The dilemma of the good soldier

The era of the preprogrammed Big Rally is over; that much was proven yesterday, I think.

As far as it goes, if what people had in mind yesterday, was to participate in the kick-off for a campaign culminating in a national noise barrage on the eve of the SONA, then it was a moderate success.

But that was not how many interpreted yesterday; it may be more accurate to think that pros, antis, and neutral parties all looked at it as a show of strength; if viewed in that manner, then it was a complete flop.

I do think there’s broad opposition to a Constituent Assembly; but there was equally broad indifference to proving the point by means of a Big Rally.

This indifference does not mean that a time when a spontaneous outpouring of the public into the streets will never happen again; it can, and probably will; but I do think the political effectivity of orchestrated, massive demonstrations in one place must be seen as highly questionable.

The question then becomes, what now?

The answer actually lies in what took place yesterday.

Yesterday, there was a marked contrast between what took place in Makati City and yesterday along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City (and what took place the weekend before along the Baywalk in Manila). The old was straddled by the new.

The old is seen in there being no fundamental difference between the administration or the opposition in that adhere to the adage that politics is a “numbers game.” It does not matter how the numbers are produced, or even concocted, so long as they can be advertised.

The Palace advertises its numbers on a regular basis in its bailiwicks: Camp Aguinaldo, Camp Crame, the House of Representatives, among governors and mayors, in the courts, and the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The opposition does the same in the Senate and in the streets. This is enough to keep the House of Representatives, for one, relatively in check; and the streets are enough to keep the Palace, the courts and the AFP and PNP on marginally good behavior, if only to maintain the existing divisions in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, on the principle that in a war of attrition, the administration ultimately wins.

Now both administration and opposition rely on the chain of command. The effectivity of both depends on leaders being obeyed by followers.

Where both are out of synch with an increasing portion of the public, methinks, is people have reach the point where taking orders has ceased to be either fun,or fulfilling, or a situation that makes any sense continuing at all.

In the past I’ve pointed out that the “old obediences” are disappearing and this is having an effect on all our institutions and that includes politically-involved ones.

Now we’ve reached what I’d like to call the dilemma of the good soldier. It’s a dilemma I’ve been experiencing since 2006, actually.

I think it matters to take a stand; I find comfort and inspiration being with like-minded people, particularly when agreement in broad terms also leads to debate on the finer point of things.

But I am tired of having to contend with the various established leaders, who actually are very similar to the administration and its apologists in demanding that not only their followers, but everybody else, has to give up some of their freedoms in order to move the nation forward -when what they’re advancing is their electoral chances in the next election, nothing more or less.

I’m also tired of the essentially atavistic nature of things: it’s not that opposition to the administration should be reconsidered, it’s that opposition only seems to manifest itself in predictable ways and has become so formulaic you have to wonder if it’s all just for the sake of playacting.

People find meaning and fulfillment in associating with like-minded people; the need to belong is a very basic human compulsion. But it may be that the need to belong no longer has an appeal in terms of big, broad, sweeping movements; we surely still like the feeling of belonging, but crave a sense of intimacy.

But I also think people are increasingly insistent on personal integrity and independence. Gang Badoy pointed this out to me a year or two ago, when I quizzed her on the “silent protests” RockEd was holding along the BayWalk in Manila.

As I’ve become aware of this point of view, the more I think that it’s not only it’s very widespread, but the way forward.

People do not like being told what to think; people do not like having others put words in their mouth; people want to take a stand, yes, but on their own terms, she said. The broad suggestion having been made:

“Here’s an issue. Are you for or against? We believe the following; if you agree, hang out with us from such and such a time to such and such a time in such and such a place, come when you will and leave when you must, and let’s look at the sunset and think our own thoughts,” is essentially how it works.

And it works beautifully. Some of those who went to Makati yesterday also went to the BayWalk on Sunday; I made mental comparisons between their stories and feel Sunday seemed to involve far less frustration and much more optimism than yesterday.

On Sunday, the broad call being made, it was up to the individual if they’d answer the call, and why, and also, up to them how they’d get there, what they’d do (some brought placards, others didn’t), who they’d go with, and talk to, and for how long they’d stay.

Compare the problems that arise from trying to cobble together a mass action like yesterday’s in Makati. The problems range from getting the various leaders to sit around a table and not fight with each other, to convincing their followers to hold their fire and maintain the peace for the duration of the mass action.

In itself, this is a worthwhile exercise in mutual respect and tolerance, but really, extremely draining as it means arriving at compromises that end up being so brittle, they lead to recriminations afterwards.

There is the problem of logistics, in simply getting everyone together, and getting them from point A to point B, the ethical issue of rent-a-crowds as groups try to make an impression, in putting together a sound system and a stage, in securing permits, in making sure no one gets dehydrated or goes hungry, and so forth: never mind the nightmare scenario that is trying to put together a program in which everyone has to be accommodated even as the factions all compete for prime time.

The problem with an inclusive program arrived at after much bargaining and maneuvering by often mutually-antagonistic groups, is that they do help maintain solidarity within the ranks of individual groups, but alienate other groups, and don’t register among the broader public, the group the other groups are all trying to court.

And there’s a simple reason for this: the programs are simply obsolete; they hark back to the bombastic days of the old miting de avance, to the era when the Balagtasan was actually a form of popular entertainment; and when the Agitprop of the 1960s was still novel and notice-worthy.

In contrast to this, along Katipunan, yesterday, they made noise and encouraged the public passing along that avenue to simply toot in solidarity; and then there was a rock concert mercifully free of speeches altogether. The weekend before, along the Baywalk, there was the sound of silence, where being there was statement enough, no one tried to speak for anyone else, and if any talking took place, it was one-on-one, the most meaningful kind of communication of all, because it was a personal dialogue.

