He can memorize a detailed speech. Unlike the appalling trapo efforts from Binay, Joey de Vencia and others that preceded him, Erap knows that you have to spice your denunciations with facts and names. So instead of “down with graft and corruption” (what’s the difference by the way?) Erap gave us names (Nani Perez) and figures ($40 million) to chew over. Never mind that Nani Perez has long ago left public life or that we can’t quite remember which Arroyo scandal was worth forty big ones, Erap did seem to have some sort of brief and to be roughly in control of it.
He stays on message and it is an appealing one. Unlike FPJ, one of the most out-of-his-depth candidates to have graced the democratic circus, Erap knows that being “for the poor” is not enough. He is for family planning, social spending (his claim that his administration spent more on education and health than any other may not be correct, but I doubt whether many in the audience will look it up), free health care for pensioners and so on.
He understands the socioeconomic structure of the country. Underlying the great things an Erap presidency will bring you is one simple sentiment: class hatred. This is the man whose son JV Ejercito (not there tonight) exhorted Edsa Tres demonstrators to look for a mestizo and punch him on the nose. Erap is too smart to be quite so quotable, but the message is clear enough: “The elite are not hungry for food, they are hungry for riches” and so on.
He’s got stamina. I am sure a few “elitistas” were hoping for the slurred and confused version of Joseph Ejercito Estrada (as the other speakers tirelessly referred to him) we grew used to at the end of his abbreviated presidency, but Erap’s 45-minute speech in Tondo this evening was no better or worse than the thousands he has delivered over his political career. He looked at home and, despite his jacket, he seemed a lot less troubled by the heat than his sweaty companions on the platform.
He can deliver a speech in a unique way. Erap’s humour consists of the worst sort of old man jests, how much more pogi he is than Jingoy and (yawn) his poor English, but he know how to deliver them and after all, this is what the crowd were paid their money to listen to. "This is the last performance of my life and I will not fail you" may sound corny as hell to you and me, but somehow I doubt whether that will bother Erap too much.
Erap is also a convicted plunderer, accused of at least two murders, a drunk and womanizer, a hypocrite who enriched himself while claiming to stand for the poor man, a Marcos-coddler, oh and disbarred from the constitution from running again. It will be interesting to see whether his rivals dare to point these out to the electorate. If not, tonight we may just have seen the start of a juggernaut that will roll them over.