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The Philippine Game of Thrones

The excitement has died down and people are picking up the pieces and moving on. I’m not talking about the recently concluded Philippine elections back in May (well, I might as well talk about it too as it relates to this topic) but rather, the season finale of the blockbuster Game of Thrones. There were hysterics, cravings, kicking, yelling, among others. Fanatics were expecting a different ending thus the outcry.

Watching the last two episodes of the Game of Thrones – GOT- (Season 8), made me realize the stark parallelism the show has had with Philippine and American politics. The fantasy HBO drama was set in medieval times employing primitive weaponries but the metaphor is apt for present realities. Two families of royalties representing the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, battled it out for supremacy.

GOT debuted April 2011 and ended last month. For eight seasons, the storylines moved from one kingdom to another but the one that really got the most attention was the quest for the Iron Throne. Throughout the eight seasons, viewers were treated to an evolutionary transformation of medieval societies marked by sex and violence, chaos, treachery, debauchery, assassinations, and other criminal behaviors that we know of today, to societies observing some norms we now call democracy.

The portrayal of characters, from kings and queens, to princes and serfs, reminds us of many in our midst. Presidents who act like kings, governing countries like kingdoms devoid of society norms. Attacking democratic pillars of societies including the church. Presidents who want to rule with absolute power like those in the Game of Thrones.

The last two episodes got the most howls. The episode before the finale was titled “The Bells” – an epic confrontation between two brutal queens: Daenerys (Dany) Targaryen and Cersei Lannister for the Iron Throne and the bragging rights to the Seven Kingdoms. Blood has been drawn since day one but for this confrontation, Cersei drew first blood with the public beheading of Dany’s personal aide that she personally witnessed.

Amidst the din of the drumbeats of war, peace advocates hoped for one of the ladies to blink. Cersei’s overwhelming army and naval forces had the upper hand given its sheer number, and tactical advantage especially after downing one of Dany’ dragons in a battle . But Cersei’s cockiness exposed an old rivalry, created new coalitions, and beget an all-out war that eventually led to the near ruins of Kings Landing, Westeros capital.

Day’s dragon easily neutralized Cersei’s naval and shore armada and despite the sounding of the church bell that signified Cersei’s surrender, Dany did the unthinkable. Riding her dragon, Dany pulverized the city and Cersei’s castle, annihilating almost an entire population, civilians and soldiers alike including children. This is the part that a lot of viewers complained about. For eight seasons, the show made viewers think that the once barbaric society has been transformed into something more predictable, like Dany sparing Cersei’s people from the dragon’s wrath.

How can Dany do such a thing? Well, here’s a reality check. Dany’s opting for the nuclear option is really not something new. Americans have done it before with the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the season finale of World War II in the Pacific. The Allied Powers were winning the war then but the bomb expedited the surrender. The message was unequivocal: Don’t do this again! Similarly, Dany’s message in releasing the wrath of war was unmistakable: The Iron Throne is mine, don’t ever piss me off again!

Dany never fully enjoyed the spoils of war in the season finale. She was able to touch the Iron Throne but was never seated because her lover, Jon Snow, knifed her to death for what she did to the people of Westeros. There was a silver lining to the ending though. A seated council debated over the succession for the Iron Throne and voting unanimously for a paralyzed king who would no longer be able to create a bloodline for the throne. This was democracy in action with a rudimentary election by show of hands or voice vote. A suggestion during the debate about having the people select the next king was ridiculed but clearly, the idea was already planted.

The recent midterm elections in the Philippines in the Game of Thrones fashion, was a complete massacre for the opposition’s senatorial slate. Predictably, there were accusations and counter accusations of voter fraud (massive vote buying, cheating by electronic machinations, assassinating a popular candidate and drug money influencing election outcomes, etcetera) and the loss of independence of a co-equal branch, Congress. Predictable because these are the same accusations leveled against former administrations after every election.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was the first president electronically elected through the Smartmatic technology. The country was hailed then as the leader on how to conduct automated national elections for seemingly indisputable election results. But then the “Koala Boy” surfaced claiming to have knowledge of wholesale electoral electronic cheating by selling block votes, which in the case of the vice presidency, the going price was 1.3 billion pesos.

During the 2013 midterm elections overseen by then COMELEC chairman Sixto Brillantes, glitches and vote over counting or undercounting were alleged but again the results were accepted. Andy Bautista took over in 2015 for the 2016 elections that elected Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency. Both Aquino appointees were accused of vote-rigging the elections electronically. COMELEC chair Sherriff Abbas finds himself similarly accused for the 2019 elections.

This year, a hooded man named “Bikoy” came out, first to accuse President Duterte’s family as being involved in the drug trade. Only to change his tune after being arrested and then pointed to the opposition as the one who commissioned him to lie in an effort to overthrow the government.

The pattern has been set that whoever is the ruling party will be accused of voter fraud, vote-rigging, and other election crimes. But these accusations will normally not prosper and people move on. This time around, Duterte wants to get rid of Smartmatic because of the history of automated elections in the Philippines primarily using Smartmatic’s voting technology.

Is it bad that the Senate is now mostly pro-Duterte and a House that would soon pick a Duterte endorsed Speaker? Not really because every sitting president wants control over Congress despite being co-equals. Presidents want to act like kings with dictatorial powers and will not be successful with a recalcitrant Congress. Obviously, Duterte has a controversial way of running government but he has accomplished many good things, including those that should have been passed by liberal presidents but didn’t. He continues to have high ratings despite his vulgarity and irreverence.

As in the Game of Thrones thematic stories; sex and violence, chaos, treachery, assassinations, and other criminal behaviors that we know of today will happen in the background. The Duterte dynasty is just beginning and so are other dynasties of the Philippine 7,000 plus kingdoms.

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