SONAmbulism

Here are my thoughts on the President’s Eighth State of the Nation Address (pictures and video here), as I conveyed them on Korina Sanchez’s show and briefly on Channel News Asia (Singapore).

A State of the National Address, in particular, has two main audiences in mind. Those sitting in the Session Hall of the House of Representatives, that is, officialdom; and those watching or listening on TV or the radio (or lately, on the Internet) -the citizenry. The President can be more subtle when it comes to sending messages to fellow members of the political class; she has to be more explicit when it comes to the impressionable public or politically naive allies such as the Catholic hierarchy (to whom she pledged the adoption of “natural” family planning as her government’s definition of birth control).

First, however, some thoughts on what we should bear in mind. This is the penultimate, or next to the last, State of the Nation Address the President will be making, under her current term of office. It is also the last she will be making as an effective president. By sheer force of tradition and reality, if presidential elections are held under the current rules in May, 2010, this means next year’s State of the Nation Address must be her swan song. This is her last chance to really push the country in the direction she wants; it is the last such occasion where Congress and the local officials need her, in a sense, more than she needs them.

By next July, the presidential campaign would have been well under way; her ruling coalition, quite conceivably, would be up for grabs as officialdom obsessed over which candidate to affiliate with and support. Her cabinet would be, by then, composed of tired, old holdovers deprived of prospects in the next dispensation, as the more politically-adept and ambitious would have started resigning by then, to run for higher office, enter a comfortable (and relatively case-free) retirement secure in the knowledge that their successors would bear the brunt of the inevitable lawsuits that accompany every change in dispensation. She would be a lame duck, though far from powerless.

The stark political choice facing her would be to dangle the prospect of her figuring out a way to keep the coalition fat, content, and in power, or throw in the towel now, and thereby fan the embers of ambition already glowing in the hearts of several prospective presidential candidates: to adopt a fatalistic attitude is neither like her nor politically wise; to at the very least hint that she has the means to reward and punish members of her coalition, and that they may have a prize worth brazening it out with her, is, I’d argue, not only clever, but necessary.

Her defense of her policies on VAT, which came as no surprise, carried with it this statement which I think distills the message she’s trying to convey to her coalition:

Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis.

This was her warning to a coalition that, if you noticed the volume of their applause during the entire VAT-related portion of her speech, was quite publicly torn between manifesting its bootlicking for the President and not being too enthusiastic about a President prepared to be unpopular, but who can do so while they all have to bear the crushing memory of Ralph Recto’s going down in flames during the last election because of being tagged as the chief legislative architect of the VAT.

She warned them, essentially, that no money, no honey -and buttressed her point by listing, in detail, the multitude of programs she and her coalition must undertake, not only to help the poor, but court their votes. I believe that politically, the observation of that Bear Stearns analyst back in 2005 remains valid: eVAT provides the funding for patronage in our government, and the President pointedly reminder her coalition on which side their fiscal bread is buttered. Filipinos may instinctively realize the government isn’t to blame for the rise in the price of oil, they may be so naturally docile that in truth, rioting in the streets is a remote possibility; but she knows as well as they, that as the nation’s stewards they will get the blame for the belt-tightening everyone has to undertake at present.

Retaining VAT, then offers up the best possible combination: in certain respects, it is the appropriate response at the appropriate time, providing a windfall necessary for funding relief to the poor; at the same time, it maintains an appearance of government sobriety and even political will, in being unpopular domestically but impressive to the bankers and financiers whose blessings have helped obtain favorable credit (and rates) for the government; and relief becomes a convenient cover for patronage.

And perhaps as an exercise in demonstrating how unpopularity can still result in popular applause, there was this, most-noticed and sole genuine crowd-pleaser in her speech:

Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.

Which was as much a shot across the bow at big business, as it was a sop to gain propaganda points from the public. As of this writing, talk is already going around that this is a “limited time only” thing, perhaps along the same lines as the President having used moral suasion to demand that the oil companies roll back oil prices in the weeks leading to her speech. And while the oil companies grudgingly complied -but stated, with ill-disguised bad humor, that this might be one of the last times the President could do that to them- and while the telecoms companies will have to react to the President planting the idea of cheaper SMS messages in the public’s mind, this is of no consequence to her. The propaganda points have been made, she can worry about businessmen later.

