I. Last night on Korina Sanchez’s show, I ticked off some opposition friends because I suggested several things:
1. A People’s Court smacks of Communism and kangaroo “justice,” and won’t achieve even the bare minimum of credibility (earlier on the show, Rep. Baraquel was taken aback by an administration congressman’s suggesting if a people’s tribunal was convened, the President would have to be asked to send a representative; being surprised at such an obvious requirement for justice suggests being out of teach with the public pulse). Furthermore, suggestions that opposition bishops be asked to sit in a jury will alienate conservative bishops. A People’s Court might make for good agitprop but concedes to the government the “rule of law,” when the law belongs to everybody (including the opposition).
2. I am against street protests but not protest actions. Street protests are counterproductive, alienate not only the wealthy and middle class, but workers and students. Prayer vigils are peaceful, reflective, organized, and take place in locations that minimize the inconvenience for the indifferent. Street protests fail to take into account that the urban landscape since 1986 has changed drastically, and congestion is much worse than since 2001. The government no longer tolerates rallies, and mayors in alliance with the administration have barred access to public parks (Rizal Park, Liwasang Bonifacio, Quezon Memorial Circle) which are the natural, and logical, locations for protest actions. So why not explore Fort Bonifacio, UP’s Sunken Garden, and abandon the counter-productive and increasingly meaningless obsession with the Mabuhay Rotonda, Ayala Avenue, People Power Monument and Edsa Shrine? This is not the time to rally in the streets. This is the time to go door-to-door. Direct selling is the order of the day, and opposition groups should examine direct mail, email, and even opposition call and action centers.
3. Invade the bailiwicks of the administration since Metro Manila, anyway, is opposition country, as is much of Luzon. There are oppositionists in Davao, Cebu, and Iloilo after all.
4. Consider that certain pillars of people power are no longer relevant, such as the Catholic hierarchy and the majority of the middle class.
5. Recall that mass actions should come at the end, and not beginning, of a political campaign. In recent years we have had the miting de avance at the start, not end, of the campaign,. The opposition has been putting the cart before the horse.
A final thought, which I didn’t mention last night, because it only occurred to me while eavesdropping on Atty. Dong Puno and his guests during the show that followed: a plenary vote in an impeachment proceeding, Rep. Teddy Locsin said, is a vote of confidence. Nothing more nor less. Therefore, what we say on Tuesday-Wednesday, was a dry run of what parliamentary votes of confidence will be like. So much for the argument that parliamentary, unicameral government will be more responsive to the popular mood.
II. As for analysis. Perhaps around January or February, the following things may be close to being resolved or will have taken place:
1. An appeal to the Supreme Court to review and possibly overturn, the decisions of the House Committee on Justice
According to legal views I’ve received, the results of such a review might be:
(1) they will decide that the decision of the House to affirm the Justice Committee report is a sovereign act and therefore, beyond the pale of judicial review but;
(2) having said that, it will rule on the legality of the amended pleadings in the light of the Francisco ruling so that future impeachment proceedings may be guided.
A lawyer suggests to me that,
In that way, the SC ends up respecting a co-equal branch and at the same time, clarifying the issues in this Arroyo impeachment case. But of course, a decision like this will bring no satisfaction to the opposition. And will bring great delight to GMA and the eventual ascension of Justice Panganiban to Chief.
There’s also speculation on which justices might be open to an appeal from Cory Aquino, to foil an appeal from the President. Whatever the realities or eventual outcome, an appeal to the Supreme Court must be tried, if only to gauge the independence of the court.
2. The resolution of Loren Legarda’s electoral protest against Noli de Castro
This will help resolve the question of succession. Again, it applies pressure on the Supreme Court. In November, we will have a new Chief Justice, and who that Chief Justice is will send a signal either beneficial or harmful to the court.
3. Constitutional amendments
The majority coalition in the House needs 195 votes, according to Newsboy’s calculations (in an entry that you really should read in its entirety), to obtain a 2/3 majority of the entire composition of Congress, to approve constitutional amendments. This is based on the novel, but plausible, theory that the Constitution’s wording (appropriate for a unicameral but not bicameral legislature) requires Congress to vote as one, and not separately, by chamber. This means, though, that 45 votes, distributed between the Senate and the House, will defeat constitutional change. Fifty votes, spread between both changes, and this theory is well and truly dead. This would result in another battle, obtaining a 2/3 majority in both chambers voting separately, and by all accounts, the Senate vote would be lost. Fidel Ramos wants a referendum by February, 2006. Delay or defeat his timetable, and the game shifts to the 2007 elections, which rejuvenates the senate, delays charter change by years (approval in 2007 means implementation at the earliest in 2010), and seriously erodes the political potency not only of the Speaker and Ramos, but even the President (who will be made to pay for what will in effect keep her president with full powers to 2010, and thus become a target for Ramos and the Speaker).
