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Nov 15

The Long View: The waiting game

THE LONG VIEW

The waiting game

 / 05:06 AM November 15, 2017

The waiting now begins to see if President Duterte and his people will resume their campaign to proclaim a revolutionary government.

My colleague, John Nery, has made a convincing case that the President has wanted to do so all along, even prior to assuming the presidency. An additional case has to be made: There are far too many people up and down the line who need the assurance of the present regime’s continuity, but who lack confidence that a viable successor — who can continue to provide them the protection they currently enjoy — exists.

Not every police station, for example, can go the way of the most controversial one in the country (Caloocan) that went up in flames the other day. You cannot, at this point, suddenly have Camp Crame go up in smoke, destroying all records. Since there is an expiration date for the President’s pledge to mobilize his powers to protect cooperative policemen, which is sooner rather than later given that trial balloons to extend his term as part of Charter change have not sparked popular enthusiasm, something has to give: a nationally-elected leadership.

But what can the President give in return? The thing that makes the world go round.

When Enrique Razon told Asean businessmen that dictatorships were better for infrastructure, he was speaking not only with the power of his billions but the bloc he maintained in the House of Representatives. His National Unity Party (20 seats) is the second-largest among the corporate blocs in the House, the others being Cojuangco-Ang’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (33 seats), itself a breakaway from the Villars’ Nacionalista Party (19 seats).

The combined 72-seat House corporate bloc (with four seats in the Senate), cannot, in and of itself, achieve things such as impeachment, which requires 97 votes at the current membership. But it can make it much easier—or difficult, if it comes to that—to enact legislation to the extent that the corporate bloc bosses cannot be ignored. When a bloc boss says dictatorship is a good idea, he does so as the spokesman of 72 districts: Presumably, the 123 districts under Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan will likewise fall in line.

Not least because quietly, but significantly, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo some weeks back took her oath as a member of that party. Unlike Antonio Floirendo Jr., or more recently, Dionisio Santiago, she knows — having been president — that you could have been a powerful patron of a future president yesterday, but the moment your protege becomes chief executive, the relationship changes and you had better never forget it. As Floirendo and Santiago found out, the moment you start being uppity, the instinct of all presidents is to punish the fool who thinks they can treat the president the way they treated him or her before they assumed office. So she has done what is allowed, and which matters: boost the party line, and be helpful in maintaining the coalition. Her reward has been to be not only taken into the fold in a subordinate position to the current Speaker she once fired from her Cabinet, but also to be trotted out in Asean events, overshadowing every potential successor to the President, including the Speaker and the current secretary of foreign affairs. The signal to anyone who cares to notice is we have a future prime minister-in-waiting.

Everyone who is anyone in the current dispensation can live with that. The signal of the business blocs is that they can live with that. It is a sure thing compared to taking a gamble on either Ferdinand Marcos Jr. or Alan Peter Cayetano, neither of whom are certain to win a national election, or can fully be trusted to have both the skill and the resolve to protect everyone. Arroyo would be the first to point out that a repeat of 2010 in 2022 must be avoided at all costs.

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