This was the passage that I felt was overlooked by most but which was pregnant with meaning:

The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.

The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.

Why do I say this statement’s pregnant with meaning?

Ricky Carandang on July 21 laid out the stage for what actually unfolded today:

Recent efforts by the Regime to resurrect the long dormant peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have led to pronoucments by lead negotiators Rodolfo Garcia and Hermogenes Esperon that revisions to the constitution would be required in order to give more legal and fiscal autonomy to the expanded region of Muslim Mindanao. They point to a resolution to shift to a federal form of government proposed by, of all people, Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

This means that aside from Arroyo and her politicans, there will be a significant number of people in Mindanao who will find it in their interest to support charter change this time around. The regime can also pre-empt potential opposition from the international community by arguing that that the revisions would enhance stability in Mindanao and make it less susceptible to terrorism. In which case extending Arroyo’s term would be a small price to pay. I’m told that this the line taken during Arroyo’s recent working visit to the US. Its almost like blackmail. If you want stability in Mindanao, you must allow us to stay in power beyond 2010.

Even as it puts the wheels into motion, the Regime can therefore argue that amending the Constitution will not be self serving, it will be a big step towards a lasting peace in Mindanao. Besides, it will argue, it was actually the opposition, through Senator Pimentel, that proposed the idea, not us!

Mindanao is the President’s achilles heel. Recently I was able to have a talk with a former official (see my blog entries, Thoughts on Mindanao and Dismal Diplomacy), among others, who confirmed my view that the increase in rice prices in Mindanao reflected war jitters -or as the former official preferred to explain it, an added premium on all business activity in Mindanao to reflect uncertainty and risk. From what I’ve been able to gather, the dilemma facing the President, as far as Mindanao concerned is simple: the government only has enough money to attend to programs for the poor, or to fight a war in Mindanao, but not both. The last thing it needs are for tensions to rise there, further complicating the situation.

And that situation has been bad and deteriorating for some time, as the President has had to coddle her Moro allies from the traditional and warlord clans, who hold government positions, while parlaying with the MILF. But what should have enabled her to negotiate from a position of strength, has proven less than outstanding in recent months. If you survey the papers, NPA offensives have increased not only in the Visayas (which may be due less to an actual increase in the ranks of the NPA, but low morale and poor leadership in the AFP) , but also in Mindanao, where there is talk of a growing MILF-NPA tactical alliance. This has given the MILF, if I understand it correctly, added clout, while the President’s dilemma is that the forthcoming ARMM elections -widely expected to go the way of her allies, by hook or by crook- would deprive the MILF of a chance to not just sit at the bargaining table, but formalize its control over some areas. The MILF’s ultimate strength, of course, is its perceived ability to cause real mayhem if things deteriorate to the point of open hostilities.

Put another way, she owes her allies a victory in the ARMM elections but she will be hard-put to convince the MILF and other rebel groups she’s serious about bringing them into the Republic’s fold if all they can look forward to is being on the outside looking in on her allies ruling the official roost in Moro areas. Not to mention the demand of the MILF for the President to find a way to expand the territory covered by the ARMM, without making the MILF a party to a plebiscite, which might prove embarrassing if it results in a loss for the proposed expanded ARMM (it seems many of the areas proposed for addition to an enlarged ARMM are borderline majority Muslim, at best, and in the case of quite a number of towns, borderline Christian-dominated).

The President, a political pragmatist, wasn’t inclined to postpone the ARMM elections previously but recently, there’s been a noticeable shift, after things got a bit warm with Malaysia’s showing its displeasure with our official foot-dragging on the peace process (said the former official: the real Malaysian concern is that the fluid situation in Mindanao is leading to the kind of power vacuum governments abhor; Malaysia doesn’t want a further radicalization in Mindanao which has already caused problems because radicals who find refuge in Mindanao then smuggle arms to Malaysia’s own radicals).

As Carandang suggests, perhaps because it offers up the prospects of finally accomplishing Charter Change at a time when the Palace can count on an obliging Supreme Court to smooth away all constitutional obstacles to either Charter Change as a whole, or the expansion of the ARMM’s territory. During Korina’s show, I had the chance to ask Sec. Jesus Dureza some questions (I have interacted with him in the past, in his capacity as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in which he laid out, in bold strokes, the government’s willingness to basically offer Commonwealth status for Muslim Mindanao).

