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May 10

Final push

The President has transferred the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office back to the supervision of the Department of Health.

I found this news item, on a slum community that spontaneously protested on behalf of the armed forces, very interesting:

“We don’t want them to leave,” 41-year-old mother Nene said, saying the number of robberies and brawls dwindled since the soldiers arrived in their area.

The residents said the soldiers’ night patrol kept the neighborhood safe. They were also thankful for the multipurpose center the soldiers renovated, the day care center and public toilets they built and the medical missions they conducted.

“They have been helping us. Only drug addicts and criminals would want to drive them away,” said 42-year-old Peter, who has been staying at the area in the last two decades.

Protest organizers tried to explain that soldiers should be deployed in combat areas in the provinces, but not in the metropolis. The jeers of the residents prevailed, however.

This only goes to show the vast potential of “winning hearts and minds,” when the armed forces does it without liquidating people or having their presence in a community inaugurate a series of disappearances. When news first began trickling in, of military operations in Central Luzon and provinces like Bulacan, I heard many stories of how brutal the soldiers could be; but I also heard stories of how, in some areas at least, the public came to welcome the military’s presence because incidents of hooliganism, drug-dealing, even public drunkenness, diminished significantly. The fear of the public in such areas became: now that it’s all sorted out, what happens when the military leaves?

And again, imagine what a difference it could make to law and order, not to mention rural development, if institutionally, the armed forces didn’t have to struggle with a debased and discredited officer corps, one which turned a blind eye to human rights abuses?

Someone once asked me, what sort of military operations I would support. I said, if our AFP went to the areas of the country that are basically a no-man’s land, built roads, set up rural electrification, and prevented rebels from blowing up vital infrastructure; if, furthermore, they did so not by means of frightening the public, but welcoming public scrutiny of their actions, without beating anyone up, then their not only respecting the population, but tangibly improving rural lives would crush the insurgency. On the whole, that’s how the Huks were crushed in the 50s.

I don’t remember where, exactly, I read it, but there’s something like a shortage of 8 million toilets in Metro Manila. The police do not have the capacity to build them; only the armed forces, with its engineering battalions, does. On that basis alone, sending soldiers to slum areas makes sense, as would having them build roads, clean esteros, and imagine the effect if they invented a practical, prefabricated home they could easily build for the poor? Imagine further if the police could swoop in and mop up petty criminal syndicates. But neither the police nor the military can do so, properly, because their leadership is compromised: for example, if the army had conducted its operations prior to, and not during, the election season, that’s one cause for skepticism that wouldn’t even have arisen.

Even as thousands of overseas Filipino voter ballots end up returned to the Comelec, and the head of the CBCP has had to wade in to patch up a quarrel between electoral watchdog groups (they seem headed toward a spectacular flop this coming election; and for all their concern, I don’t know what foreign observers will really accomplish, concerned though they may be), the focus today is on the surveys.

Sws-Final-Senatorial-05092007
To be precise, the latest SWS-Inquirer survey on senatorial preferences. This leaves the interesting analysis of Philippine Commentary slightly outdated.

The polling firm has declared ten candidates in the “safe” zone: Legarda, Villar, Escudero, Pangilinan, Lacson, Aquino, Recto, Cayetano, Zubiri and Honasan. Which means much of the excitement in the canvassing will focus on the prospects of Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, and Vicente Sotto III. Those who come after them in the rankings seem to face insurmountable odds: no candidate, SWS says, in the past three elections, has been able to overcome a “statistically significant” lead by their closest opponent. Which I suppose means that only candidates who have scores plus or minus three points compared to Joker Arroyo, in 12th place in the survey, are still in the fight.

This brings up something else: the question of machinery and command votes. SWS seems to suggest they can can only take a candidate so far. And in Teddy’s World, here’s an interesting observation:

In our city in the province, we have two leading mayoralty candidates. One is from Kampi and the other is from Lakas CMD. Campaign managers from the 2 parties are openly campaigning for the GO (Genuine Opposition) candidates. Their sample ballots have either Lakas or Kampi bets from gubernatorial posts to city councilors, but the senatorial posts are left blank. This must be the command votes the wise politicians of Malacañang are talking about.

