Every embassy has some sort of political officer, or section, charged with the duty of compiling information on the local scene and key players, and transmitting that information to the home office. The question of how we should treat an associate of Sen. Lacson engaging the assistance of a Filipino-American working for the U.S. government, to leak what the US government knows about Philippine officials, is a case of two levels of interest. The first is purely an American concern -a case of one of their own government people betraying his country, or at the very least, violating security protocols. The second, is that it is a national security concern if we presume that the information shared with the opposition is first, solely harmful to the administration (because either only about the administration, or only contains items harmful to it) and second, only received by the opposition and not the administration. What the Americans decide to do with their official is their concern. What our officials decide to do with fellow Filipino officials is our concern. The proper disposition of the case depends both on the kind of information that was shared, what inducements, if any, resulted in the information, and the purpose for which the information was gathered. If, for example, as sometimes is the case, a set of press clippings was sent from Manila to Washington, stamped “confidential” or “secret,” and in turn, the information was collated in a report, also stamped “secret,” and sent then by the agent to Manila, the information is virtually worthless, and the only issue was that American security was breached: the information itself, while worthless, would only be useful in that it would show either how weak, or strong, American data-gathering is, and that Filipinos would know just what, exactly, engages the interest of Americans.
I’ll say this though: as it stands, the case being filed by American authorities against one of their own (and his accomplices) may hurt the political opposition (the Lacson and Estrada camps) and thereby help the administration, but it helps the opposition more, in that the factors that have been hurting the opposition have been, precisely, the presence of Marcos, Lacson, Estrada and the Communists in the opposition. Imee Marcos already self-destructed. Let us presume both Lacson and Estrada are now self-destructing. This will tend to shift the balance in favor of the so-called “Middle Forces.” That’s not good for the administration (which may have been in the list of people receiving leaked information, anyway).
Another emerging story is the lobbying contract signed by a member of the cabinet, which seems to have taken the rest of the administration by surprise. Why would you lobby the Americans for charter change? Because you can dangle it as an opportunity to help achieve certain strategic objectives for the Americans. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Philippine government funds aren’t being used for the contract, but instead, other funds, possibly of foreign origin, meant as assistance precisely to accomplish objectives favorable to the United States. Emil Jurado correctly points out that hiring American lobbyists has been a practice adopted by all Philippine presidents (PCIJ focuses on the lobbying undertaken by the present administration and also on consultants for image-handling), and so the question should be, as Dan Mariano asks, what does the Philippines have to gain by engaging a lobbyist for charter change? To be more specific, let’s ask, who has been the most adamant in pushing for charter change, and who is said to enjoy American support for his espousal for charter change? American support is never given merely for idealistic reasons, but rather, to further American strategic and economic interests. (The Star actually has an interesting editorial on the difficulties that confront foreign investment).
Newsboy has scuttlebutt on both the spying and lobbying issues. His scuttlebutt links old scuttlebutt to the new. The result is quite a lurid conspiracy theory.
A third story to watch is the request of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting made to the Comelec, to investigate fraud during the last national elections. I think the groundwork is being made for the Catholic bishops to become more combative come January, when the leadership of the CBCP changes (Bishop Capalla’s vow to prevent the issuance of a statement highly critical of the administration, not merely because he is favorably inclined to the President, but because provincial bishops remain concerned over the issues being Manila-centric, have given the President an additional lease on life but things may hit high gear come January).
Ricky Carandang, in a two part series, Game Over Part 1 and Game Over Part 2, dissects the pillars of support necessary for political survival, and why the President retains, at least on paper, most of them. He then goes on to dissect the reluctance of the middle class, which he says is on the whole, not happy with the President, to come out against her. This is a very subtle, and nuanced, dissection, and makes for provocative reading. In particular, in Part 1, he suggests:
After all, whoever leaked the Garci tapes and set off the worst political crisis in her presidency was obviously following another agenda, not hers. And heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s certainly not a civilian.
Whatever does he mean? Elementary, dear Watson. The biggest question of all remains, who released the Hello, Garci tapes, and why. To know who and why, is to know a lot of things, and will clarify much that is keeping the middle forces on the sidelines. Good deductive work, however, would indicate that Carandang suggests: whoever leaked the tapes was not a civilian, and it was certainly with an objective in mind inimical to the President’s interests. But I would add one thing: one advantage the President has, as far as those who may be critical of her now, or who don’t have a high opinion of her, is that there were simply too many witting (in contrast to unwitting) accomplices to the effort to ensure an administration victory by whatever means, to prevent the possibility of an FPJ victory: in other words, the dedication of many who actually worked hard and even sacrificed during Edsa I and II to restore democracy, willingly subverted it in 2004: and are stuck with the consequences of their actions. I have a simple explanation for it: class bias to the extent that it trumps any appeal to conscience or ethics. Why, for example, was Clarissa Ocampo a hero, and say, Dinky Soliman is a traitor or Michaelangelo Zuce a fraud? All three, objectively, turned their backs on their employers and revealed what they were duty-bound not to reveal. Chinese account holders in the bank Ocampo worked for, it seems, were more consistent than civil society people who continue to praise Ocampo while condemning Soliman and Zuce on often superficial, aesthetic, grounds.
There’s an interesting difference of opinion between Edwin Lacierda and Newsstand on the question of how the military should respond to the President’s prerogatives as commander-in-chief. Newsstand, incidentally, has interesting pieces on the public’s devotion to processes, and asking whether Archbishop Oscar Cruz has become too much the politician. Also note his personal preference not to quote “net” ratings.
BuzzMachine thinks all newspapers should shift to “tabloid” format and that newspapers are being too cautious when they’re already risking going extinct.
Finally, a poignant observation about Philippine society from Madame Chiang.
Addendum: Last Wednesday, I heard that the Ateneo-La Salle Game would feature both sides unfurling “We want the truth!” banners or something like that. Yesterday I heard the protest action, apparently planned as a joint effort of the Ateneo and La Salle alumni (imagine that!) didn’t push through because it was vetoed by the Araneta Coliseum management.