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May 22

Boxing her in

The fifty percent plus mark has been reached, and passed, by Namfrel in its quick count. At one point, the Comelec count outpaced Namfrel: the poll watchdog group replied by saying this was due to their double-checking the figures, while the Comelec patted itself on the back (it helps they didn’t even bother with a blackboard for the results).

Hilarious headline: Fraud allegations alarm Abalos. Simply too much attention on Mindanao for comfort? His response is straight out of “Casablanca”: Shocked, shocked! The Inquirer editorial isn’t amused. GMANews.tv reports the Comelec admitting there were 300,000 “uncleansed” voters in Mindanao -about as many as the disputed Maguindanao results Namfrel has refused to count.

Mike Valarde gives unsolicited advice to the President: 1. accept the results of the senate elections; 2. don’t revive efforts to change the system of government. President’s game plan? She asks businessmen to help her out. Or else?

In the punditocracy, Alex Magno tries to deny reality (no, there is only one way of reading a senatorial election: sorry, but that’s the way it is), but along the way puts forward an interesting theory as to how voters make their senatorial choices.

Tony Abaya in his column for today (not online, alas, so I’ll copy most of it here as it’s a perfect counter-blast to Magno) puts it bluntly:

Let no one tell you differently. The 2007 mid-term elections were a referendum on the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And the results show that she has lost that referendum, even if she was not a candidate for any office.

The canvassing of the votes for the Senate is still in progress. But … the final results will most likely be 6-4-2 or 7-3-2 or 8-2-2, in favor of the opposition. A reversal of fortune now, in favor of the administration coalition, is very improbable and would not be credible to most of the public.

The pre-election boasts of Malacanang and its paid hacks in media, that it will be 12-0-0 in favor of the TU, due to the so-called command votes hustled by its vaunted machinery, would not be believable, either locally or nationwide.

But it is not just in the senatorial elections that Malacanang and GMA are taking a beating. Even in the congressional and local elections, GMA has lost, -in some cases, lost spectacularly.

In General Santos City, Darlene Custodio has knocked out GMA’s Manny Pacquiao. In Makati City, Jejomar Binay (not my favorite politician) overwhelmed GMA’s Lito Lapid. In Pampanga Province, the priest Ed Panlilio, with help of local People Power, defeated GMA’s personal friend Lilia Pineda, wife of the alleged jueteng lord of Luzon, Bong Pineda. In Naga City, Jesse Robredo prevailed over GMA’s Jojo Villafuerte. In Manila, the septuagenarian Alfredo Lim trounced GMA’s youthful Ali Atienza. In Isabela Province, Grace Padaca rose from behind and edged out the pro-GMA Dy political dynast.

Of course, it has to be admitted that the disorganized opposition was not able to field any candidates in scores of gubernatorial, mayoral and congressional contests. But this is not a communist country. The “victory” of administration candidates in these uncontested elections does not amount to victory in a referendum.

A referendum pre-supposes a choice from at least two competing points of view. By that criterion, uncontested elections are not a referendum on anything or anyone. It is in the contested elections that real choice is expressed, and by this standard, President Arroyo has lost that referendum.

And she lost it even if she was not a candidate for any office, even if no specific issue was raised against her during the campaign.. SHE was the unstated issue in this election, and the electorate voted convincingly against her and her proxies, not in favor of the deposed President Joseph Estrada, the presumed financier of the GO campaign. To repeat, voters voted against Gloria, not in favor of Erap.

It is in this context that one must view the record-breaking upsurge in the stock market and the continued revaluation of the peso against the US dollar. Aside from the weakening of the US dollar abroad and the continued influx of OCW remittances, the up-tick in economic indicators was not necessarily in support of GMA’s political agenda.

Economic and business policies were not an issue in the midterm elections, as they seldom are in Philippine elections. The market was reacting positively to the fact that the elections took place at all and that the results seem to reflect the general sentiments of the public as reflected in pre-election public opinion surveys and the Pulse Asia exit poll. This means, the market sees the political situation to be stable and have voted with their investment dollars and pesos.

