A new majority

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The last few weeks have been like a time warp. i remember when I visited Lucena in August, Atty. Sonny Pulgar described to me how even local politics had changed, reflecting national attitudes that have been obvious for some time. He said that the old era of the stump speech and the miting de avance, on a provincial level, was gone. Why would families want to sit through boring speeches, when they could watch teleseryes on TV? The era of the miting de avance predated the concept of TV prime time, and so, even in provincial elections, people preferred to decide on candidates according to their ads, while candidates looking for support had to go house to house, retail on the most minute scale.

But it seems the last bastion of traditional politics is the baranggay. I had’t encountered marching bands and the whole panoply of traditional campaigns in 2004 or 2007 (May), but the last couple of weeks had the old trappings on display. Bands banging away, processions, posters, streamers… Over the weekend, as the photo above shows in my baranggay, processions became quite elaborate: the tricycle procession I snapped above was followed by a procession of Mercedes-Benzes and vans, all sporting blue balloons.

Saturday, too, featured a round-the-clock battle of the bands, with drums and xlyophones, literally on the hour, every hour, from morning till evening. As I said, I saw similar bands in all sorts of baranggays, rich and poor, in the metropolis.

I don’t know if I agree with Blog@AWBHoldings who thinks the problem is keeping baranggay elections nonpartisan. The problem, it seems to me, is that everyone knows the baranggay is the bedrock of party politics, and you might as well remove the bogus effort to keep it nonpartisan and make it partisan within effective limits.

The effect of today’s baranggay election will be to entrench the ruling coalition.

Anyway, on to the national scene.

Estrada is now to the opposition what FVR is to the ruling coalition -a decoration, a receding symbol of past mistakes but not a key to a better future or an obstacle to more meaningful change.

Meanwhile, as yesterday’s Inquirer editorial put it, we are an even more deeply divided nation, and that the pardon was an act of political suicide, as today’s Inquirer editorial puts it. While Amando Doronila thinks pretty much the same thing:

The President’s strategists had thought that by removing Estrada from the picture, the pardon would allow her to rebuild her defenses that were crumbling under the pressures of corruption scandals over the broadband contract with the Chinese telecommunication company, ZTE Corp., and the cash payoff to congressmen and governors to bribe them into killing new impeachment complaints against her.

The ZTE deal has opened a dangerous rift between Ms Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia, whose son, Jose de Venecia III, has denounced the President’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, for intervening in the deal by telling him to back off from pressing his bid to review the contract.

This rift has opened cracks on the façade of the Lakas-led coalition in the House of Representatives. De Venecia can no longer be depended upon to rally the numbers to kill new impeachment moves. There are also plots to unseat him as Speaker…

The opposition members in the House, including Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan, are treating new impeachment complaints on the strength of the evidence backing these. They are not taking cues from Estrada and, Zamora has said, his fellow opposition would not be influenced by the pardon. The impeachment threat remains.

There are no tectonic shifts in alliances in the House as a result of the pardon. It cannot save the President from a crumbling coalition. She gained nothing but more scorn.

(in light of the above, see JDV seen as on brink of ouster: Showdown expected next week)

My column today, The price of power, is almost entirely based on an earlier entry on this blog, except for this updated part:

What happens next? A free man, Estrada is now just another ex-president. He can begin investing, quite heavily, in the political futures of his sons. However, his starring role is at an end. His allies among the political leaders must now attend to their own futures, because Estrada now belongs to the past. Jejomar Binay is now the true leader of the traditional political opposition.

And as for the President, it’s back to the War Room because so many other fights still need to be fought, and any relief she obtains always proves increasingly temporary.

To those who were at Edsa Dos, but who wouldn’t budge in 2005 and 2006, and who are suddenly filled with outrage over Ms Arroyo pardoning Estrada, what did you expect? You made this not only possible, but inevitable. Edsa Dos was not betrayed by this pardon, it was betrayed when the President tried to steal the 2004 election, when she refused to be held accountable by means of the impeachment process, and when she very nearly imposed martial law in 2006 but was foiled by Nonong Cruz. I am glad you now see what others saw–years ago.

To be sure, these thoughts aren’t unique, as discussed by the razor-sharp Placeholder:

True, because of Civil Society groups’ protest activities, just like the human body, our Society may run a fever, but it would be foolish to mistake the fever itself as the problem and lash out and make fun of these groups as Geo and like-minded members of the Philippine Middle Class have done. Now it’s their turn to wake up and smell the coffee. They (and we) are now reaping the rewards of such expediency. We have now arrived at a point where the State, which is supposed to protect our way of life, can no longer be excluded from the list of prime suspects*.

Or as observed by Ricky Carandang:

After all, Estrada was the only president since 1965 whose election to the presidency was not marred by accusations of electoral cheating. And despite his ouster in the 2001 coup de etat that history calls EDSA 2, he remains generally popular…more popular in fact than the woman who ousted him from office and took his place.

