My column today is Guns, goons, and gold. Basically, it seems to me more and more obvious that we have a shrinking liberal democratic constituency in Metro Manila and other urban areas of the country, while the rest of the country has been subdivided among warlords fueled by racketeering in smuggling, narcotics, and gambling.
Because of the relative political uniformity of the governing class, we had not felt the politicization of the Court immediately after 1986, but the years since, particularly the controversial accession of the President in 2001, have vastly increased the Court’s profile and the importance of its individual members. This has increased even further in succeeding years due to the polarization of Philippine society between supporters and opponents of the increasing centralization of the patrimonial system.
The supporters, whose offices control government monies, count in their camp the advocates of a patrimonialist democracy on the model of Tammany Hall and, more classily and less cleanly, the Roman Republic. On the other hand, the popular base of the opposition (as distinguished from its politician wing) is composed of non-patrimonialists, among them the urban middle class and the Catholic Church, whose alliance comprises the political Center that guards the Constitution with its Liberal-Social-Christian Democrat orientation; and the Left, both the social democratic and the national democratic factions.
However, as we pointed out earlier… the urban middle class is increasingly enfeebled by social forces, while the loss of her paramount leader and the weakening of her middle-class allies have weakened the Church politically (as we saw when the movement to extend compulsory agrarian reform was defeated in the landlord-dominated Congress, despite vocal support by the Church and a bishop’s actually joining the farmers’ hunger strike). As for the Left, it is too divided between the various hues and sub-hues of revisionists and reaffirmists. This leaves, as the main institutions of Liberal-Social-Christian Democracy, the noisy but fangless Senate and the passive but powerful Supreme Court. The Court in fact has waged a subtle campaign over the past few years to strengthen democratic institutions and human rights, like when it sponsored efforts against the killing of Leftist activists.
Enter the movement to revise the Constitution and create a federal, parliamentary, and unicameral government, which would get rid of term limits, separation of powers, and the gadfly Senate, the main barriers to smooth patrimonial government. With the ambiguity of the provision on constitutional amendment (which, because it was copied from the unicameralist 1973 Constitution, doesn’t say whether the 2 house of Congress would vote jointly or separately), the 1987 Constitution must be interpreted by the Supreme Court to determine whether the Senate can block, as it will certainly try to block, the proposed revision. This makes the decision of the Court critical, and its internal politics much more significant.
His description of the Philippines as a patrimonial democracy is a precise reference to a Sociological term, Patrimonialism:
“a type of rule in which the ruler does not distinguish between personal and public patrimony and treats matters and resources of state as his personal affair.”
The smooth functioning of patrimonial politics requires political competition to be confined to elites and mass political action to be suppressed or at least strictly controlled… Particularistic policies that are the hallmark of patrimonialism can hardly reach ” or benefit ” directly the masses of voters whose support parties and politicians require for their political survival. Rather also in Indonesia – they offend widely-held notions of equality and fairness. Hence, effectively patrimonial parties are forced to appeal for or mobilize support on the basis of “communal affiliation”, personality the (in the case, for example, of Megawati, “inherited”) charisma of their leaders or the moral authority of village heads and/or the coercive capabilities of the military or police…
An interesting note, yet again, is what an Indonesian told me, which was that when the decision was made to directly elect the President of Indonesia, the Indonesians looked at the Philippines and settled on runoff elections to avoid what they believed to be the greatest post-Edsa liability of our system, that is, electing minority presidents. Consider Webber’s description of the Indonesian political pros finding their well-ordered political lives destabilized by more independent-minded voters:
The post-Suharto elections have produced growing signs, however, that the traditional structures and relationship patterns on which successful election campaigning along these lines depends are breaking down. Parties and leaders that are widely perceived to have “failed” in office and/or been very corrupt have been severely punished. Thus, the PDI-P’s vote collapsed between the 1999 and 2004 Parliamentary elections by almost half and its candidate Megawati was comprehensively defeated in the presidential elections. Despite having by far the best party “machine”, the Golkar did much less well in the 2004 Parliamentary and presidential elections that it had hoped and anticipated. Despite the party leadership’s support for Megawati in the second round, voters who identify with the party voted massively instead for Yudhoyono, who defeated Megawati by more than 20 per cent and ran his campaign with a “loose”, but extensive “network of grassroots organizations”, pitting “‘people power’ against Indonesia” traditional mighty party machinery of the Golkar and PDI-P’s … Political parties and leaders steeped in patrimonial traditions seem likely to face harder times in Indonesia: “The assumption that money politics and a strong party machinery are enough to deliver votes no longer holds” … Within many of the established parties, the pressure for internal reforms and more accountable leadership is intensifying. There seems to be a growing chance that the pressures of electoral competition will force parties and politicians to make a break with inherited patrimonial norms and practices. Polyarchal… democracy may thus possess the capacity to propel Indonesia away from its patrimonial political legacies towards a more liberal-democratic political future.
