Can the President afford to “move on”?

Peso at 45.87! Yesterday, protests greeted President’s visit to Japan.

Speaker de Venecia back in triumph, backed by enlarged administration coalition. Question: if he had leverage over the President prior to 2007, post-2007, is she his hostage or is he now her hostage?

AFP Chief of Staff will launch anti-tentacle campaign.

Comelec doesn’t want media doing its own counting. Top eight senators might be proclaimed soon. Businessmen want cheating investigated. As Philippine Experience puts it, the phrase of the day is “clerical error.”

Fascinating account of cyber war aimed against the government attempted in Estonia.

In the punditocracy: My Arab News column for today is Can Arroyo Afford to Move On? I doubt it.

The Inquirer editorial looks at a suggestion from El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, which the Palace has already rejected. But even before that news came out the editorial was already skeptical of a lull in the fighting:

Early signs aren’t promising. The President sat down with members of the Federation of Chinese-Filipino Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and her Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila asked them to pass on a patronizing message to incoming senators.

“It’s like fathers telling their children: ‘I’ve given you your allowance because I wanted you to do these things. Now if you don’t do them, you won’t have an allowance,'” Favila said. He hinted further: “They could say, ‘We don’t need (politicking) now. The elections are over. The people have spoken and we should accept the results. Let’s get our act together for our country’s future.'”

But it begins, as Velarde says, with the President herself accepting the public’s verdict at the polls: Only when she accepts political reality can others contemplate cooperation. If Favila is any sign of the President’s thinking, then she’s off to squander her reprieve: she has put the political cart before the horse. And if she does that, then can the public — never mind the new senators, who take their cue from public opinion — be anything but skeptical? As it is, the voice of the Palace remains that of Tonypet Albano screaming of “machinery” and “command votes” — even after the election is over.

Amando Doronila says the “scale of the national rejection of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration has unfolded with shocking intensity,” something he was skeptical would happen, but that the most troubling thing is the refusal of the Palace to see reality:

First, the Senate results are a more accurate measure of the scale of the electoral disaster suffered by the administration as well as of the national mood of rejection than the local polls. The Senate election funneled the overarching grievances nationwide, which were distorted by the more parochial issues in the House and local elections. Therefore, the local elections are not a reliable indicator of a fresh mandate for or a vote of confidence in the administration.

Second, attempts to distort or alter the Senate election results by tampering with the returns in certain regions, especially in Maguindanao, tend to scuttle President Arroyo’s efforts to use the midterm polls as her last chance to repair her presidency’s legitimacy, which has been battered by the Garci tapes scandal.

Already, the mounting reports from independent poll watch groups of blatant election cheating in Mindanao appear to have undermined the President’s battle to regain legitimacy, which is the underlying issue of this election. She appears to have already lost this battle.

Third, although the President has tried to downgrade the message of the 8-2-2 result with the business-as-usual stance, the denial syndrome has revealed, even more strikingly than she cared to admit, that she is deeply troubled by the magnitude of the administration’s defeat in the Senate election. In an incredible display of escapism, she has built a wall of unreality around her.

Manuel Buencamino thinks “the battle of the frames” is continuing:

To survive until 2010, Mrs. Arroyo must convince her followers to stay united behind her. She has to make them forget their recent animosities and power struggles.

In order to do that, she must give them a common enemy-oversight and checks and balances-and a common cause-a shift to a unicameral parliament. Unfortunately, doing that won’t be as easy as it was before the election.

The election revealed a kink in what, over the last two years, seemed like an impenetrable shield of power and good luck protecting Mrs. Arroyo. The election proved once and for all what surveys have been saying all along: Mrs. Arroyo enjoys very little public support.

And so, Mrs. Arroyo’s “overwhelming-victory” statement was meant not so much for the opposition who, anyway, will not stop until all their unanswered questions are answered; it was meant for her followers.

Mrs. Arroyo knows danger lies not in enemies smelling weakness but in followers beginning to doubt their leader’s strength. Doubts cause desertions.

In the blogosphere, The Lonely Vampire Chronicles runs down the list of the President’s political options.

Torn & Frayed asks if a priest’s election violates the separation of church & state (if we follow American practice, the answer is no; I believe Rep. Amante in Manila is a Protestant minister).

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

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