The machinery’s in place

Back in 1997-1998, President Ramos ordered the presidential palace, rather run down and ramshackle after a decade of being uninhabited, repaired so that, as he put it, his successor would have a place fit to live in. At the time, it seemed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be a contender for the presidency, and I recall telling some friends (who were shocked) that if she won, you could be sure she would never step down. If she climbed the stairs of the Palace in an act of symbol repossession, I said, the only way she’d ever leave would be on a stretcher.

They asked me why I said that, and I remember correctly, I explained that she’d shown power was more important than anything else. She’d been elected to the Senate not as a Liberal, but as something else, despite her father having been one of the few absolutely loyal party men the country’s produced (DM got many people to switch parties but from the time he entered politics to the day he died, he was always a Liberal, and proud of it).

This told me, I said (engaging in some amateur psychology) that we should consider that the one, enduring lesson she’d learned from her father’s rise and fall, is that Nice Guys Finish Last. Every presidential family’s fall from power is traumatic to the members of that family, but the fall of Macapagal was followed by the longest period of political obscurity any presidential family’s had to endure: Macapagal was more often than not, used as a figure of fun by the Marcoses and so the psychological wounds would have been particularly great. The daughter had already done better than the father (DM had failed in his senate bid in the 50s), and she could look forward to not only posthumously vindicating her father by becoming president (a dream that had eluded Serging Osmena, Gerry Roxas and Doy Laurel), but also, to relishing the role of being the top dog after decades of having her family treated like dogs, relatively speaking. Like her mother, she has a long memory and nurses grudges.

What changed my mind was her biding her time, and her going for the vice-presidency: she’s capable of holding her ambition in check, I thought. And more or less I felt I’d unfairly estimated her as she proved overall, a good boss and as President, she seemed inclined to be generous to the memory of her predecessors and more inclined to institution-building. The high point of this was her announcement not to run for the presidency in 2004. I remember being quite touched and telling anyone who would listen, how proud I was to be working for such a president. This was a thing of personal importance to me, because in my article on Corazon Aquino as the Person of the Century, I’d argued that what our country has had all too little of, are leaders who willingly, and serenely, relinquish power (which is why I continue to admire Cory Aquino). And I recall my irritation when other people in the Palace (belonging to the camp of the President’s husband) were either non-committal or openly disappointed with the President’s decision.

But I began to return to my original impression of the President when she announced, a year later, that she would, after all, seek election to the presidency. Whether I should continue serving her or not was, in a sense, decided for me when the Inquirer offered me a job on condition that I relinquish any official appointment; I could return to focusing on my profession while supporting her but no longer as as part of her administration. And still, I tried to soldier on in support of her until 2005 proved that she would stop at nothing, thereby proving that, indeed, her guiding principle was, Nice Guys Finish Last. My decision to stop supporting the President has been chronicled in this blog, and there’s no need to revisit it.

An economist I recently met told me he’d had the President as his professor, and that he felt she’d been a lousy teacher. Why, I asked. She conducted classes, he said, like a bully. She gloried in bombarding her students with questions, saying it was how law students toughened up. The economist said that’s not the way questions are approached in economics, as a discipline, and that furthermore she derived too much enjoyment from demonstrating her authority every which way she could. She tried to pander to female students, he said, but the female students, oddly enough, resented it.

I do believe the President thinks she is doing the country a favor and that as she survives crisis after crisis, this belief has been buttressed by an absolute certainty on her part that she will do the country good even if the country thinks otherwise. Hers is the essentially self-defeating attitude of a weak person who becomes a bully, and thinks that it’s a virtue to hold on to power by appealing to the mercenary instincts of those who surround her. This is self-defeating because there always comes a point where someone can not be bought, and will no longer be for sale; while leaders who appeal to the higher instincts of their followers can often ask them to make superhuman sacrifices for a cause the leader’s been able to identify as a shared goal both leader and follower possess.

All this is a lengthy prelude to what we observe today. Two articles put the the recently concluded baranggay elections in perspective: Village polls become prep work for 2010 race and Arroyo seeks allies in villages, doles out more power, perks. In most healthy democracies, public opinion is what leaders aim to cultivate; in the case of the President, it is the machinery that she lovingly oils, and which hums its gratitude, in turn. This is what I called The “vision thing”, in 2005.

Yet the absence of an inspiring vision matters less than a thorough, even if contemptuous, mastery of the levers of power. A mastery that trumps everyone trying to seize those levers.

