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AN ELECTION STORY

May 21, 2010

The door was half-open. I could see him from outside bowed on piles of papers, documents likely left unattended from weeks of frenetic campaigning in the last election. The secretary signaled I could just go in. I peeked in and said my greetings. Come in, take your seat, he offered. He looked tired but calm, his right eye was blackened and before I took notice, he said, “it’s allergy”. Or, maybe he took a hit. “How are you, Sir? Are you okay now?” I inquired. It had been four days since the election day he lost. “Yeah, I’m fine! but, hey, no regrets,” the last part he seemed to emphasize. He sure looked badly hurting and sad but like a fighter beaten black and blue, he appeared unbowed. “The gap was much too large, how did that happen?” I asked and paused to feel my way in; it is one tricky business trying to empathize without making one feel so pitiful and abandoned. “A lot of money flowed in… a lot of money… two hundred million pesos in two batches in the last two days… we know… the bankers told us… then their agents worked on the evenings…” I kept my quiet and lent my ear; it was the best thing one could do. If anything, he seemed accepting that everything was part of the cruel game. The story was all too familiar, told so many times before though certainly the methods in the warfield have become far more brazen and bloody now. In the end, his doom came in the last two days; they made very sure of it.

A week before that, he was still hopeful. “I have most of the mayors, the last survey has me on top,” he kept reassuring. But he knew he was up against a wall, a formidable family in local politics, the very same family in fact who supported him an election ago and made him win for the same position. How the bitter fallout in the relationship with his former patrons came was a long and complicated story itself. This, he took pains to relate in its lengthy, winding entirety to explain himself– that a man must fight for his honor too, debt of gratitude notwithstanding. To no avail. Regardless, he banked on an excellent track record no one and no one would dispute. He hoped against all odds it was enough to hold the dam. Unfortunately, as it turned out, it was not even near enough.

“No regrets,” he repeated himself, ” had to do what a man must do.” But he puzzled over the losing margin. “It could not be,” he said, “I even lost in my own barangay, that’s impossible!!” he guffawed yet with a sense of resignation. “The mayors…” I hinted. Rumors about the mayors abandoning him at the last minute flew thick and wide. “I know some of them did” he relented not without a trace of pain.  Still,  he was more adamant assigning most of the blame to the machine called PCOS. Those machines, he insisted. You should have had people guarding the random sampling tightly, I said, but I knew it was lost on one with little grasp of the technology. “A learning experience,” I consoled. He retorted, ” ahh, all about life is a learning experience.”

I looked around the spacious room serving as his office. Nothing moved, nothing added since the last time. Yet, something about it changed, like something ethereal evaporated. Then I realized that had he won, this would have been a crowded place in jubilation, packed with well-wishers and bloodsuckers alike, food and drinks flowing… people having high fives and toasts. But he lost…

I am going, I said, for the media was waiting outside… Okay, he said and offered his hand. “Thank you for dropping by,” he said. I clasped his big hands. “See you around, Sir!” I said.

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