His way or the highway

Parliamentary, unicameral, but not, in the short term, anyway, Federal. Former president Ramos and Speaker Jose de Venecia in their showdown with the President (so the scuttlebutt goes) read her the riot act, firmly told her to stop mucking about with the question of the speakership, and have reiterated that they have her by the short and curlies. A new Constitution, tailor-fit to suit Ramos and de Venecia is ready, the House will push it forward, public pressure will be generated to force the Senate to allow itself to be abolished, and it seems the President’s hold on the Supreme Court doesn’t faze either FVR or JDV.

While Ramos, de Venecia, and their favorably-inclined intellectuals (such as Alex Magno) are opposed to Federalism, the new Constitution will most likely provide for Federalism to be introduced in the future, say within ten years. This will at least secure public support in Mindanao and the Visayas, and once the new National Assembly convenes, the teeth can be pulled from Federalism.

The message: his (FVR’s) way, which offers the prospects of getting rid of the President before 2010 (she can run for parliament but she won’t be prime minister), assures her, anyway, of a graceful exit, and defuses the prospect of things reaching a potentially bloody conclusion on the highway.

It’s hard to think, in the face of the Speaker’s strong support within the House, the increasing isolation of the Senate, the specter of the Vice-President possibly sitting in the Palace should the President suddenly go, and the continuing inability of either the administration or the opposition to turn the tide, how people will not gravitate towards FVR’s solution as the easiest way out. It will even be peddled as the best way to get the country out of the rut it’s in.

What cards does the President have left to play? She can continue to dispense patronage, but it will only be to further fatten the war chests of people not too fond of her. As for loyal lieutenants, the President’s camp is losing them, slowly but surely: Bobi Tiglao was eased out, whether by the Ramos cabal in the Palace (Bunye et al.), or a combination of the Alcantara-Aboitiz business combine (as Max Soliven recently suggested). Tiglao was the last True Believer in the President, which leaves her only with the retired policemen (Ebdane, Mendoza) as her “enforcers.”

The President has been unable to extend her writ beyond the perimeter of the Palace. She needed to establish a beachhead in the House. However if, after considering, then dropping, Rep. Ronnie Puno, the best the President could dredge up as her candidate for the Speakership was Rep. Prospero Pichay, then of course the congressmen would opt to retain Jose de Venecia as Speaker. The clock is ticking, and everyone else, whether the President or the opposition, is scrambling to try to do something to fend off the Ramos Solution heaving into place. D Month is January, when the House will embark on convening Congress as a Constituent Assembly.

Fidel Ramos will then call for a “new People Power” in February, to mark the 20th anniversary of the original People Power and to help propel his new Constitution while stealing the thunder from the opposition.

The best general fights it out on the battlefield of his own choosing -that is, if he has to fight a battle at all. FVR and JDV early on staked out the battlefield as taking place in Congress, not in the streets. They have the army. They have a cause. They can afford to duke it out with the Senate because the public seems comfortable with restricting possible venues for a fight: and a legislative fight is one the President is ill-equipped, either tactically or operationally, to win.

The only “if” remains the military at this point, and the President (who may have lost another battle but surely still believes, and will try, to win the war) and to a certain extent, Cory Aquino, who, after all, headed off the Ramos Solution during its first incarnation: but then again, FVR has learned from the experience, much more, it seems, than everyone else.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

16 thoughts on “His way or the highway

  1. Thank God there’s finally the prospect of stability. Since our politics have never helped us any, we should do our damnedest to make sure it does no harm. Confining the power struggles to the ghetto of parliament is a big step in the right direction. Let them call all the no-confidence votes they want. Let them have a new prime minister once a week (although with De Venecia, I doubt it will come to that). Just leave us be in peace. Working in the salt mines is hard enough, without them rocking the economy’s boat.

    Too bad Ramos et al don’t seem to like Federalism very much. It sounds like a good idea. By breaking up the unitary republic, we are basically allowing competition among the states. The best run states should theoretically attract the most number of companies and residents, giving them a larger tax base. More taxes equals more kickbacks for those running the state. If that isn’t an incentive for good governance, I don’t know what is.

    Also, as a people, we are still very regionalistic and parochial in outlook. It’s not difficult to imagine the Tagalogs, looking at the booming economy of the Cebuanos, not doing their utmost to get their state government in order and trying to catch up. Ditto for the Ilocanos or Bicolanos, or anyone else in their respective states. All it takes is just one high-performing state economy, and everyone else will try to catch up. Inggitan lang yan, at marami sa atin ay inggitero.

    Anyway, two out three isn’t bad. Who knows, having already been promised their cake, the LGUs’ can’t be denied. In any case, at least there’s something to look forward to. Meanwhile, I’m tuning out. Wake me up when it’s all over.

