With those words, Urban II proclaimed the Crusades. Kings at the time “took up the Cross,” to fight in the Holy Land; and then, as now, kings and presidents, princes and governors, have been eager to wrap themselves in the mantle of the Holy Cross. As Machiavelli advised, the appearance of piety is more important than actually being pious.
My column for today is The Black Mass. What a “Black Mass” is, is described here. As for the various -conflicting- reports concerning the President’s midnight devotions, you can start with Bishop, NGO rally around Arroyo: Cite ‘destabilization plot’ and go on to the way officials couldn’t get their stories straight: Pre-midnight Mass at MalacaÃƒÂ±ang baffles officials (1:06 a.m.); then .Finally, the party line got sorted out, so that reportage in turn, changed: ‘Coup rumor’ sets out Mass for peace at MalacaÃƒÂ±ang (7:06 a.m.) and the Philippine News Agency churned out the final, final party line later that afternoon: Lucena bishop says CBCP prexy not calling for people power . This could then be amplified later on: Arroyo, supporters, hold Mass vs. ‘destab.’
The cast of characters at an presidential appearance always provides an insight into the motivations both of the President and the people who decide to show their clout by being seen in close proximity to her. The prelate who said the Mass was Lucena Bishop Emilio Marquez, who proposed the division of Quezon Province, which has been delayed because there seems inadequate funding for a provincial plebiscite before the 2010 elections. Together with Rep. Danilo Suarez, he’s been lobbying for a plebiscite to be held.
Of course the President, too, was deep in prayer for other intentions besides remaining in office.
Yesterday, the Inquirer editorial, Desperate for Obama, took a look at the increasingly-commented upon Desperately Seeking Barack mentality of the President. Tonight she leaves for the United States and another chance at securing that elusive photo opportunity with the American president-elect.
The Palace, seeing how any move to perpetuate itself in power gets people upset, tried to pour oil on troubled waters: Palace names choices for president:
Apart from De Castro, MalacaÃƒÂ±ang’s choices also include Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman Bayani Fernando of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte.
Over At Midfield, veteran newsman Ding Gagelonia puts it bluntly:
This listing is obviously aimed at making the wannabees salivate and look hard at their options anew and alert their Ã¢â‚¬ËœoperatorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and supporters…
Veep Noli is hands down sure to [r]un, secretary Teodoro will likely demure given that he has the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœyouth advantage (meaning he can wait his turn apart from assessing his own links with Ã¢â‚¬ËœBossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Danding Cojuangco), while Gordon, currently head of the national red cross has been going around the country sounding out his backers.
The last two gentlemen short-listed by Malacanang are in contrasting situations: Fernando is shamelessly peddling his mug everywhere in a blantant display of presidential ambition while the well liked mayor Belmonte, executive vice president of Lakas party, has been thinking of going back to reclaim his congressional seat in the 4th district of QC (with city pundits seeing this as a route to the speakership.
MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando is certainly whooping it up. A 100-truck motorcade trundled around Quezon City yesterday, to celebrate the Chairman’s doing well in Celebrity Duets. See Welcome to the Pink and Blue Parade in Filipino Voices:
There were over 100 trucks that plied C.P. Garcia Avenue this morning, all bearing praises for BFÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s win, Ã¢â‚¬Å“MMDA Labs U,Ã¢â‚¬Â and all that jazz (so to speak). You kind of figure where these trucks are supposed to be, you kind of figure what these trucks are supposed to do, and if some accident or mishap happens, and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all singing praises and joy for Mr. Fernando.
Wonderful. Great. Fantastic. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never been angrier.
New Philippine Revolution says that the Speaker of the House is poised to allow the impeachment complaint against the President to reach the committee level, at least. There could be many reasons for this, defusing public tension, or merely using the process as way to extract patronage concessions from the President. But in one respect, the blogger seems to have underestimated the ability -and willingness- of both the Palace and the House to juggle as many balls in the air as possible:
Well, I don’t know about you, but this is as sneaky as they can get. They would probably sacrifice Bolante and have him roasted at the Senate. They would probably allow the impeachment to pass the committee level. But, they’ll never, ever, give up on this stupid cha-cha gravy train.
But the main issue at hand is what the House of Representatives is poised to do, which is, to report out of committee, a bill proposing amendments to the Constitution.
They may not sacrifice Bolante at all. His malingering finally at an end (see Bolante can leave hospital–doctor), and public skepticism over the Ombudsman’s newfound energy concerning the charges against him having (for now) put that idea on the backburner, and even as the Senate holds a caucus today, to decide what to do with the Bolante investigation, there’s word that Rep. Mitra of Palawan wants to open an investigation in the House, and could do so as early as Wednesday. This would certainly provide a more hospitable environment for questioning Bolante and friends.