The party machines failed Jose de Venecia in 1998, they didn’t keep Estrada in office in 2001 and didn’t quite hold the line as much as should have been expected for the President in 2004 and in the legislative elections in 2007. The dilemma faced by Indonesian party stalwarts is one similarly faced by their Filipino counterparts, as Scriptorium pointed out.
And here’s something else Scriptorium wrote in his entry on why the President will stay in power, and it has to do with the military:
Lastly, the military will not move against the President. First, it has never moved without a clear opposition-Church-middle-class alliance (the initial 1986 coup and the Oakwood mutiny fizzled out for lack thereof), and such an alliance, as shown above, is presently impossible. Second, the years after 2001 have led to a re-emphasis not on the military’s activist tradition but on its ‘professionalism’, interpreted in the narrow Prussian sense of allegiance to the State. Third, the military leadership has a vested interest in the continuity of the GMA government, especially since her regime, in membership if not in structure, has to a large extent become a civilian-military complex. For one, retired officers now populate appointive posts; and, though the custom of appointing them began under FVR, the present practice is to appoint indiscriminately, whereas FVR at least sifted for true officers and gentlemen like Rodolfo Biazon, Renato De Villa, and Arturo Enrile.
Over the weekend, a text went around advising people to expect a “Retired Military Manifesto” to be posted at General Danny Lim’s blog. The text came from an operator in the camp of former President Estrada, which has been proposing an Estrada-Lim-Puno Triumvirate. As of this writing, the manifesto hasn’t appeared on line. But it does indicate a kind of burning desire to stay relevant as the country seems poised to finally take the plunge and head towards presidential elections in 2010.
Enter the movie Valkyrie, which I saw last week. In Valkyrie, General Ludwig Beck advises his fellow conspirators, “Just remember this is a military operation: nothing ever goes according to plan.”
A year ago, in The seven year itch, I pointed out that those who felt the President had to go had fallen into a trap: the idea that political events can be made to proceed according to a formula: unpopular president + explosive revelations + economic downturn + angry prelates + an appeal to past greatness, based on shared values + get enough people on the streets + officer corps defects = regime change. And yet, as Beck pointed out, “nothing ever goes according to plan.” The politically adroit either plan for all contingencies, or marshal their resources to strike when opportunity arises or as contingencies unfold.
I had just spoken to – well, I suppose I still can’t say the name of this businessman who had just talked to the US ambassador about sending in warplanes. Things weren’t going too well for our side.
I was walking across the sward fronting the Palace over to the office I retained in the Guest House after being fired from the president’s staff – I kept it to the last day of her term.
Amid sharp sounds of gunfire and shelling from not too far away, a presidential security guard, crouching as though he were approaching a helicopter, came up to me. He said the president wanted me at the Arlegui house. I hadn’t told her yet what the businessman, the US ambassador, and I had been up to. I thought it might be about the same matter, but then again it might be about something else. You never knew with her. Cory Aquino never allowed current circumstances to dictate her agenda.
The door opened and I was shown into a parlor rather too sumptuously decorated for both our tastes. “I just had to have you try this cake,” she said and, turning to the maid, added, “give him a generous slice. Maur made it.”
