OFFLINE: His strength is his weakness

The campaign period officially began this week, although in truth it started months ago. This was about the time that one Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made it known that he was running for president.

At age 64, this is his one shot at the presidency. He will be 70 when the next presidential elections takes place, and he can dye his hair black all he wants but Marcos Jr. will not be able to hide his real age.

As it’s an all-or-nothing case for the son and namesake of the hated dictator who was kicked out by the people back in ’86, Junior has to pull all stops.

Not too long ago, me and a few friends met for an extended lunch with drinks and talk got around to how well Junior’s camp had done in erasing the stigma of the Marcos name.

We, of course, discussed the help he got from a global company that specializes in rebranding. It must have cost the Marcos family an obscenely large amount, but the results appear to be well worth the stolen money they shelled out to make Junior more palatable to the electorate.

Indeed, we all agreed that his greatest strength is the bottomless well of money that he draws from.

Since by all accounts the Marcos family has yet to surrender billions of dollars to the government, it is safe to assume that they are spending a huge chunk of that ill-gotten wealth to guarantee that Junior makes it to Malacanang this year. Not as a guest, but as a resident for six years.

Any candidate knows that money is one of the most important factors in getting elected to any position. Thus, having all the money in the world already places Junior at a mega advantage over the competition.

Unfortunately for him, money is not enough to convince the largest possible chunk of the electorate to gift him with their vote. He still needs to deliver the message that he is the best qualified to handle the reins of government for six whole years.

Here is where he is failing. Junior is under the impression that he can buy his way to the presidency, doing nothing else than to smile at the cameras pointed his way and avoiding serious journalists who want to ask him the difficult questions that still need to be answered.

Last week, data came out showing that Marcos Jr. took a big drop in popularity, all because he avoided the handful of interviews from honest-to-goodness journalists out to ferret the truth from the lies that surround his family.

In social media, he was immediately tagged as “duwag,” or coward. His camp not only gave flimsy reasons for not attending the interviews, but actually resorted to flat out lies to protect their boy.

Thus far, he has only appeared in two interviews from showbiz reporters, plus a cooking show where his display of culinary skills was found wanting.

He prepared the healthy and popular Ilocano dish pakbet, sometimes known as pinakbet.

A friend who’s a chef and who was also a professor in culinary arts pointed out what other Ilocanos later added. What Junior concocted was not the Ilocano dish that his own father frequently enjoyed.

The jokes that came after his performance came in a flood over social media. The most popular was that the kitchen utensils of the host went missing after Junior’s stint.

Junior haters had a field day repeating the one word that Marcos lovers have learned to hate – magnanakaw.

A few months ago, a tarp was placed atop a footbridge in Quezon City, near where I used to live. It said, “Magingat sa magnanakaw,” or beware of thieves. It was a fair warning to pedestrians as there have been cases of snatchers and hold-uppers taking the money and valuables of users of the bridge.

The over-reaction of the Marcos camp – who insisted that the tarp was addressed to their candidate – was too silly for words.

In fact, the word thief had become connected to Junior.

So now in the 90-day campaign period, he will have to exert greater effort to convince the electorate that he is neither thief nor coward. But this means he will have to face legitimate media and agree to answer tough questions.

He cannot allow his lawyers to do the talking for him, as this will only reinforce the belief that he is not only a coward and a thief, but is also weak in the brains department.

He still insists that he graduated from Oxford, which has been denied again and again by the fabled UK university.

If he doesn’t watch it, Junior will only end up spending billions on the belief that the election is in the bag. In fact, he is already surrounded by the worst type of traditional politicians – known locally as trapos or dish rag – who only want to grab a piece of the Marcos pie.

There is also talk that his running mate Sara Duterte is prepared to drop Junior in favor of one of the other presidential candidates, specifically Senator Ping Lacson who has been most impressive in the presidential interviews or debates or whatever it is that Junior continues to avoid.

Marcos followers, meanwhile, are reportedly dropping Sara no H in favor of Senate President Tito Sotto.

Herein is another of Junior’s many weaknesses. He does not have the smarts and the political savvy of his father. All he has is the ambition to be president despite his total lack of credentials.

This is not to say that Junior is sure to lose. He can still win with the help of such horrible people as Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and the dirtiest politicians in the country.

Standing in his way is Vice President Leni Robredo, who not only has the most impressive record among the five serious presidential candidates, but who is as beloved as the late Cory Aquino.

Junior has his paid followers, while Leni has a nationwide movement of true believers who will not allow the presidential election to be stolen by a coward, thief and college dropout who doesn’t even know how to cook pinakbet properly. Or should I say pakbet?

Kindly excuse me as I am a full-blooded Batangenyo, and not an Ilocano. Not that there’s anything wrong with being an Ilocano, mind you.