The various slates are getting fine-tuned this weekend, as the deadline is on Monday. Gilberto Teodoro has bowed out, Richard Gomez has bowed in. Mike Defensor, and Prospero Pichay, and Tessie Aquino-Oreta formally declare as administration candidates. The Speaker, according to the Manila Times says Adel Tamano will run with the administration. Adel Tamano texted to say, no, he’s not runnning with the administration (the paper got his gender wrong!), and the hews was finally broken by Ellen Tordesillas -Tamano will be a spokesman for UNO.
Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. let loose a great quote: “the only thing the administration has to offer is that its candidates won’t be cheated.” Recto puts it differently:
Recto, a party mate of Villar, said it would be ideal for them to run as independent candidates in view of the “credibility problem” of both Ms Arroyo and the camp of ousted President and UNO leader Joseph Estrada.
However, he said, they had to weigh this against the more practical option of running under a ticket with a well-oiled machinery, and find a compromise.
“If, for example, we’ll announce that we will run as an independent bloc, that’s good because we’ll get headlines possibly in the Inquirer, Star or the tabloids. After that, we file our certificates and then on Tuesday, we start campaigning. But where will we campaign? In the coffee shops?” Recto said over radio dzBB.
He added: “Remember, there are 400,000 precincts, 45,000 barangays, 1,500 municipalities, 80 provinces, 7,100 islands. So how do we campaign [when] there’s only four of us? We can form the LP-NP coalition … but can we go around the 30 million hectares in 90 days?
“As I’ve said, there’s a compromise in everything. You’re aware of the ideal issue on one end, and the pragmatic issue [on the other] end.”
Meanwhile, the President has announced she will call Congress to a special session. Not because of the Senate but rather, the House this time failed to watch the herd, just its thinking members clearly see how it’s failed to meet expectations. Chronic absenteeism in the House doomed its constitutional amendments efforts (it seems, from what I’ve been told by Lakas-CMD people, the effort began without their even knowing they had 180 votes; and the historic high of 160++ present held during those crucial November-December days); in contrast, about the only Senator I can think of who is chronically absent is Pia Cayetano.
Decisions such as calling Congress to a special session and raising the alarm on a supposed Estrada assassination plot, are obvious ploys to delay the start of the campaign.
Justice Isagani Cruz has a column on entertainment personalities in the Senate. Alex Magno finally, and rather lamely, admits that the old-fashioned party system is dying not just here, but everywhere (in the USA, elections are increasingly decided by swing voters or independents) and the obvious cheap mentality of the administration slate while the opposition slate is being more responsive to public opinion -and even, more responsible, politically.
Patricio Diaz (who wants a third force) bewails coalition politics and pins part of the blame on the President:
The coalition system has turned worse and worse since 2001 when President Estrada was ousted and his vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was installed president — a take-over that, while legitimized by the Supreme Court, Congress, and the diplomatic world, has remained questionable to haunt Arroyo.
In the election of May 2001, Arroyo mustered the anti-Estrada forces into the People Power Coalition to stabilize her support in Congress and in the local governments. While the coalition won handily in the House of Representatives, it led only by a one-vote margin in the Senate.
Within the year, Arroyo alienated her People Power allies. Some senators under the coalition became critical of her and allied with the opposition. Sen. Joker Arroyo, for one, gradually became her most vocal critic. She lost control of the Senate as the coalition disintegrated.
In the May 2004 election, Arroyo ran for president under the 4-K Coalition, a hodgepodge of politicians who had remained loyal to her and of others who had been her bitter critics but had parted ways with Estrada and went to her fawning — clearly, a coalition of political convenience.
Estrada, while in detention, did not lose political power. Entrenched in the votes of his fanatical masa, Estrada preserved his coalition to be joined by disgruntled supporters of the defunct People Power Coalition and top breakaway officials of Lakas-MCD, the biggest party of the ruling coalition — like its president, the Philippine vice president.
Estrada’s Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) was more weird than 4-K Coalition. It picked for its standard bearer and titular leader, Fernando Poe Jr., a close friend of Estrada and a school drop-out like him, an actor and idol of the masa — even if not a member of any of the parties in coalition.
