To administration officials, what The Heritage Foundation says and thinks matters. Speaker Jose de Venecia spoke at the Heritage Foundation in September, 2005, to bolster an encouraging prognosis it had made on the President’s political survival.In its July, 2005 WebMemo, the conservative think tank said three things were to be expected:
1. The war on terrorism will continue to take a back seat to the political mess in Manila.
2. Economic development and reform and trade expansion will be delayed as politicians focus on Manila politics.
3. Chinese influence will continue to expand while Arroyo fights for her political life.
It said at the time, impeachment wouldn’t prosper, that the Vice-President’s loyalty served as a check on any chances of regime change, and that the President herself preferred a constitutional convention, which the foundation welcomed as a means to liberalize the economy (it also foresaw the equal likelihood government would support the constituent assembly option). How point three of the Heritage Foundation’s analysis has come true is born out by a fulsome editorial in China’s People’s Daily.
Anyway, the latest from the Heritage Foundation has the Palace all a-twitter. The Palace immediately fired off a press statement to head off attention on the Heritage Foundation saying the Philippine economy is “57.4% free” based on their standards:
The Philippines scores well in fiscal freedom, trade freedom, and freedom from government. Income and corporate tax rates are burdensome, and overall tax revenue is low as a percentage of GDP. The average tariff rate is low, but non-tariff barriers are significant. Total government expenditures in the Philippines are equal to roughly 20 percent of national GDP, and state-owned businesses do not account for a large portion of overall revenue.
The Philippines is relatively weak in business freedom, investment freedom, monetary freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption. The government imposes both formal and non-formal barriers to foreign investment. Inflation is fairly high, and the government subsidizes the prices of several basic goods. The judicial system is weak and subject to extensive political influence. Organized crime is a major deterrent to the administration of justice, and bureaucratic corruption is extensive.
Meanwhile, the news politics-wise remains fixated on the senate slates of both camps, with the Palace saying it’s still having trouble filling up its slate, but may entice the Wednesday Group; also, dark mutterings of emerging power brokers in the elections; internet voting for Filipinos in Singapore announced (CJV, take note!);
The story of suspended officials continues to receive attention, with the Palace claiming suspensions are hurting both sides. Vote-rich provinces like Iloilo are in turmoil (scuttlebutt is Raul Gonzalez, Jr. is going to make way for his father, Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez, Sr., to run for congressman as former Senate President Drilon is expected to trounce Gonzalez the Younger): see Newsbreak’s article on whether the case of Batangas (also vote-rich) weak or not; whatever the merits of the cases, the Palace is relying on its tried-and-tested strategy: so sue us.
The armed forces (and the effort at building an Ebdane bandwagon rolls merrily along), meanwhile, continues gunning for the CPP-NPA, rhetorically at least. But Newsbreak reports that the armed forces is moving beyond its traditional obsession with Communism. The Comelec Chairman says fellow commissioner Brawner may be stuck babysitting Abra.
Is it unreasonable for me to think that we’re looking at a three-pronged strategy here?
1. Bog down enemies by suspending them; pay back supporters who demand payback for past support by going along with such suspensions;
2. Bog down otherwise credible officials by having them attend to trouble areas;
3. Provide a smokescreen for cheating, intimidation, etc. by saying there are anti-insurgency operations underway.
The Supreme Court tells the Legion it’s time is up.
In the punditocracy, this week’s column by Manuel Buencamino brilliantly reveals how the Palace is a master of the consistent message, and in what Buencamino calls the “framing” of an election. Read the whole thing. Its salient points:
Framing works with words and images to delineate conceptual parameters. The best example of framing is in war-related propaganda where the enemy is caricatured as the “other” who is ugly, evil and subhuman. Rationalization and motivation for mass slaughter becomes easier when war is framed in those terms.
Framing is indispensable to politics as well. A successful candidate is someone who can impose his frame on an election.
Bill Clinton framed the 1992 US presidential election in just four words, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It was so effective Bush was forced into the defensive and, as the old maxim goes, “in politics, when you’re explaining you’re losing.”
Mrs. Arroyo’s 2004 campaign began with very little chances of winning. Unlike Clinton, she never found a silver bullet to use against her opponents. Still, in just a few short months her ratings turned around dramatically. One explanation for that could be that she gained the initiative over the framing of the election…
Mrs. Arroyo’s entry into the race replaced the original election frame with a new one featuring two GMAs, the “good” GMA, Roco, and the “winnable” GMA, Mrs. Arroyo. That frame lacked a clear differentiation between the “two GMAs” and that made it easier for many voters to shift their support from the “good” GMA to the “winnable GMA.” Roco’s failure to contrast himself with her allowed the fear factor against Poe to erode his base…
Inasmuch as Roco’s frame was vulnerable to Mrs. Arroyo’s, Fernando Poe’s was not. And that’s why, in the end, massive cheating was needed to defeat Poe.
2007 will be a repeat of 2004 if the opposition is not careful. Mrs. Arroyo is reframing the election as a battle between Erap and GMA. That tactic could force a triangulation or the establishment of, at the minimum, a “third force” composed of candidates who are neither for Erap nor Mrs. Arroyo.
A triangulation will work in favor of Mrs. Arroyo. Fence sitters could be elected if Mrs. Arroyo successfully combines the “fear factor,” an Erap restoration, with a platform of “staying the course” on her alleged outstanding economic performance.
Mrs. Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, delivered the administration’s campaign line in one sentence: “We may have a long way to go to realize our dream but we are on the right track and we must push on without looking back.”
That campaign line grants, without admitting fault, that promises were not kept, “We may have a long way to go,” but it dangles hope that “the best is yet to come” with “we are on the right track.” It dismisses all questions concerning Mrs. Arroyo’s legitimacy and everything she has done to suppress any inquiry into the matter with “we must push on without looking back,” making “pushing on” and living off OFW remittances synonymous.
Then after you read Buencamino’s article, read the latest Palace statements with a fresh -and informed- eye and see how well he’s framed the whole thing.
Speaking of OFWs and their remittances, my Arab News column for this week, Expecting the OFW Community to Put the Fear in Politicians, refers to these articles: an Inquirer report of a rally by domestic workers; a feature published in Davao Today, and yesterday’s column by Juan Mercado. See also a Manila Times story today, on illegal recruiters.
Marichu Villanueva has interesting scuttlebutt on what the political operatives are buzzing about: which would help or hinder a candidate, an endorsement from GMA or from Estrada?
As in similar surveys done in the past, the results of this most recent survey showed consistently that majority replied or 42 percent said it won’t affect their votes. A bigger majority, though, or 47 percent replied they “will not vote that Arroyo-endorsed candidate” while only seven percent replied they “will vote that Arroyo-endorsed candidate.”
The same basic question was asked how respondents would vote for Estrada-backed candidates. “If a candidate is openly endorsed by ex-President Estrada will this affect your vote?” A big majority also, or 40 percent replied this would not affect their votes. On the other hand, 20 percent of the respondents replied they would not vote for Estrada-backed candidates and this trend was noted among the A, B and C high income brackets. A little over 26 percent of the respondents replied they would vote for these Estrada-backed candidates.
Villanueva also details Estrada’s proposal for a one-on-one snap presidential election.
The Inquirer editorial focuses on how Singapore has called for a return to Cold War tactics and the accompanying risk of regional blacklists.
Hilario Davide, according to Ellen Tordesillas, is playing by the Palace’s rules: confront anyone opposed with a fait accompli.