All politics is local, the saying goes. The problem today is that the President’s woes are being viewed as a local phenomenon, and not a national one. And yet, take a comment by agol_78 in the PCIJ blog, in which he says, kahit dito sa cebu nagtatanong ako sa mga tao, 13 out of 20 want resignation the rest impeachment. Could this be true? Or is it more true that the goings-on in the National Capitol Region doesn’t reflect the true sentiments of the country?
Jojo Abinales, in my entry on the strategic situation, points out that I haven’t factored in provincial politics as much, and that I’ve overestimated the power of the Catholic Church:
Manolo, I enjoyed your piece immensely but would like to ask for qualification on two things. First, is the minor role you assign local officials. You are right, they do often always favor the incumbent mainly because of the mutual benefit they get from that relationship. But I may think twice about downgrading their ability to undermine the national government. In the two instances where local political power got waylaid from that mutual accommodation, the effects had been devastating: I am thinking here of the MNLF rebellion, which began as an attempt by local politicians from Lanao and Cotabato to form a coalition with young Muslim radicals, and which then blossomed into a full war that basically undermined any effort of the Marcos dictatorship to consolidate its power. The second one was the loss and destruction of the Federalista Party in the 1906 elections after promdis like [Manuel L. Quezon] and Don Sergio [Osmena] upstaged them. Since then all politics in Pinas became localized (save the brief period under the Commonwealth when MLQ succeeded to centralize).
If the promdiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s power are de-emphasized, your essay assumes the Church remains powerful. I think it has ceased to be the same major player that it was under Sin. The steady attempt by the late John XXIII to remove whatever traces of radicalism AND liberalism inside the Church has succeeded. The ChurchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s centrists Ã¢â‚¬â€ identified then with Sin Ã¢â‚¬â€ are no more, joining their radical rivals in the margins, silenced by Ratzinger and his Papal Nuncio.
Sam, who is from Mindanao (just as Jojo Abinales is), adds the following:
I just would like to add few takes on how the role of local political dynamics plays in this strategic situation. There is a fast changing configuration in the local political landscape particularly in Mindanao that needs to be factored in.
There is a rising Mindanao consciousness which at the moment is articulated by a middle class lead Federalist movement. This vision captures the imagination of the middle forces and rising business elites of Mindanao. An option that presents itself as a middle ground to extreme solutions like seccession and the continuing underdevelopment and never ending conflict in the islands under the present set-up. A vision that is acceptable even by new political leaders of the Moro people.
Presently most of the rising political leaders in Moro politics no longer comes from the ranks of the traditional aristocratic families but from the religious, business and former commanders of Moro revolutionary forces. In Lanao del Sur, old aristocratic political families, like the Dimaporos, Pangarungans, Alonto’s etc. could no longer sway over the politics of the province. The present Governor of Lanao del Sur is an obscure religious leader. The Dimaporo’s now maintain political clout only in Lanao del Norte courtesy of Bobby Dimaporo’s wife who is the daughter of Lanao del Norte’s former Governor. The likes of Mangungudatu of Sultan Kudarat and businessman Toto Paglas (now running for ARMM Governor) of Maguindanao are becoming more prominent and influential. Ben Loong of Sulu, although coming from a traditional political clan would prefer to be identified with new politics. Former Commanders of the MNLF are now Mayors of Municipalities and cities like in Marawi City and Cotabato City. The MILF would even prefer to deal with these new brand of Moro political leaders than the older ones. The old system of governance and political set-up is strongly maintained only by few surviving Moro traditional aristocratic politicians. They know that their clout and survival depends much on the status quo.
Naturally in the present political set-up most of these officials still maintain close links and collaboration with Malacanang but only for political expediency. If given a chance to decide for a more devolved set-up, it is most likely that they would be the first takers. Unless they are given attractive political and economic concessions by the Manila government, the present brand of Moro political leaders would prefer an alternative and more progressive set-up than the old system of governance.
But then again, the question of real democracy and genuine peoples empowerment under a new set-up is another story.
