Mike, Mikey, Iggy exiled?

At 11:30 am the President is expected to announce that her husband (Mike), son (Mikey), and brother in law (Iggy) are leaving the country and will only come home for the Christmas holidays, unless summoned for legal purposes. ANC broke this based on what it considered highly reliable sources, but no statement was explicitly made by the Palace. Until the announcement actually does (or doesn’t) take place, there is always the chance lobbying against the decision might prevail. Susan Roces follows with her own statement at noon.

PDI’s editorial cartoon today

This (the expected exile) was indeed the scuttlebutt at the US Embassy last night, during the going-away party for Karen Kelley and Ronald Post. There was quite an assemblage of pundits and the exchanges were quite animated.

Ellen Tordesillas was confident that the announcement of a banishment would be made within the next few days. Adrian Cristobal opined that having seen the collapse of the Marcos administration up close, the President’s apology marks the tipping point -he gives her two years. Others give the President a year.

Boo Chanco had some interesting views, primarily concerning the impact of VAT increases on electric rates. According to him, a policy decision has been made to exempt consumers who use up 200 kilowatt hours or less a month from the increases in rates, as well as heavy industry. This means, he said, that 40% of the Meralco consumer base will bear the brunt of rate increases, plus their having to absorb the increases other sectors should’ve absorbed. With rate increases scheduled to take effect July 1, he thinks the middle class (the 40%) will be in for a rude shock when they get their electric bills on August 1. Then, according to him, the middle class, which has been doing the majority of downloading and sharing of the “Hello Garci” ring tones (“only the phones of the middle class are capable of playing them”) will stop laughing and start getting angry.

He also mentioned that due to some error (or funny business) at the bicameral conference committee level, VAT increases are set to adversely affect gasoline dealers, who apparently make razor-thin margins, particularly in the case of small-scale and provincial dealers. He says they’re up in arms, and are threatening a strike that could last up to two days, which would be disastrous for the government. I gathered that Sec. Purisima was trying to work out suspending the implementation of the VAT increase for the dealers, at least until the end of the year, when he hopes to have a law passed by Congress to delete that onerous provision (“If Congress cooperates”). So he thinks big trouble will be in the cards for the President starting August.

The general consensus among all the political pundits, journalists, business people, I talked to was that the President’s speech was a disaster, and no one seemed confident of her prospects. One journalist associated with a major American magazine suggested the President has incurred the ire of the United States, not only for backing out of the Coalition of the Willing, but for playing the China card -“only the big players can play footsie with China,” while the idea the Americans were behind the release of the tapes won’t die down in certain circles.

Other scuttlebutt: the possibility of a swing to the right seems stronger; in a move by the military, the people to watch are Fidel Ramos and Renato de Villa: “FVR has the generals, de Villa has a good reputation among the younger officers; if de Villa moves, Ping would be more likely to go along with him than with FVR.” Also, there seems to be a genuine worry in both official and journalistic circles that a highly embarrassing video tape of the President might be the next think leaked. Other views were that the Left is better poised to take advantage of the situation, thanks to clever positioning, such as Jose Ma. Sison’s recent eulogy on Cardinal Sin. Sobering fears of the possibility that things may be fought out in the streets, violently, unless the businessmen and middle class take it upon themselves to act now, otherwise they will lose the initiative, which will be gained by highly radical forces, or things may just spin out of control. One editor expressed dismay over the way the Vice-President is being used as a justification for inactivity, saying that if we’re serious about democracy, then the only option is the Vice-President (which brought back the possibility of the increased attractiveness of a right-wing solution, which the editor said would bring us back “to the Jurassic age.”

Much speculation, too, where the House hearings would end up; quite a few opined that the administration representatives are hell-bent on invoking the Anti-Wiretapping Law to silence the hearings. A distinguished journalist bewailed the lack of interest among reporters in hounding the Comelec: “People are stuck in an old-fashioned mind-set, they keep looking to the Palace for news. The news isn’t in the Palace, it’s in the Comelec, chaired by a party politician, composed of people with bad records appointed by the President, the story is in the Comelec and no one wants to dig deeper into it.”

This is being written at 1:33 am; so far, for some reason, my DSL has conked out. Highly frustrating. I was only able to post it at 10 am.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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