I must say I could not disagree, and I always spoke my mind to her. The cake was just properly moist, excellent in every respect. Most of the thick curtains were drawn so flying glass would not hurt the children, she casually explained, except over the tall window that threw sunlight on the tea table between us. It was afternoon, that time of day.
Meanwhile, the arrangements she had secretly put in place long before, without telling any of us, even her closest advisers, were about to go into effect. Key and hitherto unknown combat officers whom the rebels assumed would side with them would suddenly turn their men and guns on the rebels. In retrospect, I can only compare – but only in respect to the quality of shared aplomb – that placid setting in the soft morning light to the one of Al Pacino standing godfather as the priest intoned, “Do you reject Satan? Do you?” and his men quietly went to work.
This revelation -over a decade after the events described- brings up the interesting problem of trying to learn from, or at least react to, events whose actual circumstances we still don’t clearly understand or fully know.
When the President’s own husband recounted their strategy for bringing down Estrada (see my entry, Mike and Joe: The Second Battle of the Books, where I reproduced Mike Arroyo’s interviews with Nick Joaquin) soon after the events concerned, he did so in a moment of celebratory candor. What strikes me as interesting is that a few years after that, the President’s enemies and former allies seem to have failed to take into account how the tactics that toppled a government in 2001 could have helped keep the successor government in office.
Consider events of more recent vintage, namely 2005. The President had achieved that rare thing, the election of a Vice-President who was her running mate. And yet, as her enemies closed in on her, there was obviously the possibility that the Vice-President would get it into his head that the time had come to step in and offer himself up as a successor. Surely matters must have seemed headed in that direction when, at the height of the unfolding crisis, the Veep flew off to Hong Kong.
One version has it that the Vice-President, upon returning from Hong Kong, was met by a general close to the President and was sternly warned that his life was on the line. Another version, strenuously denied by former Senate President Frank Drilon, is that when the Veep showed signs of being willing to take on the mantle of the presidency, Drilon et al. demanded they should be the ones to select who would be the Executive Secretary -faced with the possibility he’d be a figurehead president, the Veep balked and went home.
Consider, too, that even as all the building blocks of People Power were put in place, the old pros who’d decided to bring down the President failed to bring in an ex-President, Fidel V. Ramos. Faced with being inconsequential, the crafty FVR decided to throw his support behind the President and saved her job.
Consider, as well, 2006, when the armed forces was faced with the dilemma of turning its back on some of its most respected officers and remaining loyal to the President, or turning their backs on their commander-in-chief and betraying what Scriptorium calls their Prussian-style loyalty to the State. One version has it that the Chief of Staff was inclined to support the withdrawal, and that everyone else was poised to fall in line, when negotiations broke down because General Esperon asked for assurances that he wouldn’t be investigated for his possibile complicity in electoral fraud in 2004. The hotheads allegedly refused and denied a win-win solution, Esperon then countered the moves of the hotheads and this caused the Chief of Staff to waver. (Interestingly enough, Ramos in the same book shrewdly notes, in the book on Cory Aquino, in a kind of pointed aside, that no act punishable by the anti-coup law took place in 2006.)
Now we have to consider the background behind the supposed inclination of the top brass of the armed forces to seriously consider, instead of immediately dismissing out of hand, the plan to withdraw support from the commander-in-chief. One could argue that the military was essentially more democratic and civilian in orientation than civilians like the President and her close advisers, as they sought ways to stay in power.
The background to the 2006 attempt to withdraw support is thus the foiled plan to impose martial law in 2005. According to Ellen Tordesillas, the plan was as follows:
A Malacanang source said that in October 2005, when Arroyo was shaking from what the people heard in the “Hello Garci” tapes, she and her hardline advisers were almost ready to impose martial law. They would call it by some other name but the effect would be the destruction of democracy and in its place an Arroyo dictatorship.
