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Jul 18

Among Ed falls for it

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 Marcos’ 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 positions—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.

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  1. SoP

    “Heck, if mere survival were such a magnificent achievement, then GMA deserves more accolades. ”

    Here’s the big difference between GMA and Cory: GMA has to bribe the generals to keep them from storming the gates. Cory, out of respect and legitimacy, persuaded soldiers to defend the gates.

  2. ramrod

    Here’s the big difference between GMA and Cory: GMA has to bribe the generals to keep them from storming the gates. Cory, out of respect and legitimacy, persuaded soldiers to defend the gates.
    ——————————————————

    Now that is very spot on! How did Cory, a mere housewife, persuade these soldiers to forsake deep, strong bonds of brotherhood, to defend her? Now these guys fought side by side for years, relying on each other with their lives…suddenly drew a line between them. Basically it wasn’t for Cory per se but for what she stood for, democracy, freedom, etc. Some things worth dying for…which was also what the other side was fighting for…
    How people can kill each other for the same cause is beyond me. We even kill each other because “we love God” religion against religion…Makes me think about John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

  3. mlq3

    GDPchart

    the two points of briskest growth were under cory; the momentum killed each time in 87 and 89 by gringo.

  4. Carl

    Manolo is really an apologist for the ruling classes. And Cory was nothing but a band-aid that the ruling classes used to try to cover up festering sores.

    Blaming Cory Aquino’s incompetence on Gringo won’t wash. What about those horrible rolling blackouts, have you forgotten those? What about that poorly thought-out, divisive land reform program that was supposedly the centerpiece of her regime? What about those promises to end corruption and nepotism that were never fulfilled? Have you forgotten about Kamag-anak Inc.?

    As for bribing generals, Peping Cojuangco did the dirty work. Peping had his group of military officers in his pocket, among them the corrupt Abadia brothers (have you forgotten the Armed Forces Retirement and Benefits scandal that wiped away the retirement of our poor soldiers?).

    Cory also had Kuya Eddie Ramos looking over her shoulder, with moist eyes to succeed her as President. Ramos and his cabal of military officers kept the rest of the military in line, just to make sure Kuya Eddie succeeded Cory as President. So it wasn’t out of so-called “respect” or “legitimacy” that the military was held at bay. That’s simply baloney. Did Cory Aquino’s regime end corruption in the military? No way! The Gen. Garcia’s simply stayed on and looted their merry way.

  5. ramrod

    So it wasn’t out of so-called “respect” or “legitimacy” that the military was held at bay. That’s simply baloney. Did Cory Aquino’s regime end corruption in the military? No way! The Gen. Garcia’s simply stayed on and looted their merry way.
    ——————————————————-

    If we didn’t know anyone in the military this would be quite interesting, fortunately this is not the rule…like any organization, there are bad eggs. You have to get your facts straight from persons actually involved otherwise sweeping statements are easy to make…of course there was/still is corruption, otherwise there won’t be any clamor for reforms anymore right?
    It was a defining moment, not even the ruling class nor any group can claim responsibility for it, why, can anyone replicate it?
    Perhaps thats why we have all these courts and lawyers, so that truths can be separated from facts methodically? Then again this is the price of freedom, anyone can make conjectures, its free and very cheap…

  6. Carl

    Sweeping statements? The Gen. Abadias and Gen. Garcias never existed? So the military was transformed by the Aquino administration to just “a few bad eggs”? That’s a laugh, really.

    My beef about Cory Aquino and EDSA is that myths are being foisted upon the Filipino nation about it. Trying to make it seem like it was paradise regained and that all that was needed was to oust Marcos. Voila! All our illnesses were cured.

    It’s a deception foisted by Cory and those in her class, which includes people like Manolo. It tries to create the fiction that the underlying causes of poverty and inequality were simply caused by Marcos, not by the elite. It is an attempt to gloss over the very deep, very real shortcomings in our system. In the meantime, Cory and the elite manage to extend their rule over the hapless masses. And profound and painful reforms are ignored.