On the other hand, if the final election results were to suddenly take a reverse turn and show TU winning, against the expectations of the general public, then the possibility of political instability will loom, and the market will react accordingly.

Political instability may take several forms, from massive street protests to high-profile political assassinations, to attempted coups d’etat by the followers of Gringo Honasan and/or Antonio Trillanes. This will draw repressive responses from the military and police, and trigger capital flight and the weakening of the peso. We will be back to a 1980s future.

To forestall this scenario, President Arroyo should publicly acknowledge that she has lost the de facto referendum and should devote the rest of her term to leaving a good legacy in 2010.

That means no more maneuvers to amend the Constitution to shift to a parliamentary system of government. I have always seen this maneuver as a ploy for her to remain in power after 2010, as prime minister, as I told the Rotary Club of Manila last week…

Tied to this maneuver was the plan of her miniscule party KAMPI to become the biggest political party after the 2007 elections, as outlined by then KAMPI President (and current Local Government Secretary) Ronaldo Puno during their party congress in February 2005, “on how we can make KAMPI a truly dominant party after the 2007 elections: The objective should be the biggest political party in the political scenery. And to do this, if we quantify it, we have to have at least 120 congressmen…”

Puno claimed that KAMPI already has 1,580 municipal mayors, or half the total number, as members. Having half the congressmen as well will truly make KAMPI “the dominant party after 2007.”

Why, I asked the Manila Rotarians, would President Arroyo want to make her miniscule party the biggest after 2007, three years before the end of her non-extendable term as president, unless she plans to use it in 2010, to remain in power as prime minister?

President Arroyo should accept that she has lost the de-facto midterm referendum and should prepare to bow out gracefully in 2010.

Incidentally (hat tip to Uniffors), John Mangun says it’s not the government that deserves credit when companies do well in the stock market:

The credit for stock prices reaching this new level belongs to none of those wanting all the glory. It is not political conditions. It is not merely economic policy. It is not the government fiscal programs. It is not foreign financial institutions praising the investment climate in the country. Although all these play a factor in price movement, the responsibility and, therefore, the glory belongs to the management of the companies listed on the PSE.

Going back to Abaya… Let me point out that Abaya expresses what I think is an emerging consensus among people who aren’t fans of the President: to grant her a reprieve, but a highly conditional one. I can”t emphasize the significance of Randy David’s Sunday column, which laid down three conditions for “moving on”:

1. accept the results of the election;
2. cleanse the Comelec so there will be clean polls in 2010;
3. the President shut make it explicit that her political career ends in 2010.

The question is whether the President can -or wants to- think of simply finishing her term gracefully. Tests of her good faith remain: how the senate race ends up; whether she’ll revive charter change; who her new cabinet appointments will be; how she handles dissent from now on, etc.

Incidentally, Ed Montalvan points to how the machinery broke down in his part of the country.

Gladstone Cuarteros says unless the Namfrel quick count stays quick, it will become susceptible to the same manipulation as the Comelec count.Two interesting discussion on the coming challenge of finally computerizing our elections, by Ruben Canlas and by Philippine Commentary.

Lucia Bill takes a look at a local race decided by a coin toss: and says it betrays an undemocratic attitude.

Overseas: Slate looks at an organization trying to prove voter fraud in America -and which went poof!

In the blogosphere, preliminary post-mortems on the election, from ExpectoRants (uneasy over the results), Ang Malaya (it’s a slap! and another! slap, slap, slap!) while katataspulong says the country’s been Balkanized:

Imperial Manila is now a myth. The 1987 Charter is nothing but the emasculation of the presidency. There are many provisions that limit the power of the Executive. With the local autonomy act local leaders are surprised by the magnitude of their prerogatives. There is more preference over local elective posts now than a congressional seat. Before congressmen were revered as local leaders. Now it’s the city mayors and governors. In 1992, two congressmen from Quezon, Benny Marquez and Oca Santos, went down to contest the governorship in Quezon. Local politicians fortify their grassroots organization for any eventuality. Bets for national posts woo these datus. The enviable organization acquires monetary equivalent in the Asset section of the Balance Sheet.