I asked him (Dureza) about the President’s statement, and specifically, what the agreement arrived at last night was about good courtier, he said I was being fanciful but then he hemmed and hawed, saying he wasn’t a party to the negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, but that what seemed to be on the table was not expanding the current ARMM but rather, creating an additional (for lack of a better word) ARMM II. While he pooh-poohed the possibility of Charter Change in general terms, he declined to give additional details as to how whatever has been agreed upon, will be carried out, broadly hinting that it merely had to do with scheduling a plebiscite to approve the ARMM II, which required a law. If the coming days reveals that the MILF has suddenly returned to the bargaining table and gone as far as withdrawing their objections to a referendum, there was obviously a quid pro quo.

Could it involve something as easily fixed as postponing the ARMM polls (sending those interested in it as a laboratory for electoral automation into hysterics, and probably irritating the President’s warlord and traditional Moro allies, too, specially if they will then have to share power with MILF nominees)? Maybe; but the possibility of going whole hog by using it as a cover for broader constitutional change -by declaring it “political reform”- seems to me quite probable. The dividends are too tantalizingly delicious to pass up. Allies -from the USA to Malaysia- will be reassured; business might perk up; popularity might be reclaimed if Federalism proves politically attractive; the MILF and other groups will be pacified; and the ruling coalition and the President get a new lease on power.

This is why the President didn’t dwell, unlike last year, on her leaving office and instead, issued a warning to potential succesors. This is why the speech she delivered focused on pandering to the groups who’d check-mated her Charter Change and other ambitions in the past, from the bishops to businessmen: delivering, instead, a speech, which if you dissect it, is a gigantic public works/pork barrel roster.

[email protected] takes a cue from Queen Elizabeth I and puts forward a satirical version in the manner of a Speech from The Throne; A Filipina Mom Blogger offers up a parent’s reaction; over at Filipino Voices, there is a call for less market intervention and a whole lotta hope. And finally, here is how the Palace wants you to interpret the President’s speech.

119 comments

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  1. The Little Red Riding Robin Hood of VAT defends the VAT:the source of funds for political patronage for charter change

  2. Manolo

    I can already imagine the rationale for her expected change of mind regarding term extension via a charter change maneuver:

    Gloira will say:”The Philippines is in the midst of a serious economic crisis.We cannot afford to have a serious disruption in the delivery of goods and services to the poor.Therefore,with great reluctance on my part,I heed the call of the masa for me to continue leading this country,which I love so dearly”.

    Wanna bet?

    • frombelow on July 29, 2008 at 12:32 am

    “I can already imagine the rationale for her expected change of mind regarding term extension via a charter change maneuver:”

    After seeing the death of the Hello Garci scandal and the “shameless” attitude of the middle class, the Church and other sectors of the society towards the litany of scandals which happened afterwards, I threw in the towel.

    I just hope that I live longer to see the end of all this as I think only a force of fate will take GMA away from us.

    • PSI on July 29, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Ricky Carandang’s scenario of PGMA’s term extension via a Constitutional amendment using the “peace-at-last” for Mindanao in not entirely inpalusible. The Mindanao politicos will go for it , with Senator Nene Pimentel as the first premier of the Mindanao commonwealth

    The incumbent politicians and warlords of Luzon and Visayas will maybe go for it, if only to extend their own stay in power without spending money. Some senators, too. But what will they offer the presidents-in-waiting like Senate President Villar.

    U.S. Ambssador Kenney and the mandarins at the State Department may look at the other way, but remember the U.S. And so with other development partners.

    But the Filipino people will read through the whole plan as just self-perpetration in power. Not after nine years of the same ruler. Ninety million Filipinos couldn’t be that stupid. Let us have the 2010 elections!

    Nyet.

    • Chabeli on July 29, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Maybe my earlier comments may be more apt on this thread:

    I am more pissed off at Gloria than ever before after listening to her SENSELESS SONA. If her purpose in her SONA was to show that she cares for her people, I am sorry to rain on her parade, but it was not believable at all ! She doesn’t have the look, much less the face, or voice for that matter, to play the part of being so concerned about the Filipinos.

