And so it came to pass: SC approves recount for Pampanga governorship. Whether or not the high court’s decision to reverse it’s earlier status quo ante order reflects the dynamics of the new majority, the reality on the ground is that Panlilio’s administration will now be even more bogged down in the recount case, which leaves his many provincial enemies free to plot his downfall.
But then as today’s headline puts it, Gov.-priest ready to leave Church: Group backing Panlilio for president launched Sat. For some time now I’ve been skeptical of plans for Panlilio to run for the presidency. This is utter folly and reflects poor political judgment. In my July 11 Free Press commentary, A perfect plan, I argued that Governor Panlilio, who announced he was prepared to challenge her, in reaction to rumors the President was contemplating a run for the House in 2010, was falling into a trap. If the President ran for the House, it would displace her son; he would have to seek another post; that post, it seems, would be the governorship; but if Panlilio challenged the President by contesting her run for the House, not only would Panlilio lose to her, but he’d also relinquish the governorship to -who else- the President’s son, who would run as the unifying candidate for the Pineda-Lapid factions in the province.
A win-win for the Macapagal-Arroyo-Pineda-Lapid coalition, whichever way you put it.
As Mon Casiple recently put it,
The 2007 elections have brought us some surprises. The victory of Among Ed Panlilio in Pampanga, the reelection of Grace Padaca in Isabela, and the election to the Senate of military rebel Antonio Trillanes are often cited as harbinger of a new trend of reform voters (translate that to anti-trapo voters).
There are indications that this trend will be a factor in the 2010 presidential elections. I don’t think however that this has grown to a point where it can be decisive in electing a presidential candidate. The reason is that it is still on a spontaneous, nebulous awareness stage and not yet reflected as a purposeful, organized movement.
The appearance of new faces based on this, while providing fresh alternatives to jaded voters, will – on the short run – confuse, divide, and ultimately dissipate the impact of this reform factor. There simply are too many candidates, with too few votes, to win. It will also matter that the major presidential candidates will exert their own efforts to woo reform voters.
It is an irony that Prof. David’s tack to run for a congressional seat – even if portrayed as a Don Quixote initiative – may have more chances of winning (sans electoral fraud and violence). Independent reform candidacies at the presidential level simply does not have the critical mass to win by themselves at this time.
It seems more politically prudent -and politically inconvenient, for the President and her people- for reform candidates to consolidate their gains in the local level, for now. This is particularly important because reformists have to concentrate on supporting a viable senate slate in 2010, for there is a great danger in the administration coalition recapturing the senate. At the same time, the enclaves of reform that already exist, have to be preserved, lest they fall back into the hands of the usual suspects.
As the President’s inability to dislodge Jesse Robredo and Jejomar Binay proved, there are also limits to the national government’s -and the President’s, in particular- power to frontally attack enemies. If the reformist local executives all suddenly succumbed to the temptation to go national -before a constituency was prepared, because capable of being mobilized, to support them- it would mean the elimination of those reformist politicians from the political landscape just at the point they’d be most needed, for example, if the President were to herself surrender to the temptation to cut the Constitutional gordian knot by proclaiming a revolutionary government.
Faced with what seem to be -for now- insurmountable obstacles legally and in terms of timing, to shift the form of government to a unicameral parliamentary system by 2010, in recent weeks the drum-beating for Charter Change has given way to calls for the President to explore the possibilities of a revolutionary government -an autogolpe, in other words, reviving a scheme high in everybody’s minds in 2006.
On July 16, Alex Magno pushed forward the idea that there is a gordian knot, that only extreme measures can cut it, and by implication that the President’s destiny is to be a new Alexander; Carmen Pedrosa argues that Washington might be poised to accept such a move, instead of, say, supporting efforts to oust the President if goes for broke before the end of her term:
Therefore, those who hope that the same would happen to President GMA if she pursued Charter change are off the mark.
To a certain extent, though we’re on opposite sides, I agree with her. The reason is not that I think the unicameral, parliamentary system beloved by Pedrosa and Co. has either a genuine majority behind it (I do not think it does: see Parliamentary democracy in the Philippines would be a very bad idea for arguments), or that it would be better for the country (it would be better only for the current ruling coalition and it’s backers, period), but that at it’s heart, it has an idea that remains dangerously seductive: and that idea is, a New Society.
As for the seductiveness -and enduring qualities- of that idea, please see my column from December 26, 2007, Assessing Adrian. The seductiveness of the idea can also be gleaned from the willingness of those who might otherwise be expected to be irreconcilably at odds with each other, to not just talk, but possible achieve a meeting of the minds. See Politics in agenda of CJ Puno and Bert Gonzales in Newsbreak:
Gonzales and Puno seem to agree on some things. For one, the national security adviser believes in the chief justice’s warning that the country’s “social volcano” is about to erupt. “It is good that no less than the country’s chief justice sounded off the warning about our critical national situation,” Gonzales was quoted in reports.
He continued: “The call of the times for the three major branches of government, supported by key pillars of our society like the churches, civil society and mass movements, to agree to a transitional government respected by the armed forces.”
It seems to me, that if Fr. Intengan, Newbsreak’s source, isn’t lying, then there has to be a reason the Chief Justice would be OK with being mentioned as being willing to play footsie with the National Security Adviser. After all, even within opposition circles, the Chief Justice has been informally mentioned as having an open mind to the idea of a revolutionary government; something I used to think was more a case of wishful thinking and probably a case of misunderstanding the Chief Justice, on the part of oppositionists claiming to be in the know. Now, I’m not so sure. It may be that what the Chief Justice thinks is that the opposition cannot gain power, in which case, the cycle could possibly be broken by the President, in what could be portrayed as an act of supreme political will -and political redemption.