A flurry of blog posts about Sonny Trillanes. just being… stella has an interesting take on his strong showing, courtest of a Jesuit:

…my coffee buddy Paringbert a.k.a. Fr. Albert E. Alejo SJ had one word to describe what happened: “Dabog.”

Is it a manifestation of the people’s dwindling support for the administration? my reporter asked.

“Nagdadabog,” Paringbert said again. The “bayan” is not up in arms nor is it inclined to take up arms, he said. But it is down on the floor, screaming and stomping; demanding change, right away, right now!

Nagdadabog na bayan… hmmmm… that’s an unusual but graphic concept of the state of Philippine society.

I know the feeling so well after I cast my vote for an unknown just to blow a red ripe raspberry at an incumbent and wrote about it with glee for everyone to read the following day. Dabog…

…The people are not up in arms. They merely trooped to their precincts, scribbled their choices, went home to watch the television keep track of the way the other people voted.

Sure there are still a lot of hocus-pocus being made in the senatorial race, but the people have already made their voices heard in the local level and in the runup for the senatorial race (before the magic wands are wielded, maybe), and after their “dabog”… comes the reglamentary sticking out of the tongue and blowing a big fat red raspberry… and “Pikaaaat!”

After the dabog, the pikat… the relief. It worked when we were kids. We screamed, we threw a tantrum, pouted, blew a raspberry, sulked, then threatened… “Bantay ka lang…” a threat that was very rarely followed through with action. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But one thing for sure, we were heard. Oh boy, were we heard (especially when we did that in public places). And boy, did we cause great embarrassment to our moms.

I can’t help but be inclined to agree!

A vigorous debate in the comments section of An ‘Inconvenient Truth’ (or, Why Trillanes could win).

Journal of the Jester-in-Exile thinks Ang Kapatiran blew it.

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  1. lee

    yes! nawala na rin ang mga Atienza. Not only did this fella bastardized Manila’s last heritage by replacing peidra stones into mall-like laminated floors.(Aba, marami ring nadudulas dyan ah!), he is also planning to turn aroceros park into a commercial establishment. Baka pag tumagal-tagal pa magkakaroon na ng Intramuros mall.
    Ayan ang napala ng mga yan (Atienza, Pineda, Pacquiao, Villafuerte). Kasisipsip niyo.

  2. ay_naku

    If many Filipinos seem to hate PGMA (albeit not enough to oust her from office a la Marcos and Erap), her situation is far from unique. In fact all Philippine presidents in history who completed their tenure alive suffered the same calumny and opprobrium toward the end of their administration.

    Uhm, not true. Among the post-Marcos presidents, GMA is BY FAR the most hated. In fact, she’s the ONLY ONE who has received negative net satisfaction ratings, and her net ratings from the people have been consistently negative for over 2 years now.
    http://www.sws.org.ph/pr070313.htm

    And it’s not like she’s is suffering “calumny and opprobrium” for no reason. She is reviled for many many valid reasons, many of which have been discussed here before (some of which I repeated in my comment above.)

  3. cvj

    To build on Ay_naku’s point, one thing unique about GMA is that, aside from Bencard, she has no loyalists to speak of. And even he is not willing to take a bullet for her. The rest like Jude and Equilibrium are there only because they perceive her to have outsmarted her foes, which means their loyalty will only last until the day she loses power.

  4. UP n student

    cvj: your point is a good endorsement to have Lacson as next President. The Trillaneses and the Ebdanes of this world always have their police- or military-buddies loyal to them, loyal enough to take a bullet.