Even if we assume a command vote situation, the dilemma the administration provincial forces will be facing is: of the bottom three, Joker, Angara, and Sotto, all are administration candidates but one will end up losing. What makes it tougher is that as the campaign comes to an end, all three were proving droopy in the surveys, Joker particularly so (recall the scuttlebutt I heard during the taping of GMA7’s “Isang Tanong”? Joker had decided not to show up, because they sensed the coming survey results and decided to have an emergency meeting, instead, because of concerns he’d now be a ripe target for “junking,” precisely by the administration machinery). For example, it might be a better investment all around to junk Joker and attempt to pull off an electoral miracle by squeezing in Defensor (it could be passed off as divine providence, courtesy of El Shaddai and the Iglesia).

Jove Francisco says the Palace has been into survey-taking, too, commissioning one a week to track the senate results. He also provides scuttlebutt on the importance of survey rankings for candidates (some want to come out number one, others fear it), the questions arising from Palace people (how will they pull off electoral miracles?). A great read.

Eleksyon 2007 Survey Says has some nice charts covering the recent surveys, to track the progress of various candidates. See their Team Unity charts, Part 1 and Part 2; their Genuine Opposition charts, Part 1 and Part 2; and their chart for the top 5 Independents. Here’s my own version, based on the same SWS data, of the leading candidates:

Swsmay2-1
Swsmay2-2
Swsmay2-3
Swsmay2-4

You can also look at the Top 24 candidates based on Pulse Asia or SWS data, or compare them to each other. Or track how individual candidates have done, from the disastrous slide of John O., to the impressive gains of Trillanes and Zubiri (when he stopped relying on that noontime show jingle, and started talking seriously, his campaign took off, it seems).

And take a look, too, at how students are making their choices, in Get Involved (see the various mock elections held in college campuses).

In the punditocracy, my column for today is Paying the piper. The bills are going to be coming in after the elections, and government will be hard-pressed to honor them.

Billy Esposo says Bro. Mike Velarde is a political has-been. Alex Magno disputes certain assumptions about what the party-list (and its nominees) should represent.

The Inquirer editorial says the large number of uncontested positions is a cause for democratic concern.

In the blogosphere, in Inquirer Current the question I tackle is: why vote? Some interesting explanations of why, can be found in the blogs. And the agonizing continues: see big mango, for example; though Lonely Vampire Chronicles faces an altogether different kind of angst: he’s all set to vote, but has discovered he may not be able to!

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  1. Resty O.

    Esposo’s piece is so dripping with bile for Velarde. Velarde may have been tempted to flex some political muscle, but as a lay spiritual leader, he is the genuine article. He’s no slick, oily charlatan as in that Steve Martin movie (The Evangelist?). Try to listen to his ‘sermons’ (exhortations, actually), and you’ll see my point. I do hope Velarde won’t fall into the trap of pride. I’d like to think that El Shaddai members, poor and simple folks though they may be, know enough when to distinguish when their spiritual leader is drawing the attention to himself and no longer to God or not. El Shaddai folks are genuine in their faith. I think Esposo must first go through the whole shebang first before writing all that, which is welling up not just with venom, but with envy.

  2. DJB

    MLQ3,
    I’m afraid that the SWS/Pulse Asia standard surveys are too coarse to call the Magic 12 reliably. Moreover, towards election day, the race near the bottom of the Senate Race tightens up as people make up their minds on the last few candidates they will vote for. Biazon won by only 6000 votes out of 30 million in 2004!

    I don’t see how anyone can call even just ten of the senate slots as “safe.” In fact, even the exit polls won’t be accurate enough to call an election like 2004.

  3. benj

    I agree with the Zubiri analysis. The song was no longer that ‘hot’ to the masses when Zubiri used it to campaign. I think much of his gains is due to his aggressive ads that feature his good-looking wife and several actors that the youth could relate to.

  4. manuelbuencamino

    I have a feeling someone from TU will be junked in favor of Honasan.
    Alex Magno is dysfunctional;

  5. manuelbuencamino

    great article MLQ.

    Who’s going to pay the piper?

    One thing is certain. Gloria ain’t gonna be the one when the bills come due.