  7. SoP

    Ombudsman has 0.75% conviction rate vs military officials

    The article states that there are 633 cases filed between 1991 and 2005 against high ranking military men. Only 2 of them were convictions, the rest still pending or dropped.

    Yes we do have a long way to go to achieving genuine accountable democracy. We just have to learn from our mistakes and tweak the system to have it move forward. Authoritarian rule is not the answer. It is a step back.

    Recent baby steps made in scrapping bank secrecy laws will aid greatly in strengthening democracy. One can only imagine the number of cases that have been dropped in the past “due to lack of evidence” but would have progressed under a scenario where “open-the-bank-account-freely” laws can easily look into the bank accounts of the accused.

  8. SoP

    We have a long way to beating the trapos. We have not even seen the beginnings of legislative arms race between trapos and congress, as in developed countries. Even in developed countries, lawmakers can keep making laws to catch crooks, but crooks always find ways to circumvent them.

    As it is, congressmen, by compliance or ignorance, have not made laws to look into the bank accounts of the relatives, friends, business associates of trapos. By case law, this is still illegal.

    We don’t have mutual agreements with other countries to peer into their bank accounts to recoup money laundered on overseas accounts.

    Even bank account transparency laws are not enough. Some trapos keep their stolen money in bundles of cash, kept on safety deposit boxes.

    My favorite is laundering jueteng money using dollar remittance shops in US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This is done by the jueteng lords and their military cohorts and protectors opening dollar remittance businesses in these countries. Say in the US, an OFW remits money to his relatives. The remittance business receives the dollars of OFWs in the U.S, and ask their Philippine office to give the peso equivalent to the relatives in the Philippines. This instantly launders the money from bayongs of pesos to dollars sitting in overseas banks, waiting for the day when the jueteng lords and military men withdraws them. A law should be made against this.

  9. Carl

    If reforms that go beyond skin-deep are undertaken, so be it. We need to face up to the fact that our system is a mess and that it doesn’t benefit the majority. The system is scandalously skewed in favor of the elite.

    Let’s not delude ourselves with sycophantic statements that EDSA brought about profound changes. They didn’t.

    The elite (with the tacit approval of Washington, D.C.) rode on EDSA because the horse they once backed, Ferdinand Marcos, was becoming a liability. And the insurgency would only gather steam if Marcos continued to stay in power.

    EDSA was crucial for the elite, not for the struggling masses. Cory Aquino was true to her class and to her relatives, and they were rewarded accordingly. She may be a hero to some of those in the middle and upper classes, but she’s no hero for the common man. Their lives didn’t improve after EDSA.

    Now, as for some people claiming that life in the Philippines is better for the ordinary citizen than it is in Thailand, they will be better off not to demonstrate their ignorance in a public forum. Rural folk in Thailand, who comprise the majority, are way better off than they are in the Philippines. Agricultural productivity in Thailand has, over the years, been enhanced to such an extent that farmers’ incomes in Thailand are way higher than they are here. The ordinary Thai earns way more than the ordinary Filipino. Only check the per capita GDP of both countries, and one will certainly see the big difference.

  10. SoP

    Reforms that are being undertaken are slow indeed. But I prefer it to the alternative a military backed authoritarian government. One could hope that our military, if they choose that path, would emulate the Thai military. But I wouldn’t count on it. Tarantado ang mga Pilipinong sundalo.

    I’m always wary of capture theory-that the trapos a hypothetical dictator would like to get rid of ending up capturing the government. Sort of like how ex-Goldman Sachs employees penetrated the US government which was intent on reforming the likes of Goldman Sachs in the first place.

  11. SoP

    Anybody know of a web link that expounds or debunks the story of Cory being offered debt forgiveness and turning it down? I’ve always heard of this story but never knew the real deal. Would appreciate if someone could explain further and show some articles.

  12. SoP

    Truth be told, I personally wouldn’t be able to handle genuine reform. Genuine reform means I’ll be taxed til it hurts to help the poor, being a member of the upper middle class. There’s no other way to solve our massive poverty and humongous debt but to hit the pockets of the likes of me.

    Which is why I’m happy to have US citizenship. I can get away in the event of a leftist or rightist capture of government. I guess that makes me a hypocrite. But I guess anybody in my position would do the same.