  2. MLQ3: Thrilling description here and a nice read! JDV laid down the basic outlines of the “Ramos solution” when he returned from the US last month, as one of five scenarios. But it involves a long involved process. Consider that whoever is planning to be the new Philippine leader must essentially win THREE elections: the plebiscite that sets up the system; the election that puts say Lakas in parliamentary power; then the election to the premiership. It must run the gauntlet of the Cory-led opposition; the Leftists who will fight tooth and nail against economic reforms in the Charter; the English Composition contest they call chacha is a case of logical fiddlesticks that can’t be sold to the cynical population; and, should GMA decide to “defect” she can always create a political and legal quagmire to stymie Ramos-JDV. From a chess player’s point of view, GMA actually has the upper hand over FVR-JDV, since they’ve got so much ground to cover just to get slapped down by HER Supreme Court. She can cut them off at the pass later, after buying valuable time.

    But I think two of the veto holders (the US and the Church) already realize that a RESIGNATION (say on the deliciously ironic Rizal Day 2005) is a SAFER solution for everyone, while the Ramos Solution is fraught with danger, complexity and uncertainty. It’s also more graceful for GMA. She could get a D- in History instead of F.

    An honest election could cleanse us all in a catharsis of restoration. The sooner the better. Maybe Nene Pimentel has the right idea with snap elections — which is absolutely Constitutional, and therefore acceptable to those two stakeholders. GMA and Noli should be allowed to run, but the election must be AUTOMATED and independently supervised. None of this hocuspocus with plastic boxes and monkey pawprints.

  3. I think that it’s still early to speculate, like they say it’s not over until the old lady sings.
    I thing PGMA still has the upper hand over JDV/FVR.Afterall she is still president.
    I think the things to watch out for is how to make the economy grow.Growth for our economy solves serious basic problems we have.The R-VAT, painful as it may be, seems to be has a positive effect to our creditors that can spell for us more investments & better loan terms.
    I think the things to look out for is to be able to insulate the economy from politics.
    I’m sure the thinking majority hate politics & want to move on.
    I don’t think there will ever be a one go solution to our problems because things are so deeply rooted.We are talking of a political culture that is rutten to the core
    I can’t imagine what may go on between PGMA/FVR/JDV.As I read Manolos article yesterday I thought it more prudent to wait for more developments.Because I’m sure tri-media will float many ideas or slants.I’m sure whatever whatever the people in power are thinking is constantly evolving.I think it’s important not to get tied down on any slant.
    The bottom line is to concentrate on the economy that will put food on the table of those who need it most.

  4. Whoever’s planning to become premier has to pass three elections, but only one of these would matter to the thinking majority that detests these politics and wants to move on — the plebiscite to ratify the constitutional amendments. Once the political circus has been moved several degrees of irrelevancy away from our fragile economy, then you can watch us not care. The MPs can shout and scream and replace JDV with Susan Roces (assuming she runs and wins a seat), Cheese Escudero, Rolex, or even Cory Aquino (if she stoops that low), as long as they confine the turmoil to Parliament.

    I doubt, though, that it would come to that. JDV keeps a disciplined House; it would probably be the same way if it becomes a Parliament. Lakas has a strong regional organization, and local elections tend to focus more on the candidates, regardless of party (at least for now — it’s one of the things that might change in the future). Since the majority of the incumbents are Lakas members, the party stands a good chance of carrying over their dominance to a post-ChaCha legislature.

    No, the biggest obstacles right now are foot-dragging by the Palace, possible challenge in a Supreme Court dominated by GMA, and the hurdle of a plebiscite. If the accord between GMA, FVR and JDV is true, that already removes the first two. It would then be interesting to see how the palace handles the information campaign to educate the public on the benefits of charter change, since this would be the litmus test on GMA’s commitment to the accord. If I were FVR or JDV, I wouldn’t rely too strongly on the government for this. They’d better already be lining up private donors for a PR blitz.

  5. The FVR-JDV solution is not a solution. Convening a constituent assembly is opposed by the Senate; so how? The people, at least as shown by the surveys, are strongly opposed to changing the constitution. Where are you going to generate public pressure to force the Senate to abolish itself? They are hallucinating! Maybe Congress would convene by its lonesome and get the SC to declare it legal, damn public opinion and Drilon and company. By the way, do you think Ramos and JDV have enough credibility to charm enough forces to give way to chacha? Ramos and JDV have already lost considerable political capital for sticking it out with GMA; wonder what their net trust rating now to make them think they could change the people’s mindset.

