Roco’s Denouement

Just three weeks to May 2010 elections, and it looks like Raul Roco is out of the race, having left for the U.S. to seek treatment for what might be cancer. Back before May, he says, but the damage is done: already trailing in surveys, now he is unable to make campaign appearances or attend debate, and his good health is in doubt.

I remember seeing Roco in late ’97, photographing him up close when he came to Ateneo for a presidential election debate with then-administration candidate Joe de Venecia. Roco had no chance at the time, then: an upstart senator known mainly for championing women’s rights (he had been dubbed “honorary woman” by certain groups), who wore wild Hawaiian shirts and had a winking tick in his eye when he spoke; his giant stature was overshadowed by other “giants” in the election: Miriam, Erap, JoeDeV. But we students were starry-eyed about him, the “choice of the youth,” who stood for so much we could stand for: education, women’s rights, honest governance, dropping mandatory ROTC. Remember those days? In 2002, after the triple farce of Erap’s impeachment and ousting, GMA’s waffling flip-flop presidency (John Kerry has nothing on this lady), and the threat of FPJ’s candidacy, I’m sure many Filipinos were ecstatic that Roco came out on top of early opinion polls.

I don’t know what happened, whether he was resting on his laurels and failed to consolidate his political gains, or if he was simply eclipsed by FPJ’s overwhelming celebrity power, but for 2004, at least, this appears to be Roco’s untimely political denouement. How the mighty have fallen.