Here’s s very interesting observation in The Blog:

This entire drama is being played out between the ruling classes, and there doesn’t appear to be any space presenting itself for a legitimate democratic revolution – who would lead one anyway, with the Left bitterly divided between the powerful Communists and the less radical but more responsible center leftists?

There is one interesting possibility that should be noted. Though no space has arisen yet, there is an opportunity for some opportunistic elite politician to finally decide to take the first shot and engage with the Left (who have all but completely sat this current fight out). A leader like that, from outside the left, might be able to unite the factions and lead a legitimate democratic revolution.

In another interesting development, that I haven’t seen anyone writing about or discussing, there is a gathering storm slowly approaching Manila. Though mostly out of the headlines in the capital, the MAPALAD farmers are gathering support from communities across the Philippines in their march from Mindanao to the capitol. Their 1998 hunger strike became a tremendous media event, earned them a later-broken promise from then-candidate Estrada, and probably was the single biggest factor in the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Today, CARP is up for extension again. With the political situation as it is, if, as we suggested above, an opportunistic trapo were to bring in the Left, the arrival of MAPALAD circa Dec. 10th would present a unique opportunity to gain mass support of many in rural communities and their allies. The Communists aren’t in favor of extending CARP (they oppose reform, and seek rather to overthrow the complete system and seize the land from the current landowners), but the NPA itself expressed support for MAPALAD in 1998. The symbolic value of MAPALAD could be the catalyst and rallying point for a real democratic uheaval in this country. The space isn’t there yet, but opportunity to make it is.

The blogger, incidentally, doesn’t think the Speaker will fall (see his article in Newsbreak, Ethics Complaint vs JDV Doomed; see, also, similar views in Philippine Politics 04), but considers what will happen if he does. This involves the baranggay elections which represent a political consolidation, and an investment in the future, by the President:

With barangay elections out of the way it’s full steam ahead into the legislative session as the House comes back from recess. If JDV falls, proving me wrong and possibly ending my journalism career before it ever begins, Arroyo will likely get an ally of hers in the House. This would set the stage for another fight over ChaCha (charter change), through which Gloria hopes to reorganize Philippine government under a parliamentary system, paving the way for her to stay in power through 2010, the end of her current constitutionally mandated term.

In his column, Tony Abaya thinks he has it all figured out (and I happen to think he pretty much does):

Readers may also recall that in the latter half of 2006, there were concerted efforts to shift to the parliamentary system.

One through a people’s initiative led by the Sigaw ng Bangaw, the other through a Senate-less constituent assembly shamelessly maneuvered by Speaker Jose de Venecia (who wanted to become interim prime minister, before the whip-wielding dominatrix takes over in July 2010.

That both maneuvers failed, thanks to an outraged public opinion and an uncooperative Supreme Court, does not mean the efforts toward parliamentary have been abandoned. Less than 14 days ago, President Arroyo, out of the blue and without anyone asking her, called for a shift to a federal form of government “by the year 2012.”

This means that agitation for federalism will begin before her presidential term ends in 2010. This would be a signal for the Sigaw ng Bangaw to launch another people’s initiative towards a simultaneous shift to parliamentary.

Proof? The baranggay investment strategy, the trial balloon involving names for possible Comelec appointments (keep your friends close, and you enemies even closer), and the rallying of support of the congressmen in cassocks known as the Catholic hierarchy. A thorough analysis of the dynamics within the Catholic hierarchy is in Conservatives Now Control CBCP; Bishops Won’t Join Resign-GMA Calls:

Although Lagdameo got a fresh mandate for another two years, the bishops–in a surprise move–replaced CBCB vice president Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro.

In CBCP history, members of the permanent council usually enjoy two terms in office, with the vice president normally succeeding the president when his term expires. Ledesma, described as a progressive bishop and a Lagdameo follower, was supposed to succeed Lagdameo at the end of the latter’s term in 2010.

But breaking tradition, the conservative bishops ousted Ledesma and replaced him with Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, considered a conservative.

A CBCP officer privy to the June election disclosed that Lagdameo in fact barely won the presidency. He had to undergo three secret balloting before he was able to garner the required majority for his reelection.

The replacement of Ledesma, as well as Lagdameo’s tough reelection, showed that most of the bishops are already uncomfortable with the CBCP’s active involvement in political affairs.