But there were few protests when the Sandiganbayan convicted him. I believe this is because despite the affection that people felt for him, they generally believed that the verdict was fair.

This is also the reason why I believe so many people are angry over the pardon. Lawyers who helped prosecute Estrada say that the six years of effort showed that despite all the shortcomings of the justice system, in this one instance, the system actually worked. The pardon undermined that message. The elites and middle classes who showed up for EDSA 2 to help oust Estrada and stood behind Arroyo despite Hello Garci, ZTE, extrajudicial killings, cash in paper bags being handed out to politicians, charter change, EVAT, and all her other sins, could always fall on Estrada’s guilt as a rationalization for their apathy. The pardon has removed that excuse and now those that will continue to stand by her after this have to find a new reason to continue supporting her. Someone told me that allowing Estrada to be convicted was the only good thing Arroyo ever did for this country and now she undid it.

The prospects opening up, however, are expressed best of all by Ang Tambayan ni Paeng, who pens an open letter to the President:

Thank you, Madam President, for taking the ghost of Joseph Estrada off our shoulders. For so long, we in the anti-GMA camp had to suffer the blanket label of being pro-Erap in our actions. Now, we can oppose your unconstitutional actions without being accused of being “mga bayaran ni Wristband.” Now, we can call for your resignation without being asked “Bakit, gusto mong ibalik uli sa kapangyarihan si Erap?”

Thank you, Madam President, for giving us the opportunity to clean the ranks of the opposition. Finally, we will get to see who is really fighting the principled fight and who is fighting for the control over the sharing of the spoils. Finally, we can purge from our ranks the corrupt people who’d like to impeach you for your rape of the government coffers, the martial law agents who’d like to impeach you for your human rights violations, and the vote-buyers who’d like to impeach you for saying hello to Garci.

Thank you, Madam President, for vindicating our fight against the 2004 movement to vote for the lesser evil. You have shown that there’s no point in toppling an administration ran by a corrupt gambler if we’re just going to just replace it by an administration ran by a lying and cheating thief. The fight against the forces of evil can only be won by fighting with the forces of good. To think otherwise is sheer idiocy.

Thank you, Madam President, for slapping the faces of the middle force who supported you for the sake of “moving on” despite your numerous crimes to the country. What a tragic irony it is to see their favorite whipping boy Erap now freely partying in Polk Street upon command of their anointed savior. What a tragic irony it is that by chanting the mantra of moving on, the country took a step back in the fight against plunder, corruption and bad governance.

Thank you, Madam President, for uniting behind your administration the Estradas, the Marcoses, your various kaKAMPIs and cronies, and the other forces fighting for the preservation of the corrupt status quo. Now, the battle lines are clearly drawn. And it is time for the true opposition who believes in the fight for genuine societal change to unite and take the fight to your door. Tama na, sobra na, palitan na…KAYONG LAHAT!

As The Philippine Experience further explains, critics of Edsa Dos miss the point:

The elite, they call us. Me, rich? I am another member of the working class who tries his best to feed his family. No, I don’t own a newspaper like Niñez does, I’m a lowly blogger who does not even have his own domain.

The people I went to EDSA with back in 2001 were ordinary folks. I saw countless individuals who obviously were not well-off. Sure there were the rich group but I could tell that they are a very small group. I did not see dole-outs but I did see people just like me who shared the little food we brought along. There were no catering trucks that handed out mineral water and food in Styrofoam containers. Even the old balut vendor I stood beside “gave” away his balut for free.

I went to EDSA not to install Gloria but to show my disgust at how the numbers game was played in Erap’s impeachment. I too am appalled by the same situation in GMA’s last two impeachments were the majority relied on their numbers to dump the impeachment complaint. Aside from being one with those who denounced his way of running the country, there was a personal side to why I joined EDSA 2. I had to teach my kids that we all have to make a stand sometime in our lives. If the people who joined EDSA were rich, they wouldn’t be working during the day and then going to EDSA after work. Maybe the Tribune did not notice how thin the crowds were during the day only to swell in the afternoon and into the night.

I laugh at how the Tribune’s editorial pointed to different groups and lumping them into one box. Calling EDSA 3 the revolt of the masses is quite incorrect. EDSA 3 showed us how the poor can be easily manipulated by the rich. It showed us how the elite can exploit the suffering of the poor to their advantage. The Tribune should look at itself and those who see Erap as an aggrieved party and examine themselves closely.

Erap’s undoing was his own. The private prosecutors found evidence to link him to the crime for which he was charged. He was acquitted of those he obviously did not commit. I too defended him against the obvious injustices this administration handed him. Maybe the Tribune has to understand what morality and justice is. The editorial was quite reckless in its opinion. I am not a member of the Black and White movement. I must agree though that certain personalities were accommodated by the UNO but that is to put some credibility to their slate. UNO cannot claim that these personalities were forced upon them. If UNO stuck to their favored candidates, I doubt if those would match up to who GMA had.