    As compared to previous SONAs, Gloria barely had any make-up (notice how her eye bags were so noticeable !), wearing only earrings & even her nails were not painted. It was soooooooooo studied. If her spin doctors thought that by Gloria looking kawawa, she would get the sympathy of the people, they are mistaken. No matter what the spin doctors try to do at this point, Gloria’s broken credibility cannot be salvaged anymore ! The recent polls taken by the SWS, Pulse Asia & Ibon Foundation reveal that majority of the people HATE GLORIA. That is her reality. That is the true State of the Nation !

    If I may also add, the comedy was the Text thingy ! Gloria actually endorsed the promo of the 50 centavo per text of SMART !

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 2:43 am

    I believe this sentence to be in error:

    The stark political choice facing her would be to dangle the prospect of her figuring out a way to keep the coalition fat, content, and in power, or throw in the towel now.

    Available are more choices than two.

    • Bencard on July 29, 2008 at 3:54 am

    nothing is more pathetic than hungry critics thirsting for blood being reduced to wimpy crybabies slurping their own saliva. pgma’s sona was great as can be. when nothing can becriticized about it except the inclusion of reduced texting rate (derided by abs-cbn’ folks and “analysts”), then it must be great. those questioning her facts and figures were invited by her to check them. they are matters of public record.

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 4:17 am

    And there it goes again…..

    Before GMA went to Washington DC to meet with Bush (and the nominees for the USa November elections) Ellen Tordesillas and many others were busy with this “rumor they had heard from well-placed sources” that GMA’s purpose for the visit was to get USA permission to impose martial law.

    Then the retraction.

    Now the dead rises with the message from Caranandang-and-others of a Trojan horse — peace-with-MILF : Q3 quotes Carandang :

    I’m told that this the line taken during Arroyo’s recent working visit to the US. Its almost like blackmail. If you want stability in Mindanao, you must allow us to stay in power beyond 2010.require

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Doesn’t anybody talk about jobs-creation programs?

    And I get this impression that (other than when it became a hot topic because GMA pushed for more English) without a cheating story, Pinas newspapers will not will NOT write about education programs.

    • supremo on July 29, 2008 at 4:26 am

    GMA can say whatever she wants during the SONA but she should not paint an incomplete picture. For example, the RORO was mentioned but not North Rail or NAIA Terminal 3, MILF was mentioned but not the NPA, call center but not tourism, clean water but not clean air and so on.

    • supremo on July 29, 2008 at 4:49 am

    ARMM II then ARMM III. Pretty soon every Muslim tribe will have there own autonomous region. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just got this impression that as soon as the government signs a peace agreement with a Muslim separatist group another one is born with the same agenda. Remember that the MILF broke off from the MNLF just after Misuari signed the Tripoli Agreement.

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 4:50 am

    actually, supremo… you just answered my question as to why Pinas newspapers do not cover jobs-creation nor education programs. There is not enough space — the newspapers can only write about the issues that everyone else are hot and furious about given that the rest of the newspapers are reserved for advertisements.

    So GMA excludes mention of NAIA Terminal 3 and Sulpicio (and what’s-her-name’s-candidacy for ICC) because there is only so many minutes in a day.

    It is also the same phenomenon with regards political web blogsites. Someone from Newsweek wrote:

    One would have hoped that the presence of millions of little press lords on the Web would mean a much greater range of stories. Instead, Web traffic closely tracks the latest cable obsession.

    • hvrds on July 29, 2008 at 6:47 am

    It is most surprising that mainstream media in the Philippines do not report important news that emanate from the Halls of Empire.

    http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1262
    “Where our government has been able to bring America’s civilian and the military assets together to support local partners, there have been incredibly promising results. One unheralded example, one you will not read about in the newspapers, is in the Philippines. There the U.S. Ambassador – Kristie Kenney – has overseen a campaign involving multiple agencies working closely together with their Philippine counterparts in a synchronized effort that has delegitimized and rolled back extremists in Mindanao. Having a strong, well-supported chief of mission has been crucial to success.” Robert Gates

    The U.S. has fully engaged its resources to include its military in Mindanao.

    As far as the U.S. is concerned they most of all know the limitations of RP’s resources. The reason is simple. They do not want to create another semi-failed area of a state where criminals and terrorists will have free reign. More so close to the largest Muslim country in the world. Also the question of the resources in the area.

    The seas around the area are notorious for pirates and loosely guarded borders. Too close to the Straits of Malacca and the alternate route to and from the M.E. and Europe. Like always the Phils is simply the all willing and generous concubine as it has completley failed in its obligations.