In her column, Ellen Tordesillas gives us an insight into the dynamics of the Arroyo-Estrada AgrementL

Sources privy to the negotiations of the pardon said Estrada was dictating the terms. What Arroyo wanted from Estrada is for him stop funding the protests against Arroyo and for the ousted president to rally his loyalists to support the one who engineered his ouster.

Estrada complied in his statement early afternoon Friday when the delivery of the pardon was being delayed. In a statement read by his lawyer, Ed Serapio, outside the gate of his Tanay estate, Estrada addressed Arroyo “President” and thanked her for granting him “full, free and absolute pardon midway through her term.” The sentence recognized Gloria’s Arroyo’s term stolen from his dear friend, Fernando Poe Jr.

This was the clincher that finally made Puno chopper through cloudy skies to deliver the pardon: “I believe I can best continue to repay to our people the blessings that God has so graciously given me by supporting from hereon the programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are intended to attack generational poverty and hunger.”

Arroyo must indeed be desperate to hang on to this assurance by Estrada. If she thinks Estrada’s loyalists will love her because of the pardon, she is hallucinating. The adoration of Estrada’s fans of their idol is not transferable. In fact, they see the pardon as something that she owes their idol. No thanks to her.

Estrada’s funding of rallies has long been a non-factor among the “protest community”. If he was not able to gather an impressive crowd last September during the Sandiganbayan promulgation, he is not expected to subsidize the gathering of warm bodies for any protest activity. Besides, Edsa One and Two type of protest is already a thing of the past, rally organizers concede.

Ellen points out that the President’s much-diminished core group of supporters have to be troubled by the President’s efforts to cozy up to Estrada. Not least because the apparent easing out of Executive Secretary Ermita in a showdown over strategy with Sec. Ronnie Puno, puts the President’s political prospects in the hands of someone widely assumed of being the epitome of the mercenary.

As John Nery says, in his column,

Another traditional politician is in charge of the President’s own fortunes. Ronaldo Puno is not only the secretary of the interior and local government (and thus head of the country’s police forces), he is also the presidential adviser on political affairs. He chairs President Arroyo’s own political party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi)…

There is no question, however, that Puno is a political animal — in Aristotle’s original sense, of a species whose nature it is to live for the State.

But his many years in government service or political work (he also served as Joseph Estrada’s interior secretary) have given Puno a reputation associated with another philosopher: Machiavelli.

I am certain he will dispute the following characterization, but his political work can be said to display a signature style. He is fond of the feint; he is a whiz at the use of funds; his trail is followed by accusations of fraud.

He is adept at diversionary tactics (his crucial role in Estrada’s pardon, effected at a time of political scandal, has been both recognized and condemned). Political operators say he knows how to use special funds strategically (his own secretary-general in Kampi, Francis Ver, was involved in the attempted bribery of opposition congressmen; his own undersecretary at the DILG just happened to be in Malacañang during the alleged distribution of cash gifts in paper bags). And fraud continues to dog his name (he has been accused of masterminding the so-called Sulu Hotel operations, which reputedly gave Ramos the margin of victory)…

The point of all this: Is Puno the right man to guide President Arroyo in the endgame?

Granted, he can win elections; indeed, his signature working style (marked by those three F-words) works best, and was perhaps first perfected, in election campaigns. But it is a mistake to treat the President’s last days in office as though it were only the continuation of electoral warfare by other means.

John could also have observed, that every President who’s relied on Puno has had their ambitions foiled: Marcos fell; Ramos had his desire for a term extension thwarted; Estrada fell. And the President?

An an altogether unrelated note, this entry in Bayang Magiliw is just an enjoyable read.

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186 comments

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    • tonio on October 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    mlq3:

    where is this “outraged public opinion” that Tony Abaya speaks of? i seem to only hear it here.

    • Willy on October 30, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    In 1998 Erap won by the largest margin in presidential election history. He won close to 11M votes, leading second runner JDV by more than 6M votes. He had only a paper party then, ranged against the quintessential trapo who has all the machinery bells and whistles. If the political wind blows right in 2010 and you have a charismatic figure riding that wind, its a futile endgame for Puno. He might as well topple his king and play a new chess game now, on the other side of the board, if he is a true blue mercenary.

    • Karlo on October 30, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    On The Blog’s commentary:

    The observation on the lack of a real Left alternative that can lead a genuine democratic revolution is interesting and sadly true.