So, if in my previous analysis, the local favor wasn’t taken into consideration enough, let’s focus on that now. Let’s begin, then, with the results, such as they are, of the last presidential election. It doesn’t matter of the political players today (the President, most of all) actually won in these areas. What’s important is that the President claims these areas are her bailiwicks (Pampanga, the Visayas), or their leaders have gone over to her (Palawan).
Map by Wiki contributor Seav; taken from Wikipedia entry on 2004 elections.
The President views as her bailiwicks her home province of Pampanga, and the Visayas. She also has the support of provincial leaders who have come out in her favor in areas in which she officially lost the election (such as Palawan). This indicates to me some things to consider:
1. The President must keep her bailiwicks and, God forbid, if she appears to lose support in them, other areas of support may quickly crumble;
2. The President has support from officials in areas where the constituencies of those officials don’t like the President; therefore, the electorate can, and might, influence how long the support is maintained;
3. There will be officials supporting the President not because they like her, or are loyal to her, but in expectation of achieving something else, such as Federalism or greater autonomy.
Ironically, the three points above apply almost exactly to 1. Pampanga and the Visayas; 2. Luzon; 3. Mindanao.
The President can claim, based on the official results, the Cordillera Administrative Region, Western Visayas; Central Visayas; CARAGA; furthermore, she has Ilocos Sur (thanks to Chavit Singson) and Pampanga (presumably). As for the other regions, they could be viewed as neutral.
The opposition (Poe-Estrada camp) can claim the Proberz survey indicates the opposition bailiwicks: “Regions II, III, IV-A, IV-B, VIII, IX, XII, Metro Manila, and the ARMM”, that is, the Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao Region, Metro Manila, and the ARMM. However, does the loyalty of the voters to Fernando Poe, Jr. translate into support for the leaders that have survived him? I think not. So while not friendly toward the President, these regions may not be actively hostile.
If we assume, as a survey suggests, that the President is almost universally unpopular ( but that unpopularity is different from active hostility), then are politicians putting forward secession or making a strong case for consultation, in synch, or out of synch, with their constituents? Central Visayas is very interesting. Recall that it was generally anti-Marcos (the Osmenas were feuding with Marcos; the present Chief Justice was at one time, an opposition assemblyman) during martial law; and that it was always anti-Estrada. So it can be said, Cebu and Manila saw eye to eye in 1986 and 2001, but have been on a collision course since 1998, when Estrada won Manila but lost Cebu.
I’d argue they are in synch with their populations in that there seems no opposition to their playing the secession card, purely as a tactical move. The provincial leaders are demanding attention, which is what their constituents want, vis a vis “imperial Manila.” Their support for the President, then, is conditional, and the challenge for the President will be to nurture that support. She’s better at this, due to the Lakas-CMD network, and because she has cultivated the governors and mayors since day one of her presidency. The opposition, which is fragmented, has no network of loyalty or even a national or regional constituency, except for the Left. That is why only the Left has dared mount protests in the President’s perceived bailiwicks (their attack on the President’s office in Cebu, for example). The concept of a united Philippines may be rhetorically under attack, but the attacks are couched in terms of using the threat of disunion as a means to achieve a more perfect union. This is significant.
A clearer picture would arise if surveys focusing on regional and provincial sentiments were held. Who supports secession? Who are more interested in Federalism? How many support the public positions of their officials, how many oppose them? Are the values of the national capital region really so different from the rest of the country, or is the difference one of methods? Manila, throughout our electoral history, has always been famously contrarian (always tending to oppose the incumbent, for example, while our Presidents, who come from the provinces, are more in tune, and reflective of, popular opinion throughout the rest of the country). Estrada was remarkable as he was the first Tagalog elected to the presidency since 1941; Arroyo is the first president since 1969 to concentrate on the provinces as a basis for establishing, and maintaining, support.
So, the country has a leader: the President, who has cultivated provincial support. The opposition has neither a leader nor made an effort to cultivate the provinces. This is, to my mind, what the provincial leaders are really saying: the President has put something on the table, Federalism; the others haven’t put forward anything substantial, and besides which, who do we talk to, as provincial leaders? Until the opposition or a leader brings them into the tent, they will remain in the President’s tent, but only in expectation of a weaker presidency thereafter.
Carlos Conde writes in the International Herald Tribune on why the Philippines hasn’t produced a Lula.