In his blog, Jove Francisco gave an account of the situation as the weekend broke: an administration distracted so that it forgot to blow its own trumpets for a change:
I will wait for Secretary of the Cabinet Ric Saludo to once again blame media for the administration’s woes because we only cover political intrigues and conveniently snub good news stories like their economic strides.
Hey sir, there we were, trying hard and “risking our lives” (muntik kami maaksidente eh hehe) covering the good news about the strong peso because we all wanted to get the President’s reaction and official statement about this particular economic development … look at what we got… nothing.
Anyway, no horn-blowing at the Palace because the President was tending to her garden:
But despite her calls for a halt in politicking…palace insiders believe that the administration is doing its own brand of politics again.
Vehicles of local government officials from Pampanga were seen outside the Palace this afternoon.
No palace official would like to explain the presence of these officials, which is unfortunate because the visit came at a time when known pangalatok leaders FVR and JDV are at odds with Mrs. Arroyo.
While Scribbles Etc. points to the activities of the President’s Living nightmare, her predecessor. But was there a deal between the ex-con and the incumbent future con? Randy David, on Saturday, wrote,
The reality is that despite his detention and conviction, Estrada is far from being a spent political force. Ms Arroyo knows this. In detention, the ex-president could continue to sponsor destabilization efforts against her. Pardoned, he could be persuaded not to lend his name to any attempt to oust her.
This is political realism in a society where roughly 60 percent of the population remains under the spell of traditional political patrons and mass media celebrities. Ms Arroyo will pass into political oblivion after 2010, but not Estrada. He will be a force to reckon with, a figure to court for those with presidential ambitions, so long as the majority of our voters are rendered politically vulnerable by extreme poverty.
Realizing its marginal role in Philippine elections, the middle class, the harbinger of modernity, has favored non-electoral modes for effecting transitions — people power, impeachment, coups, calls for resignation, etc. It is this class that gave the country its two women presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, both of them the beneficiaries of people power.
But people power is caught in a paradox, which limits its potency. Its spontaneous and unorganized character, driven by a strong moralism, is the source of its vitality. It is also its fundamental weakness. Middle class activism seldom leads to anything sustainable, like the formation of mainstream political parties. Even when, to its own surprise, it scores electoral victories, as in the case of Fr. Ed Panlilio’s successful run for governor o fPampanga province, the engagement tends to stop at the polls. Without a party on which to anchor itself, the middle class espousal of modern governance is quickly drowned out by the pragmatics of political patronage. No wonder, in the end, “trapo” [traditional politicos] like Ms Arroyo and Estrada will always find it easier to deal with one another.
One thing is sure: both the President and her predecessor, don’t care about the lot of most prisoners, which Sunday’s Inquirer editorial tackled.
I attended a meeting over the weekend of various opposition groups, to discuss what to do about the Pulido impeachment and so forth. The lawyers, many of whom stayed home and gave up family time to try to put together a fortified impeachment complaint, were glum over the prospects of their legal labors amounting to anything.
Rep. Ronaldo Zamora discussed the case filed with the Supreme Court some years back, challenging the impeachment restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court when then Chief Justice Hilario Davide was facing an impeachment attempt. According to Zamora, in the case they filed, they predicted what has come to pass, today: that to head off a proper impeachment, potential targets of an impeachment would cause weak or bogus complaints to be filed, to innoculate them against genuine impeachments. Zamora said that while the Constitution grants the Congress supremacy in cases of impeachment, in reality, because of the Francisco case, the Supreme Court intervened, tied the hands of Congress, and along the way, violated a fundamental tenet of law: that no man may be a judge in his own case (the Supreme Court, in this case, intervening in a case involving the potential impeachment of its own Chief Justice).
So he said, their case predicted what has come to pass, but when they asked for oral arguments, the Supreme Court refused, and the case continues to mold away in the dockets of the Supreme Court. Until the previous ruling is overturned, he said, there is no point fussing over impeachment, the moment an official causes a bogus case to be filed. My sense is that he was speaking from the point of view of a pretty thorough lawyer, who is professionally affronted when a half-assed case ends up substituting for a case which can’t be rushed, if completeness is to be achieved.
He also had some pretty interesting things to say about how political math works in the lower house, the magic number being 60. With 60, an impeachment is in play; anything below that, and don’t even bother. He was also prescient in suggesting that the President would refrain from trying to oust the Speaker, at least until the impeachment complaint was formally junked, and not earlier than January. But in the meantime, he said (to comfort the lawyers, I think) he said it was a good exercise to put together a meaty impeachment complaint, and draft articles of impeachment.
Anyway, he told the group, and as it emerged in the discussion (animated, even heated, at times), we would see what happens when amendments or supplements or what have you are filed. But he and other opposition congressmen like Roilo Golez are of the opinion that at the very least, the moment the administration-controlled Committee on Justice shows no inclination to even consider amendments to the complaint or supplements to it, then the opposition should simply boycott the proceedings.
Why dignify a farce? Why legitimize a mockery of the process? A wise tactic and one I hope the opposition will stick to. I’d love to see the administration coalition reduced to arguing among themselves about a bogus case of their own making.
On the sidelines of the meeting, a congressman went up to me and made an observation I found particularly intriguing. He said, one should not over-plan things, but rather, work out a scenario for every eventuality, including a sudden, unexpected favor from Lady Luck. Such as what, I asked. The congressman replied, well, it makes sense for the President to hold her fire with regards to the Speaker, but if she decides to topple him, the Speaker has one last master-stroke left.
And what would that be, I inquired.