    But I’m just wondering if any “opportunistic elite politician…might might be able to unite the factions and lead a legitimate democratic revolution” considering the present political environment?

    And if so, who might that be? (Hmmm…Are there any 2010 presidential contenders having credible links with the Left in all its permutations as well as connections to the organizational expression of the middle forces in the form of civil society groups?)

    He should make a fine figurehead for any talk of a caretaker gov’t. that will oversee basic reforms in the transition from a possible GMA ouster and the 2010 elections.

    • wanie on October 30, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    “a leadership grounded not in ambition (however laudable the goals that may have accompanied that ambition), but in a moral purpose.”

    id like to think this exists.

    • BrianB on October 30, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Jesus Christ, what an analysis. If Manolo had written this seven years ago, we’d be calling him prophet.

    “Yet the absence of an inspiring vision matters less than a thorough, even if contemptuous, mastery of the levers of power. A mastery that trumps everyone trying to seize those levers.”

    Now I am totally depressed. But don’t we already have a system of checks and balances in place, and I don’t just mean politically, to counter such a master of the levers of power, i.e. writers, intellectuals, poets, painters, cartoonists, etc? Or are we just so uncultured we are devoid of these things?

    • BrianB on October 30, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    I am totally depressed that the first section of this post is true. What we need is a novel that dissects this personality…


    “What changed my mind was her biding her time, and her going for the vice-presidency: she’s capable of holding her ambition in check, I thought. And more or less I felt I’d unfairly estimated her as she proved overall, a good boss and as President, she seemed inclined to be generous to the memory of her predecessors and more inclined to institution-building. The high point of this was her announcement not to run for the presidency in 2004. I remember being quite touched and telling anyone who would listen, how proud I was to be working for such a president.”

  1. The Dots are getting connected veryFAST…

    -Jarius writes expose…
    -Mike goes abroad(day before Senate hearing on ZTE)…
    -Joey DV reveals details of ZTE mega scandal…
    -Neri confirms Abalos bribe attempt…
    -Abalos resigns…
    -Impeach me filed…
    -ZTE deal suspended/junked…
    -Congressmen received bribes…
    -Governors received bribes…
    -GMA immunized…
    -JDV under ouster threat…
    -Ayala mall “big fart”…
    -Erap pardoned …
    -The realignment of political forces:Gloria and Erap versus the emerging Real Opposition

    What’s NEXT to divert our attention from HER scandals(note:one headline-grabbing event per week now!)

    my guess for the coming week:goodbye speaker of the house,WELCOME ,Speaker For the People!

    • BrianB on October 31, 2007 at 12:07 am

    “Left bitterly divided between the powerful Communists and the less radical but more responsible center leftists?”

    If it’s only the left who wishes Arroyo out, we’re in trouble, never mind the center lefts. I can count these people with my fingers.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 12:16 am

    There is one interesting possibility that should be noted. Though no space has arisen yet, there is an opportunity for some opportunistic elite politician to finally decide to take the first shot and engage with the Left (who have all but completely sat this current fight out). A leader like that, from outside the left, might be able to unite the factions and lead a legitimate democratic revolution. – The Blog

    An alternative program of economic development that is modeled after that of our East Asian neighbors (both communist and non-communist) that involves a two stage approach of promoting social equity first and introducing market reforms once the problem of inequality has been addressed is waiting for such a leader. In a non-communist setting, it has worked in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. In a communist setting, it is working (so far) in China and Vietnam.

  2. Manolo:there are rumors that Black n White aligning with FVR? Is this true?

  3. When I speak of the Left I am referring, primarily, to those outside or on the sidelines of the currently elite dominated corridors of power, such as a few party-list groups, and much of the NGO world. I get a sense that “these people” are more numerous than one might think. Election results (particularly those of the last election, conducted under the direction of the erstwhile chair Abalos) are not a reliable measure of popular support, and certainly not a good measure of political power. Members of the NGO community, who have connections within government, education, and generally “progressive” sympathies are certainly more “powerful” than NPA cadre running around the jungle, in terms of their ability to effect policy. And I agree with Karlo’s comment on The Blog that the power of the far left is ever waning. An important point to consider is that, in the Philippines, most people are far from spoken for. With party loyalty virtually non-existent (particularly outside of the party-list system), and people rightly concerned with meeting basic needs and access to reliable government services, “the Left” might be broadly defined under the right circumstances as the people committed to seeing that call answered. This, I think, constitutes a tremendous amount of people. A politician who already has access to the limelight, and a desire for real change (or willingness to tolerate it in order to gain power, though the outcomes of that would be dubious indeed), could engage the broad Left, who have the ideas, prompting the people to join the greater movement. I am not, of course, suggestion a recipe for revolution, or suggesting that one is necessary, or anything of the sort. I just mean, as a political observer, to note the opening here for such a development. Volatility doesn’t only tend to be chaotic – it also tends to be volatile. There are all sorts of possible outcomes here, but I do believe that in one of them we might see a traditional politician deciding to step out of the internecine feud and make the discussion about The People rather than the ethical vagueries that define it presently.

