Calm before the storm

That was the theme of a gathering I attended last night. The main attraction was fellow columnist Conrado de Quiros. I was able to record his speech (lots of ambient noise though), and I’m glad I did because it makes for a great listen. Listen to Conrado de Quiros on the theme, “calm before the storm.”

A few minutes ago I finished being interviewed by a crew from Reuters television, and they asked me about my views about the coming elections.

1. Certain assumptions, first of all. There is a four-cornered fight going on. The first corner: the Senate. The second: the House of Representatives. The third: the gubernatorial and mayoralty races. The fourth: the legal arena. In the first, the opposition (and I include independents in this camp) is poised to win; in the second, the president will win, but there will still be a significant enough opposition to make things a pain in the rear; in the third, the president will win, but the support will be conditional, and thus fickle, going into the challenges she’ll be facing; in the fourth, the Chief Justice has shown signs of putting up a fight which will be problematic for the president.

Does the president possess a trump card, in terms of the police, followed by the military? That is the question. The military is affected in turn, by how the winds are blowing in Washington, since it still provides much of the armed forces’ bread and butter.

What I’m assuming, though, is that just as the opposition can achieve only a partial win, the same applies to the President. But she needs a big win, because she has a couple of big fights lined up as soon as the second half of this year: she has to raise taxes (never popular); she needs to start on her major infrastructure projects (for which she needs taxes); she will have to keep her critics on the defensive by mounting a new effort to amend the constitution: all three add all sorts of dynamics to what may be merely the ritual of going through another impeachment effort.

2. We can understand candidacies like Fr. Panlilio’s in the context of two things. First, how ultimately, a political crisis ends up with the public looking to the Catholic hierarchy to determine the existence, or lack of it, of the “mandate of heaven.” The bishops bungled it, because some lacked the balls, the others are enamored of the President, the ones who can tell right from wrong are outnumbered by the other two groups. But even if the bishops dropped the ball, the expectation, or perhaps a better phrase is yearning, for a kind of spiritual direction to politics, remains. And if some bishops won’t do it, the clergy will.

I remember two years ago, the talk among clerical circles was that the bishops had their hands full containing the outrage of their priests, who were much more vocal in opposing what was going on, than the bishops were willing to express in public. Second, its part of a larger trend that other faiths, without the historical baggage of the Catholic Church, have embraced far more readily, even eagerly: dating all the way back to Gregorio Aglipay’s presidential bid in 1935, the rise of the Iglesia ni Cristo as a political force starting in the 50s and 60s, and the Eddie Villanueva campaign in 2004. So the Catholics are catching up: Panlilio in Pampanga and the Abang for Congress movement, which supports the bid of Abang Mabulo to contest the position Dato Arroyo is seeking, are part of the same phenomenon.

3. In view of the above, here’s something else. Just as the Catholic hierarchy may be part of any political “tipping point,” our society, including media, relies on certain institutions to hand down a verdict on the validity of any electoral exercise. This includes the CBCP, but also includes Namfrel and similar groups. By all accounts, Namfrel is in such disarray that it’s unclear if it’s even managed to reserve the La Salle GreenHills gymn for the traditional (and expected) Quick Count. If the organizations traditionally expected to serve as election watchdogs prove completely overwhelmed and uprepared for this election, one which a significant portion of the public already expects to be rigged, then we will simply have a he-said, she-said situation with regards to the election. Again, those who will follow the President to the bitter end, and those who bitterly oppose her, will claim their version of events while the public ends up not fully believing either side.

Which makes me very, very anxious. Today’s Inquirer editorial calls it karma.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

23 thoughts on “Calm before the storm

  1. “Again, those who will follow the President to the bitter end, and those who bitterly oppose her, will claim their version of events while the public ends up not fully believing either side.”

    And that makes history no different from fiction?

  2. Calm?!

    Military men in civilian clothes with high powered guns shooting it out with a partylist group security men?

    Dapat pugutan nang ulo ang Chief of Staff.. masahol pa sa terrorist ang ginagawa nila.

