My PDI column for today is 1983 and 2005. The search for a new leader has only begun.
Being in Baguio over the weekend brought a welcome respite from life in Metro Manila, and allowed me to tune out, basically, for two days, which was refreshing. I had the chance to interact with young student leaders at a DepEd conference which was an encouraging experience, as well as get some useful scuttlebutt.
My main politically-related activity was to go to the Baguio Cathedral and light a candle while my three pro-GMA companions waited and scowled at me. JB Baylon, our ringleader in the light a candle for Truth activity, had a better time, I think, complete with he and seven others being threatened with water cannon.
(I came home Sunday and immediately went off to buy copies of the Sunday Times Magazine because my mother wanted as many as could be found: some friends said they liked my picture).
A colleague phoned me and proclaimed the coming week (that is, this week) as “crucial,” which provoked a rather weary reaction from me, but it seems this week is rather important, politically. The three big stories are:
1. The reconciliation flop
The only news-watching I did over the weekend was to watch the truly enormous gathering of El Shaddai at the Quirino Grandstand, during which the President and Joseph Estrada were expected to reconcile. Sec. Mike Defensor had prepped the press, going so far as to descend on the Philippine Daily Inquirer editors (which is only done by politicians when they really want to break or face something big) last Thursday. Dan Mariano suggests that talk of reconciliation was the result of a lot of bumbling going on in the Palace. I myself, when I heard the rumor, thought it was crazy: the President might gain support from Estrada’s delegates in the House and Senate, but it would galvanize the anti-Estrada forces.
Anyway, the El Shaddai 21st Anniversary event was truly huge, you could see the crowd packed from the foot of the Quirino Grandstand to beyond the Rizal monument, and stretch from the side of the Grandstand to the grounds of the Manila Hotel and the Elks Club. Breathtaking indeed was Bro. Mike’s command to the faithful to light their candles -a sea of twinkling lights in the lens of the overhead cameras- and then, at the count of 1, 2, and 3, to extinguish their candles. That was as clear a demonstration of political (and religious) power as can be seen, dwarfing anything attempted politically in past years.
The President said some things, but seemed rather droopy; a colleague watching at the time said the President was clearly crestfallen over the obvious lack of enthusiasm of the crowd (faint clapping indeed). It wasn’t so obvious to me, but what I can say I observed is that there was no warmth between her and the audience. The rumored reconciliation, in the end, did not take place.
A Sun-Star report says Bro. Mike won’t give up, and apparently neither will Secretaries Defensor or Tiglao.
2. The perils of impeachment
Ricky Carandang considers this week as crunch time for the Speaker: read his entry. The opposition has been claiming that perhaps by this week, they will obtain the magic number of 79 signatures. Carandang says this will put the Speaker in a bind: to kill the impeachment now, or transmit it to the Senate, robs the Speaker of his only leverage over the President, as far as Charter Change is concerned (Recall what a source close to the House hierarchy told me on August 14). A source I ran into in Baguio with party connections says that congressmen are actually consulting their constituents, and they are experiencing pressure from their constituents to support the process of impeachment (these are from constituents not necessarily anti-President). Every political observer (and politician) I run into seems convinced that the President’s goose is cooked should the impeachment reach trial at the Senate.
Where my Baguio source differed from Carandang’s reading, is that the Speaker has another way out. The Speaker, it seems, and former President Ramos, are getting extremely upset over the President’s foot-dragging on Charter Change. Ramos in particular, according to my Baguio source, had a meeting in his Urban Bank office and said some pretty uncomplimentary things about the President. Pointing to the squatter shanties below, Ramos was said to have thundered, “and what will happen to them if she stays?” Therefore both Ramos and de Venecia seem worried that should the President remain in office, she will torpedo their Charter Change efforts, anyway; and if events get out of hand, a successful transmittal of the articles of impeachment to the Senate, will erode the Speaker’s authority.
So what if the Speaker and Ramos decide that only the next President can be relied upon to pursue Charter Change? The Speaker could quietly release an appropriate number of Lakas-CMD votes to transmit the articles of impeachment, while washing his hands of the whole thing; neither he nor Ramos would have to publicly break ranks with the President. Reporters are supposedly angling for just such a story today, with rumored Lakas-CMD defections to the pro-impeachment camp.
As for the charges themselves, the Standard-Today pushes the line that only the original Lozano complaint will be tackled. However, Fr. Joaquin Bernas has weighed in with his view, and it’s conclusion is not complimentary to the President’s people:
[W]e next look at what the Constitution prohibits. It prohibits the initiation of more than one “impeachment proceeding.” It does not necessarily prohibit more than one complaint. More than one complaint would be prohibited only if the multiple complaints would require more than “one proceeding.” …
In the current controversy, the so-called “amended complaint” and the Lopez complaint, both transmitted on the same day to the Justice Committee together with the Lozano complaint, are nothing more than “bills of particulars” to accompany the Lozano complaint. They both elaborate on the one constitutional offense of “betrayal of public trust.” For constitutional purposes, therefore, what is being initiated is only “one proceeding involving one complaint but with an extended bill of particulars.”
I can understand, however, why the President’s defenders argue the way they do. They must realize that if the “bill of particulars” is elevated to the Senate, the President will be tarred and feathered and be made to squirm. I guess we must bemoan the conclusion that the presidential defenders and their client do not wish to face the music.