    • hvrds on July 29, 2008 at 6:57 am

    The main strategy of the U.S. in their new drive to maintain empire is the old Marshall plan.

    Areas of Mindanao are devoid of state power. The U.S. is stepping into the void. Dureza is the new Press Sec. Esperon is the head of the peace panel. They take their marching orders from their favorite ‘uncle’ so to speak.

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

    No!!! No!!! The US must not be allowed to be the policeman of Mindanao. And if I have to volunteer cvj to serve as a Philippine marine, then I will!!!!

    • leytenian on July 29, 2008 at 7:47 am

    I actually like her speech. She sounded very concern but with assurance. She did mention investment to create employment. Our national economy is branded as an Odious regime since the 70’s….Cha-Cha might be the answer. The big businesses owned by filipino elites will be threatened. The foreign investors have capitals to compete. Let them in and allow competition.

    From cut and paste:
    The positive side of ChaCha.
    “to REWRITE some of the nationalistic provisions enshrined in the 1987 constitution that INHIBIT foreign investment in CERTAIN sectors ( not all) of the economy. ”

    “Significantly, some segments of the international investment community seem eager to cha-cha. In a recent research report, investment bank Credit Suisse predicted that the Philippines could gain a one-notch sovereign credit-rating upgrade from one or two global rating agencies if the reforms were soon implemented.”

    The Negative side …”the introduction of a parliamentary system would require the establishment of an interim government which could mean Arroyo will stay in power.” Who cares? if employment is assured. Kelan pa ba?

    Abaya said this is the WRONG TIME for a charter change and his reason is corruption. .corrupt na man talaga ang brand nang pinas… An Odious Regime since Marcos….
    so what’s new…

    I would go for Cha-Cha with or without Gloria. lol

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 8:31 am

    leytenian: In a country way in excess of 20-million voters, there will be some who feel themselves so fragile (or the powerhouse little woman called GMA so formidable, or because Jupiter, Mars and Pluto have the wrong alignment or because it is the wrong Feng shui) that they want the status quo — no change —- for fear a bone gets crushed from impact, be it from an eathmover bulldozer or a bicycle.

    then there are those who are kapit-patalim who will embrace change —- any change. Any-but-this is better because there is a promise of… well… change.

    Then, there are the OCW’s who live outside the country whose cash flow are not affected that much by Philippine politics.

    Democracy…. many personalities.

    • KG on July 29, 2008 at 8:44 am

    GMA must have read my mind
    after saying that it would be a fashion show,then surprise a human prop na naka bahag.Human props, they are normal by the way.

    Another based covered is the figures and pictures,na alam ko na it won’t even qualify as a prior hypothetical when I said that; because lahat naman ng presenation meron nito.for me just mentioninng the thing that it is of public record is more than mentioning the obvious.
    so maili ako na ito ang isa sa paraan na magpapakalma sa mga naghahanap ng transparency.
    ako na din ang nagsabi na madami tayong ngos for anti corruption,bakit laganap pa din,is it really unstoppable , masokista ba tayo or another reason or more that is benign0ish.

    maiba tayo.napansin nyo ba ang dagger looks nya kay Mar roxas nung binaggit na vat, at political ambition, ako hindi, si Miriam napansin ..kaya ko nalaman na me tinitigan sya ng masama sa front row, si Biazon at si Roxas lang naman ang pwede nyang titigan ng masama
    dun.si biazon naman end na ng term kaya malamang swap sila ni ruffy. that is kung tumakbo at manalo si ruffy sa senate at mag congressman si Senator Biazon sa munti.or maybe another one of those prior hypotheticals of mine.

    • cocoy on July 29, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Which was as much a shot across the bow at big business, as it was a sop to gain propaganda points from the public.

    i quite agree that this is all propaganda.

    As for Mindanao, Arroyo and for that matter governments before hers have tip-toed around the problem of Mindanao. it has been a perennial problem. Political maneuvering via “peace talks” has time and again only paid for MILF and other groups to shore up their power and at the cost of the lives and prosperity of Mindanao. If Arroyo can solve the problem of Mindanao, bring peace there before her term ends— in however way, then perhaps nearly a decade under her mediocre watch wouldn’t be in vain after all.