  6. The Ca t

    I have a feeling someone from TU will be junked in favor of Honasan.

  7. mlq3

    djb, hope you’ll explain further.

  8. janie

    in response to why vote:

    in high school, there was an instance where the difference between a candidate’s votes and the candidate second to her, is just a significant one. as part of the election committee, we had to recheck and double check to make sure we are right.

    in my last year in college, the same thing occurred, for the presidency of our organization.

    there are two common things.

    1. the one vote difference.

    2. a lot of people were regretful of their decision not to vote.

    this maybe a shallow experience, but still, a proof that one vote can make all the difference.

  9. vic

    Who’s going to pay the piper?
    The yet unborn Pinoys sure do. With accumultated deficit in trillions of pesos, foreign loans eating up a huge portion of tax revenues, pity the coming generations of Pilipinos, saddled with debts, before being conceived.

  10. manuelbuencamino

    This is how the OPS press release on the OFW who was recently released from a Saudi prison begins…

    “Out of the dark and into the arms of one who has championed their cause since the start, freed domestic helper Sarah Jane Dematera couldn’t help but let go of her tears as she gave President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a grateful embrace when they met this morning in Malacanang.

    It was the first time the two saw each other. But as she broke down in front of the very person who made possible her release from 15 years of ordeal in a Saudi Arabian jail, Sarah was profuse with gratitude.

    “Maraming-maraming salamat po,” she told the President who in turn told her that everything would be all right from now on….”

  11. supremo

    Joker Arroyo must be banging his head on the wall. He should have run as an independent or at least change his name. Name recall didn’t do him any good. Joker na Arroyo pa.

  12. naku

    Soldiers needing to play Policemen and provide social services? I think that says a lot about the breakdown of law and order and social services in this country.

    Those are tasks that should have been performed by the proper entities. Obvoiusly, they weren’t.

  13. supremo

    Why do you need soldiers or policemen to provide social services? You don’t need the government to build toilets. The need to take a crap everyday should be enough to force people to build one. Common sense should be taught in Philippine schools.

  14. tbl

    I think Pilipinos have common sense. What we need is the “will power”. We endured the destruction of RP for more thatn 20 years before we acted on it. Now, what do we have? What are the Pilipinos doing about it? Will they act now at least during this coming election? I hope they do!

  15. realist

    Even if the military become saints, it still does not have any business poking its nose in metro areas.

  16. Jon Mariano

    Idealism is good (not allowing the military to do good projects in the metro), but can you offer something different?

    What’s the difference with this and when the military does its “good” deeds in the boondocks?

    If it works, let it be.

  17. territorialregimen

    There is nothing wrong with sending engineering batallions to the slum areas in the metropolis to do some menial labor, or perhaps, infantry batallions to resolve domestic violence and petty crimes, or marines corps to combat serious threats to law and order, backup by the Philippine SEALS (Marines Special Warfare Group’s, [SWAG] main unit) in case of contingency (i.e., mobs trying to overrun baranggay leadership).

    In the same way, there is nothing wrong by trying to kill a fly with a sledge-hammer.

    But the QUESTION is: is it cost-effective?

  18. ricelander

    Angara, Joker, and Sotto are probably headed for junking to accommodate Pichay and Defensor, GMAs ever loyal lapdogs. The pragmatist in GMA would see that they were just free riders anyway, like herself, amoral practitioners of realpolitik. Just wonder how the pragmatic trio would respond when the ruthless knife of political reality turns its blades on them. Ahh, pragmatists devouring each other.

  19. hvrds

    The BSP is intending to take away the punch bowl before GMA starts to dip her hands into the punch bowl after the elections.

    The savings glut phenomenon in the world is affecting the country and the low interest rates the government is paying is worrying the BSP. They want to sanitize most especially surplus GOCC funds to prevent these from being used for ‘other investment vehicles’ euphemism for speculative ventures for crony capitalists. The BSP borrowing rate or repo rate is almost double the short term borrowing rate of the government. (Too much cash in the system.) The BSP is wanting to remove this excess from the market by introducing a new SDA product from the BSP. This is to prevent a debt bubble from forming. Cheap money creates an environment for people to forget risk tolerances. Too much money will lower still interest rates and bond prices will rise and keep on rising. For people with peso assets it is time to sell going forward.

    http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS2007051193712.html

    They also want to prevent the drastic slide of the dollar vs the peso.