But the blogger is right in pointing to the Charter Change campaign going once more into high gear. Not least because the major obstacle to its success in the past -an independent Supreme Court- is increasingly a non-obstacle.
This brings up the deep unease with which the upcoming vacancies in the Supreme Court are being viewed: not least because a pattern is becoming evident in the way the justices are voting, which hews to the Palace line. Next year, Ruben Reyes, Adolfo Azcuna, Dante Tinga, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Leonardo Quisumbing, and Minita Chico-Nazario all retire from the court, but the vacancies will come at the heels of expected vacancies over the remainder of this year, too. So the Palace majority will be fortified sooner rather than later. Over At Filipino Voices, Ding Gagelonia recently reported that the Solicitor-General, widely expected to be among the President’s upcoming Supreme Court appointees, has started laying down the predicate for reversing the recent ruling on the BJE-MOA, for example:
Devanadera delivered a sharp twit to the high tribunal for allegedly violating the separation of powers in declaring the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity ancestral domain agreement unconstitutional.
DevanaderaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s broadside reads like a preview of a makeover given that there will at least 7 vacancies in the Puno court between now and 2010.
Today’s Inquirer editorial, Gloria and the Supremes, also sounds the alarm over the consequences of packing the court purely with loyalty as the consideration for appointment.
In his column, Joaquin Bernas, SJ, looks at the whole process of Choosing Supreme Court justices. For some time now he’s stated his personal conclusion that the Judicial and Bar Council System has failed, and that a return to the old system of requiring Congressional confirmation of Justices would be better.
Dean Jorge Bocobo over at Filipino Voices thinks the Supreme Court wouldn’t be so crazy as to throw away its reputation in craven obedience to the President. Along the way, he also gives a fine summary of the constitutional and procedural issues in play:
A major Constitutional conundrum has arisen around Section 1(1) above because two entirely different meanings may be given to the clause Ã¢â‚¬Å“upon a vote of three-fourths of all its MembersÃ¢â‚¬Â. It all depends on whether the CongressÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ two chambers, House and Senate, are to Ã¢â‚¬Âvote jointlyÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“vote separatelyÃ¢â‚¬Â to propose amendments or revisions for ratification at plebiscite.
There are those who argue that the Constitution here means Ã¢â‚¬Å“voting jointlyÃ¢â‚¬Â at the end of Art. XVII Section 1(1). By the way, this phrase occurs exactly once in the present 1987 Constitution, in the famous Ã¢â‚¬Å“Martial Law ProvisionÃ¢â‚¬Â on the Executive..
So WHY have the Palace, the House and the Supreme Court been unable to do such a seemingly simple thing as establishing a Ã¢â‚¬Å“unicameral form of ConAssÃ¢â‚¬Â similar to the above provision, where the Congress members vote as individuals and so the Lower House by itself would have the required 195 or so votes (238 House Members plus 23 Senators gives 261 total) to satisfy the three fourths super majority rule?
A good reason is that the House Rules themselves acknowledge the voting separately principle!
Which leads him to his view that no Supreme Court would throw away its integrity or reputation on such a patently self-interested move by the Palace and the House. It’s happened before. Yet it’s remarkable how the benefit of the doubt is still so instinctive in many observers. As is the desire among the nonpartisan to find a non-confrontational, institutionally-oriented, means to salvage the situation, as Cocoy in Filipino Voices lays out, in what I think is a fair and accurate summation of the point of view of those who have refused, so far, to cast their lot with either side in the great political divide:
The most common theme in peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s responses to me is their expectation for an election in 2010. That is when they want a change in President. They do not want a change now because there is no one they trust. They do not support impeachment even though they believe the charges are right because it would simply be like throwing a pebble at an incoming 747.
Their responses does not by far say that they like Arroyo.
The people that I asked, can be found grumbling in front of the evening news at the sheer incompetence of those in charge. They find it incredulous as scandal after scandal come out that the ones on top of the food chain have such rampant and blatant disregard and who pervert and bend the law to their will. Ask them about BJE-MOA and people from Mindanao would be vehemently opposed to it. Given that perhaps in any normal day, the unconstitutional nature of BJE-MOA and such abuse might have been grounds enough for impeachment and conviction. We can safely say that these are not normal and is an unsettling time. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take a rocket scientist to see that.