  3. The way I see it on the ground level, nobody believes either side anymore. And in case you haven’t noticed, the rules have changed and continue to change. Aside from the elections now being really just about garcifications, I will not be surprised if Gloria suddenly lend a helping hand to Namfrel. Gloria is acting counter-intuitively to keep intellectuals second-guessing her instead of plotting a real revolution, which is also karma.

    “The calm before the storm”? I guess not (but I hope so). I will not be overexcited this time and just call this episode “the calm before the calm”. People just don’t care enough to take action. This too is karma.

    But I do fervently hope the Namfrel crashes completely to the ground now. That’s karma. And its beautiful.

    We are a people without a leader. That’s the sad fact. May a true leader rise from these ashes but until then, the people won’t rise. This makes me anxious because I don’t believe that leader will ever come, save for the Lord come judgment day.

    I’m just a fool, right?

  4. I always believe that the Institution designated as the Election Watchdog is the one Mandated by the Constitution as the Election Watchdog and it is the COMELEC. All others, like the NAMFRELS are just the components. Ask JP Kingsley, now the upcoming head of IFES (International Foundation for Election System), that for 17 years, single-handedly, his Election Canada, didn’t need anyone to safeguard and conduct election as mandated by the constitution. COMELEC could likewise, under Abalos, do the same as mandated. He has all the power and resources at his disposal and he’s the Boss, he could do it, unless he ain’t got no balls.

  5. Manolo,

    The Opposition won’t win the first fight, what I can see there is a tie, the President is going to take it all except the fourth it will be a stale mate for that as long as she stays within the boundaries approved by the SC Chief Justice.

    Charter Change will be the main topic for the next 3 years and it will be bitterly opposed by the senate because most of the presidential aspirants will come from there so they’ll do everything they can to stop it.

    Regarding impeachment, why don’t we just let her finish this may sound ridiculous for some but I really don’t think we can survive anymore crisis

  6. Equilibrium,

    Gloria Arroyo is the crisis, her impeachment the solution.

    As for your forecast, the only way TU can force a tie is for Prospero Pichay to shell out another 100 million bucks to buy votes and pay columnists like Alvin Capino of Manila Standard to write crap about his winning chances and the possibilities of him landing in the magic 12. He’s got a snowball’s chance in hell.

    Back to impeachment, the other crisis is the Filipino people’s apathy towards this issue. People like you and Bong Austero who just want to ‘move on’.

    The elections are about Gloria Arroyo’s legitimacy, it’s about the Fertilizer fund that Jocjoc Bolante and his fellow Rotarians stole, it’s about the blood of the leftists and journalists butchered by Arroyo’s military, it’s about the ‘desaparacidos’, it’s about the death of democracy in this country.

  7. ‘Regarding impeachment, why don’t we just let her finish this may sound ridiculous for some but I really don’t think we can survive anymore crisis’

    Why don’t we also

    1) free all criminals in our jails
    2) forget the human rights abuses commited by the military and the communist
    3) withdraw all corruption cases filed by the Ombudsman
    4) legalize abortion
    5) forgive the Marcos cronies and let them keep the money they took from the Filipinos
    6) legalize prostitution
    7) give illegal loggers the right to chop down all the trees
    8) legalize drug trafficking
    9) legalize smuggling
    10) show XXX movies during prime TV

    Sounds ridiculous?

  8. the spate of election-related killings is getting alarming. are we back to the dark days before edsa1? and i thought someone promised us reforms.

  9. With few exceptions to Supremo’s 10 other things to do in addition to forgo impeachment as suggested by Equilibrium, I especially take special notice to:

    #4 legalize abortion: Abortion had been going on in the country “backdoor Clinics and Hospitals” for so long and because of being criminalized it put the lives of countless women at risk. with government responsible programs of family planning and decriminalizing abortion, better yet legalized, (give the women the right of choice, Equality in short) there would be no problem at all of hiding the procedure that been going on and take out the stigma of the medical procedure that is between a woman and her doctor. maybe in the process, we can solve the other social problem of population explosion.

    #6 legalize prostitution; prostitution is always legal. soliciting in public may not. but wonder of wonder, it thrives in places where it is illegal and so the social disease that it is associated with. make it legal and license the prostitutes, and regulate it, better than underground.

