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Jan 17

Framing the election

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:
Philippines1 Philippines2

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.

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27 comments

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  1. manuelbuencamino

    MLQ3,

    Thanks. I needed that.

  2. hvrds

    The frame is there for all to see. GMA is responsible for benign financial conditions. GMA is responsible for the best “economic gains in Philippine history.” Please remember that you live with hot money or you die without it. That will determine economic conditions that will allow her to remain till 2010 and beyond.

    W and his men keeps his line on message by repeating the line on Al Qaeda and Iran till it becomes reality. Before anyone knows it they are bombing Iran. They destroyed Iraq and the fall guys are you know who! The men around W said that being an empire allowed them to define their own reality for everyone to follow. PR practitioners are making tons of money conceptualizing the communication plan. In the palace here or in the White House same thing is happening.

    During the lead up to the Asean summit no one noticed the front page display in the Inquirer listing the GDP per capita of Asean. They did not qualify their numbers. It was based on PPP or purchasing power parity. That standard is used by countires who are members of the OECD. It cannot and should not be used for Asean. The current and real numbers are more appropriate. The current value is the value the government bases its taxes on. The real value is what the CPI is based on. But does anyone care when you have to spin the message?

    There are almost 2 million Iraqis who have fled Iraq for the neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. Now W says, Wow Mali!!! He sends in more soldiers. These guys are as bad as Mogtada and Saddam.

    The priveleges of Empire allow them this luxury.

    The lumpen elite and the lumpen micro middle class do not care till the shit hits the fan and back to their faces.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&sid=aS3CV4qRfC3Y&refer=home
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=ahNlio8yyX7w&refer=home

    It is still the economy stupid!!

  3. cvj

    mlq3, thanks for the heads up. when i get the window, i’ll inquire at the embassy over here for the details.

  4. hvrds

    Jean-Baptiste Say from his 1803 “A Treatise on
    Political Economy.” “The encouragement of mere consumption is no benefit to commerce because the difficulty lies in supplying the means, not in stimulating the desire for consumption; and production alone furnishes those means. Thus, it is the aim of good government to stimulate production, of bad government to encourage consumption.”

    Philippine government policy has always been dependent on foreign capital to pay for consumption. Hence the ship of state has tethered its very existence onto financial liberalization to support this economic model based on consumption. That makes the import of capital and export of foreign labor the strategic model to keep the consumption binge going. The Philippine economy as measured from the expenditure side is slightly over 80% consumption based. China is close to 40% to 50% investment based. They are constantly building up productive capacities.

    Elections will be won on keeping that binge going on. If there is a problem caused by external forces this and not Erap or the opposition will cause the change in government.

    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rodrik14
    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rogoff26

  5. john marzan

    http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/country.cfm?id=Philippines

    it seems that the heritage foundation has a different method of calculating our unemployment rate

    Quick Facts

    Population: 81.6 million
    GDP (PPP): $376.6 billion
    6.0% growth in 2004
    4.5% 5-yr. comp. ann. growth
    $4,614 per capita
    Unemployment: 11.8%
    Inflation (CPI): 6%

    yung bagong calculation naman ng gobierno ay 7.3% lang raw ang unemployment natin.

    http://www.census.gov.ph

    hmmm….

  6. Arbet

    John, you had said it yourself before. This administration can subvert the laws of this country, it can subvert the laws of statistics. =P

  7. cvj

    hvrds, you may turn out to be right that it would take an external shock to force a change of government, but for now, i prefer to be wrong for the right reasons. i’m giving the present generation of voters the benefit of the doubt that, unlike before, they will vote on the basis of what is right rather than submit to whatever frame is fed to them. i agree though that the chances of this happening is higher if the opposition does its homework, heeds manuelbuencamino’s warning and act accordingly.

  8. john marzan

    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.

    even without looking at the poll numbers, i assumed na erap’s endorsement will help guys like villar, lacson, pangilinan etc. more, while most arroyo supporters would rather take her pork barrel money while trying to avoid being seen with her during campaigns.

    The same thing guvernator Ahnuld did with his campaign in Kalee-fornea. Avoid being seen with Bush.

  9. Jeg

    Elections will be won on keeping that binge going on.

    Are you saying that if the government does the right thing and alters our economy’s consumption patterns to tilt it to the side of more production, it’ll lose? That means if it does the right thing, it’ll lose and if it does the wrong thing, it’ll win? This applies to the opposition as well: Less consumption, more porduction, you lose; more consumption, less production, you win? To win you have to encourage the wrong thing. That is so damn depressing.