Page 111
In Hungry Enough to Devour a President, Sylvia Mayuga ties the threads of the past with the unraveling ties that bind the administration to power:

Point is: the Republic of the Philippines is not starting from scratch. It won a victory for people empowerment at a very high price after 20 long years under Marcos, the way Manuel L. Quezon and the independence movement won back our sovereignty in 1946, the way the Katipunan decided to take the plunge for revolution in 1896…

…A panorama of recent history — for that is all it is in the life of a mystical race with all its faults — emerges now in major landmarks of a reigning Kapampangan queen’s dismal failure to become a President of all Filipinos. If Inday, our bookworm OFW domestic, called these landmarks “major blocks to Filipino evolution erected by a pushy, super-competitive Filipina without sufficient self-knowledge, and for her own regressive psycho-historical reasons,” I would agree.

As A Jaspitz’s World puts it,

GMA mentioned in her speech, when she announced the pardon, that part of her legacy agenda is healing the wounds of EDSA 1, 2 and 3. If she could only be honest for once, she should have admitted that the pardon was intended to preempt an EDSA 4. She knew that all the previous EDSAs were simply a numbers game. By buying the Erap crowd with the highly-praised executive pardon, GMA was effectively betting that she could already afford to play Russian roulette with House Speaker Jose de Venecia III (JDV) and the still silent middle-class.

Torn & Frayed thinks Estrada lost out:

Erap was guilty of criminal acts, but that’s not why he ended up in the dock. He was deposed, tried, and convicted as much for his criminal stupidity as for his plunder.

As Erap’s supporters have said repeatedly over the last seven years “why just Erap?” I think that is a reasonable question. Erap’s crimes were probably no worse than those committed under the present administration, but he lost out in a political power play. The fact that he had been so careless, decadent, and profligate was a convenient way of justifying his ouster but I don’t think it was the main reason he went.

If Erap had spent less time boozing and more time building his coalition, he would have sailed through to 2004 without any bother. As it was, being a typical mummy’s boy and surrounded by sycophants in the palace, almost to the end he was convinced everyone loved him. He paid for that complacency for the next seven years.

As Machievelli observed, it is better to be feared than loved.

smoke thinks Estrada has made a net gain:

It’s a chess game. Well, sort of. Maybe a Greek drama or something. Anyway, Gloria was threatening checkmate with the conviction.

Estrada – the black king – moves into a more vulnerable position which, while it increases the possibility of a checkmate, also brings to bear a threat from an intrepid black knight and a coterie of pawns – the Erap rabble and its leaders.

Gloria is flustered and withdraws the threat from the black king in order to shore up her weak side against the black knight and pawns. All without realizing that the newly liberated black king – by diverting the buck-toothed queen’s attention – has managed to bring up his other troops on the other side. An enfilade in the offing. Mate in three or less – years.

the bystander is more cautious:

By asking for pardon, Erap in effect has recognized the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency. Not only that, his role as the de facto leader of the opposition is now highly suspect. I doubt if he or even his sons Jinggoy and JV will still have the nerve to criticize Mrs. Arroyo the way they used to.

And because of the perception that Erap has struck a deal with the administration, this will ultimately lead to the break-up of the loose coalition of anti-Arroyo forces composed of former pro-Gloria civil society, religious and militant groups on the one hand and the pro-Erap group on the other. If that happens, then Gloria will definitely have the last laugh.

As always, let me point to Mon Casiple as a sure-footed guide to these contending ideas:

GMA wants to have a political hold on Estrada even after the grant of a pardon, thereby preempting possible revenge in the post-GMA period. The GMA camp wants a conditional pardon restricting Estrada from running in 2010. The nightmare here is an Estrada presidency avenging itself on its former vice-president, EDSA 2 nemesis, accuser, arrestor, jailor, and political judge.

What broke the impasse? Two things happened almost at the same time that, I think, opened the door to a hasty request for a presidential pardon and an equally hasty granting of it.

Estrada saw a failed motion for reconsideration and a Supreme Court sitting on his appeal, continued incarceration amid a political transition, and possible irrelevancy in the nation’s favorite game of politics. GMA, for her part, saw the first signs of a ruling coalition self-destructing, the specter of a successful impeachment, and the inexorable march towards a lameduck presidency.

GMA has only three options facing her in the waning days of her power: to reconcile with the opposition and agree on the rules for the post-GMA period (particularly on guarantees for her survival), to gamble and exact the same guarantees from presidentiable(s), or to maneuver to extend her term.