    The Fourth Branch of Government doing its job. So much for free markets.

  20. The Ca t

    I have a feeling someone from TU will be junked in favor of Honasan.
    Weird, but my first post did not include my reaction to this statement.

    This is not your feeling. This had been floated in the media.

    One more TU will enter the magic circle.

  21. janie

    who might be the unfortunate guy? hmmm…

  22. benj

    Wait, how can it be in Honasan’s favor again? Hehe. Honasan needs to go to get another TU person in without hurting their current numbers.

  23. Mita

    MU ni Honasan with TU? arrgh…not Honasan again..he’s like a bad dream that keeps coming back to haunt us. damn i can’t vote in this one!

  24. Bencard

    Alex Magno’s 5/11 report in his column in the Philippine Star is very interesting indeed. It seems that a caravan of party list leftists, surprised by the hostility of its residents, was driven out of a “poor” community in Tondo. The leftists, apparently trying to foment anger upon the soldiers doing beneficial community action there, fled with their tails between their legs, red-faced (pun intended)in humiliation.

    Glad to hear that the “masses” are beginning to see who their real friends are, and who are the enemies. The days of the clenched fist and of hideous slogans and hateful red flags are numbered. Get them out of the government that they are trying to destroy.

  25. territorialregimen

    I wonder how Trillanes or Gringo can serve as senator, granting they’re elected, if they are confined in jail and charged with non-bailable offense?

    It’s unlikely that they’ll be allowed bail (I don’t know of any precedent). And, if they won’t be allowed bail, how can they attend session? Or, vote? Or, argue?

    Hmmm… should we not be answering this questions first before we cast our vote for them?

    Please enlighten me fellow voters..

  26. UPn student

    to territorialregimen: tele-commute.
    I am sure Gringo’s sponsors or Trillanes’ sponsors will foot the bill for the equipment. Put video-conferencing equipment in the jailcell.

  27. territorialregimen

    UPn student:

    Seeking to find answer to my own question, I came about this case of Romeo Jalosjos. The Supreme Court cited in an obiter dictum the following:

  28. territorialregimen

    “The accused-appellant avers that his constituents in the First District of Zamboanga del Norte want their voices to be heard and that since he is treated as bona fide member of the House of Representatives, the latter urges a co-equal branch of government to respect his mandate. He also claims that the concept of temporary detention does not necessarily curtail his duty to discharge his mandate and that he has always complied with the conditions/restrictions when he is allowed to leave jail.

    “We remain unpersuaded.

    “No less than accused-appellant himself admits that like any other member of the House of Representatives “[h]e is provided with a congressional office situated at Room N-214, North Wing Building, House of Representatives Complex, Batasan Hills, Quezon City, manned by a full complement of staff paid for by Congress. Through [an] inter-department coordination, he is also provided with an office at the Administration Building, New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City, where he attends to his constituents.” Accused-appellant further admits that while under detention, he has filed several bills and resolutions. It also appears that he has been receiving his salaries and other monetary benefits. Succinctly stated, accused-appellant has been discharging his mandate as a member of the House of Representative consistent with the restraints upon one who is presently under detention.

    “Being a detainee, accused-appellant SHOULD NOT EVEN HAVE BEEN ALLOWED by the prison authorities at the National Pentientiary to perform these acts (emphasis supplied). [Pp. v. Jalosjos, 2000]

  29. bro martin francisco, pj

    Regarding the militarization of a certain area in central luzon if the civilian are willing to accept them or not is depending to the influence and propaganda of the other side armed group or the NPA.

    i witnessed here in bulacan even during the time of Gen. palparan that some were afraid and others were more than willing since illegal loggers, criminals had difficulties to move.

    Unless the head of the battalion commander of certain unit is morally upright then we will not have problem with human rights violation. If not then we have to contend to have constand dialogue with the military so that they will respect our civil liberties.

    I can speak about this since I saw it with my own eyes. I just pray that people may come to know the truth and depend human life.Thanks

    bro martin
    Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society Inc
    (02)3799772

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