In early December, the department got word that it would be Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. A few weeks later, a newspaper report leaked by a high-ranking government official pointed to Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor as the likely one. By January, a third name had cropped up: National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales Jr.
The names floated partly represent the factions now working for the President – people who have stuck it out with her since six years ago when she was first catapulted to the presidency.
The winning faction? Well, see the factions and their candidates, and see who won:
A 1970 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Ebdane is closely associated with First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, their relationship going back to months before EDSA 2, when Ebdane attended clandestine anti-Estrada meetings hosted by Mr. Arroyo.
Blancaflor is close to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, having served as one of his deputies when Ermita replaced Reyes as defense secretary. Blancaflor helped Ermita run the controversial “monitoring center” at the department during the 2004 presidential elections.
Gonzales, on the other hand, is a power center by himself – largely because the President likes his fast, sometimes shortcut solutions to problems and because he is a friend of two individuals who have the ears of the President: her brother Diosdado “Buboy” Macapagal Jr., who is on a par with the First Gentleman in terms of access to and influence over the President, and Jesuit priest Romeo “Archie” Intengan.
Perhaps this parapgraph is the most illuminating in a fact- and insight-filled story:
Sometimes, if the President wants things done, she would text five people to do the same thing for her, recalls a former politician who’s been with her for more than a decade. “She’s impatient, doesn’t pass through channels. She thinks that if she sends the message to five, one will deliver.”
Read the whole thing, as it discusses the power blocs that exist in the Palace; how they’ve developed; and other details, such as the conversion of the President’s brother from a “dove” to a “hawk” and one of the chief proponents of martial law -and how ironically, the deal breaker was the military, which didn’t want to enforce martial law (which makes you wonder of news items like this: has there been a struggle going on even within the military, over how to handle the Left?):
We have it on good authority that Macapagal and Gonzales tried to persuade the President to declare martial law during this period. This move culminated in a visit of Gonzales to Washington, D.C. to drop hints about it to Philippine Ambassador Albert del Rosario, who opposed the idea, according to a friend of Del Rosario’s. (Del Rosario was sacked in June 2006.)
There was a series of top-level meetings about extreme measures to save the President (i.e., media and Left clampdown, arrest of “corrupt” politicians), says an insider, but in the end the idea flopped largely because the security forces – the police and military leaderships – displayed enough body language that said they didn’t have the stomach for it.
…The discovery and subsequent defeat of the coup toughened the view that by this time had begun to run through all the loyalist groups.
It went like this: she’s survived the worst because her opponents are weak and the public doesn’t care. This allows us room to push hard for changes and look even beyond 2010. “We had become very comfortable with power,” the Cabinet official concedes.
In other news, the senate race continues to grab the headlines. Francis Escudero was the first opposition candidate to file his papers for the senate race (accompanied by Susan Roces); The UNO Senate slate is almost-fully-formed (and pretty much a variation on the 4+4+2 ticket I discussed previously):
1. Manuel Villar, Jr.
2. Ralph Recto
3. Alan Peter Cayetano
4. Joker Arroyo
5. Francis Pangilinan
6. Benigno Aquino III
7. Panfilo Lacson
7. Francis Escudero
8. Loren Legarda
9. John Osmeña
10. Koko Pimentel
11. JV Ejercito
The 12th and last slot, I’d still wager, is a tossup between Edgardo Angara, Sonia Roco or Adel Tamano. But reports such as this may make an Angara alliance difficult with the opposition.
The Palace, on the other hand, claims the President has asserted her coalition leadership. Rep. Prospero Nograles says there’s no need for a caucus, and that the Lakas-CMd will abide by the President’s call for a “unity ticket”.
In the punditocracy, my Arab News column for this week is From Statesman to Political Hack.
Senate race related scuttlebutt and analysis from reporters RG Cruz (who debuts with his first formal opinion piece on ABS-CBN News online) who tackles both the administration and opposition’s considerations in forming their tickets, and Marichu Villanueva, who looks at opposition intramurals; Reli German, one of the strategists of the President, puts forward the Palace talking points on what’s going on.
Manuel Buencamino says he has a pithy rejoinder to the Palace talking points for the campaign:
“No matter how good she looks,
Some other guy is sick and tired,
Of putting up with her sh*t.”
The Inquirer editorial issues a warning on Gawad Kalinga.
Rene Bas says a new documentary by the son of war hero Chick Parsons will be released on February 3, to commemorate the Battle for Manila in 1945.
In the blogosphere, Tingog.com on a Filipina swindler in Canada. Torn and Frayed on why Filipinos walk so slowly in Western eyes (I’d give more points to the heat and how people don’t want to be sweaty and smelly).