  10. john marzan

    maybe the 11.8% unemployment rate from Heritage was from 2004?

  11. john marzan

    okay, here’s a sept. 2006 article.

    http://www.liberalparty.ph/news/News-LP2006/malacanang%20projection.html

    On questioning by senators, Neri admitted that the country’s unemployment rate for the same period remained at a high 11.3 percent and underemployment at 25.4 percent. Neri was at the Senate briefing Tuesday of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) on the proposed P1.126 trillion national budget for year 2007 being sought by the President.

    from 11.3% (out of neri’s mouth) and but the admin is using the 7.3% unemployment figure in the 2006 census statistics?

    and here’s a jan. 2007 article

    http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-47/6-47-econ.htm

    There were 4.0 million unemployed Filipinos and 7.3 million underemployed in 2006 – i.e. 11.3 million Filipinos or nearly a third of the labor force were either jobless or, even if employed, nonetheless still seeking more work. (This dismal reality is barely concealed by a convenient change in the definition of unemployment last April 2005 that reduces the officially reported rate by around three percent and the number by around 1.5 million.)

    The problem is clearly not just momentary. The average annual unemployment rate of 11.3 percent and underemployment rate of 18.5 percent over the last six years is the worst six-year period in the country’s history,

  12. bogchimash

    the framing of the may2007 elections as an erap-gma war is intended to seduce not the electorate at large but some key sectors of society only. it is not an attempt to convince the people to go their way. erap remains as the most popular politician despite his incarceration and this is factual. actually, if the administration pumps more air into this idea, it might blow on their faces.

    the propaganda is intended for members of society that those guys perceive as anti-erap and are elemental for winning. it is a trap for the media, local officials and business people who voluntarily bankrolled erap’s ouster, including those who were just forced to do so out of fear. the lucio tan tax evasion cases are quite convincing.

  13. rego

    John Marzan,

    Are you referring to same survey that Marichu Villanueva was writing about in her Commonsense column in Phil Star? She clearly stated that the survey was done only in Metro Manila….

  14. cvj

    bogchimash, i agree with your analysis and from what i understand, both manolo and manuel also believe that the target of this frame is the undecided voters. my personal guess, which could be wrong, is that there are not enough undecided voters to swing the election one way or the other. however, the erap vs gma frame would help inoculate this segment against any widespread public outrage due to the administration’s cheating operations. GMA will again rely on this group’s calls to move-on.

  15. jm

    Clinton said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    Pinoys say, ” It’s the Stupid Economist, stupid.”

    “It’s the stupid economist who thinks that Filipinos are stupid enough to believe that the economy is improving while more Filipinos are going hungry and more Filipinos are going out to work overseas.”

  16. john marzan

    John Marzan,

    Are you referring to same survey that Marichu Villanueva was writing about in her Commonsense column in Phil Star? She clearly stated that the survey was done only in Metro Manila….

    katulad nga ng sinabi ko, without even looking at the surveys, I felt taht erap’s endorsement would help more than Arroyo with the masa, whether sa luzon, visayas or mindanao. But that’s just my instincts.

    besides, why would arroyo want to further nationalize the House elections by injecting herself in the local races? Why make herself the issue? that’s like shooting yourself in your own foot.

    But if that’s the way her political karl roves want her to campaign, be my guest. bahala kayo sa buya nyo.

    if i were one of those pro-CON ASS, impeachment killing tongressman of hers, i’d just take her pork barrel money and make myself scarce whenever arroyo’s in town.

  17. john marzan

    John Marzan,

    Are you referring to same survey that Marichu Villanueva was writing about in her Commonsense column in Phil Star? She clearly stated that the survey was done only in Metro Manila….

    katulad nga ng sinabi ko, without even looking at the surveys, I felt that erap’s endorsement would help more than Arroyo with the masa, whether sa luzon, visayas or mindanao.

    besides, why would arroyo want to further nationalize the House elections by injecting herself in the local races? Why make herself the issue? that’s like shooting yourself in your own foot.

    But if that’s the way her political karl roves want her to campaign, be my guest. bahala kayo sa buhay nyo.

    if i were one of those pro-CON ASS, impeachment killing tongressman of hers, i’d just take her pork barrel money and make myself scarce whenever arroyo’s in town.