The reason the Chief Justice might think this way is because he is, after all, a man of faith, and so his default position is to consider anyone capable of a Road to Damascus Moment; but also, because he, like Gonzales, Intengan, the generals in the cabinet, and so forth, were all molded, in one way or another, by martial law: and the combined assumption that a New Society was, indeed, called for in 1972, but the only thing that went wrong was that Marcos didn’t fully internalize his own propaganda. They, on the other hand, remain true believers.
As Patricia Evangelista put forward on January 25 in In the court of the crimson king:
He is the man who represented the Marcos government in the martial law years with Marcosâ€™ solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, his mentor. He is the man who defended the 1973 constitution that extended the term of Ferdinand Marcos. He acted as both solicitor general and minister of justice in Mendoza’s stead at a time when many were lost and killed in the same fashion that those he stands for now were lost and killed.
So the lesson here is for those, like Magno, who formerly belonged to the Left; for those, like Pedrosa, formerly anti-Marcos but frustrated by the failure of Charter Change under Ramos and Arroyo; for the Chief Justice, who earned his legal spurs defending the New Society; for the military men in the Cabinet who helped enforce martial law and were the beneficiaries of that system: the time has come, to revisit Marcos, because they can out-Marcos the Great Dictator.
And this applies not just to those who lived through the New Society, but those who came after. The value of a trial balloon is that it not only gauges opposition to the idea, but also, helps sound out if a constituency exists in support of the idea. This is particularly true for official trial balloons, made by allies (who can be dismissed as speaking without authorization), but which enables a government, with far better means to weigh public opinion, to see who is for or against their idea.
Which brings me back to a point I’ve been making for some years now -let’s not underestimate the President’s constituency. Leandro Lojo’s commentary, A dangerous alliance, from March 1, 2008 provides a good summary of those who comprise a constituency for the President:
These people never outgrew the martial law era. They believe that the only way to express patriotism and love for country is by screaming their lungs out in the streets while holding a placard with a defaced picture of the President. These misguided idealists have arrogance running through their veins as they believe that they have a monopoly on righteousness. Whatever they do, they do because it is in the best interest of the nation. Well, since when did spray-painting a U-turn sign on Commonwealth Avenue with bold black letters that read “OUST GMA” [“OUST GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO”] become part of promoting the nation’s interest?
They have so much hate against the government that they have become allergic to rules. Their ideas push them to believe that the government and the people running it are perpetually bound to oppress the poor and enrich themselves. They make this eternal call for change, yet they don’t change – or better yet, they don’t want to change. These people waste resources, time and energy by burning effigy after effigy. They believe that only through noise, disorder, turbulence and confusion can a new society be born – descending slowly and graciously from the heavens, like the New Jerusalem, with angels singing in the background. Yes, that’s how blind they are.
In their minds, they are catalysts of change. In reality, they are plain and simple anarchists. They should start looking for jobs and become more productive.
On the other side of this alliance are the politically motivated personalities, hypocrites to the bone. They are using scandals and controversies to become more popular, and their end-goal is to get the highest political position possible. And they have been quite successful. Last year, we saw young congressmen rise to the Senate based, not on merit and achievements, but on controversies they had destructively stirred.
They are populists because it’s the only way they can climb the political ladder. They can’t enact strategic legislation, which will provide long-term benefits, such as developing the transportation system, increasing exports, improving revenue collection and assisting businesses, because all these entail short-term sacrifices, which might cost them their positionsâ€”a risk they are unwilling to take.
All they do is complain, and they complain with a fiery passion to make the people believe in the fantasies they are selling. They are polemicists, criticizing without presenting solutions and alternatives. They speak only words that are pleasing to the ears of the masses. When they face political dilemmas, their decisions are based on what would profit them politically, not what is right and just. They are slick talkers, and if you’re not careful enough, they can easily deceive you.
This is a dangerous alliance, as it seeks to plunge society into chaos. They want our society to lose any semblance of stability so that they can create a new order. But even they themselves have no idea how it will function.
But I am not afraid. They cannot achieve anything unless we let ourselves be used by these political clowns for their own blind and selfish goals. They can make as much noise as they want, but they need many more warm bodies to join their ranks before they succeed in destabilizing our society. I have already counted the many curious, naive, gullible, ignorant and politically immature countrymen who are neither misguided idealists nor hypocrites but will take part in this political adventure, and they still won’t make it.
I can hear the noise, but I still can’t feel the heat. After each and every protest rally, the crowds would fizzle out, the streets would be left empty and dirty, and the leaders of the carnival would be eating a fancy dinner while most of the gullible people they drew into the activity would be walking home. Every demonstration sends a clear and strong message to the whole world that while countries across the globe are taking measures to strengthen their exports, develop their industries, attract new investors and ensure their competitiveness in a fast changing, globalized world, we are busy playing on the streets of our financial district.
In the manifesto above is every single one of the government’s talking points; and it is a latter-day retelling of every argument used by those who supported the New Society to justify martial law in 1972.
To be sure, people change; but that is why things never happen exactly the same way, twice; but the political thinking of people tends to be set quite early on; and for all of the above, the formative years for them, was martial law. And I’m willing to bet that if you sounded them out, privately, to a man -and woman- they’d say: the New Society was the right solution, and one that ought to be really tried, because Marcos failed to do it properly.
So, for now, this is the trial balloon du jour: it is one, mind you, not being shot down as actively as one might have assumed. And I think this is giving those who have hit off on a revolutionary government being the tidiest solution a pretty good feeling indeed.