  5. rego

    I totally agree Bencard. Unlike you I am looking at the future. I have been thinking lately about the next election where, Loren, Lacson, Villar are the front runners. I was wondering how the peopel in this blog, who love them now so much now, will view them once any of them become the next president. I think it will be very interesting future development.

  6. UP n student

    On loyalty among military and police….. Loyal enough to take a bullet… but probably more inclined to deliver a bullet since that is part of their training, after all.

  7. Bencard

    cvj, i don’t have to take a bullet to show my respect and support for my president, our president. besides, who else will do the shooting but the rogue elements of our society? I told you once before and I’ll say it again, no citizen (myself included) worth his salt should refuse to give up his life in defense of his country, its Constitution and its the constituted authorities.

    how about you, cvj, who would you take a bullet for? Joma Sison? Ka Roger? Or is it Lacson, Legarda, or Villar, as Rego suggests?

  8. cvj

    Bencard, at one point i would have been willing to take a bullet for GMA.

  9. xavier

    re-Mike Valarde gives unsolicited advice… don’t revive efforts to change the system of government.

    the question is can a diferent system change man’s behaviour? to many it can not but i say, YES IT CAN.

    consider the following:

    100 employees puched-in their daily time card, 10 were discreet cheaters.

    IN came the priest who preaches morality at the office as a result 5 former cheaters became honest punchers, still weve left with 5 recalcitrant cheaters.

    now came the finger scan that resulted in 99% “honest” punchers. why 99% ? because there is this one employee who is a hardened punch card cheater who found a way to cheat.

    the lesson here- it is hard to change the hearts of men, weve been doing that from the biblical times up to our generation. but devising a system can reform a person’s behaviour, whether he like it or not. but that system should be moral and ethical to begin with. and technology should keep a pace ahead with the technology of fraud and /or theft.

    same is true with our present presidential/bicameral form of government- parliamentary/unicameral can be the better system. a system can not change our hearts, but it can alter our behaviour.

  10. UP n student

    xavier: Some criticisms of parliamentary form, as follows:

    One main criticism of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in almost all cases not directly voted on. Occasionally, an electorate will be surprised just by who is elevated to the premiership. In a presidential system, the president is usually chosen directly by the electorate, or by a set of electors directly chosen by the people, separate from the legislature. However, in a parliamentary system the prime minister is elected by the legislature, often under the strong influence of the party leadership. Thus, a party’s candidate for the head of government is usually known before the election, possibly making the election as much about the person as the party behind him or her.

    Another major criticism of the parliamentary system lies precisely in its purported advantage: that there is no truly independent body to oppose and veto legislation passed by the parliament, and therefore no substantial check on legislative power. Conversely, because of the lack of inherent separation of powers, some believe that a parliamentary system can place too much power in the executive entity, leading to the feeling that the legislature or judiciary have little scope to administer checks or balances on the executive.

    In the United Kingdom, the prime minister is traditionally thought of as the “first among equals” of the cabinet. It has been alleged in The Economist and by a former UK Member of Parliament Graham Allen that the prime minister’s power has grown so much in recent years that he or she is now dominant over the government and that collegiality is no more. Rather than being “first among equals,” the modern British prime minister is “like the moon among the stars,” as The Economist once put it. “Instead of a healthy balance we have an executive [the prime minister] who stands like an 800 lb. gorilla alongside a wizened legislature and judiciary.” (Allen, 12)

    Although it is possible to have a powerful prime minister, as Britain has, or even a dominant party system, as Japan has, parliamentary systems are also sometimes unstable. Critics point to Israel, Italy, the French Fourth Republic, and Weimar Germany as examples of parliamentary systems where unstable coalitions, demanding minority parties, no confidence votes, and threats of no confidence votes, make or have made effective governance impossible.

  11. ay_naku

    There should be at least a 4th condition added to Randy David’s list: STOP the political killings.

    How many more dead bodies until 2010?

    GMA up to 2010? At what cost to the nation? Can we survive with our institutions (and self-respect as a people) intact? O irreversible damage na by then?

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