Having watched so many Westerns during this pandemic, I couldn’t help comparing the country’s current political scene to a poker game in a Wild West saloon.
In this all too familiar scene in a typical Western movie, you see impeccably dressed professional gamblers and big cattle ranchers playing poker in one corner of the saloon. The rest of the tables are occupied by a motley group of cowboys, wranglers, and plain town folks relaxing and having a drink.
Until some drunk causes a rumble and turns the place upside down, the gamblers do not mind the other people around. They are so engrossed, so focused on how to win that they cannot care less about what happens to the rest of the saloon’s patrons.
Poker being a bluffing game, the player with the best hand (the highest set of cards) does not necessarily win. It’s the best bluffer that wins, the gambler who with a straight face (poker face we now call it) makes the other players believe he has the highest set of cards.
That is exactly what is happening now as election fever heats up in the country. Our impeccably dressed rich political gods are playing high stakes poker. (Nothing higher than the presidency, right?) As in a Wild West saloon poker game, they don’t mind what goes on in the country. They pick up issues like playing cards and figure out how to bluff their way into getting nominated and eventually elected to the Presidency.
Poverty, land reform, the drug war, the war against communism, the fight against Covid-19, the China issue, etc. are unsolved issues that our political poker players now bring up to use in their bluffing game. If past political poker players’ promises were not mere bluffs, why is the country still sitting in a shit pile?
Genuine land reform, a key ingredient in economic development is promised in every election but never implemented (never properly, anyway) because our politicians are big landowners who bluff for our votes with a promise of land reform.
Corruption and illegal drugs are perennial unsolved issues because politicians take them up only for the purpose of getting votes. Besides, some are not beyond using corrupt or drug money to finance election campaigns.
The red insurgency is more than 50 years old. It is nowhere near a solution because politicians bluff about solving it yet enter into compromise agreements with the reds so they are allowed to campaign in red areas.
When gods play poker in wild Philippine political saloon, like they do now, expect the best bluffer to win. For a genuine patriot to win and lead this country, we have to make the gods play another game, a fair game that deals ordinary folks a hand and is not decided by bluffs, the game of genuine popular democracy.