  10. i would just like to say something about washington vis-a-vis the military. whichever camp wins the majority in the senate should finish what the group magnificent 12 has started. it must be legislated that the dependence of the military on a single foreign entity shall, from hereon, be ended by forging partnerships with other powers such as the e.u. countries. special trainings, logistics and organizational management that may only be obatined overseas, have to be equitably sourced from the other nations of the freeworld too.

    the cold war is over. it is no longer necessary to stay exclusively american. moreover, the new world menace is terrorism which is best addressed by humint (human intelligence). it is the europeans who have developed the best humint systems, not the americans. these guys were forced to rely on humint (and mastered the art in the process) because they did not have the logistics of uncle sam while having interests all over the world to protect.

    recent history also shows the ugliness of the military’s dependence on a single foreign power. when angie reyes was asked why he withdrew support from the president whom he trusts, he answered, “iba yun. para sa bayan yun.” his decision came after seeing that many of his service commanders were already with mr. carlsyle group. he was forced to go with them just to avoid civil war para sa bayan, as he said. as to why mr. carlysle group was able to seduce the service commanders over afp chief of staff reyes, the reason is in the belief that he is uncle sam’s conduit to the country. and with the current setup, it is unthinkable for the top brass to cross the americans.

    pres erap was the high profile victim of the wrong usage of this american connection but gma should also make moves to change the status quo. this concern should cross party lines. the military, at all times, must be controlled by the president (commander-in-chief) and not by an outsider who just happens to have the most influence in washington. doesn’t she want that, more power?

    this monopoly of sorts must be dismantled. the military should have other avenues to salvation or else the gate keeper of that single passage becomes the true holder of power without mandate and accountability. what if this puppeteer used to head the defunct p.c. which is the record holder in terms of human rights violations? what if he has economic high crimes that have to be brought to court? what if the most complained about govt officials like winston garcia, are untouchables from his stables? patay na tayo!

    of course, even with the american monopoly dismantled, the military may still override the will of the people anytime as in the case of thailand. this is a reality in non-first world nations. be that as it may, a great undue influence on the president, sponsored by the most ungrateful nation to ours, will finally meet its end.

  11. Hey, vic,

    1. Abortion isn’t just between a woman and her doctor–what about the child whose life will be ended?

    2. Legalizing prostitution is a lame cop-out. We should reject outright a culture that turns women into sex objects.

  12. Mike,

    It depends the legal status of the fetus as define by the law of the land. Our SC decided long ago, up to the term that it is safe for the mother, it is legal, after that the doctors won’t take the change of being sued for risking the life of the mother. But with effective educational campaign and guidance to our youths, abortion on demand although legal was minimized.

    Prostitution is not only a profession practised by the female sex. Ever heard of male prostitutes? or even same sex? well, that the price we pay in a Free Society we call Democracy. And the Philippines is very famous of hers, whether legal or illegal. And arguing about the merits of legalizing or making it a criminal offense or outright outlawing without doing, and going to the root cause and that is the lack of gainful employment for most (some will engage in prostitution, no matter what)will do us no good, but just to dismiss the other side as cop-out is just keeping a blind eye to the sickness that is getting worse in the Philippines setting.

  13. Mike… As vic mentions, prostitution is a job. It is from a bias that women are sex objects that make one look at prostitution as making sex objects of women.
    Prostitution is a job and the many obligations of the government include ensuring that the workers are not coerced into the job (which is slavery/trafficking), that the working environment is safe, fair wages are paid with consideration given to public health issues along with protecting the interests of the rest of the community (e.g. via zoning and mandatory health inspections/licensing).
    The Philippines, as member of the United Nations and as signer of several human rights declarations, has obligations to Filipino and Filipina sex-workers.

  14. I agree with Vic and UPn Student. Besides, the rise of the big syndicates (gambling lords and their police/military protectors) is because of the Filipinos’ moralistic attitude and inordinate focus against everyday vices. It’s a case of supply and demand. Drive up the price of gambling (by prohibiting it) and some entrepreneur would consider it profitable to go into business. These alternative channels then become the source of public corruption and violence. The United States learned this lesson when it tried to ban alcohol during prohibition in the 20’s which gave rise to Al Capone and similar characters. It would be better to focus our law enforcement and justice system on the real crimes.

