The Long View
Worth dying for?
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:27:00 07/15/2009
4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.
5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.
6. Knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men.
7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes: (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving spies.
8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can discover the secret system. This is called “divine manipulation of the threads.” It is the sovereign’s most precious faculty.
– Sun Tzu
SENATOR Francis Escudero once marveled at how the Palace swiftly co-opted every opposition effort to secure signatures for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s impeachment. Within an hour of any conversation with any congressman inclined to support impeachment, the Palace would be on the phone to negotiate a reversal of that representative’s pledge to support impeachment, whether explicitly or conditionally. Escudero says more often than not, the sheepish – and apparently, sheep-like – representative would call him back and announce a change in stand.
The sword is a double-edged weapon. Once the sword-wielder survives the cuts that come from initially clumsily handling the weapon, he will eventually become an expert swordsman. Intelligence – and the faulty handling of it – was a double-edged weapon for the President, but she and her people have refined their skills and continuously improved their use of it. And surely it has enabled the President and her people to take the measure of friends, foes and the public.
Sun Tzu advised, “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.” There, in a neat maxim, is one of the strategies of survival all these long years since 2001 or even 2005.
Whether it’s true or not that a Cabinet-level official met with the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Jesuits to “push the idea of a revolutionary government” to be headed by the President, it’s well worth noting that the national security adviser (who has Cabinet rank) publicly floated the idea back in June. Norberto Gonzales suggested that the President head a troika composed of both Houses of Congress, the judiciary, and the Church – adding he’d contacted leaders of the Catholic and various Protestant churches.
History never repeats itself exactly. Even if one detects a Marcosian provenance in Gonzales’ scheme, it’s with a modern-day twist. In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos threatened the Supreme Court with the possibility of declaring a revolutionary government, which would leave justices without jobs. He padlocked Congress while promising constitutional convention delegates (provided they voted for his draft of the constitution) and congressmen seats in a new national assembly provided they supported the New Society. Wave a stick, but dangle a carrot.
The Gonzales scheme impales the carrot on the stick. Jobs for the boys, instantly! Everyone will be happy because they will all have a seat in the revolutionary government.
Conveniently, Gonzales wasn’t charged with sedition or conspiracy to bring down the government. That’s not a surprise, is it?
What is surprising is the Pollyanna-like attitude displayed by too many that the President either wouldn’t dare, or that even if she did, the public wouldn’t stand for it. Honduras has contributed to this rosy-tinted view of things. The real lesson, it seems, is that Honduras’ ousted president came to power at the head of a particular, Center-Right coalition, but strayed away from it, and his straying away, together with his clumsy attempts to perpetuate himself in office, alienated both public opinion and his original political allies, so they threw him out.
The global outcry hasn’t put Manuel Zelaya back in office – or kept him in office, as the Americans admitted when, on the day of the coup, the State Department said it had warned the military against overthrowing their president but had been ignored.
President Arroyo, on the other hand, has consolidated her political supporters into a super-party that has sidelined the party veterans who had formerly wielded enough residual political prestige and power to (somewhat) limit her options. She has maintained the loyalty and support of a quarter of the population – a chunk that few of her rivals can muster on their own. This reservoir of loyalists has been repeatedly ignored and underestimated by her foes.
She has consolidated her grip on power by cultivating the police, purging the Armed Forces, cowing the bureaucracy, fattening or frightening big business as the case may be, plying the clergy with love offerings, enticing strategic segments of the media, plying the masses with basic services, and all the while keeping track of who is against her, and what they have at their disposal to resist her, while quietly reducing her critics’ ranks.
So if she were to impose emergency rule, or martial law, who is to say it wouldn’t merely be another step toward a revolutionary government, which in retrospect, might have been the more politically rewarding course to pursue in 2001? More importantly, who, or what, could stop her if she did? It is not whether anyone would die to defend her, but rather who would die to oppose her? And those who are willing to die – would the public hail them as martyrs, or consider them either as fools or vermin?
Then again in a revolutionary situation, who would even report the death toll? We would only hear the “silent majority” hailing the President’s “political will.” As Queen Amidala put it, “So this is how liberty dies – with thunderous applause.”