Today’s Inquirer editorial, Laying the predicate, looks into the jitters provoked by the bombings in Cotobato, Jolo, and Iligan. Meanwhile, there is news of a possible reshuffle in the President’s cabinet, with hardliners (the “hawks,” who’ve been in the ascendant since 2005) supposedly poised to consolidate control over strategic departments. An intriguing aside to this is Tony Abaya’s belief (oddly enough unavailable on the online edition of his paper) that Interior Secretary Ronnie Puno’s being shoved aside because the Palace no longer trusts him -and the man he believes should be the next president, Gilbert Teodoro:
The logic goes like this. Once the Teodoro-Puno team wins the May 2010 polls – an easy enough task for the specialized expertise of Puno -. it is reasonable to assume that Puno will not wait for the Arroyo Dynasty to play itself out “until 2020 (or beyond) when Prime Minister Gloria Arroyo fancies she can turn the Philippines into a First World country.
Nor will Puno wait for the Teodoro Dynasty to exhaust itself, with Gibo and his wife taking turns at the helm, like the Kurchners in Argentina or the Binays in Makati.
By the time the Arroyos and the Teodoros step down from power, if ever, the presently 61-year old Puno will be 80 to 90 years old. All logic dictates that the ambitious Puno must make his move SOON, and the most logical time would be in the days or weeks following the May 2010 elections, when the newly elected Congresswoman from the second district of Pampanga, Gloria Arroyo, has not yet been chosen Prime Minister for Life by the Kampi (ironically, the personal creation of Puno), and the new President Teodoro and Vice-President Puno have not yet been stripped of their executive powers, as they would be under a parliamentary system of government.
And how would Puno betray Gloria Arroyo? Several ways. The most effective would be to release, or cause to be released, his dossiers on the Arroyos (which must be considerable by now) with or without the help of the Americans, who have their own dossiers on the First Couple.
Now there’s been speculation in the past (see my June 16, 2009 entry) that the President -or her hawks- wanted Teodoro out of Camp Aguinaldo, where he ended up in the first place because he and his uncle have long cultivated the top brass, preferring that he hold the Justice portfolio instead. The latest round of talk concerning the cabinet indicates this may finally happen, and that Hermogenes Esperon would finally get the Defense portfolio. Add to this Tony Abaya’s belief that Puno, presently Interior Secretary, is poised to be edged out by former Police General and prominent hawk, Ebdane. He has already been named Officer-in-Charge of the Interior Department.
What stirs things up further is the recent spate of bombings and how they’ve shifted from the amateurish efforts recently in Quezon City, to the horrifying blasts in Cotabato, Jolo, and Iligan -the targeting of two Catholic churches, in particular, represents a dangerous escalation of tensions. Coming at the heels of this is a scoop by The Daily Tribune which suggests CIA Chief Panetta is coming for a hush-hush visit, itself reminiscent of when then-Intelligence Czar Negroponte came to Manila as the government was mulling over declaring martial law in 2005-2006.
An intriguing possibility is thus raised. No plan ever unfolds in exactly the same way as an older one; even if one argues the administration would like to impose martial law, it cannot do it in exactly the same manner that say, Marcos did. If one makes the assumption the country would not tolerate martial law, what if martial law were imposed -but on only part of the country?
What if martial law were imposed only in Mindanao? The bombings, undeniably an escalation in that they’ve gone beyond “the usual,” could provide a justification for imposing martial law, which the House majority could healthily approve, since no one doubts the Senate and the House vote together, as one, in the specific case of authorizing or not, a declaration of martial law. And so the question for the Americans would be to find out if the plan is justified or not. The visit of Panetta is crunchtime, for the administration, in convincing Washington there’s something seriously afoot down South.
And the benefits? Restive elements in the military will be tied up going after the MILF or whoever; and as 2007 and 2004 proved, Mindanao is key (because the antidote to the uncontrollable massive Luzon vote) to providing victory for the administration and its candidates in 2010.