Ghost in the machine

The new airport in Manila is too shaky to use, for now. Vilma Santos will run for governor of Batangas.

Fitch sez: no upgrade for now, things are simply stable. Inflation at a new low, which is great (except read the reasons given why, and ask if they will last or not: see this article in Slate on how the American housing bubble has burst, and ask yourself what the fallout globally will be).

The opposition was correct, I think, in refusing the attempt by the President’s pet businessmen to rig a debate. Conrado de Quiros explains why. Naturally, the administration’s upset.

Yesterday, Amando Doronila analyzed the unraveling of the opposition, and how Serge Osmeña could possibly turn things around.

But it’s both sides that are adjusting and making at times abrupt efforts to react to the public pulse. Fel Maragay points to the survey findings in Manila as a cause of unease and reshuffling in the administration campaign team (Maragay also has interesting scuttlebutt concerning political goings-on in Manla: the Palace is lukewarm to Ali Atienza and at one point approached Imelda Marcos to support her if she’d run for mayor). In his column, Billy Esposo gives additional details concerning the moves of both sides’ campaigns, and finally publishes what was only discussed in private: the opposition’s Iloilo City sortie (read Iloilo City Boy’s post on how the bumbling of the opposition not only led to lost opportunities, but hurt feelings in Iloilo City) didn’t take place because a measly 50,000 pesos necessary for logistics wasn’t sent.

This, I think, explains Doronila’s point that Osmeña’s appointment as campaign head indicates a weaning away from the Estrada domination of the opposition: whoever has the money in a campaign calls the shots (whoever has the gold, makes the rule, that’s the golden rule, eh?). The opposition is scrambling because it’s starved of funds. Estrada obviously isn’t sharing any of his loot. Observers like Doronila say he’s also lost his electoral charm. But businessmen, who in general have learned to leave the country or be unavailable during election time, even if willing, aren’t able to give because government has warned them of consequences if they help finance the opposition.

So the point is no one has the clout to end the squabbling in the opposition because no one is financing it. On the other hand, the President has been a master of the power of the purse. See Jove Francisco’s account of how the President is wining and dining leaders, despite her claims she will focus on governance and not the campaign. She is simply too much of a micro-manager to do that, even if it were wise (her Waterloo is her micro-management of everything; it evades a cardinal rule of politics for presidents, which is to always establish plausible deniability).

The President’s strategy from the start (when she came to realize in the wake of Edsa Tres that a large chunk of the population would never come to like her, and that her loyalists would never constitute an electoral majority), was to keep the incumbent’s advantage -in electoral machinery- pumped and primed. That all things being equal, she could master logistical challenges, and use every institution and sector on the principle that they may not like her, but they dislike the Estrada crowd more, and that even her deepest admirers would rather not think of an administration headed by her Vice-President. Again, read Jove’s entry to see how the combination of logistics and not practicing what you preach, works. But the problem, the ghost in the machine, is that even when well-oiled, the President tends not to leave well enough alone.

Doronila in his commentary, says the issue of political killings and militarization must be seized by the opposition, if it wants to gain traction with the public -too many of the old school politicos in the opposition ranks are living in the past harping on former president Estrada.

Certainly, as today’s Inquirer editorial and the Manila Times editorial point out, if the military has been active in squatter colonies since November, it has to be asked if this is a really valid counterinsurgency effort, since it involves frightening people into not voting a certain way. It seems the government is alarmed by the strength in the surveys of radical party list groups. The question is whether the armed forces have any business telling voters -at the point of a gun- whom to vote for, when they are supposed to be neutral during elections. More troubling still is the refusal of the AFP to cease and desist: on the simple argument that no, the military presence has nothing to do with the elections.

The President’s signing of the anti-terror bill today would be a good opportunity to raise the issue, if only members of the opposition hadn’t voted for it.

In the blogosphere, Edwin Lacierda pens an eloquent response to the open letter du jour, Harvey Keh’s. Overseas, on the frantic lobbying in the US Congress over a global climate change bill.

Overseas news: riots in Denmark greet the demolition of a historic building.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

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