    • leytenian on July 29, 2008 at 9:06 am

    In 2005: People favor charter change in Visayas-Mindanao
    http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=12&fi=p051108.htm&no=12

    Cebu businessmen believes Charter Change could spur economic growth
    http://piaro7ord.blogspot.com/2006/04/cebu-businessmen-believes-charter_28.html

    People who are directly affected in any system change will have to fully understand or be aware of it. Government information agencies whose task was supposed to inform the grassroots failed miserably. The reason why past charter change proposal from Ramos to Estrada then to Gloria using different keywords got negative publicity because government failed to translate our vision into common action that majority must fully understand well to elicit mass action and support.
    hay naku…

    • KG on July 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

    mentioning the number of cases solved by the ombudsman can work two ways,dunno if dammed if she does or damned if she does not. ooops damned is only one way.

    baka mas madami ang corrupti officials sa time nya,o binigyan nya ng mataas na budget ang office,dahil palagi mababa ang budget …o ang pansupalpal ke villa ignacio na low moral daw ang office,mahilig ako sa multiple choice eh.

    taman na nga ….ito last na
    bakit di nakikinig si bong revilla ke gma tuwing finofocus sa mga senador ang camera at binabasa na lang nya ang presentation handouts.?
    baka si ate vi na ang tatakbo na vice and he is willing to give way, no more multiple choices.babye

    • Liam Tinio on July 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

    can i ask you a question?

    will you find it ludicrous if i say its gonna be a
    Loren-Chiz tandem for the administration come 2010?

    • mlq3 on July 29, 2008 at 11:03 am
      Author

    Folks, you may find this interesting: re: text messaging.

    http://www.migsmobile.net/2008/07/29/text-to-others-promo/

  3. Is it just me or is GMA’s biggest problem is that she’s not a compelling speaker at all?

    • Phil Cruz on July 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    She is one “lucky bitch”, isn’t she?

    In the worst of economic times for the nation, she is deliriously happy. She is awash with VAT money to do as she pleases …to play the heroine… with no control from a useless timid legislature.

  4. About Mindanao, William Esposo writes:

    I first wrote about the US real agenda in Mindanao in my “Who is the US supporting in the Mindanao War?” column of August 19, 2007 and “What’s in it for the US in an independent Moroland?” column of September 2, 2007. Both are available in http://www.chairwrecker.com archives.

    I wrote in September 2, 2007 that “A US Protector of an independent Moroland will provide the following benefits to American geopolitical interests in the region:

    1. The US is able to deal first hand with the threat of extremist Middle East Muslims spreading its clout in the region, especially in Indonesia which has the biggest Muslim population. If you were the US, you would rather deal with that problem yourself than entrust it to a corrupt, incompetent Philippine government.

    2. The main objective of Mindanao Muslims to have their own Moroland is not incompatible with US interests especially if such an independent Moroland enhances the US presence in Asia’s strategic region and can be the repository of US weapons, including nuclear (now banned by the 1987 Constitution).

    3. It may just be cheaper and easier for the US to serve their geopolitical interests through an independent Moroland under their Protection rather than be dealing with the Philippine government and all its attendant problems with a dysfunctional democracy, worsening poverty and unchecked insurgency. US patronage will always be more enticing to Muslim Mindanao warlords compared to what they are now getting from Philippine politicians. It can only be a blissful union.

    what do you think, people?

    • Phil Cruz on July 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    And the Makati Business Club, etc.. are pleased that she stood pat on the VAT? What do they care? They could always adjust their prices and profit margins and let the consumers carry the burden.

  5. Liam Tinio says:

    can i ask you a question?

    will you find it ludicrous if i say its gonna be a
    Loren-Chiz tandem for the administration come 2010?

    This guy’s an insider; you bettere believe.

    • mlq3 on July 29, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    i think billy is living in the 1950s.

  6. Parang ang weird nung assertions ni Billy Esposo.

    I mean… an independent “Moroland” serving the interests of the US better than its longtime (if somewhat strained-relationship) ally, regardless of who sits in the Palace?

    Apologies to Mr. Esposo but… aren’t those assertions rather far-fetched? I know that anything can be possible in power politics, but there’s always a logic, if perverse, to moves and countermoves in the Game of Thrones.

