All throughout martial law, in a castling move, he shielded the King in every which way. Ironically, in the 1992 elections, in his quest to be King at last, he checked the Queen only to emerge bruised and bitter, and of course, checkmated.

Before 1992, he declared his sources of income as winnings from horse races and cock derbies all over the archipelago. Perhaps that was his strategy of winning the elections in 1992, by personal appearances and open betting in the country’s cockpits. Our grandfather used to tell us never to trust a sabungero as a local political leader because invariably the people in the community do not trust an inveterate gambler. How can they win votes for a candidate? Sabungeros have earned a bad reputation, because they usually bet their family’s bottom peso just to satisfy their gaming urges leaving the family members famished or in worst situation.  On the other hand, our uncle quickly defends them  for their palabra de honor. In Quezon there are quirks in the palabras, in the person of a hago. A hago is an aficionado who wagers on the basis of his guts only after he lost his last centavo, and once beaten, he disappears from the coliseum. One hears of lynching in sabungans and tupadas, the hagos are the bugbog sarado victims.

As we come nearer to the 2004 elections, a measly seven months away, Danding is indeed in the throes of indescribable anguish. As a close-in henchman of the late unlamented dictator, he was indeed enthralled by the razor sharp mind of his mentor, a topnotch lawyer and wily political strategist. Danding thinks he’s got it made. Nobody, not even the children of Marcos were able to absorb the teachings of the great Shyster. From dusk till dawn for two decades he was called into the inner sanctum of Malacanang to track and put on course the destiny of the nation and/or the dynasty of the Great Ilocano. Of course, Imee, Bongbong, and Irene would have none of the off the records of the despot being the venerable father to them. As for Imelda, lawyer Gerry Spence put it underhandedly, “the wife is the last to know.” Only Danding had the luxury of imbibing both the plus and minus genius of the late tyrant. Verily, “there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you” (Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on the Road).

Marcos taught Danding the mechanics of government and the sources of wherewithal in politics. He sat on Marcos’ lap as the latter lectured in innumerable nights of togetherness or on the golf courses on how to use, confuse, and judge people. Add to that his five-year and going stint in San Miguel Corporation and Danding has the skill approximating Lee Kuan Yew’s pupil, Goh Chok Tong of Singapore. Those are the credentials of Danding. He knows what the world is like according to Marcos. Has anybody told us the academic background of the Boss? Unlike Lucio Tan who has to date added honorary degrees to his name one after the other, and is now addressed respectably as “Dr. Tan”, Danding on the other hand has nothing in comparison. Marcos told him, “you don’t have to be a legal luminary to be President like me, just hire the best legal mind in the market!” That’s why he hired the likes of Ed Angara, Frank Drilon, Titong Mendoza and Raul Roco. Their initials consist of the various corporate shields of many a coco levy transferee/assignee. But unlike Erap’s Atty. Edward Serapio who’s incarcerated, Angara and Drilon are senators, and Roco, a presidential wannabe and out of harm’s way. “The question arises, whether all lawyers are the same. This is like asking whether everything that gets into a sewer is garbage” (Florynce R. Kennedy, “The Whorehouse Theory of Law”).

Danding is telling himself, “I made them, and they have the gall of opposing me?” The days of the lawyers are over, at least for now. Since Marcos, no lawyer has been elected President. The time of the no-nonsense businessman has come. Lest he be called an ingrate, Angara declared his unwavering support for Cojuangco. But those who are in the know claim that since Angara has made an announcement ala-GMA, he bit his tongue too soon. Come to think of it why has nobody eggs Angara to change his mind? That leaves Drilon and the late Roco.

A Quezon prosecutor loudly thought that, “sa Quezon kahiyaan lang, hindi dapat iboto si Danding,” referring to decades long coconut levy controversy where most contributors were thousands of Quezon coconut farmers.

An old man in Quezon told us that, “darating ang araw, maghihiwalay ang tubig tab-ang, at tubig alat“. This is happening already as a group of congressmen and the likes of the former Quezon governor have expressed their support for Danding. Unfortunately for Danding, this bunch of nincompoops is known for their pera-pera lang shakedowns of legitimate businessmen. If Danding who projects himself as champion of genuine business would be minded to craft his government platform, the jailing of this group should be prioritized. These deputados and local chiefs seek re-election piggybacking on Danding’s reputed war machine, free of charge.

There lies another Danding agony. Instead of attracting the masses that have the numbers or the best, the morally upright and the brightest in the community, the reputed thieves gravitate towards him. In the end, he knows and it makes him sad, what this group only wanted from him. Is Danding crazy to believe the ingratiating avowal that “we are going to campaign for Danding even outside of our jurisdictions” as one Pangasinan mayor was quoted as saying? It’s a double entendre for “mobilization fund”. That mayor deserves, and he should be marked, nothing from Danding.

By pairing with Erap in 1992, Danding got burned with that experience. Erap’s gravitas wasn’t transferable, only his checks were. His deal with Erap nonetheless proved rewarding when promptly in June, 1998 he was installed Chairman of SMC. In the 1992 elections, his being The Boss with a hint of a Godfather was pushed, and it tanked. After five years at SMC helm, Danding handlers made a turnaround. Danding the Businessman, as a cut above the rest. Danding the Listener, not the guy who often flies off the handle and is wont to grandstanding. In short, Danding IS IT, but he’s the chap who can’t sleep.

We’re often told that the bloke who lacks sleep makes bad decisions. Tenacity of purpose is lost to Danding.

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