Jojo A. Robles

What’s in a nickname?

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I wish “Daang Matuwid” were really just a nickname, instead of a six-year curse on the nation. That said, I really wish Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo would look my way if I call them by their chosen (and mutual) official nicknames as they appear on the ballot even after the May 9 elections.

I’m not advocating the practice of calling Mar “Manuel” and Leni “Maria Leonor,” of course, simply because those are their real names. But to change your name, given or preferred, simply to show your political affiliation and to rope in voters who still believe in it is just more than a little off-putting.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that neither Mar nor Leni would dream of even answering to the name “Daang Matuwid,” even if it were used by their loved ones in the privacy of their respective homes. I’d even hazard a guess that President Noynoy Aquino, the man who first mashed those two simple words together and made them into a cheap political slogan - and an increasingly ironic one, at that - would respond to such a salutation.

The simple truth of the matter is, Aquino and his chosen tandem are just trying to gain an advantage, however slight, on the competition by attempting to pass off a slogan as a nickname. There’s just a small problem with the rules of the Commission on Elections, which allows nicknames on the official ballots (like “Jojo,” “Rody,” “Chiz” and the like) but forbids the use of slogans, like Mar and Leni’s joint “Daang Matuwid” moniker.

I asked Comelec Chairman Andres (“Andy,” to his friends) Bautista if a violation of the rules has indeed taken place. Because Andy is a nice guy, he said former Commissioner Gregorio (“Goyo,” to those who know him) Larrazabal should file a formal complaint instead of complaining to media, both traditional and social, about the matter.

Bautista’s spokesman James (who, as far as I know, doesn’t answer to any other name) Jimenez said all candidates were asked to specify their favored nicknames when they filed their certificates. Jimenez said, basically, that Comelec has no control over the names candidates choose for themselves.

The LP spokesman, Ibarra (“Barry,” I’m told) Gutierrez, over-reacted, as usual, seeing a conspiracy when none obviously exists. Why did Larrazabal bring up the matter, he asked, only now if he was not part of some grand scheme to derail the administration’s upcoming victory - or words to that effect.

Personally, I think we should allow Mar and Leni (or “Daang Matuwid” Roxas and “Daang Matuwid” Robredo) the use of their chosen slogan - I mean nickname, of course. Neither of them can expect anyone to call them by that name anyway; after the elections, both of them will wish no one even remembers.

* * *

Now, it’s Robredo who’s lecturing Roxas about his anemic performance in the voter preference surveys. Robredo, who’s been enjoying an uptick in her own polling, said her running mate has a lot of “baggage” in the form of his previous assignments in the government of President Noynoy Aquino.

“It’s not just him,” Robredo said, earning some points for being candid. “It’s also the assignments given to him.”

Robredo’s candor is justified, because she’s already polling better than Roxas, both in rank and in percentage. Perhaps, at this point, even Aquino himself is ruing his decision to let Roxas “continue the gains,” as they say over at the palace; maybe Leni would have fared better than Mar in the presidential race.

As for Roxas’ Cabinet assignments, I wouldn’t blame them as much as I’d blame Mar for accepting them to further his own ambition - and then failing spectacularly. The fact that he made such a mess out of things when he could have boosted his political stock, first as secretary of transportation and later as secretary of local government, is Roxas’ fault entirely.

Roxas’ much-maligned work as the top government official on the ground when super-typhoon “Yolanda” hit Tacloban City and its environs, of course, is Exhibit A. Regardless of what his revisionist comic book tells us, Roxas merely became the poster boy of government incompetence and helplessness in Tacloban.

The continuing disaster that is the MRT-3 started when Roxas decided to junk the maintenance contract with the perfectly capable Japanese provider Sumitomo, even if it was the perfectly incompetent Jun Abaya, his successor at the transportation department, who signed off on the deal. And these are just two cases of Mar turning opportunity into catastrophe, because of his own incompetence.

It’s him entirely, Leni. And if I were you, I’d keep my opinions about Roxas’ bottom-dwelling survey numbers to myself from hereon - after all, nobody put a gun to your head and asked you to be Roxas’ vice presidential candidate.

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