I’ve signed two online petitions, the first calling for a snap election (a position I’ve adopted in my column, so I’m just being consistent) and another one, petitioning for clemency for Marilou Renario, a Filipina OFW facing the death penalty in Kuwait.
Now here’s a question, not because I hope it happens (I hope to God it never does) but with the following: Oil and gold soar as US dollar wilts and Asia marker Tapis crude breaks $100/bbl for 1st time and with the widely-held assumption George W. Bush is looking for excuses to bomb Iran, what do you think will happen if the lifeline of remittances that keeps our economy afloat, suddenly gets strangled or even cut?
What then, do you do in a crisis situation where the head of state depends on lavish cash-giving to maintain political support, and where a significant chunk of the population detests her? What then?
The President has no reservoir either of popularity or good will, to bank on. Her allies support her conditionally, and voraciously. People can ignore anything political because their escape route abroad has been planned. Those at home can wait for remittances. Cut off that escape route, throw a monkey wrench in the sending of those remittances, and then what happens?
The President can cut tariffs and keep the cost of oil low for public transportation. But the middle class will feel the pinch, as will large corporations with their fleets of vehicles. Transport costs for products will escalate. The sectors in the economy growing are not big enough to absorb those who suddenly have to give up prospects of going abroad, and Heaven help us if some sort of general state of war erupts in the Middle East and causes trouble, in turn, in Muslim-dominated nations. You get my drift.
You may not need a government with legitimacy in normal times but you need one when there’s a crisis that affects all sectors, including those who craved stability at all costs, because their pocketbooks weren’t affected by “political noise.”
Anyway, on to the political scene.
A shrewd observation from John Nery in his column:
The photograph showing Lakas-CMD party leaders giving the thumbs-up sign purports to show renewed “unity of purpose” forged in a summit in Malacañang last Saturday; instead, it projects an air of vulnerability. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, in the center of the picture flanked by Speaker Jose De Venecia and ex-President Fidel Ramos, does not seem to be too pleased; we’ve seen her strike a happier pose before. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is all the way on the left, almost literally marginalized. (Indeed, he is cropped out in the photo published in the Inquirer.) The lone senator in the gathering is a rookie and a lightweight, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri; in the photo, he is dead center, but in the political crisis that the President is working mightily to resolve, he is firmly in the periphery.
Not least, Ermita’s rival as the President’s most influential alter ego, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, is not in the picture. Of course, that’s because he is not Lakas-CMD, but Kampi. But that’s precisely the point, isn’t it?
Can you believe that? I don’t.
1. Why only now? Abante and Villarosa should have made that admission on the day the issue was forced out. The timing reeks of planning. After all, after Panlilio and Mendoza exposed the cash gifts to governors, the supposed source of funds admitted giving cash two weeks after the fact. And since there was no visible and audible outrage, the people has given the politicians a clear signal – rob us more, fool us more. So admitting now is just OK, right?
2. Why give money to non-party mates? You take care of your own, right? Poor Angelica Jones. (Background: the showbiz actress ran for the position of provincial board member under KAMPI. She lost, and blamed the party for not supporting her.)
3. Where did KAMPI get all that money? Mike Arroyo? Iggy Arroyo? Jose Pidal? Wow, I had no idea KAMPI is this rich. Maybe I should join the party, no? Most probably I’d get the laptop that I am eyeing. Hmm.
4. Ronaldo Puno once claimed that the money did not come from them, instead pointed to Lakas’ Jose de Venecia.
Not that Eduardo Ermita isn’t beyond a chuckle or two. Konfrontasi between Puno and Ermita had tongues wagging that Ermita was on his way out, that Puno was ascendant, and that the Batangas mafia in the cabinet were out, too: but the Batanguenos seem to have struck back -and struck a deal. They’re still in the official family and not out in the cold.
Now a conspiracy theorist might explain the “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” Kodachrome moment at the Palace in this manner, as a text message has it:
See if you can check w ur sources: gma s cptv of lakas due 2 anthr tape gvn her fri. night by nidntfied source. She ws up n abt ntl 3 am of sat. tryng 2 determine who tpd it. If gma does not hold up 2 truce, lks wl pounce on her. It dpnds how puno wl counter 2 sve queen. D war s nw btwn lakas n kampi. ermita as proxy vs puno, oppo wl jst play their role.