The plan, the source said, was to explode a bomb at the Senate at 5 a.m.. Casualties would be avoided with the early morning timing but the explosion in one of the three branches of government would give Arroyo justification to declare martial law. Exactly like the fake ambush of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile which was used by Ferdinand Marcos to declare martial law in 36 years ago.
A businessman in the Arroyo’s circle of “hawks” asked if the defense secretary (Avelino Cruz) and AFP chief of staff (Generoso Senga) were into the plan. They were not.
When Cruz and Senga were told about it, they objected. A visit by John Negroponte, then the US Director of National Intelligence, who conveyed American disapproval of the martial law option, forced Arroyo to abort the plan.
Newsbreak’s Glenda Gloria in 2007 looked at the foiled martial law plan and the 2006 declaration of a state of emergency as follows:
July to December 2005 was the toughest time for the President. Nearly half her Cabinet left her, she felt under attack, and most of the power blocs surrounding her reinforced that siege mentality. “Each time somebody opposed her, she felt that person wanted to bring her down. She would defend a decision by saying, “but they’re attacking us,” recalls a Cabinet official.
The First Gentleman had been forced into exile and the President’s other pillar, her brother, had turned overnight from a “dove to a hawk,” notes one of the private advisers of the President. Buboy Macapagal soon became the “shadow string-puller in the Palace,” as one senator puts it…
We have it on good authority that Macapagal and Gonzales tried to persuade the President to declare martial law during this period. This move culminated in a visit of Gonzales to Washington, D.C. to drop hints about it to Philippine Ambassador Albert del Rosario, who opposed the idea, according to a friend of Del Rosario’s. (Del Rosario was sacked in June 2006.)
There was a series of top-level meetings about extreme measures to save the President (i.e., media and Left clampdown, arrest of “corrupt” politicians), says an insider, but in the end the idea flopped largely because the security forces – the police and military leaderships – displayed enough body language that said they didn’t have the stomach for it.
Martial law further divided the shadow Cabinet. Drilon had by that time stopped attending the group meetings, but the extreme measures likewise didn’t sit well with Cruz and Villarama, among others.
Buboy Macapagal, too, had stopped attending the meetings, aware that some of his former allies now disagreed with him. The big three businessmen, however, remained influential with the President.
Executive Order 464, which banned Cabinet secretaries from appearing before Senate probes without Palace approval, also divided her official family. Presidential adviser Gabriel Claudio cautioned that this “was a declaration of war,” knowing this would create problems for the chief executive. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Gutierrez, who was then presidential legal counsel, saw nothing wrong with it, however…
Then came the foiled military coup in February last year. The President declared a state of emergency and, when agitated Marine soldiers tried to barricade their headquarters on February 26, considered shutting down the Lopez-owned ANC cable TV station, which was covering the incident live.
It took a phone call to the President from “someone” in the Iglesia ni Cristo for the hotheads to cool off, says the same Cabinet official. The discovery and subsequent defeat of the coup toughened the view that by this time had begun to run through all the loyalist groups.
It went like this: she’s survived the worst because her opponents are weak and the public doesn’t care. This allows us room to push hard for changes and look even beyond 2010. We had become very comfortable with power, the Cabinet official concedes.
It’s been said that even when the President decided to proclaim a state of emergency in 2006 -using language literally cut-and-pasted from Marcos’s martial law proclamation in 1972- two factions in the cabinet pretty much squared off, with one faction saying it essentially granted the President martial law powers, while another faction, to which the then-Secretary of National Defense Avelino Cruz Jr. belonged, publicly stated there were all sorts of limitations to the President’s powers during a state of emergency.
Returning to Scriptorium, he pointed out that the President took care of “the activist Marines, who were then fed to the cannons in Jolo.” And there they and all officers inclined to insubordination continue to languish.
In a footnote, Scriptorium points to two new blocs that have political potential, as of now, still untapped:
Two special cases should be mentioned: (a) the urban poor, which first became a cohesive bloc as the mass base of former President Estrada, but was neutralized by the suppression of the pro-Estrada protests of May 2001; and (b) organized labour, which has tremendous potential power but whose organization and numbers are exerted for economic and not for political ends. The political mobilization of these groups, as partially occurred for opposing sides in 2001, would end the unchallenged hegemony of liberal-patrimonial politics in the Philippines, but is not likely for the moment.