She tried the first option on her terms–it failed. She tried to play off the presidentiables against each other–they unified against her. She tried redoing the Cha-cha caper–she is failing. The political battlefield is littered with her various bungled initiatives. The strategy that saved her so far was the creation of diversionary issues marked by a cynical use of the short attention span of the mass media.

However, the clock ticks, and having ticked, moves on. Today, she stands in the endgame, with threats of a checkmate from within and outside her defenses. Her trusted people–one by one–had already left or are ravaged by time and the political war. The window of opportunity for a favorable outcome to her crisis–or even a merely survivable one–is fast closing.

The Estrada pardon is a decisive political stroke but its effectiveness is diminished by it being a forced move. It is also an ambiguous signal, indicating either a reinforcement of depleted political ranks or a genuine gesture of reconciliation. GMA has to do more to extricate from a closing attack and clearly signal her intentions–by undertaking specific actions for political reforms that can unite the body politic for the post-GMA period. Or embark on a perilous gambit that only a Marcos dared use before.

New Philippine Revolution takes a reading of the public pulse:

I believe at this time, the accounting of forces have already been made and both camps know their true strength. The question is–will we see a change of government this November?

Observation on the online petition

Based on a reading of the People’s Pulse, this online petition will amount to nothing. The people does’nt want a snap elections. Its a waste of time and money. What they support though, is a caretaker government. The concept of a caretaker government seems to resonate loudly among the people and I believe that should this happen, it will be supported by the people.

The caretaker government should rule this country until 2010. By that time, everything would have calmed down and a new constitution would have been in place. That’s the way to go. The only question is–are these forces really determined to go all out against Arroyo? We will see in the coming weeks.

Interesting entries, too, in theraveneffect, in My Point… Exactly! and Mad Musings of a Matabang Mama from Muntinlupa.

Relevant readings, from the West and the East: The Rockefellers and the Angry Commoners discusses how the millionaires of America’s Gilded Age staved off class warfare.

Blogger History Unfolding expresses dismay over how American politics seems incapable of heading off disaster:

Last fall’s election certainly seemed to show that the country had turned against the Bush Administration and most of its works, but the Republicans have bizarrely managed to remain on the offensive and the Democrats seem to cower more every week. The Mukasey confirmation hearings present the latest and perhaps most dramatic challenge to the Democracy (as it used to be called): the Senate is now called upon to confirm a new Attorney General who claims absolute executive power in time of war, and if they do so–as it seems they surely will–it will amount to an admission that Presidents may in fact establish a modified dictatorship if it suits them. The drumbeat for war against Iran continues, and the President’s CHIP veto has been sustained. Even more alarming, however, is the tenor of the debates among the two sets of Presidential candidates.

How so? Well, our Constitution has in effect been suspended, we may face an impending economic catastrophe, and we have destroyed the postwar world order that our parents spent half a century building up, all under President Bush. Yet the Republican candidates are projecting more self-confidence and self-assuredness than the Democrats! One hears no more talk of them distancing themselves from the President–they are falling all over each other (and this includes Rudy Giuliani) promising that they will out-Bush Bush. They are ready to attack Iran and foresake the UN, to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent, appoint yet more extreme right wing judges and make all the Bush tax cuts permanent. So vehement are they that I will be genuinely surprised if the eventual nominee makes a real move towards the center in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, the Democrats are once again failing to articulate any broadly different foreign policy (even though Obama has made a few tentative steps in that direction), and the front runner, Senator Clinton, seems eager to pursue the confrontation with Iran, if her vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is any indication. Perhaps the electorate still wants the most muscular foreign policy possible and an abridgment of civil liberties to fight terror because it sense how detested we have become around the world–a sad commentary, if true, on the Republican capacity for turning policy failure into political success.

Another article, Resign, Retire, Renounce, ponders what the American military should do, if Bush embarks on a lunatic war with Iran; King Duck Goes to His Taiwanese Reward shows how Taiwan’s Kuomintang is weaning itself away from its mafia connections (see Hong Kong’s market collapse of 20 years ago is worth recalling during the present turmoil for an insight into how governments bail out businesses).

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

152 thoughts on “A new majority

  1. “With continued outside pressure and in fighting within the palace, eventually something will give, and those people who have come to scorn her (people still working for her) will be the ones to sell her out.”

    Nah, she’s got only two more years left. BrinaB

    apparently, some people don’t realized it yet. 🙂

  2. Its naive to think that the Barangay officials are the bedrock of party politics. They are the bedrock to nothing but patronage and go with the flow of the money trail. But their real political influence is highly questionable. And besides, since we don’t have real parties how can they be the bedrock to anything? Nope, Barangays are just the last node in a patronage political system, plain and simple. And patronage only goes so far as the people who taste the honey. For those who don’t…and this is the weakness of a patronage-based political system, not many don’t..they will want their share of the looty during the election period.

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