3. A purge within the ranks of the mainstream political opposition
The curious, yet spectacular, manner in which Rep. Imee self-destructed is interesting. Interesting, too, is the infighting going on within the Estrada loyalist camp, and one which might include a split between Senator Jinggoy Estrada (who received permission from the Sandiganbayan to visit Hawaii) and San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito (who has been in the street rallies). The former has inferior political and intellectual gifts compared to the latter. The Estrada machine has always been, in a sense, an offshoot and extension, of the old Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the Marcos electoral machinery. It’s getting old. It’s getting tired. It may finally be falling apart, or simply gotten too hungry since 2001 and craves a seat in the administration table. A split of the Estrada camp into Jinggoy and JV wings, with the Jinggoyistas making a deal with the government, and the JVistas remaining in the opposition, helps the opposition as JV is more acceptable than Jinggoy.
4. A purge within the ranks of the mainstream administration coalition
Rep. Ronnie Puno has been confident enough to be spotted at cockfights, and administration congressmen have reportedly received thank you presents ranging from tickets to a recent American has-beens concert, to ringside seats at Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight. But word was, governors weren’t happy with the thank you (or lack thereof) they got after supporting the President on July 8; congressmen, having been cultivated so much by the Palace, will expect regular grooming. The Nacionalistas sense an opportunity to be on parity with the Liberals. Kampi, we can be sure, will steadily resume its efforts to engulf and devour Lakas-CMD. The question now is, who runs the administration coalition? The President, or the Speaker? Or does it now think itself on par with the presidency?
5. The determination of who recorded, and then released, the Hello Garci tapes
This is where media comes in, as it has everybody stumped. The two questions remain unanswered, and until they’re clarified, doubts will remain as to whether the opposition was actually set up by the administration, or the administration was sabotaged by disaffected members from within its own ranks, or whether an initial conspiracy spun off subsequent conspiracies (including the government conspiracy to suppress the tapes based on insufficient information it had at the time as to the scope and extent of the original tapes, etc.).
6. The reorganization plan for the entire Executive department
The effects of the President’s recent executive order will have consequences, as the Inquirer editorialized today. The President is not popular with the rank-and-file. There are opportunities for leaks galore to the media and the opposition.
7. The determination of which religious organizations really have political clout
Traditionally, the Catholic Church has not been the friend, but rather, the enemy of progress and of freedom. Under Cardinal Sin, this changed. But I believe the decision by the Catholic Church to turn its back on People Power in the wake of Edsa Tres, then the Catholic Church as a political force for change and not the preservation of the status quo, will have to be considered, and accepted. Accompanying this should be a close watch on religious groups such as the Iglesia ni Cristo which was said to have used its persuasive powers to intervene in defense of the President (Newsstand’s observation on the rhetorical style of Rep. Marcoleta is a clue). El Shaddai has its own agenda but one based on only gambling big when the odds are clearly stacked in its favor.
8. The consolidation of the broad opposition coalition
Here, history can be our guide, and history, I dare say, will be bound to repeat itself, except now you have two factions of the organized Left. Both suffer from a serious political liability in their over-reliance on political principles, strategies, and rhetoric that dates to the 1960s or at best, the 1980s. But the advantage, in terms of coalition-building and communication with the youth, lies, I believe, with the Rejectionists and not the Reaffirmists, a repeat of the splitting up of Bayan into the Bayan loyalists and Bandila in 1985. The intramurals between the Leftist groups can not only be extremely dogmatic, but dangerous to the health. But I suppose for the various sides, they can always repeat what Bobi Tiglao likes to say: “that which doesn’t kill us can only make us stronger.” The so-called Middle Forces will be forced, under peril of sinking into political irrelevance, to rethink their strategies and tactics. They retain one major opportunity: to take the lead, this time, in another impeachment complaint in 2006.
The over-anxious in the opposition don’t seem to realize time is on their, and not the President’s, side. The fatal weakness of the administration is the President herself, who can be counted upon to eventually dissipate whatever good will she accumulates, alienate her allies somewhere along the line, and be unable to prevent the kind of furious infighting that ends up blunting the otherwise effective tactic of having all administration people stick to simple, clear, and emphatic propaganda lines.