    • urbano on October 31, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Manolo,

    Have you read Bruce Bueno de Mesquita‘s The Logic of Political Survival? (via Google Books).

    It might interest you as you echo pretty much what Bueno de Mesquita and his team have rigorously researched:

    From the review by The Independent Institute:

    “One of the book’s most consistent messages is that for governments that rely on a small winning coalition to maintain the leader’s status, good policies are bad politics, and bad policy is good politics. The opposite tends to be true of governments that rely on large winning coalitions. However, leaders with small coalitions and large selectorates remain in office the longest because their supporters have stronger loyalties and much to lose if the leader is replaced.”

    You can also hear about the theory in Bueno de Mesquita’s own voice in this EconTalk podcast.

    UDC

    • mlq3 on October 31, 2007 at 1:05 am
      Author

    equalizer, no. i occasionally run into fvr at events but we never exchange more than 3 to 4 sentences. as a group, we’ve never had, much less sought, a meeting with him since the 2005 crisis.

  4. As to who that might be I can’t say I have any idea. Perhaps some astute and truly benevolent outsider with tremendous name recognition…like a Quezon for example! hahaha!

  5. manolo:thanks! it ‘s not worth aligning with an opportunist tradpol.

    • BrianB on October 31, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Blogger,

    If that is your meaning of left, a social instead of political demographic, then what is “center left”?

  6. BrianB,

    You make a good point regarding the clarity of my writing (and possibly my thinking). I am speaking simultaneously of two entities. First, the political left, divided between the RAs and the center-leftists, and suggesting that the center-left more numerous and more powerful, in its own way, than they might appear. I then mean to suggest that “the Left” (I should really just say a popular progressive movement) could in fact become a huge political force with the right leadership and momentum.

    • d0d0ng on October 31, 2007 at 1:24 am

    “Nice Guys Finish Last”.

    The virtue to relinquish power such as what Corazon Aquino did is a mockery. After countless military coups and a dead husband, Corazon Aquino has been a foregone conclusion. The military has the impunity to preserve its status quo since dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Gloria Arroyo was not spared either by military (Garci bug & several military threats) to get what it wanted, large share of the national budget, ironic since everybody are fighting for the same limited piece after paying foreign loans, plus the military has the rein on illegal gambling as illustrated in Estrada’s plunder case. And facing the poweful catholic bishops giving no wiggle room to control the rapid population growth, we need exactly a leader who can stand against those 2 formidable forces waiting on the sidelines watching & exploiting the naive people power mob to advance their own agenda.

    I echoed the same sentiments, “Nice Guys Finish Last”.

    • ay_naku on October 31, 2007 at 1:41 am

    where is this “outraged public opinion” that Tony Abaya speaks of? i seem to only hear it here.

    I believe it exists, although it’s not currently very vociferous. It manifested itself during the last senatorial elections, when Trillanes won, against all initial expectations. His victory is widely considered to be a protest vote against GMA. Plus the 10-2 win of the opposition (yes, I am not counting the cheating Zubiri), despite determined efforts by the administration to cheat big-time, was an overwhelming success, especially since the two admin candidates who made it to the winning circle are no staunch GMA allies.

    Maybe this “outraged public opinion” is just waiting to be harnessed again, and given an avenue to express itself once more.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Urbano, thanks for the fascinating pointer to Mesquita. Given that we have a large selectorate and a small winning coalition, under Mesquita’s defintion, that would mean that we are effectively under an autocracy. All the more reason to focus on the problem of inequality in order to enlarge the winning coalition and make our democracy more genuine.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 2:02 am

    I echoed the same sentiments, “Nice Guys Finish Last”. – d0d0ng

    I do see your philosophical affinity with Gloria. You’re useful in that way.