When I asked for clarification, the following arrived:
Apparently jueteng pay off w GMA present. Its in her house daw in Forbes. Or in La Vista.
Another source opined,
If true, Obviously k chavit galing yan. Dats d bomb he threatened to explode coz of erap pardon.
Yet another message said,
Yun tape kung jueteng di si chavit ang source. Blackmail yan and gma unlike erap will give chavit wat he wants.
But in the end, the best that text messages can provide are leads, which can lead to wild goose chases and dead ends, or the opening of a real can of worms. But there’s no need to go into conspiracy theories.
As far as the Inquirer editorial goes, it’s all posturing:
The exemplar of this progress is the increasingly institutionalized Malacañang cash bar and buffet, courtesy of the President. This Tuesday, after weeks of bumbling and confusion, the source of the half-a-million-peso cash buffet servings to congressmen was finally revealed. It was the President’s very own pet political party, Kampi, that doled out the money. Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. claimed that Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa claimed in turn to have doled out the cash, and that he was surprised Kampi was giving him, a Lakas-CMD party member, money. But he said thanks for the half a million, anyway.
To be fair, Abante shouldn’t have been surprised. Party affiliation has never been so meaningless as it is now. We should point out that no president, ever, has been so promiscuous when it comes to party affiliation, thus rendering it inconsequential. Ms Arroyo is titular head of Lakas-CMD, of the Liberal Party and of Kampi. All previous presidents were content to head one party or movement at a time. But this is part of Ms Arroyo’s claims of progress.
The acerbic Manuel Buencamino also looked at the same picture Nery did, and this is what he concluded:
Those “small hurts” did not look so small when Fidel Ramos was pounding his desk protesting the pardon of Joseph Estrada, when Gloria Arroyo’s aides bribed 190 congressmen to force Speaker de Venecia to refer the bogus impeachment complaint to the House justice committee, and when de Venecia responded with an ultimatum letter to Gloria Arroyo asking her to fire her most loyal henchmen and to undergo a moral recovery, even if there were no morals there to recover in the first place.
The family disagreement looked so large and irreconcilable a split looked inevitable. But size became relative when the grand vision emerged–“unlimited power and unrestrained plunder up to and beyond 2010.”
And so the ruling family’s capos decided, “Our loyalty to our country ends when our loyalty to our party begins.”
Lakas-CMD will not split into two lines, one behind Mrs. Arroyo and the other behind the Speaker, because Gloria Arroyo made sure everyone saw who held the slop bucket.
Under Erap it was “weather-weather lang”; under Gloria it’s “pera-pera lang.”
Gloria Arroyo will not be impeached over the ZTE broadband deal. The leaders of the ruling party, their group picture splashed on the front page of last Monday’s papers, gave the thumbs up for this administration to continue with plunder, human-rights violations, extrajudicial killings and, most important of all, to keep those cash-filled envelopes coming.
It doesn’t matter that Joey de Venecia III told the truth. Not when the AFP is the AFGMA and the PNP is “Pulis Ni Pidal”; not when businessmen are under the spell of a brother of fugitive businessman Dewey Dee; not when the perfumed set continue to consider themselves and the Arroyo couple as “somos”; not when the guardians of morality, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, allow themselves to be wined and dined by Malacañang.
Gloria is not afraid of civil society anymore. The only people who still scare her “are those soldiers kept in General Esperon’s jails.
And here’s the clincher: with the President saying that the bottom line is, indeed, the bottom line, of big business and the bigshots in her various pet parties, something has to give. As Buencamino says, in the continuation of his column,
Under ordinary circumstances, those soldiers, charged with mutiny and attempted coup, would be considered traitors. But these are extraordinary times, and those soldiers hold the moral high ground over Gloria Arroyo’s generals who are perceived to have turned their back on everything they learned in the academy.
And so, with each new scandal, the prisoners of Esperon gain more respect from the public and the rank and file in the military.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a coup is the best solution to the Gloria Arroyo problem.
I have no doubt those soldiers detained in Tanay are highly principled, honest and patriotic. But a junta, no matter how pure and well-meaning at the outset, has a tendency to degenerate into a dictatorship, as history has shown countless times.