  6. ricelander,I don’t think FVR/JDV have lost political capital because they supported PGMA.I would like to beleave that they are the cool heads that are aware that it’s not a simple question of dropping one in exchange for the unknown.It’s not new that Ramos has always supported a change in Goverment & that is the same for JDV.It was also in PGMA’s agenda after she mangeed to put in place economic reform.
    I don’t know about survey results but I think it’s generalizing things to much about people being opposed to changing the constitution.I think, it’s more of people being ignorant or not well informed what con change means.
    I don’t know what the Senate has to gain by opposing con change.It seems that LGU’s will be part of the presure group on the Senate.
    I think that insted of being subjective in our judgements, we have to make an effort to be more objective & judge matters on their pros % cons.Because for now it’s a lot of speculations.

  7. From what mlq3 says, everyone has his own secret agenda. No one says what he means or means what he says. Even Federalism will be used as an enticement to secure support from the Visayas and Mindanao, only to have it’s teeth pulled out.

    If that is true, it only shows the depth of insincerity in our national psyche. It vindicates the MILF and the MNLF who have continously stated that government never keeps its promises and has always negotiated with them in bad faith. It appears that everyone in this country speaks with a forked tongue.

    As for surveys and public opinion, perhaps the dynamics have changed. To some extent, GMA has shown that she can defy surveys and public opinion by sheer tenacity and obstinacy. She has dared her tormentors to take her out, in a body bag if necessary, and they have blinked. Who knows? Maybe public opinion has become irrelevant, or at least, immaterial.

  8. Carl, in a way public opinion can be fickle.At times public opinion can be made w/ lack of information.In a way public opinion is a subjective feeling limited to a time, place & cultural values.But one thing I’m sure of is that public opinion really just wants some peace & stability.It’s not easy to get a public opinion when we are a very regionalistic & parochial culture.It’s very hard for public opinion to really form up when we are constantly bombarded by tri-media w/ so many slants & speculations.
    I agree w/ you that PGMA has defied surveys or maybe our survey organizations lack imagination to really get the pulse.

  9. Dean, thanks. News today is the President’s pulling away sooner than expected. She really is fighting everything and everyone tooth and nail.

    Carl, we are entering a period in which public opinion is dangerously being neutralized.

    Footvoter, historically, there are low turnouts for referenda to approve constitutions, which gives the best-organized the upper hand.

  10. mlq3, how can public opinion be neutralized when luzon visayas & mindanao have different needs.
    maybe it’s more like there are groups pushing their opinions and hoping the public adapts them.
    or maybe the salesmen of opinions are not either articulate enough or convincing enough.
    i think public opinion is only a consequence of clear ideas, clear positions.
    public opinion also depends on w/c side is pushing it.the opposition will never have public opinion on their side & neither will the leftist.
    public opinion can be formed after a clear debate.
    the last 5 months have been a nightmare of destructive partisan politics & i’m a 100% sure the people are so sick & tired of destructive politics!!!!!
    i don’t think it will ever happen that public opinion swing to the side of people who are trying to create it for all sorts of reasons and it’s all because no one listens to the other & only listens to himself alone.
    because public opinion is asking for peace & stability but those who hate the administration will lose their momentum if they folow public opinion. and if we continue in this atmosphere of conastant presure.the people will never understand con com & all that goes w/ it, w/c gives the bad guys more chances of getting away w/ what they want to do.

  11. Problem with all these is that we are facing a woman who lied not once, twice, three times but several times on very crucial issues. She is clearly the proponent of politics of lies.

    As Max Soliven said in his column today, “…she lied…”, period!

    So who in his or her right mind will believe Gloria when she says all the things she is saying today?

    Very unfortunate that the one person who could have proved that she “towered” over the madding crowd happens to be a congenital liar.

  12. Remove Ramos and JDV in the picture the graceful exit proposal would have sounded good. As long as their names stick with it and no matter what the Con Com will come up to ……
    The graceful exit scenario will always stick to the mindset of the opposition and the rest.

    JDV says he’s been advocating charter change it ever since and Ramos might say the same thing. What ever the writing in the wall is..The merger of lakas and Kampi and who knows they might want to invite the rest of the rainbow coalition and leave only 30 or so opposition congressmen and eight or less opposition senators which is improbable(but never say never).
    As long as Drilon is gifted with 13 senate votes…. Chacha will never happen.
    Strength in numbers or strength of the lucky 13. JDV claims 200 congressmaen supports him but for Drilon 13 is enough.

  13. BTW i keep on saying that the senate is an immovable force. Waht if Sen. Manny Villar claims his term sharing for the senate presidency …although his spouse may have her own views he is still showing full support for the administration . Villar might be the trump card or the hidden ace for charter change.

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