    I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but… wouldn’t US support for an “Independent Moroland” send the wrong signals to its other allies and partners in the region, as well as push more people into China’s umbrella? If the US can condone the dismemberment of its own former colony, who else in the region is safe?

    • Liam Tinio on July 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    lol billy esposo is just substituting Communist with Moro.

    re: Malaysia, MILF, and the ARMM

    1.) Malaysia does not need to fear Islamic fundamentalists to thrive in Mindanao because the Malaysian-majority are Islamic fundamentalists themselves.

    2.) We do not ‘really’ need Malaysia in any of our talks with the MILF because there are 2 better, ethnophilic allies we can turn to, Indonesia and Brunei. oops.

    3.) US concern in Mindanao does not go beyond training exercises and obtaining intelligence. The Philippines and Mindanao in particular is the perfect ground to gather terrorist activity in the region because of the pre existing military installations in General Santos and the pro-American disposition of Filipinos. A spy tower.

    4.) There is yet to be an American policy for Mindanao. It will come around February/March 2009. But as of now, there is nothing really significant about the Philippines for the US to put much brainwork into.

    5.) The ARMM and Federalism will be the key to charter change. PGMA is only in jitters because of the looming uncertainty in the upcoming ARMM elections result. But why should she be afraid when almost everyone left in ARMM are her allies, and that those living under it still maintain a strong sense of feudal tradition.

    6.) It will be a federal state rather than a commonwealth.

    • Liam Tinio on July 29, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    @that smart thing

    odd.. because the first commercial on paper i saw was from globe.. haha this just betrays by disdain for tv news.. except anc of course..

  7. “Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.”

    I tried testing this one out just today. however, it is still 1 peso per sms.

    • PSI on July 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Some cynics and perpetual doubters are saying that PGMA’s tired look during the SONA was part of the Malacanang propaganda. In fairness, I believe that she is really tired running the country with all its huge, seeming insurmountable problems.

    And concerned about her achievements, I think, as time is running out. Unless you’re one of those crazy despots, any leader would want to leave a legacy.

    If things don’t change, she will go down in history as the worst president of the Republic, based on surveys, even worse than Macoy.

    She wouldn’t want that. After all, there’s life after her presidency for her and her family.

    • Phil Cruz on July 29, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Special envoy on trade and investment to China and former Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. president Ambassador Francis Chua, wants the VAT. He says that taking away the VAT on oil will only benefit the rich. That’s Malacanang’s line. Parroted by many businessmen, as well.

    Such tomfoolery!

    Taking away the VAT on oil will benefit the rich, yes, of course. But it will also benefit the poor. The poor is not saying “don’t give the rich the benefit.” They are merely saying “if it will also benefit us, then do it!”

    • hvrds on July 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    While India, China and Brazil are tangling with the G-7 re: the Doha round on critical issues, our leader points to man dressed in his underwear to make a point that she has gone to great lengths to help a tribe of 15,000 people plant vegetables and become self suffcient due to a certificate of ancestral domain.

    From there she talks about the PSE, foreign investors and BPO.

    There are approximately 16-17M families in the Philippines. When the leader of the country speaks she speaks with ready platform and more frequently than not the prism she will use to tangentially describe her reality will almost always be centered on what she has done. Increasing cigarrette taxes through legislation would put her versus her main guy Lucio Tan. If it was choice in increasing sin taxes and taxing the poor. Guess who wins out?????

    So much BS for the poor who pay a disproportionate amount of their income for VAT. That is the crime.

    Creating this little PR models of actual accomplishments to project that, yup we are on our way.

    But that guy in his underwear right up to the BPO industry shows how broadly disparate economic/political and social systems and structures are in the country.

    Man I did not see that gown which Joker called “rapacious” of Loren. Why no photos of it. That man in his briefs and Lorens back would have made it as the highlights.

    • Phil Cruz on July 29, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I think Gloria’s resources can now match Danding’s… as political kingpin or kingmaker in 2010. She can soon do unto Danding what she did to FVR and JDV. Send him into oblivion.

    • marcelo on July 29, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Folks, this from this blog:

    “The dividends are too tantalizingly delicious to pass up. Allies -from the USA to Malaysia- will be reassured; business might perk up; popularity might be reclaimed if Federalism proves politically attractive; the MILF and other groups will be pacified; and the ruling coalition and the President get a new lease on power.”

    Check mate would you say?

