First, the renegade. There’s an interesting interview of Danton Remoto in PinoyCentric, where he speaks pretty bluntly about what he observed as a candidate in the last elections.
From Remoto’s observations concerning local politics, let’s move on to the insider(s), particularly talk concerning national developments, starting with Postcard Headlines who takes a look at the interest generated by a news item titled Politics goes retro: It’s NP vs LP in 2010.
Next, with the stage set, there’s Ricky Carandang’s explanation of why he thinks Senate President Manuel Villar, Jr. is the front-runner in the 2010 race:
Villar has also taken care of the financial side of the presidential run. The recent public offer of Vista Land, his newly restructured flagship company, raised P20 bilion, a significant chunk of which will go to Villar. I’m told that it costs about P5 billion to run a successful presidential campaign. The IPO puts Villar ahead of his presumptive rivals in the all important money race.
A cursory look at the financial abilities of his rivals will show that at this stage, only Mar Roxas comes close in terms of resources. The Araneta-Roxas family certainly has assets worth P5 billion, but much of that is in real estate and co-owned by the family. Mar wouldn’t be able to simply write out a cheque for P5 billion to fund his campaign.
At this early stage, other possible candidates Loren Legarda and Ping Lacson don’t have anywhere near the required amount.
Incidentally, today’s headline, Cayetano bags prized blue ribbon committee, represents, in Carandang’s opinion, a nifty political side-step on Villar’s part:
Now, just as the cries of “sellout” were beginning to gain ground, he has managed—over the initial objections of the Palace—to have opposition stalwart Alan Cayetano named chair of the Blue Ribbon committee, the body that investigates government wrongdoing. In one stroke Villar has managed to silence the criticism and transferred the onus of proving his independence to Cayetano.
If, in his investigations, Cayetano is perceived to be soft on the adminstration it is he who will be accused of selling out, not Villar. If he does as promised and goes after the Arroyo regime he will silence the critics from the opposition and Villar will be praised for standing up to the majority.
The proof of the pudding will indeed be in the eating: those who voted for Cayetano will expect him to hold slam-bang investigations in the Blue Ribbon. It seems to me, aware of this (having tried to stop Cayetano’s selection as Blue Ribbon chairman), the administration’s backing off from hot potato deals: No go for broadband deal–Palace adviser. Nip it in the bud!
But what’s interesting, to me, is the overall allocation of committees, where most legislative work is done. The administration’s the clear winner here: Enrile with Finance, Santiago with Foreign Relations and Energy, Gordon with Constitutional Amendments, Tourism, Codes and Laws, Angara with Banking as well as Agriculture, Lapid with Gaming and Amusements, Revilla with Public Works, Honasan with Public Security, Escudero has the very powerful Ways and Means committee (along with oversight committees on the Lateral Attrition Act, the National Internal Revenue Code and the Special Purpose Vehicle Act), has oversight over taxation, which will surely please his party chief.
All the other chairmanships seem peanuts compared to the ones the administration’s ended up with. And the ultimate message is, everything’s still negotiable, which is why the President can send out feelers like this: Arroyo calls all senators, not Trillanes, to meet. When you read news like this, Arroyo seeks Congress’ passage of 28 priority measures, compare the list of the President’s priority legislation, with the newly-announced committee chairmanships in the Senate.
Going back to Carandang’s opinion that Villar is the frontrunner, John Nery in his column, says he’s privy to the findings of a currently-embargoed survey, and the presidential frontrunners aren’t the ones widely reported in media:
The polling organization showed its survey respondents a list of six prospective candidates, and then asked, “Who would you vote for, if the elections were held today and these personalities were in the running?”
Of course, it is far too early to place bets on 2010, but it certainly seems like the moneyed rivals (and the real frontrunners on the list) have their work cut out for them. Image-building, party-building, alliance-building — that’s a whole lot of infrastructure investing.
Some interesting theories propounded by columnists today. For background, first see today’s Manila Times editorial and the entry The real story on the kidnapped Filipino technicians in Iraq in Uniffors; then go on to Tony Abaya, who says he’s convinced there was an American plot to oust the President, but that since then, Uncle Sam’s decided to live with her until 2010. Writes Abaya,
(In early December 2005, there was a story in media about 88 Filipino workers who were stranded in the Dubai international airport and could not proceed to Iraq, but refused to come back to the Philippines. They and the 51 workers Mayberry testified about – and possibly other unpublicized groups – may be part of what Madsen calls “low-wage slave trading in the Middle East.”)