  13. Carl

    “Anybody know of a web link that expounds or debunks the story of Cory being offered debt forgiveness and turning it down? I’ve always heard of this story but never knew the real deal. Would appreciate if someone could explain further and show some articles.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    There was a move by some sectors within and outside the Aquino administration to urge international creditors to forgive some of the debt undertaken by the Marcos government. Some of this debt was blatantly fraudulent and clearly involved kickbacks. Examples were the Bataan nuclear plant, the behest loans involving the sugar mills put up by Benedicto & Co. and the huge loans taken on by Manda Elizalde for his mining companies that were guaranteed by the government.

    There was strong proof that these loans were given in bad faith, and some sectors wanted to pursue this in order to have some of that debt cancelled or mitigated. However, then Central Bank governor Jobo Fernandez adamantly refused to take this tack. Talk of capture theory: Jobo went to a U.S. business school, was trained in U.S. multinational banks and was faithful to his banking roots, much like Goldman Sachs alums would be.

    There was never any offer of debt forgiveness. So that part of the story never existed. What existed was an initiative to pursue this avenue of negotiation. But Cory listened to Jobo and that initiative was nipped in the bud.

    To my mind, it was a pity. The Philippines never enjoyed so much goodwill from the international community as it did at that time. It could exercise moral suasion to have some our of debt forgiven. And there was a legal basis to do so, with proof of corruption in the giving of those loans.

    Other countries, with less goodwill, have successfully undertaken some form of debt forgiveness. Iraq, Argentina, Ecuador are some countries who have succeeded at it.

  14. SoP

    Thanks.

  15. taxj

    What democracy did Cory restore? It’s oligarchy, no less. Not her fault though. How would she know the difference?

    Land reform’s Cory’s centerpiece. Yeah, a decor. Just think Mendiola Massacre and Hacienda Luisita. Not that I’m for that counterproductive measure!

  16. karl garcia

    SOP:

    re: waiving of bank secrecy.

    When that AFP comptroller’s issue came up my father who also happens to be a Garcia sort of suggested to all his colleagues in the AGFO (aasociation for generals and flag officers and PMAAAI (the pma alum org)) to surrender all their bank books to the ombudsman.
    Of course, no one bit.

    That hyperlink you posted made my day.

    In one case mentioned there: The Dumancas case.
    Where Dumancas dragged many officers including my dad.
    It was about the misuse of marcos money called the “marcelo fund” by Dumancas.(circa 89-93???)

    I am nobody’s apologist,but the pending status of the case still bothers me and my family.

    As a matter of fact,since the group of my dad lost their lawyer to the congress(a partylist rep) , my dad has to start from scratch to present the facts to the replacement even if it is the son of the lawyer.

    Again, I am no apologist for the military.
    I agree with Carl that there are not just a few rotten eggs, the title of that tom cruise/jack nicholson movie may be factual, that there are only a few good men around.

    Lastly,Cory fouled up by the choice of Abadia as CSAFP and Dumancas as FOIC navy,she fouled up big time.

    For now. life goes on,and our advocacy to reform the military through behind the scenes legislation continues. Even that is a drag.
    matatapos na naman ang isang term wala pa din gaanong nagyari.
    Wala nga yata eh.

  17. SoP

    I therefore conclude that the truism “we have enough laws in our books to catch crooks” is false, patently false.

  18. karl garcia

    You got it SOP.

    Madami lang masyadong laws na pwede namang iconsolidate at iupdate.But, many may not necessarily mean: enough.

    Bank secrecy can be improved by strengthening and implementation of the Anti money laundering something.

    Sona na nga pala bukas. last year dito sa blog ni Manolo, I mentioned something about the budget of the ombudsman.

    May nakita din akong mga comment mo recently tungkol dito.

    OK, that’s all.

  19. karl garcia

    Much has been said about Cory in this particular post, even I had my share.

    Condolence to the family of the late president.

    I still I believe in gradual change,not instant change.

    If it goes beyond our generation, then so be it,but Cory should still get credit for initiating the change process.

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