OFFLINE: Less talk, less mistake; No talk, no mistake

A presidential candidate from decades past named Genaro Magsaysay fared badly at the polls, with one reason being his unwillingness to face the press.

He was counting on the “Magsaysay magic” to take him all the way to Malacanang. Unfortunately, it became clear to the public that this relative of the great president – a brother if memory serves – did not have the same charisma and intelligence.

In explaining why he refused to do interviews, he became known for the abovestated adage: Less talk, less mistake; No talk, no mistake.

The voters back then could only surmise that Genaro was no Ramon, and he had precious little to offer the country. Genaro even used the campaign jingle “Mambo Magsaysay” which was written by Raul Manglapus, who as a youngster campaigned hard for the leader who was called The Guy.

Not Nora Aunor Guy, mind you, but the Pinoy everyman loved by the people. Were he in the US, Ramon Magsaysay would have been called The Man.

Last week, it became abundantly clear that one Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is today’s version of Genaro Magsaysay. He is a presidential wannabe who has very little to offer the people.

He may carry the name of his father, but he is miles away in the political smarts department.

Junior refused to attend the presidential interviews conducted by veteran newshen Jessica Soho. The four other candidates were present, and this gave the public a better chance to see the four up close, and find out which one would make the best president.

By most accounts, Vice President Leni Robredo performed well, followed by Senator Ping Lacson. Senator Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno? Not so much.

Robredo and Lacson displayed a strong grasp of the issues affecting the country, while Pacquiao was applauded for his sincerity. Moreno tried too hard to impress, but he did make clear that he had the credentials to do a good job, if elected.

As for Marcos Junior, his absence was felt but not in a good way. His camp said their bet would not attend because Soho was biased.

She wasn’t. The interviews had been mistakenly referred to as a debate, and this may be the real reason for Junior to back off.

With every excuse given by Junior’s camp, he became more and more a laughing stock over social media. The word most commonly used to describe Junior is “duwag,” or coward.

The memes that followed all painted a negative picture of Junior, and there was little that his army of trolls could do to defend or justify his refusal to answer the tough questions that Soho was certain to ask.

Junior’s critics asked such simple questions as, “How would you handle a crisis if a simple media interview already terrifies you?” or “Will you let your spokesmen do the talking for you when there is an emergency that needs to be addressed?”

One reason Junior now fears public debates is because when he was running for vice president back in 2016, one of his opponents made mincemeat of him, rendering him practically mute.

In short, Junior does not have the ability to communicate and depends on his lawyers to speak in his behalf.

As the Soho camp said, difficult questions are asked of the candidates because the presidency is a difficult job.

What followed his snub of the Jessica Soho interviews made Junior even more pathetic. He agreed to be interviewed by Boy Abunda, a showbiz reporter who is known for asking the most inane questions. Sample: Coke or Pepsi? Sex or chocolate?

There is even the likelihood that Junior was furnished questions ahead of time, or that his camp gave a list of issues to be avoided, like his hidden wealth, the real reason he is banned from entering the US, or what he really finished in college, if anything.

Having his accomplishments or lack thereof would have been placed under the microscope, and Junior would have fared badly compared to the four.

It is not clear how many votes he lost after his latest public display of cowardice. Two weeks ago, he appeared to feign sickness when he was expected to attend the Comelec hearings to disqualify him. Junior claimed he was sick but was miraculously up and about mere hours after his failure to show up.

When asked why he couldn’t even switch on his cellphone and meet briefly with the commissioners trying his case via zoom, his spokesperson gave an exceptionally idiotic reason: Junior did not want to spread the coronavirus by switching his phone on.

Even his fiercest defenders – paid or otherwise – could only slap their foreheads and cringe over that faux pas.

The official start of the campaign period is weeks away. Marcos is expected to face crowds everywhere he goes, and he cannot dismiss the questions of local media by giving them that patented goofy smile of his.

Since it is known that he always resorts to canned replies to tough questions, his handlers had better prepare the hardest queries he will face, and have a credible, ready answer.

Unfortunately, the one thing his camp cannot do is to force him to display a sincerity the he does not possess.

There is a strong possibility that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will follow in the footsteps of Genaro Magsaysay. He will falter because he does not have the glib tongue or the sharp mind of his father and namesake.

In truth, Junior’s biggest mistake was believing he could win the Philippine presidency by dumping billions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth at the poorest segment of the electorate. Having zero qualifications could be his undoing.