Failed Center

The big news today is a blog that is new, but which I think should be added to everyone’s list of links. The blog is Newsstand, written by a colleague. His latest entry is quite provocative. He asks, could it be everyone observing events is strategizing based on the past, without thought to the future? By this I (and I think he) means a serious liability generals have suffered from throughout history. The liability is, in planning for future wars, the generals tend to think in terms of what won (or lost) the last war, which leaves them vulnerable to the generals who decide to forget the past and think up something entirely new. He disagrees with my view that the CBCP position reflects current Vatican thought; he suggests the bishops just want more information. A Newbreak exclusive, however, partially validates my view, if it’s true that the Papal Nuncio headed off calls for a resignation. The statement does represent papal policy, but it also represents an attempt by the bishops to lay the groundwork for what they really want.

In the columnsphere, so to speak: Assessing risks is my Inquirer column; Neal Cruz says there’s been a Palace coup and the President is now ruled by a regent; Conrado de Quiros proclaims the surprising turn of events “lunacy”; Luis Teodoro issues a counterblast to my appeal to the Center, spells out the Communist position and adds, the Center cannot hold:

The Left does exist, but it cannot take power. On the other hand, the Center cannot take power either-because it does not exist in a country where the divisions are so stark they are primarily between those who have everything and those who have nothing. Elements of the so-called political Center-by which is meant hacienda owners and landlords who had their chance to transform this country, but blew it; Church leaders at the forefront of opposition to meaningful change and even to artificial contraception; businessmen who resist every effort at raising the wages of workers barely subsisting from one meal to the next; and others-would like the rest of the country to believe that they are the alternative to the Left and Right, when actually they comprise a category of the Right, but too embarrassed to admit its conservatism.

While the Center pretends to be reformist, where its heart truly lies is currently indicated by its denizens’ focus: not on the political, economic and social reforms that need to be undertaken by any post-Arroyo government, but on the fear of the Left and the vast legions of the poor.

In a post-Arroyo situation, it is likely that what happened in People Power I and II will be repeated. Another wing, or another clique of the same ruling elite, will take power to the exclusion-at least at this stage-of the Left and the Filipino masses.

In the long march of the Filipino people toward independence and social change, the current crisis is but a minor episode from which their only benefit will be their enhanced understanding of the corruption of the political and electoral systems-and perhaps a louder voice in this country’s affairs.

For its part, the Center should get back to its accustomed comforts in Hacienda Luisita and the Archbishop’s Palace. It need not worry-at least not yet. Things will continue to fall apart, as they have been falling apart for decades under a succession of governments-some of them as “Centrist” as Ms Arroyo’s-dominated by the same ruling elite that have driven this country ever deeper into poverty and mass misery.

But it should take care. In the long run the Center (read: the Right) cannot hold.

The past few days suggest to me that Pro. Teodoro is essentially on the right track; the Center may already be abroad, and those that I’d hoped would constitute a centrist force here have, indeed, proven themselves to be more reflective of the ones that have put the country where it is. This sad state of affairs is worth pondering deeply in coming days. There is a famous quote that revolution eats its own children; the normally apolitical Victor Agustin says as much.

Meanwhile, Fr. Joaquin Bernas has an interesting column. He has, when other people are backtracking, joined the call for the President to resign. He is, I believe, also proposing system change:

The President has adamantly said she will not resign. I have no reason for not believing her. She will not. Meantime her capacity to govern has been seriously or, perhaps, irretrievably impaired. What then?

I still believe resignation now will not solve problems. Impeachment, even if it succeeds in removing the President, will not solve the current problem either. What remains, it seems to me, is for a radical change both of system and of power holders to mature and win widespread popular support. It took Edsa I some time to ripen.

The process of another maturation has begun. The increasing calls for resignation are part of the process even if now the callers envision conflicting futures. I join the calls now not because I believe that she will heed the voice of the people or that resignation will solve problems, but because it can lead to eventual popular consensus. The calls must peacefully spread.

JB Baylon proposes a series of little councils; Ellen Tordesillas points out Fidel Ramos left town, which indicate’s he’s pretty confident; the anonymous columnist Random Jottings takes a Monty Pythonesque view of recent events; Fel Maragay says there was a “conspiracy from within”; Jarius Bondoc pretty much says the same thing;Max Soliven reports divisions within the Makati Business Club; Jose Sison says leave the President alone and change the system;

Manuel L. Quezon III.

4 thoughts on “Failed Center

  1. The leadership does need to reflect deeply on what is happening in the country. Seriously, what other country (save Nepal), has an active, growing insurgency by a completely discredited ideology? Even communists don’t want to be communists anymore (i.e., China, Russia, etc.). That is the stark reality of how out of touch things have become

  2. Luis Teodoro assumes too much when he bunches “the masses” and the “Left” as if they are tied at birth. The history of communist parties the world over, including this one, has been a constant betrayal of the masses’ interests and desires — alas — in the name of the masses! Their toadies and pundits then go out of their way to hush this up.

  3. Teodoro is indeed on the right track. The center won’t hold. It can hang on for some time but it will collapse because of the incapacity of its members (too greedy, too weak, too shortsighted). It’s just a matter of time. Wasted opportunity is this country’s story. The one thing that would keep us from utter chaos is the fact that there are still big spoils for the victors in the power game. Hindi pa ubos ang kaban na pwedeng nakawin, pwedeng ibenta, at pwedeng isanla.

  4. There is actually no more political center. We tracked the numbers of protests that the so-called “middle forces” initiated or were engaged in (including the size of the rallies) since 1986, and it was all downhill from there. There were also “virtual splits” among the socdems, the liberals, over who would stay with the parliament of the streets and who would join government and/or the parliamentary struggle. The latter is inviting but completely dominated by trapos.

    Do not also underestimate the depoliticizing effect of NGO work where the focus is economic rehab and less on political agitation.

    The sad thing really is that mass mobilizations are now the domain of Eddie Villanueva and El Shaddai, not to mention the movie stars. The Left and whatever is left of the middle forces have ceased to dominate that arena. This explains, among other things, why Teddy Boy Casino needs to kapit bisig with Rex Cortes. It is an admission that people love aging stars more than pompous young radicals.

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