So I think it’s best for the civilian population to take care of the Gloria problem before the military becomes impatient and does it for them.
Over the weekend, I received an alarming text that confirmed rumors that the soldiers are losing patience and a bloody civil war is in the offing if civil society delays on its duty to oust Gloria through impeachment or people power.
The text message read:
“While Malacañang was loudly rejoicing over the neutralization of civilian society, a high-ranking general was quietly dispatched to Tanay to plead with the detained soldiers not to issue any more inflammatory statements against their superiors. He told them their uncompromising position was beginning to seriously affect the chain of command; the rumbling among the rank and file was growing stronger. From Tanay, the general went straight to Malacañang to report that his appeal was turned down.”
We are foolishly marching toward civil war, the most uncivil of wars, because we continue to buy the lie that human beings will tolerate injustice as long as they have a full stomach. History does not suffer fools gladly.
The deals, if anyone doubted they’ve been signed, sealed, and delivered, have their details trickling out in the headllines: first order of business, House rejects supplementary impeachment case of UNO and the second order of business is the clincher, House Ethics panel rules to clear JdV of charges.
This is just silly: Summit of 4 living presidents pushed. If thats what the officials want to do, there are two institutional means for accomplishing this. The first is the Council of State. The second, is the National Security Council.
My Inquirer Corrent (see the previous entry by John Nery, Sleepless in Glorietta) entry is on the competing presentations of the police and Ayala Corp., as well as Newsbreak’s report. Newbsreak’s article is particularly interesting, because I think nearly everyone has smelled stinky gases from the sewers of nearly all the major malls, so if methane ends up the culprit, some sort of action needs to be taken.
On to the world beyond our borders. US Senate approves more funds for RP so long as government solves killings.
In Thailand, Tycoon Politics Return to Thailand.
In The Freedom Agenda Fizzles, Fred Kaplan describes how American officials frantically tried to convince the President of Pakistan not to impose martial law. Apparently, he proved unwilling to be swayed, unlike our own president who received a visit from US spookmaster Negroponte in January, 2006, when GMA was serious about proclaiming martial law. Read Pervez’s Power Play for an additional blog roundup. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Ousted Top Judge Calls for Uprising:
Sacked top judge Chaudhry called on his countrymen to save the constitution, prompting authorities to sever mobile phone coverage in parts of Islamabad as he addressed a meeting of lawyers by telephone. “I want lawyers to spread my message to the people of Pakistan,” he said to cheers from supporters before all lines went dead. “The time for sacrifice has come, to rise up for the supremacy of the constitution,” he added.
In his blog, The Washington Note says Dubya’s stuck in a trap of his own making:
The fact is that we have to deal with democrats and dictators around the world. The CNN clip did a good job showing how we had worked with Saddam in the past and other tough self-dealing thugs like Noriega, Marcos, and the Shah. We could get away with that in the Cold War when America was clearly a better overall alternative to the Soviet Union — but today, there is nothing else for global citizens making choices about their own governments to compare America to.
Our choices define us — and yes, we still have to deal with some of the world’s bad guys. But Bush set up a huge hypocrisy test which he shouldn’t have. George W. Bush’s pretensions in January 2005 puffed up a democracy bubble that Musharraf has definitively punctured.
In South Korea, Philippine school linked to scandal in South Korea over fake diplomas. Note that its South Koreans who faked their diplomas, not Philippine schools.
A final word about the fucked-up NPC mural. Pardon my French.
Look, if you are going to commission an artist’s collective, regardless of what you spend, you don’t fuck around with their painting. Don’t like it? Ask for revisions, but considering you commissioned a collective, which is a type of organization that obviously has ideological principles as its foundation, good luck with that. Still don’t like it? Return it. Don’t have time? Tough, don’t put the painting on display. Still want something on your wall? Put up a government poster, if you’re the NPC.
But when you fuck around with a painting expect a big, royal, resounding “Fuck you!” in return. You’re dealing with artists from Angono, not corporate drones who can Photoshop on client demand.
Conrado de Quiros says it better.
And good news, particularly since no renaming of streets was involved: Finally, a boulevard named after ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno.