What we’ve learned: Civil Society

Three things to watch:

1. Is the presumed passage of the death penalty repeal a gift for the Pope, as Newsstand asks? But of course. But why be surprised that the Senate passed it? One senator told me that he and other colleagues had long been proponents of the repeal: so delaying passage on political grounds would have been improbable.

2. The President’s threat to veto the budget unless her pork barrel appropriations are returned -a story that’s been brewing for a few days now- indicates a great tactical opportunity for her. First, by threatening a veto, she pulls administration congressmen and senators back in line in the bicameral conference committee. Second, if she doesn’t get the budget she wants, she can then exercise her veto power, sending a message to allies in the House and Senate that there will be consequences if they vote to overturn her veto. Chances are, they won’t. And if they don’t, then she has a reenacted budget from the previous year, offering up the prospects of being able to juggle funds going into an election year.

3. Recent statements that constitutional change is almost certainly delayed in Congress, and a new burst of energy on the part of “people’s initiative” proponents, including “survey results” and commentary such as Fel Maragay’s, indicates the coming together of a new strategy, which will be useful during impeachment time (round 2, in late June to July): threaten everyone with a simulated grassroots revolt. A colleague following the story closely tells me that while skeptical of my autogolpe theory in the past, now it seems possible. I am looking into that possibility.

Other news today: PSG linked to torture of 5 Estrada supporters: Senate told it was also AFP-PNP operation.

In the punditocracy, the best read has to be Manuel Buencamino’s parody of a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo diary entry. In his blog, Kerry Collison reposts an article on the King of Thailand and his political legacy.

Kevin Rafferty in the Japan Times analyzes Thaksin’s leadership: an interesting summary of the crisis in Thailand as it continues.

Amusing rant on g-strings and panties in Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k).

If you read the Kartilya of the Katipunan, Mabini’s True Decalogue, the Code of Citizenship and Ethics of the Commonwealth -all part of a continuing tradition, now lost- you will see an obsession to foster a civic sense as an antidote to tyranny and a means to building a functioning, independent nation. The process began with Rizal; and his most haunting words continue to be those expressing his belief that independence would be meaningless without a civic-minded citizenry. I believe the process came to an end with the writings of Leon Ma. Guerrero, one of Rizal’s greatest exponents in his time.

Someone, addressing Confucius, said: Why, Sir, do you take no part in the government?—The Master replied: What does the Book of History say about filial piety?—Do your duty as a son and as a brother, and these qualities will make themselves felt in the government. This, then, really amounts to taking part in the government. Holding office need not be considered essential.

(from the Analects of Confucius, Lionel Giles translation)

Randy David said something similar in his warmly-welcomed exposition on the national situation: “I will hasten to add that it would be a mistake to think that one needs to be a politician to be able to contribute to the realization of these urgent tasks”. A regular reader of this blog, Emilie Maramag, advocates simply making politics redundant; I’d suggest turning it into a full-time activity for citizens and thus, only viable as an episodic occupation for people.

My column for today, June began in May, tackles the origins of the current crisis. I’ve become increasingly convinced a large part of the crisis is that the bedrock of democracy as we’ve known it -the middle class, which, together with the upper class mans much of Civil Society- is dying; it’s replacement is only beginning to emerge; the dying began with the deal with the devil known as martial law, accelerated due to disllusionment after Edsa I in 1986, had a Last Hurrah at Edsa Dos, and recognized a dead end with Edsa Tres. As with Marcos, so has the middle and upper class embraced Arroyo, though more tightly now than then, since Arroyo (as one colleague put it, because of her husband) is an insider while Marcos was always an outsider.

Civil Society as we know it was born in the wake of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, and reached it’s apex in terms of influence in the first months of the Arroyo administration. The May 1 rebellion taught the President that Civil Society could provide a veneer of reformism to her administration, but could neither keep it physically nor politically safe. When the political crisis began, a division took place within Civil Society. Some opted out, some have remained loyal. A generational shift took place, too: I’ve heard some say that they (younger Civil Society types) chose to stay with the President out of resentment over having been dragged into supporting her, then asked to abandon her, by Civil Society leaders; others, vowed never to touch politics with a ten foot pole again because of those leaders.

Personally, I have always been uneasy with Civil Society types for the same reason that I am uneasy with political parties: I don’t think formal organizations are conducive to independence of mind or action. They get mired in group-think. I do welcome, and enjoy, participating in less structured, more ad hoc groupings (like the Black & White Movement, which is far from perfect but on the whole, sincere); and I respect quite a few Civil Society types I’ve gotten to know (and the same applies to politicians and the politically-involved). But Civil Society suffered from triumphalism and did cause some of the problems we live with, now: recall the protests they mounted outside the Supreme Court, which I believe helped stampede the the Justices into making the highly flawed decision they wrote on the legitimacy of President Arroyo in 2001.