Election of May 2004 was the height of absurdity in the coalition system. The political crisis in the ensuing years could not be ruled out as an inevitable consequence. For, a leadership lodged in a quagmire can be expected only to sink deeper, not rise.
The Asean Focus Group publishes its analysis of the mid-term May Elections:
Philippines: Crucial Mid-Term Elections in May
This year, the defining political event to watch in the Philippines is the May 14th national elections, as half of the 24 Senate seats, all 250 seats in the Lower House, and over 17,000 local government positions are up for grabs. In essence, this means that the polls could potentially alter the balance of power in the government, depending on what type of legislators and local government officials are elected. The Opposition is painting the exercise as a referendum on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s legitimacy, given the allegations of cheating in the 2004 elections. On its part, the Arroyo Administration is confident of retaining its control of Congress, as well as achieving the election of supportive government officials – which it deems key for the continuation of its social and economic reform programs.
While the campaign period officially begins on 15 February, the election season really started in late 2006 with the gruesome and ostensibly politically motivated murder of Abra Province Congressman, Abraham Abesamis. In one sense, this event reinforces the image portrayed by many observers of the Philippines, who have described its elections as characterised by the use of the proverbial 3Gs – guns, goons, and gold – as violence, vote buying, fraud and profligate spending mark each electoral exercise.
The long-standing analysis that elections in the Philippines are dominated by an exclusive group of economic and political elites, who flee from one party to the next depending on what is expedient to their familial interest, is readily observable. The news headlines have been full of ‘turn-coat-ism’, as politicians undertake a mass migration to the Administration’s party and its coalition. Deposed President Joseph Estrada leads the Opposition, which is a melting pot of anti-Arroyo forces. Their ranks have dwindled in the past weeks as four key member politicians left the so-called United Opposition coalition and are reportedly contemplating running under the Administration slate. Thus, it is confusing to track who is in the ruling coalition and who is a member of the Opposition, with the lines getting blurred each day as Election Day nears.
This easy movement by politicians from one party to another clearly supports another long-standing analysis – that there is no such thing as real political parties in the Philippines. Political programs, platforms and policies are mere window dressing for the traditional politician who relies on his familial network or personal popularity. In the absence of real political parties, sociologist Randy David argues, ‘the family continues to function as a mechanism for leadership recruitment’. While the 1987 Constitution contains a provision banning so-called political dynasties, Congress has not passed an effective law to bring this into effect. As a result, perplexing reports have surfaced that the political families, namely the Aquino, Estrada, Cayetano and Pimentel families, will have at least two seats each in the Senate, if they have their way.
Aside from turn-coat-ism, other traditional markers of the election season are the sudden return of jueteng, the illegal numbers game which has been the source of electoral funding for the past decade; as well as kidnappings. Not to be outdone, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) have also stepped up their revenue collection schemes, with their issuance of a ‘permit to campaign’ to politicians for a fee. Reportedly, the NPA have gone high-tech and are now utilising mobile phones and text messages to issue approved permits.
Indeed, the elections in May are an important event to analyse. One way to make sense of what is happening is to view it through the established prisms of the 3 ‘Gs’, political dynasties, electoral violence, cheating and the lack of a real party system. These dominant themes are definitely observable and those who look for them will not be disappointed.
However, what is more interesting is to go against the grain and look for the changes, disruptions, and discontinuities in the political system, which have also been taking place. Since 1986, the number of progressive politicians, especially at the local government level, and of reform-oriented parties competing for party-list seats in Congress has been rising.
The most celebrated example is Governor Grace Padaca of Isabela province, who won versus the 30 year-old Dy dynasty, against all odds. In a conference on Philippine politics in July 2006, Padaca stated, ‘Why would people who benefit from the current system want to change it? They won’t – that is why they have to be booted out and be shown the real power of the people’. Governor Padaca has become the epitome of quiet strength and courage, and a symbol of hope and change in the Philippines’ elite-dominated politics. Her electoral victory and example point to the increasing maturity of Filipino voters who are tired of politics as usual. It is high time analysts and observers look at political discontinues and changes.
WATCHPOINT: How many non-traditional politicians will win local government and congressional seats? Their number may be a bell-weather of change.
Visiting Research Fellow
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Poor Abe Olandres is facing a libel suit. Time may be nearing for bloggers to rally around him.