The opposition has a credibility issue. An issue, one might add theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not been able to shake out of since FPJ and has since become worst. They are perceived as no better than Arroyo and her ilk. That incredible mistrust hurts any measure they wish the people would support whether impeachment or election. It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t apathyÃ¢â‚¬â€ it is more neutrality. Neither Arroyo nor Opposition has their side.
The people are fully aware of how things go. Whether it is local politicsÃ¢â‚¬â€ where people make money out of everyday and know the scope and breathe of it. Our people know that it is a politics of who you know and ultimately, money talks.
People have come to realize that national life is simply local politics writ large. And this realization simply proves and point that there is no distinction between Arroyo and Opposition. The disastrous result of past EDSAs and the failure of impeachment have more than galvanized the resolve of our people to fully expect an election in 2010.
The political landscape has hardly changed since 2004.
Everybody with a mind can clearly see that our national life is like one old machine, rusting on the seems and filled with patch work. It is not efficient but somehow, it moves along. The state of this machine, whether our assumptions of what a Republic and social justice is as framed to be the foundation of our national life is flawed. But clearly such judgment is for the collective will of the people to decide upon.
Especially as Arroyo pwns the Supreme Court as Justices retire, the fear of charter change as driven by Arroyo is not a fantasy. It is a clear and present danger that one such as her and her ilk who have gamed politics would bend permanently the very soul of our Republic and shape the future is even more so frightening. Clearly, they aim to tighten their control over this Republic. To unravel this Gordian Knot, perhaps it is this fear that we must face head on.
Ask our people in 2010Ã¢â‚¬â€ will you call for a Constitutional Convention?
Such push from the Heroes of past EDSAs would mean for their generation to accept they have failed. That their vision is flawed. That their brand of social justice is a failure. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you think, 20 years is enough?
Mon Casiple also brings up the point that the President’s own, original, Charter Change coalition has itself broken up:
What was interesting was the turn-about of those who were most vigorous in pursuing the presidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s charter change agenda in 2005-6 to favor constitutional convention over constituent assembly (also a surprising pro-Constituent Assembly position from unexpected sources), the common conclusion of the futility of pursuing it under GMAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s term (until 2010), and the sober assessment that we do need charter change for the right reasons.
Some of those who came are of course identified with former Speaker Jose de Venecia and may have reflected the latterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own turn-about on Charter change. However, it is also a sign of the deepening cleavages in the ruling coalition and the increasingly uncertain loyalties to the president that is plaguing its ranks. It is worthwhile now to revisit past political assumptions regarding the political staying power and the numbers in relation to the Arroyo administration. The current GMA charter change initiative increasingly takes on the character of a lonely, desperate campaign.
The GMA charter change initiative is an uphill proposition at this time.
Let’s hope so.
Incidentally, concerning the new American president-elect, see Inner Sanctum and The Warrior Lawyer and My Online Notebook for samples of public reactions to the President’s obsession with a photo-op, and most of all, Torn and Frayed in Manila, who takes a hard look at the incoming American administration’s foreign policy goals:
It is true that Asia as a whole seems likely to receive more attention from Obama than from previous presidents. According to a fascinating New Yorker piece on the candidates’ foreign policy agendas, the blueprint for the new administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s foreign policy can be found in a Phoenix Initiative report. This document lists only five Ã¢â‚¬Å“strategic prioritiesÃ¢â‚¬Â for the United States and of those only two are regional:
2. nuclear proliferation,
3. climate change and oil dependence,
4. the Middle East, and
5. East Asia.
Although East Asia is often narrowly defined (the Harvard Department of East Asia Languages and Civilizations, for example, concentrates on China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam), the Phoenix InitiativeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definition is much wider, something closer to the now discarded term Ã¢â‚¬Å“the OrientÃ¢â‚¬Â.
So if the USA is going to increase its focus on Ã¢â‚¬Å“East AsiaÃ¢â‚¬Â, wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that be good news for its traditional allies in the region?
Unfortunately for, say, the Philippines and Japan, who fit into that category, the Phoenix Initiative concentrates heavily on the anticipated future economic powerhouses of China and India. The comforting remark that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the long-term U.S. strategy must also reassure traditional friends and alliesÃ¢â‚¬Â canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t disguise the fact in a world dominated by real politik the USA will go where the action is.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was keen to stress yesterday that back in June Obama had written to Arroyo stressing the two countriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ shared interests, including Ã¢â‚¬Å“climate change, food security, poverty reduction, the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, human rights in Burma and defense reform.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fine and no one is going to claim that the US is going to abandon the Philippines, but letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s say you were an aspiring foreign policy professional in Washington, would you be brushing up on your Tagalog or your Mandarin?