  7. bandwidth limit reached

    wow. traffic is pretty high today. and rightly so. a view of the inner workings of GMA’s mind from a man who’s worked for her.

    im jz curious Manolo. did she ask you to work for her or did you approach her and offer your help? and were you there at the start of her rise to power? how about Puno? when did he start working for her?

    • supremo on October 31, 2007 at 2:38 am

    dOdOng seems to have a great admiration for the military. He must be either a soldier or a soldier wannabe who didn’t make the cut.

  8. for a moment, i thought i was banned

  9. i’d like to know why i’m currently banned

    • d0d0ng on October 31, 2007 at 2:42 am

    “I do see your philosophical affinity with Gloria. You’re useful in that way.”

    You got me wrong, Gloria cave in to the military and the church.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 2:46 am

    d0d0ng, in that case i stand corrected.

    • d0d0ng on October 31, 2007 at 2:47 am

    “seems to have a great admiration for the military. He must be either a soldier or a soldier wannabe who didn’t make the cut”

    You got me wrong, too. You should read my previous statements that military has been getting larger piece of the national budget that should have gone to education (large population) and healthcare.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 2:47 am

    The other implication of de Mesquita’s Selectorate Theory is on the economic effects of political illegitimacy. Since cheating in elections (e.g. Hello Garci) means that the winning coalition is drastically (and artificially) made smaller compared to the Selectorate, then corruption at the top (i.e. kleptocracy) increases.

    As stated in the “Logic of Political Survival”:

    …a small [winning] coalition [‘W’] [combined with a large selectorate [‘S’] provides the foundation for kleptocracy. Conversely, a large ration of W/S provides a weak basis for leaders to be corrupt, especially when W is large. Leaders in this latter setting must work hard and dedicate the revenues they collect to improviung the lot of society in general rather than spending them on personal aggrandizement (page 130)

    That’s why illegitimacy and good governance are unlikely to be found together.

    • supremo on October 31, 2007 at 3:27 am

    I think I got it right dOdOng

    • Bencard on October 31, 2007 at 3:28 am

    mlq3, you seem to have forgotten other presidential “heirs apparent” who failed to follow their fathers’ footsteps, e.g., mlq, jr., sergio osmena, jr., ferdinand marcos, jr. i know gma’s “luck” is a cause for envy for many.

    i think the only reason there was an apprent “drought” in the macapagal family political fortune was the over 20-year marcos reign, if it was not the fact that gma was too young to be elected president until then. i think the drought was far, far longer with the other presidential families.

    i don’t think a willingness to “surrender” power voluntarily for no reason than to give way to a “wannabee” is a virtue. if a president is doing a good job (regardless of unrelenting effort to undermine him/her) he/she has all the right to hold on legally, and the obligation to serve her countrymen according to her vision of greatness. cory did not voluntarily relinquish power. she served her full term according to the limit prescribed by the constitution. it was by no means an act of holiness, c’mon.

    • urbano on October 31, 2007 at 3:30 am

    cvj,

    the other point though is that a commitment to political survival is anathema to good government. conversely, those who are committed to good government will very likely not survive in the current system.

    The task is to fashion a very broad winning coalition from selectorate (hopefully, almost as broad as the selectorate) so the only way to recompense the winning coalition is by the provision of public goods.

    The question is, what does it take to master that task and who can master that task and survive long enough to actually produce public goods? Is that a political conundrum?

    UDC

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Urbano, i think it’s a political conundrum in the sense that it’s currently a coordination problem. A healthy network of civil society and NGO groups (aka the Public Sphere) can help get us out of this conundrum if enough of them realize, as de Mesquita’s framework demonstrates, that broad political legitimacy is essential to good governance. This would prod them to refocus from local/community concerns to national issues. After which, it would help if an astute, or (in Bloger’s term above) opportunistic politician steps in to harness the resulting demand for leadership. Once elected, that politician must however take the risk and be a real traitor to his class (not just a perceived traitor like Erap) if he is to recompense the winning coalition with public goods.