Certainly, henceforth, Civil Society will operate with the handicap that it’s perceived to be not all that different from the ruling and political classes.

In the blogosphere, Jove Francisco, whose laptop was used by Sec. Ignacio Bunye to burn copes of the “original” and “fake” recordings he presented to media, reflects on the past year in the news.

baratillo@cubao employs a fictional detective to get to the bottom of political killings. Peryodistang Pinoy blogs about preparations for her column on the disturbing extrajudicial killings going on in Cebu City.

Iloilo City Boy has a fascinating entry on developments in Iloilo City politics -politicians are still in wait-and-see mode.

Cogito Ergo SAM is a bit exasperated with government’s efforts to “bend the spoon.”

Black & White Movement presents a useful timeline of the ongoing political crisis.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

25 thoughts on “What we’ve learned: Civil Society

  1. I meant the politics of it, Manolo. The repeal seemed to have happened in a vacuum or, rather, as a separate issue altogether from other pending legislation (such as, you know, the budget). Of course many senators have been against the death penalty, but since when has personal conviction always translated into political action? What puzzles me is the alacrity with which the measure passed. Couldn’t (to ask only one question) the Senate have used the repeal as leverage in the budget deliberations? It was obviously something Gloria wanted.

  2. ‘June began in May’ is the clearest exposition i have read on the different political roles the middle class has played at various points in our recent history. The military does come off like a private army for the elite (which the middle identifies with), which i think puts into further context the killings of the Leftists. By abandoning fair play and foolishly casting its lot with Arroyo, the middle class becomes complicit with her failings. At some point, the rank and file in the military will realize to which class they belong to and to whom they owe their allegiance. By then, majority [populist] rule may be restored, but at the expense of [our] minority rights.

  3. GMA threatens with a veto, I wonder if Congress has the balls to stand against it. Otherwise, all these highly-publicized budget cuts and slashes and the delays they caused would all go down the drain.

  4. Veto or re-enacted budget, its definitely a Win-Win solution for GMA. And it has certainly put the senate in a bad light and on the defensive.

  5. What an excuse! The 2005 budget has no provisions for the elections so when reenacted there could be NOEL! Come on!

    Again, I question the one year lifespan of the national budget.
    If it is habitually reenacted why not make it a 2-3 year budget?

  6. The time to pass it was now if it was ever going to be passed. Gloria needed it now to distract the Pope from asking her about extra-judicial killings

    To wait longer would have placed the entire repeal in jeopardy. Gloria would have no more motive to repeal it She will be guided by the demands of local politics again.

    Remember Gloria marched to have someone executed. Then under pressure from the Church she said she was morally opposed to the death penalty until her morals gave way to Chinese pressure during the election campaign and she said she could suspend her moral objection in the case of certain crimes until she elected herself president then she regained her moral compass and turned against the death penalty again.

    When it comes to Gloria, when you have a chance grab it.

  7. Dear Ana,

    It’s real and I will be publishing more purloined pages from her diary in the coming weeks. But let me warn you – the other pages are more terrifying than they are funny.

  8. Marv, But it is a political football and can always be restored after the next sensational high profile crime, like a rape-torture-slay or a major terrorist attack on Manila. My read on today’s game play is it’s a sop to the Bishops, who are marching against chacha, but are also interested in giving Art Panganiban his fondest wish: immortal fame in the Catholic firmament, in exchange for an historic Supreme Court decision which he has already written, ready to go.

    Nota Benedict: It’s also GMA’s self-absolution, a kind of political pheremone to solidify the core of her Civil Society supporters–fanatical Catolicos cerrado in and out of the Church. I think the rather tepid response of Civil Society to the Erap 5 incident tells the Palace this core group will support the President and agree to let her do anything, as long as it preserves the status quo, including martial law, which she never actually has to declare.

  9. Thank you for endorsing my blog article on Ilonggo politics. I try to avoid writing about politics as much as possible since blogging serves as my relaxation therapy.

    More power to you.

  10. MLQ3,
    As you posed, GMA will”threaten everyone with a simulated grassroots revolt.”

    Jose Abueva is on-air now PTV4, ‘gratified’ about a ‘groundswell’ of support for Chacha, cited Kilusaan of Advocacy Comm., Sigaw and ULAP; groups now pushing, focusing on change to unicameral parliamentary.