    Hardly. Two years are two centuries in politics, whether in the Philippines or elsewhere.

    The point, however, is that the opposition better have a position intellectually and politically more compelling than “Anything But Gloria,” in 2010, especially if she rolls out a scenario like the one enclosed in quotes above.

    Which brings us back to Mindanao.

    No, it makes no sense for the United States to dismember the almost viscerally pro-American Philippines (this attutude apparently covers most of our Muslim bretheren as well).

    Yes, it makes sense to keep on doing a peace process…any kind of peace process…with those pesky folks down south who have guns, RPG’s, mortars, IED’s and IUD’s (who knows) and not inconsiderable foreign support as well.

    Finally, let me leave you with one sobering point about us Pinoys up north. If the Philippine Government thought for one moment that it could use a military solution to win the war in the south in one year it would have tried to do so long ago. It is the inability to force a unilateral settlement that compels us to talk peace. This will apply to whovever sits in Malacanang in 2010 and beyond.

    Our Government has actually been playing realpolitik through successive administrations for a looooong time down south. And it’s better not to get too romantic about how to do things when guns do the talking.

  8. “We have our disagreements, but we are one nation with one faith. As your President, I care too much for this nation to let anyone stand in the way of the people’s well-being. I will let no one threaten our nation’s survival. “GMA SONA 2008

    The DRAMA has begun!!!

    Expect shortly this political game scenario on how Gloria Arroyo will extend her term beyond 2010 in spite of constitutional restrictions.

    This will just be a repeat of the 2003 events when Gloria reneged on her 2002 Rizal day promise to the nation not to run in the 2004 elections.

    • Phil Cruz on July 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    So the ratings of Gloria keep dipping…. but at what point of the rating scale is the tolerance level of the Filipino?

    • rex on July 29, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    i think the public has come to accept the level of corruption in this government. they just want to wait for 2010 for gma to leave.

    but that could change if food prices continue to go up. bsp expects the inflation rate to hit 12 percent this month and remain in the double digits until march next year…

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    the mistake about the discussion on eVAT is the same mistake that q3 made with his sentence:

    The stark political choice facing her would be to dangle the prospect of her figuring out a way to keep the coalition fat, content, and in power, or throw in the towel now.

    False dichotomy. There are more choices than two. There is a missing middle.

    ————————–
    hvrds could have mentioned it a lot sooner …. what eVAT needs is calibration, not elimination.

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    and it is correct to say that GMA has “calibrated” the eVAT by using part of the proceeds to fund the NFA rice distribution. What GMA has not done is reduce the taxes on stuart-santiago, send a gift-box to chabelli or to give a tax-cut to the OCW’s, or fund to hire an extra 5,000 Philippine marines to train, then to send, against the MILF.

    Oh, yeah, also to fund the campaign to send what’s-her-name to the ICC, but not to build an extra hundred typhoon-proof primary school buildings for Bicol.

    But GMA has directed use of portion of eVAT windfall to subsidize rice for the poor.

    • cvj on July 29, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    IMHO, Esposo’s thesis is plausible.

    http://www.cvjugo.blogspot.com/2007/09/american-protectorate.html

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    cvj: are you saying that Mindanao Filipinos are inferior to Luzon Filipinos in their (Mindanao) being less nationalistic and/or being easier to “buy:” or easier to exploit?

    • UP n student on July 29, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    all the more reason I am encouraged to volunteer you to go to Mindanao…. for you to edumacate ‘dem natives. 🙄

    elitism does show itself in so many shades of white-and-green (or blue Arrrneoowwww; or UP whatever color they say is theirs).

    • mikel on July 29, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    poor gma-oppositionists. you’ve been all reduced to endless diatribes, false charges and innuendo’s, conspiracy theories and perpetual self-denial. diagnosis: clinically depressed.
    kawawa naman.

    • PSI on July 29, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Billy Esposo’s thesis is proceeding that the U.S. military will act as Leviathan in the disconnected gap that is southwestern Mindanao, from The Pentagon’s New Map.

    Rather, I agree with the others above, the the U.S. will remain to be the System Administrator maintaining peacekeeping, nation building, strengthening weak governments, etc.

    • cvj on July 29, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Upn (at 8:13 pm), nope i’m not saying that at all. You can double check for yourself by clicking through the link i provided.

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