The question is whether these two “special cases” will matter in a 2010 electoral scenario.
The British historian Robert Evans, in Why did Stauffenberg plant the bomb? Argues that the Count, always contemptuous of parliamentary democracy, a romantic nationalist, an unreprentant aristocrat,
There can be little doubt, however, that this would have brought huge military advantages to the Allies, and that the war would have come to an end several months sooner than it did, with the consequent saving of millions of lives.
That alone was justification enough for Stauffenberg’s act. In failing, he failed comprehensively. The war continued: millions more were killed. Anti-democratic, elitist and nationalist, he had nothing to offer the politics of the coming generations, still less the politics of today. In the end, too, for all the desperate heroism of Stauffenberg and his fellow-conspirators, Germany’s honour was not rescued. The conspiracy encompassed only a tiny minority of the German people. The vast majority continued fighting to the end. Most were shocked by the news of the assassination attempt and relieved at Hitler’s survival. As a moral gesture, Stauffenberg’s bomb was wholly inadequate to balance out the crimes that had been committed in Germany’s name and with the overwhelming support, or toleration, or silent acquiescence, of the German people. As the Catholic schoolteacher turned army officer Wilm Hosenfeld noted on 16 June 1943, more than a year before Stauffenberg’s attempt: “With this horrendous murder of the Jews we have lost the war. We have brought an indelible shame upon ourselves, a curse that cannot be lifted. We deserve no mercy, we are all guilty together.”
Certain academics have an “unappealing habit” of dismissing the 20 July plotters as reactionaries, “while earnestly extolling the self-sacrifices of the underprivileged Communists,” to quote historian Michael Burleigh. But there are no heroic Communists in Valkyrie, and shouldn’t be: most Communists opposed to Hitler, after all, were Stalinists, who simply wanted to replace one murderous dictatorship with another. The honorable Resistance, in contrast – ranging from social democrats to conservative aristocrats – were fighting to rescue and preserve Western civilization.
The thing that kept bothering me while watching Valkyrie, was that so many cast members had appeared as villains in Conspiracy, yet here were some of the same actors, playing Germans yet again, but this time, with most of them as “good” Germans.
Conspiracy happens to be one of my favorite historical films. Informing it is the concept of the “banality of evil,” as Hannah Arendt made famous in observing Eichmann,played in the film by Stanley Tucci. The film should be required watching for anyone interested in producing results from a meeting. But also, to see how what is legal is not necessarily what is right.
In their blogs, The Marocharim Experiment mulls on the implications of building fences (and not between good neighbors) while The Construct mulls over responses to his entry. This is of course a question of whether one thinks we are all in this together. Recall how, in 2005, Fidel V. Ramos justified his support of the President and what he believed was a golden moment to pursue parliamentary government, by saying he pondered the sight of urban poor communities from his penthouse office, and wondered what would happen if those communities simply got it into their heads to enter the gated communities in their vicinity to loot and pillage to their heart’s content. As the established upper and middle classes find their prosperity on edge, and as a new middle class arises from overseas work, and as the growth of the population means there is now an increasingly permanent underclass without any hope of anything but the most basic subsistence, the Fear of the Other is not only getting pervasive, but has proven itself capable of trumping the appeal of the Left.
Consider, for example, some public reactions to the saturation drives of the armed forces in Central and Northern Luzon under Palparan -how they appreciated the sudden disappearance of drug dealers and drunks, pickpockets and snatchers; similar expressions of appreciation were reported in the wake of military and police saturation drives in urban poor communities in Metro Manila. And how fencing off, and gating off, communities has been in place since the end of World War II. Recall, further, that even as the Diliman Commune took place, residents of the area banded together to form vigilante squads to hunt down rebel students.
Perhaps most troubling, then, is that U.P. is finally returning to a state of harmony with the preferences and attitudes of our broader society.