    • urbano on October 31, 2007 at 4:01 am

    cvj,

    we’ve proven that civil society CAN galvanize into an effective winning coalition (twice over!) but the problem comes post facto: in holding the coalition. The size of the coalition dilutes loyalty and it becomes all too easy to abandon the leader of the coalition if the members feel they are not delivering. e.g. -the collapse of Cory’s rainbow coalition (doy laurel, the puschists, etc.) and the quick abandonment of GMA by the same civil society groups when she began to work for her own political survival. (and thereby chasing her to an even smaller winning coalition that required even larger doleouts to maintain loyalty)

    the problem might be of continuity. is there a way to get a broad winning coalition to think long term strategy given the diversity of interests and causes? can they stay their own agendas (no matter how noble) long enough to allow both the leader and the political agenda to survive? (and deliver public goods?)

    UDC

    • rego on October 31, 2007 at 4:10 am

    “cory did not voluntarily relinquish power. she served her full term according to the limit prescribed by the constitution. it was by no means an act of holiness, c’mon.”

    ———————————————–

    Wasn’t the original plan is for cory to reliqusih the presidency for doy once they both get elected?

    • d0d0ng on October 31, 2007 at 4:15 am

    “That’s why illegitimacy and good governance are unlikely to be found together.”

    This is a good start. You cannot remove Arroyo without bringing in your own illegitimacy which opponents can exploit for further instability. 2007 is winding, that means you have only 2 yrs left to decide for alternative presidential candidate and focus how to ensure the candidate will secure the presidency to carry on successor government without so much destabilization like people power on the streets.

    “a small [winning] coalition [’W’] [combined with a large selectorate [’S’] provides the foundation for kleptocracy”

    The answer is right there. Start supporting candidates or fielding candidates (espousing general welfare) by taking the seat of government that created the laws, national policy and decide the budget allocations – the legislature. You have to have strong candidates so it can diminish the pork barrel influence of bad president, until the legislature can sustain the momentum to get rid of the pork barrel itself so all the constituencies have better chance to the national budget in the future. Good plural governance will not kick-in if legislature is held hostage by people beholden to pork barrel.

    • Bencard on October 31, 2007 at 4:24 am

    “commitment to political survival anathema to good government”. urbano.

    is that so? every politician is committed to political survival or he has no business being in politics. every incumbent seeking re-election and continuation of his/her program of government is “committed” to political survival. washington, lincoln, roosevelt, eisenhower, and clinton, to name some, all sought re-election without sacrificing good governance.

    a “broad coalition” may win an election but what happens the morning after when not every faction can be made happy, or every salivating “supporter” cannot have the “promised” patronage” – the quid pro quo? of course, dissensions, bad-mouthings, destabilizations, mass actions, impeachment attempts, calls for resignations, coup d’etat will follow in progression. even an elected president has only a very finite resource to satisfy every alleged “ally”.

    • Bencard on October 31, 2007 at 5:06 am

    btw, to digress a bit, i believe the presumptuous “call” for cj reynato puno to head a “transition government” to replace pgma is an indirect act of contempt of the chief justice, if not the entire sc as a body. it is a proposition to participate in a blatant violation of the constitution and existing laws on, among others, rebellion and usurpation. the b & w movement and the persons behind this charade, e.g., guingona, l.navarro, and certain catholic bishops, et al. should be cited and properly dealt with by law.

    • urbano on October 31, 2007 at 5:11 am

    bencard,

    don’t confuse my use of the term “political survival” with re-election. I’m using it as Bueno de Mesquita uses it. That is, long term political survival.

    BdeM points out that leaders in more democratic societies have significantly shorter political lives than in more autocratic societies. (Could Clinton have won a third term if the constitution allowed it?)

    In BdeM’s thesis, good governance (i.e. -good policies) are a product of an enlarged winning coalition – so large that only the provision of public goods can suffice to retain their loyalty. Even so, the large winning coalition, as you so pointed out, have weak ties and can very easily shift allegiances to any challenger.

    He also cites changes in the “favors” given as the winning coalition shifts: so the GOP favors its traditional base with pro-business policies and the Dems their traditional base with pro-labor acts. Both will claim good governance as motivation.

    UDC

    • Bencard on October 31, 2007 at 5:46 am

    urbano, what real interest in “political survival” can you expect from a politician after her constitutional tenure? if by political survival you mean a nice place in history, why don’t you say so?

    only a politician who seeks to continue in office is concerned with political survival for himself. after that, he/she usually fades into the sunset and await the verdict of history on his/her stewardship. equating that with political survival is a bit off-tangent.

    • d0d0ng on October 31, 2007 at 5:51 am

    “what happens the morning after when not every faction can be made happy, or every salivating “supporter” cannot have the “promised” patronage”.”