  11. As GMA would say, “Sigaw ng Bayan may be a singaw, but , hey, they’re my singaw.”

  12. Dear Karl,

    It is not an excuse. If there are no funds for elections, there can be no elections. Its simple fact. We don’t like it either, but someone had to tell these Senators that all their grandstanding isn’t doing the country a whit of good. I’m glad Abalos had the balls to say it. I only regret that he didn’t go further.

    The obvious reply is that drivel Pimentel spewed today: supplementary budget. But that’s stupid. Say you someone told you you had a clogged sink. Would you fix the sink? Or would you scold the person who told you about the problem and then wait for the sink to flood your kitchen and only then try to unclog your sink? Pimentel wants us to wait until the need for funds has become critical and then he can come into the picture like a gallant hero waving his supplementary budget. Why wait for the situation to become problematic? Why not just do the job properly right away?

    Like you said, we habitually re-enact budgets. That’s not a good thing, Karl. That is a symptom of a malfunctioning Congress. And for us to accept that habituallity ( I would say recidivism actually) is proof that we as a people have become so jaded by the ineptitude of Congress that we are willing to accept a work-around rather than a true solution.

    Enact the budget now. No more excuses. These are the things we need to say to Conress.

  13. I find it amusing why Mr. Luna only hits the Senate. Why not hit the House of representatives as well? Do you remember how long the lower house sat on the budget?

  14. Dear Jon,

    The budget has passed the House, hasn’t it? Ano ito? “If the House did it, the Senate should be able to do it also?” Hindi naman ho siguro ganon. Pero tama ho kayo. Both Houses should bend a little. Ang punto lang natin dito ay dapat maipasa na ang budget. I think pwede naman tayo mag-agree on that, dbla?

  15. Dear Postigo,

    Kung hindi napasa ang budget eh kasi hindi nagustuhan ng Kongreso na siyang binigyan ng kapangyarihan ng atin Konstitusyon na mag-pondo sa gobyerno.

    Sinunod ng mababang kamara ang budget ni Gloria. Binago ng Senado sa paniwala nilang tamang budget. Pinipilit ni Gloria yun kanya at walang ko,promiso daw. Sino ang may sala?

  16. Dear Manuel,

    Whoever is at fault, it is the electorate that suffers. Like I said, both Houses – and certainly, the President – ought to bend a little, yes? While it may stick in their craw to compromise, our leaders ought to realize that theirs is a profession built on the ability to find common grounds, so that sometimes – in the national interest – they can back down from their positions and allow a mutually satisfactory solution to operate. So, if Gloria doesn’t back down, then she bears a bit of the blame. But then again, if the Senate refuses to back down too, they also must share the blame. We cannot condemn one for stubborness and in the same breath, praise another for intransigence – especially when they are in the business of protecting the common good. Certainly, neither the Senate nor the President can claim a monopoly on protecting the public welfare.

    All told, I would just like to see us move away from this crisis mentality that Pimentel is promoting with his “It’s no big deal. We can pass a supplementary budget,” logorrhea. It IS a big deal when Congress cannot pass a budget – even with the importunings of the President. And a supplementary budget is just the sort of stop-gap measure that, in this country, ends up as an excuse for the failure to perform as expected.

  17. Regarding the budget we have to look at the timeline to see where really is the blame. We would like to pinpoint who is to blame because preparing the budget is a continuing process done every year and we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

    Mr. Luna please answer this question(s):
    1. When did the house start to work on the budget for 2006?
    2. When did the house pass to the Senate the house-approved budget? And then, when is the Congress approved budget supposed to be passed to the president? When you answer these questions truthfully, you will see that the house is more to blame than the senate.

  18. Dear Jon,

    Again with the blame game.

    Like I’ve said before, there’s more than enough blame to go around. If you want to put it all on the House, by all means do so. If you want to blame the President, certainly. If you want to make the Senate out to be heroes, haha, go for it.

    The bottom line, my friend, is that unless these people start thinking of public service as more than just a pissing contest, and unless they realize that the greatest good is not about who gets the blame and who gets the accolades, then the triumph of your Senate will be a pyrrhic victory that the Filipino people can scarcely afford.

  19. I’m myself is glad of the abolition of death penalty. To me the most heinous of criminals welcome it and I rather see them suffer the rest of their natural lives in perpetual detention. If only we can stop the “death penalty” perpetrated by the hired Assasins and Goons doing their executions before their victim is ever accused of any crime lest being convicted. And they are roaming the streets of the country in their motorcycles, masked and armed with lethal force at the bidding of those “Criminal Minds”.

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