  18. john marzan

    the framing of the may2007 elections as an erap-gma war is intended to seduce not the electorate at large but some key sectors of society only.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s their plan. just look at the headline of this article. LMAO.

    http://www.philstar.com/philstar/NEWS200701172605.htm

    GMA candidates vs Erap bets
    COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva
    The Philippine Star 01/17/2007

    my personal guess, which could be wrong, is that there are not enough undecided voters to swing the election one way or the other. however, the erap vs gma frame would help inoculate this segment against any widespread public outrage due to the administration’s cheating operations. GMA will again rely on this group’s calls to move-on…

    or “do a Capalla.”

  19. john marzan

    the framing of the may2007 elections as an erap-gma war is intended to seduce not the electorate at large but some key sectors of society only.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s their plan. just look at the headline of this article. lol.

    http://www.philstar.com/philstar/NEWS200701172605.htm

    GMA candidates vs Erap bets
    COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva
    The Philippine Star 01/17/2007

    cvj:

    my personal guess, which could be wrong, is that there are not enough undecided voters to swing the election one way or the other. however, the erap vs gma frame would help inoculate this segment against any widespread public outrage due to the administration’s cheating operations. GMA will again rely on this group’s calls to move-on…

    or “do a Capalla.”

  20. edsa 2

    sure it would be gma vs erap again in 2007. the opposition candidates are handpicked by erap and the administration will be chosen by gma. if gma loses, erap will return to malacanang & the midnight cabinet will once again run this god-forsaken country. blue label will once again be the favorite drink in malacanang. and the economy will once again crashed to the ground.

  21. cvj

    if gma loses, erap will return to malacanang – edsa2

    How will a GMA loss lead to a takeover by Erap? According to the Constitution, if GMA gets convicted during impeachment, it is the Vice President who takes over.

  22. john marzan

    erap will return to malacanang & the midnight cabinet will once again run this god-forsaken country.

    isn’t the eraps midnight cabinet belongs to GMA now?

  23. bogchimash

    in the aftermath of marcos’s sudden departure, cory was left with an uncertain economy. nonetheless, she was the darling of the freeworld. adb and the world bank disregarded their lending policies and extended her much needed monetary assistance. on the other hand, when gma assumed power, editorials across the globe saw through the scheming of the coup plotters who shamelessly abused the westernized sensibilities of the thinking sector of society, herding them to edsa for their ulterior motives. the major international periodicals were critical of gma’s military-backed rise to power. she did not enjoy cory’s special treatment and yet, surprisingly, her finance secretary was able to borrow trillions. and all the guy had was an economy handed down by erap. if the former president really messed up the economy, why was camacho successful in borrowing?

    as friends from edsa dos convenor groups would concede, erap’s problem was governance, not the economy. i never knew what that meant though.

  24. inidoro ni emilie

    yuuck, what davide is doing way too much for my toilet bowl to take.

  25. UPn student

    inidoro.. davide points out to a serious flaw in the Philippines which is fairly easy to solve, but no one — from the Executive Branch to the jeepney driver to the blogger — wants to solve. Retired justices of the supreme court (and sitting justices of the Supreme Court) are financialy-strapped for their capabilities. Their salaries are too low and their retirement packages are too low, so they have to return to work (e.g. ex-Supreme Court justices Cruz, now working for the owners of Inquirer, and Davide, now reporting to the Department of Foreign Affairs and hence to GMA).
    The salaries and retirement packages of the Philippine justices of the Supreme Court are too low.

  26. inidoro ni emilie

    upn, this is more than just about salary thingie. davide, simple man as he is (at least materially), knows about what the commensuration he’s been into, and did not complain. the issue however goes beyond that, considering his controversial role to swearing in a bogus prez.

    excuse me while i vomit.

  27. john marzan

    I don’t think this is an erap-gma rematch because i’m not drinking Malacanang’s Kool-Aid. On the one hand, Malacanang says it’s an erap-GMA fight raw, OTOH, defensor talks about “reconciliation” and freeing erap to pander to the masa. Seems like the admin is willing to say what a specific target audience wants to hear on different days. But if you ask me which scenario will help this adminstration more: the election being caricatured as an ERAP-GMA fight by the administration, or a Third Farce spoiler concept… I say Third Force hands down.

    check out lito banayo’s latest on the so called “third FARCE”.
    http://www.malaya.com.ph/jan18/edbanayo.htm

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