Madsen says that the Arroyo administration banned the PPI… from further recruiting Filipino migrant workers for the Middle East after a Filipino was killed during a terrorist attack on Camp Anaconda in 2004.
…Madsen claims there is a connection between PGMA’s “ordering the repatriation of Filipino workers from Iraq and Kuwait, and the discovery that US Marine Corps and FBI spy Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino-American who worked as a Marine security aide inside Cheney’s office… who was arrested by the FBI last October , had stolen dossiers from Cheney’s office that were considered damaging to Mrs. Arroyo.”
…The above means that the NSA was intercepting and eavesdropping on PGMA’s landline and cell phone conversations, and passing on the dirt to Estrada. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Hello Garci tapes were first made public by Allan Paguia, a “former” lawyer of Estrada.
The above paragraph confirmed what I have written several times, that the neo-cons in Washington, who are led by Cheney, wanted to see Arroyo removed from office, for (a) withdrawing the Filipino contingent from Iraq; (b) signing an oil exploration agreement with the Chinese on the Spratlys; and (c) failing to dismantle the Jemaah Islamiyah camps in Mindanao…
But after the Aragoncillo-Michael Ray Aquino espionage case was thoroughly investigated by the Americans, Estrada – considered the main beneficiary and financier of the caper – and Panfilo Lacson – the former boss of Aquino – have been dropped from the neo-cons’ short list of replacements for GMA, and the Americans have decided to stay with GMA until 2010, or until a suitable replacement can be found before 2010.
Which suggests, first of all, that the tapes were genuine to begin with, but also explains where they came from -returning to speculation at the time (2005) that the tapes were an American leak!
Incidentally, it’s also interesting to connect Abaya’s belief of continuing -but conditional- American backing, with Amando Doronila’s analysis of how panic-prone the administration remains:
The panic was triggered after Joachim von Amsberg told foreign correspondents prior to his departure as World Bank country director in the Philippines that the Arroyo administration’s failure to meet its five-month revenue target had put at risk its ability to sustain fiscal reforms and meet its budget deficit goals.
The warning so unnerved the administration that the panic it touched off has defined its policy responses and priorities since July. It has been responsible for a number of developments, including a clueless Cabinet reshuffle, an economic policy vacuum, and the loss of direction of the national agenda despite the blueprint set by the SONA.
Meanwhile, Ellen Tordesillas revisits a proposal that’s been discussed pretty widely for some time now (see my blog entry for June 22, 2007 for example, and Fr. Bernas’ July 2, 2007 column), that is, a grant of amnesty to put to heal the political divisions since 2001:
Lacson’s advisers said the opposition senator is amenable to sponsoring a bill granting amnesty to those accused of political crimes but they said they would have to be careful about its coverage including the cut-off date. They said JDV and Lacson may not have the same definition of “political crimes”.
The amnesty proposal is supposed to solve the political tension that has bedeviled the Arroyo administration since its start in 2001. Amnesty is an instrument of reconciliation as it erases the political crime of the accused even before conviction. It differs from pardon, which can be granted only after conviction.
Logically, those who would likely be included would be former President Estrada, son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and lawyer Edward Serapio who are awaiting the Sandiganbayan decision on their plunder cases; the Magdalo soldiers who staged the so-called “Oakwood Mutiny” in July 2003 that includes Trillanes; and the 28 officers led by Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda involved in the alleged aborted withdrawal of support from Arroyo in February 2006.
De Venecia has not spelled out details of his amnesty proposal but sources told us the cut-off date, presumably at the time of the filing, would in effect protect Arroyo and her associates from being charged with plunder and other crimes once she is out of office. That means she would be automatically absolved of the crime of betrayal of public trust for cheating in the 2004 elections and for diverting millions and millions of pesos for the people to her election fund. Same thing will happen to her accomplices like former Agriculture Secretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.
Sources said the amnesty proposal is actually designed for Arroyo. Estrada, Miranda and Trillanes et. al. would just be collateral beneficiaries.
By the way, concerning Trillanes, the critical camp has its exponent in Solita Monsod; blogger Quixotic Kibitzer points out flaws in the arguments of those (including me) who criticized the court’s decision to refuse Trillanes permission to attend Senate sessions.