  15. Countless countries have spent time, effort and money trying to eradicate prostitution and drugs to absolutely no avail. Legalise, tax and apply quality control. That way you reduce crime, protect the weak, and free up resources to improve education, infrastructure, job creation etc.

  16. Vic,

    1. Well, the law of THIS land is that life is to be protected from the point of conception. So if you’re talking from the legal standpoint, over here, abortion is killing. But laying the law aside, I think people are deluding themselves when they try to rationalize abortion. They try to sterilize the act, but to anyone who bothers to consider its nature, it is abhorrent. Especially partial-birth abortions, whereby the child is partially delivered and then killed. Women who go through abortions know very well that, despite all the euphemisms, it is a taking of life. They just have lots of reasons why they want to do it. Well, you may have lots of reasons to do away with your aging parents–maybe they cramp your style, maybe they’re too hard to take care of, maybe the cost of medical treatment is too hogh–but the law is not going to let you.

    2. You may be right that prostitution increases as economic conditions deteriorate, but that’s true of a lot of illegal “professions” (goons, smugglers, swindlers, drug dealers, etc.). You can’t just say, “Well, that’s the way it goes, the economy is bad.” That’s why I said it was a cop-out. If something is wrong, you don’t condone it. As far as I know, the arguments for decriminalizing prostitution have never included, “Prostitution is a social good.”

  17. Dapat pugutan nang ulo ang Chief of Staff.. masahol pa sa terrorist ang ginagawa nila.

    This is the kind of comment that we should avoid in threads like this out of respect to the website owner especially now that there are already cases brought to courts against website owners who fail to moderate their comment boxes and get rid of defamation, slander or hurtful talk.

    We may fight and argue but should never wish death or illness for someone we hate. I think we are professionals and emotionally mature to make discussions here more informative and educational for the sake of the readers.

  18. UPn, And to both Abortion and Prostitution our government here Provincial and Federal had extended the Maternity (paternity) leave of couples, same sex included, paid benefits to one year, divisible between parents to their choice or to which one gets the most benefits. And although Abortion on demand had been legal for a while now, the Morning after pill are now available over the counter for those who forgot.

    For Prostitution, soliciting which is still illegal and keeping a common bawdy house is under debate. And a red light district where working women and men can ply their trade is contemplated so they can be easily patrolled and controlled.

    The trial of Serial Killer suspected of murdering dozens of prostitutes in British Columbia is ongoing and after the criminal trial, we are going to examine ourselves why the crime was undetected for so long. That is the Case of Pig Farmer Robert Pickton.

  19. Catholic bishops usually won’t take on the secular power unless their benefices are threatened. It is a matter of privileges and patronage. Even when Henry VIII had parliament pass the Act of Supremacy, the bishops of England agreed to recognize him as Head of the Church in England effectively breaking their allegiance to the Pope. Only one bishop dissented, John Fisher, who was bishop of the poorest diocese in England! Fisher had nothing to lose except his head, which he literally did to Henry’s executioner.

    The clerics have less to lose, hence would be more active in politics. More clerics than bishops were martyred in Henry’s reformation.

    In accepting the episcopacy, the bishops have to be politicians too.

    Is there a Fisher in the CBCP to Her Majesty?

  20. Blackshama : Filipinos should not expect much vigor from the CBCP in regards political activism, particularly in areas of social justice, poverty and human rights.
    The Catholic bishops (who directly report to the Pope) have received their marching orders, and it came in relation to the movement labelled “Liberation Theology”. The concept of “Liberation Theology” has strong similarities/ties to Christian socialism (and very popular in Latin America and among Jesuits). The Vatican issued official rejections of the theology in the 1980s and liberation theologians were harshly admonished by Pope John Paul II (leading to the curtailing of its growth). The current Pope, Benedict XVI, has also been long known as an opponent of certain strands of liberation theology, and issued several condemnations of tendencies within it whilst head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
    [While the Roman Catholic Hierarcy speaks against Liberation Theology, the philosophy/movement is recognized within liberal Protestant circles as an important school of thought, enjoying equal standing with neo-orthodoxy, feminist theology, process theology and others.]

  21. From the discussions above about prostitution and abortion, all i can say is that legislation will never not make an immoral act moral.

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