Sec. Rigoberto Tiglao, on the other hand, writes that the name of the game is the economy, and that the President’s winning that game hands-down:
The economy is important in understanding our past two Edsas. Because of massive Marcos cronyism, the economy was in crisis by 1984, making almost inevitable the first Edsa in 1986. On the other hand, Erap’s (Joseph Estrada’s) drinking and mahjong sprees kept him away from decisively leading the economy out of the Asian-wide financial crisis that started in 1997. The political crises that broke out under Marcos and Estrada, because of entirely non-economic reasons-the Ninoy assassination in 1983 and Chavit Singson’s exposÃƒÂ© in 2000-only further weakened the troubled economies of each period. These, in turn, deepened the political crisis that confronted them, resulting in their ouster.
In contrast, despite the plots against the President since 2001, the economy in the past four years under her has become stronger…
The economic growth under Ms Arroyo has helped the poorest. Poverty incidence has gone down, from 27.5 percent in 2000 to 24.7 percent in 2003. This means 1 million Filipinos getting out of the poverty quagmire in just three years. Wealth distribution has also improved, as shown in the percentage changes in the shares of the different economic groups in the national income. Under Arroyo’s watch, the percentage share of the richest 10th decile has declined by 1.5 percent, with the nearly corresponding increases in the share of the poorest deciles.
But it’s not that the rich are being terribly impoverished under Gloria’s term. Take the case of our stock market’s performance, compared to those of others in the region. We’re the third best performer this year. In contrast, massive stock manipulations involving the SSS and other state funds occurred in 2000, triggering a near-meltdown of the bourse.
I have heard businessmen, both Filipino and foreign, essentially echo Tiglao’s points, which is why they’re not too concerned with political developments. Their real concern is the effect of the price of oil. Interesting oil crisis-related trivia: every time gas prices go up, the volume of the SLEX goes down by 2,000 vehicles a day (according to a colleague)
3. The question of Charter Change
The big problem with Charter Change, my Baguio source said, is that the people pushing for it aren’t pushing for it with the same priorities in mind. For example, the President seems keen on Federalism, ok with parliamentary government, but as she herself has said, “I never said I was against a bicameral system,” which of course goes against the insistence of the Speaker and former President Ramos on unicameralism and a parliament (the source says Ramos is ambivalent, at the very least, toward Federalism, and may actually be hostile; the Speaker isn’t interested in Federalism, either). Indeed, to complicate things further, the President and the Speaker may both actually really favor the French system, but Ramos may not be as convinced.
The main political dilemma, however, is that Ramos and de Venecia have gotten themselves in a bind. They played the “support the President” card, and that’s the only card they have; having played that card, they’re less likely to want to play the “oh well, we now don’t support the President” card, if only as a matter of saving face. Thus they can’t openly oppose her (which is, according to the source, seriously raising Ramos’s blood pressure, so to speak). The President has shown every sign of wanting to shift the discussion from Ramos’s, to her, agenda. The ambivalence of Ramos and the political dexterity of the President worries supporters of Federalism, who fret over Federalism being tainted by being over-identified with the three players (President, JDV, FVR), and yet they do think this is as good a time as any to finally change things.
The President’s plan is to use a commission to help lobby public support (Sassy Lawyer isn’t keen on the Commission); the Standard-Today lays out the Palace plan, and it seems headed for a resolution at a time favorable to the President, but unfavorable to any other political player.
In the punditocracy, there’s (and Newsstand dissects it); Rudy Romero writes on the provincial attitude towards the President;
The blogosphere has contending views on the Black & White Movement: you have Ricky Carandang reporting it’s a heartening start; Edwin Lacierda, on the other hand, takes a hostile look at the principals and ideas proposed; PCIJ simply reported on the event:
In the meantime, the movement has also launched a campaign to gather one million signatures of people seeking ArroyoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s resignation. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re also talking to Vice President Noli de Castro to convince him to be a transition president who will help usher in political reform, in the event that Arroyo is impeached or resigns.
Then you have Gari with a post from last week on the Horizon Edsa Hotel and its history as an HQ for black ops; Ina Alleco writes lyrically of senior Communist poo-bah Rafael Baylosis: the changing nature of Communism is reflected in passages like this, which unselfconciously refers to the Movement and Star Wars:
Though right now (and often in the last seven years) I give him headaches because of my stubborn nature, it is one of my life’s highest ambitions to make Ka Raffy proud of me, because I am so proud and honored to say that what I am today and what I am capable of doing and achieving for the Kilusan is largely because of his influence. He is my Jedi master, and I hope never to be like Anakin Skywalker but to be as Obiwan Kenobi. He trains and teaches by example, and this, I think, is the best way to teach. He, along with Crispin ‘Ka Bel’ Beltran are the biggest political and personal influences in my life. From them I learn not only how to be activist, but to be, hopefully, a good person.
Torn & Frayed takes a highly jaundiced look at a recent Sandiganbayan sentence.
In the cultural field, Expectorants is upset over the extinction of the smallest fish in the world; Rocketboy recently posted a review of “Mga Pusang Gala”; Hugh Hewitt has a good roundup of observations and criticism of “The Great Raid”;
Some other stuff: kottge.org is fed up with Technorati and plugs another service; Hugh Hewitt points to new media innovations; BuzzMachine writes on the attractiveness of selling toll roads.