The Speaker, according to the congressman, upon seeing one of the President’s men taking to the floor to make a motion to declare the leadership vacant, and knowing at that instant, that it was now war to the death, could then suspend the session indefinitely. Chaos would ensue, the congressman said. I asked, suspend the session, as in, simply end the session, for ever? Not for ever, the congressman replied; the Constitution actually imposes a limit to such moves of three days. But imagine that, the congressman said. Three days of furious jockeying and wheeling, and dealing, of confusion and recriminations.
Why so, I asked. Because, the congressman said, the moment the President makes it known she wants a new Speaker, do you know how many candidates would arise? You would have to make each one happy. And if you topple the Speaker, you must replace all the senior leaders of the House, that’s 20 instant allies turned disgruntled enemies. In such a situation, things could change very fast and suddenly, a suitable number for impeachment could possibly be within reach.
But, the congressman remarked, while we should be prepared for such moments of divine intervention, one shouldn’t actively work for it, or even expect it.
What the President and her people, were up to, is covered by Uniffors and who kindly adds the blog’s voice to the call I and other made in my column for today, Save the day. We’re going to get together on Friday, at lunchtime, to walk together to the Makati Central Post Office to send the President a postcard.
For information, see The Black and Whire Movement blog for additional details, including simultaneous protests in Riyadh, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, Cambodia, and Hong Kong.
But of course over the weekend the really big news took place overseas: ‘Desperate’ Musharraf declares martial law. Or was it? A “state of emergency,” he said, and as his own prime minister said, “definitely extraconstitutional.” Global Voices Online has a roundup of online reactions; the blog Teeth Maestro, established by a Pakistani gentleman I met in the regional blogger’s conference held a couple of years back in Manila, has a blow-by-blow account of the creeping martial law in that country. It is, as commentator Ali Eteraz puts it, Musharraf’s mini-martial law.
For Americans, concerned over their own economy (see Asia Sentinel’s report on window-dressing by the US Federal Reserve) as Prarie Weather points out, the Pakistani president’s declaration left Washington looking impotent. As for everyone else, as Rising Hegemon eloquently put it, instead of a new dawn of democracy in the Islamic world thanks to Uncle Sam, George W. Bush’s legacy is the opposite: it “Looks like Freedom’s Marching off to Prison.” Instead of a brave new world, it’s more apocalyptic by the day. As History Unfolding points out,
When the Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006, many of us, I think, thought tha the Bush era was over and a change would begin. The voters in particular had clearly rejected the Iraq war–as had Washington’s traditional establishment, embodied in the Baker-Hamilton commission–and we now expected de-escalation to begin. The resignation of Don Rumsfeld (who was actually fired, we can now see, because he opposed escalation in Iraq) encouraged this illusion. But that was not what happened. Nearly a year after the election we have more troops (but less casualties) in Iraq than ever. More importantly, it seems that the course that the Bush Administration set us on five or six years ago–a futile attempt to rule the Middle East, if not the whole world, by force–may be so firmly entrenched that even another election will not reverse it.
I am glad that I managed in 2002 to recognize how revolutionary the new foreign policy was, and to reject it on fundamental grounds. (Anyone who is interested can find what I had to say on the H-Diplo internet list archives for the fall of that year.) Our new National Security Strategy had proclaimed that we had the right and the duty to overthrow any unfriendly regime that was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and that we would do so alone if necessary. Meanwhile, President Bush announced that Israel would (in effect) keep whatever land it had settled and wanted to keep in any peace with a new Palestinian state. Each of those stands, in different ways, repudiated critical provisions of international law and flung the door open to international anarchy. Both were far, far more important than the President’s attempts to promote democracy. Indeed, it is partly because the President has proclaimed that both the United States and Israel will take, and keep, whatever they want, that elections in the Middle East have turned out so badly for us.
One blogger, Naeem, is so discouraged about the whole thing that the views of the blogger sound eerily familiar.
Incidentally, my column today quoted a phrase from The Economist editorial, which bears reading in its entirety.
A synopsis of a Newsbreak report on the ill-fated NAIA3 Terminal, by Torn and Frayed. Oddly enough, the President’s two predecessors came across better than the incumbent:
However, since NAIA 3 is a major public works project, history will also judge the three presidents who oversaw the project: Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo.
The building of the terminal did not start to unravel until after Ramos’s term and he escapes relatively unscathed. Ramos had the foresight to realize that the country needed a new international terminal, invited the six taipans who constitute AEDC to bid for it, and, when a better bid was proposed by Piatco, oversaw its acceptance.
Perhaps surprisingly, Erap also comes out of the story quite well. Concerned that the AEDC suit against Piatco would derail the project, in his best Don Corleone fashion Estrada tried to reconcile the warring parties: “Among the new president’s moves within two months of assuming power was to call AEDC and Piatco to a meeting in Malacañang. In that meeting held September 3, Estrada made an extraordinary request: for AEDC to drop the civil suit pending before the Pasig RTC against the award of the Naia 3 contract to the Paircargo group, now Piatco.” There’s a time for Don Corleone and I think this was it–AEDC did indeed drop its civil suits and for a while the project proceeded, shakily, but it did move forward…
The president who comes out dreadfully from the debacle is Gloria. Admittedly, the airport was already a problem when she assumed office, but through her characteristic indecisiveness and lack of political will she made it into a catastrophe. The strap line of one of the Newsbreak articles sums it up perfectly: “Incoherent policies and failed quick fixes mark Arroyo’s response to NAIA 3″. Here is one example. The Office of the Solicitor General filed an expropriation suit (meaning that the government would attempt to take the new terminal into public ownership) before the Pasay regional trial court on 21 December 2004. As Newsbreak points out, the timing was “unfortunate”, since “just a day before the Philippine government’s lawyers in the ICSID arbitration proceedings in Washington, DC, had made a filing stating that Manila had not taken acts amounting to expropriation.”
Speaking of the President, Stella Arnaldo’s Blogspot says her former professors are, well, embarrassed.