Editorial: Nuisance

·4 min read

In the past, there were bewildering personalities who attempted to run for the presidency, the highest elective post in the country.

Some of these individuals who filed their certificates of candidacy include an “intergalactic space ambassador” who claimed he was persuaded to run by aliens who talked to him via their Facebook group and promised to provide free Wi-Fi for all; a retired police officer who just wanted his pension; and a man who trumpeted himself as the Archangel Lucifer.

There was also the infamous Elly Pamatong, a lawyer who was eventually suspended by the Supreme Court for criticizing a judge. The self-proclaimed president attempted to run for the presidency in the 2004 and 2010 national elections, but his name was not put in the ballot after he was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In 2004, Pamatong and his supporters scattered sharp steel spikes across Metro Manila roads to protest what he claimed as corrupt leadership of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was also an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, and even filed a quo warranto petition against Duterte in 2018 on the grounds that the Chief Executive’s COC in the 2016 elections was illegal. The petition did not prosper.

Individuals who have no resources to run a national campaign are often declared as nuisance by the Comelec, thus disqualifying them from joining the elections.

Personalities with quixotic promises could surface again during the filing of certificates of candidacy for national and local elective posts on Oct. 1-8, 2021.

Nuisance candidates are not new in the juvenile Philippine democracy.

There was once a nuisance candidate from Balamban, Cebu who ran for the presidency in the 1935 elections against heavyweights Manuel Quezon, Emilio Aguinaldo and Gregorio Aglipay. He made many promises back then, and one of these was that, if elected, he would build a bridge between Mactan and Cebu mainland. This was considered laughable back then, but the bridge became a reality decades later.

In his Ateneo lecture, “The Fantastical Career of Pascual Racuyal,” National Artist Resil Mojares narrates that Racuyal, the “iconic” nuisance candidate, sought the presidency in the elections held in 1935, 1941, 1946, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1969 and 1986. He was entered in the ballot only twice, in 1935 and 1969. In the other presidential elections, he was disqualified on “psychiatric” and other grounds.

“Of the martial-law-period 1981 election, which he skipped, when asked why he was not running, he gave a classic reply, saying he ‘was not in the mood,’” Mojares wrote.

Mojares, a history and literary scholar, wrote that he is “not inclined to file away Racuyal so quickly,” adding that “lunacy can shed its own light on reality, refracted but starker than the light of sanity.”

“Given the paucity of personal data on Racuyal, I can only imagine the peculiar logic that drove his life-long obsession. I imagine him as a strange fruit of an age of political innocence—the early twentieth century, when Filipinos were schooled in an earnest, naive faith in the purity and efficacy of a ‘Jeffersonian democracy.’ Racuyal grew up in a time when a generation of young Filipinos trooped to public schools to learn for the first time the processes of an electoral democracy, the duties of modern citizenship, the bright promise of a ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ and of equality under the law, such that any young Juan de la Cruz (a symbol of the common citizen invented in the American period) can aspire and dream of becoming President of the Philippines,” Mojares wrote.

He further stated: “Can one fault Racuyal for believing in the promise, even if by some fateful turn of the screw his dream would become a parody of what it intends? For all the oddities there was rhyme and reason to his career.”

More individuals like Pamatong and Racuyal could surface in the future, and they would be easily dismissed as nuisance by the Comelec. Democracy here is chaotic, and it is further ailed by the ultimate nuisances—the candidates who buy votes, voters who sell votes, and candidates who forget their promises after they are voted into office.

Mojares ended his essay by stating: “Racuyal may have been a ‘crackpot’ but his fantasy of the democratic electoral process is itself an indictment of a process that has not lived up to its promise.”

(The essay, “The Fantastical Career of Pascual Racuyal,” is included in Resil Mojares’ book, “Interrogations in Philippine Cultural History,” published by Ateneo de Manila University Press.)

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