    In essence, accdg to Bencard, it is fight over money. This is where transparency is so important so the large population can understand the motives and manipulations done in legislature. Currently, the populace don’t have the info who is getting what, whose vote in congress is for what. The only understanding right now is that there is not enough vote for impeachment because the critical votes had been secured and paid.

  10. Oddly enough, I began to suspect that she wanted to hold on to power when Romy Neri was appointed to NEDA. I thought then that installing JDV’s long time adviser (at the house of representatives), even in the absence of glaring faults of Dante Canlas, was as an effort to get the support of congress in an attempt to become Prime Minister or run for reelection.

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 31, 2007 at 7:22 am

    “Arroyo reaching out to Singson, says Palace”- pdi

    arroyo to puno to erap to arroyo to singson: “the family that pays together, plays together.” whatcha waiting for? game na!

    • tonio on October 31, 2007 at 9:00 am

    d0d0ng:

    and even if the people do get that info, honestly, what can they do about it? not vote for the politicians concerned, sure, but in the meantime those people can work at amassing money for themselves.

    • mlq3 on October 31, 2007 at 9:18 am
      Author

    bencard, just a note since you love the facts, bnw neither had anything to do with, or endorsed, or proposed, that approach to the cj.

    • Bencard on October 31, 2007 at 9:31 am

    i stand corrected, mlq3. thanks.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Urbano, i think the reason for breaking up the coalition matters. if, as in the case of Arroyo, it’s because of her cheating, then such break up should be viewed as being within the normal parameters of democratic interaction. after all, cheating reveals that her ‘W’ relative to ‘S’ was small to begin with and that she was playing a game of political survival whatever the costs from the beginning.

    In the case of Aquino, because of her legitimacy, challenges from Enrile, the coup plotters and to a lesser extent, Doy Laurel, were met. For its part, the masa turned against Cory because she refused to be a traitor to her class and instead sided with the status quo favoring the big Hacenderos. By that act, she blew a chance to hold on to a much larger ‘W’ (the masa) and was left with the elite and middle classes instead.

    Regardless of these divisions, in both the above cases, Philippine society has shown a built-in capacity for slack via (1) the balimbing effect, the estimated 20% of the populace who automatically shift allegiance to whoever holds power and/or (2) the let’s move on mindset which frowns upon politicking and has proven instrumental in ensuring Arroyo’s survival. These two overlapping forces give an incumbent some allowance (imho too much allowance) when the inevitable hard policy choices lead to divisions within his/her winning coalition.

    • ramrod on October 31, 2007 at 10:03 am

    “Regardless of these divisions, in both the above cases, Philippine society has shown a built-in capacity for slack via (1) the balimbing effect, the estimated 20% of the populace who automatically shift allegiance to whoever holds power and/or (2) the let’s move on mindset which frowns upon politicking and has proven instrumental in ensuring Arroyo’s survival.” – cvj

    Lets face it, though the underdog is appealing to the Filipino, we still love “winners,” whether fairly or unfairly achieved depending on how these winners play the the “perception management” part they can get away with it and past sins are easily forgotten…

    • ramrod on October 31, 2007 at 10:16 am

    “Arroyo reaching out to Singson, says Palace”- pdi

    arroyo to puno to erap to arroyo to singson: “the family that pays together, plays together.” whatcha waiting for? game na! – inidoro ni emile

    Is this using Genghis Khan’s “join us or perish!” or “if you can’t beat em, join em?” Masterful, so bloody masterful, and the CBCP endorses the move as “reconciliation?” Whatever happened to “do not be yoked with unbelievers, for what has the light have to do with darkness?” It amazes me how these bishops easily forget their bible.

    • cvj on October 31, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Ramrod, one astounding statistic that i came across, as documented in Estrada v Desierto http://www.supremecourt.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2001/mar2001/146710_15.htm (of all places) is that:

    in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia, President Arroyo’s public acceptance rating jacked up from 16% on January 20, 2001 to 38% on January 26, 2001.

    Just the act of assuming power caused Gloria Arroyo to increase her public acceptance rating by more than 20%.

    Whenever i hear someone say he/she is not necessarily pro-Arroyo, but nevertheless admires that she is always one step ahead of the Opposition, it always reminds me of this balimbing mentality. Their support is contingent not on principles but on her ability to hold on to power.

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