And there are probably those who were grateful that the students along Katipunan didn’t actually impede anyone’s ability to go from Point A to Point B, and in Manila the weekend before, the curious were welcomed and not intimidated or bombarded with hard-sell messaging.

Which brings me back to the dilemma of the good soldier. Unless you’re a real war freak, I don’t know if anyone wants to be a soldier, in the political sense, anymore. People just want to do their part for the country but to live, not die, for it; and certainly not go through life as a mindless robot for the generals.

Back in end of May, Torn and Frayed in Manila, a sympathetic observer, mused,

It seems to me that the current set-up in the Philippines helps to criminalize virtually all of us, limiting our capacity, and even our desire, to support justice.

Do you pay all your taxes? If you run a business, have you waited patiently for the endless licences the state requires, or have you “eased” the process with a few hundred pesos? What about that time a cop pulled you over for swerving, did you hand over your licence quietly or slip him a couple of hundred?

I won’t go on, but even you have stoutly answered “yes” to all of those questions, what about your family? Is your dad’s business 100% legal? Your mother works in government service, are you sure everything she does is by the book?

The fact that almost all of us are forced or at least encouraged to commit these misdemeanours is an enormous advantage to the high rollers in the grimy game. To return to Bolante, the real beneficiary of the fertiliser fiddle was not the congressman who received an addition to his election war chest, it was not even Joc-Joc. The spider who wove the web was the president, who through this and similar schemes managed to manufacture an unlikely election victory and to ensure that everyone along the way was caught in her trap.

Those of us in the outer circles of the web are not caught as tightly as those in the middle, yet still we can’t quite kick ourselves free. Even businessmen and women who support a fair taxation regime baulk at the idea of even more BIR interference in their companies. At a philosophical level, our enmeshment breeds a kind of resignation, almost a kind of solidarity with the playmakers.

Randy David, during the opening of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s “For Freedom and Social Justice” exhibition, gave a talk, and I’d like to share some of his insights (as I scribbled them down; unfortunately, his remarks haven’t been published online in full), for discussion.

Let me put them down as bullet points (not in chronological order as he delivered his remarks, but thematically).

  • Politics has been our biggest failure as a nation.
  • We are faced with a political system increasingly useless, out of synch with the modern world.
  • While our institutions are modern in form and concepts, the underlying concept is different: things are highly unequal, and patronage is built on powerlessness and poverty.
  • No long-term vision; only short-term vested interests.
  • We look for patrons because we do not trust legal systems to be fair. The ordinary Filipino has an ambivalent attitude towards the law, either an hostile or predatory attitude, a legacy of colonialism. Ten percent of Filipinos have participated in rallies; but the overwhelming majority has taken part in civil disobedience.
  • We do not assert our rights, we steal them.
  • Instead of being a burden, politics should be a tool for long-term survival and growth.
  • Leaders have to be competent, qualified, not merely popular.
  • Personal integrity and trustworthiness are important… but not enough… authentic leaders create new ways… superior in achieving collective goals.
  • The paradox of modernizing politicians:to achieve change, it cannot be done from outside; one must secure a foothold within, to effect change; but then, one risks being swallowed up by the system one is trying to change.
  • People are growing in numbers but are also growing more sophisticated as they imbibe new values from abroad; and yet Filipinos abroad do not immerse themselves in the politics of their host countries.
  • There is also a higher percentage of those with education, made possible by new money from relatives working overseas. These people are not hospitable to traditional politics; but have yet to become organized and still feel powerless.
  • In the short term, this changing attitude and frustration feeds crises.
  • The Middle Class in this country does not believe in elections, they believe in coups. They are impatient.
  • And yet, the boldest initiatives in the past 50 years have come from the Middle Class, from whose ranks even the leaders of the Left have sprung.
  • The current Crisis of Modernity is also driven by the bifurcation of the Filipino elite:  “Moderates” who want to shield the government from capture by vested interests versus “Traditionalists” who want to preserve the existing captivity of the system to vested interests
  • We know what we want but it takes time to figure out why things don’t turn out that way.
  • And yet Filipinos are know throughout the region for Organizing Abilities.

Since I believe everything is political, this plays out in the political sphere, as well. Resignation, “even a kind of solidarity with the playmakers,” has been a dilemma confronting people since 2005, when the country divided on the question of the President.

In any division of the house, there are actually three options: Yea, Nay, or an Abstention.

If we imagine 2005 to the present as a series of formal and informal referendums -votes of confidence or non-confidence- in the President and her ruling coalition, she has won every formal vote of confidence while preventing any informal vote of confidence from spilling over into the formal arena.

If we look at Randy David’s points, things start to make a lot of sense in terms of the actual outcome, which has been the survival of the ruling coalition in power.

David’s point concerning rallies is taken from Mahar Mangahas’ findings (see The important right of civil disobedience April 12, 2008):

As of 2004, only 9 percent of Filipinos (adults, that is) had ever joined a protest rally in their lives. That is much less than the global average of 24 percent. Incidentally, 10 percent of Filipinos said they might do it, whereas 80 percent said they never would.

Nine percent is small, relative to other nationalities, yet it is sufficient for People Power, as was proven in 1986 and 2001. Surveys by the poll group Social Weather Stations (SWS) in the last week of January 2001 and the first week of February 2001 found that at least 11 percent of Metro Manila adults had joined the protest rallies that led to the ouster of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. That “small” proportion amounted to at least 727,000 adults; protesters at EDSA People Power II exceeded one million, as it included Metro Manila youths and persons from nearby areas too.

If the People Power constituency is 10%, its importance lies in serving as the tipping point when the legitimacy of a president is on the line.

It is said there are only three national institutions in this country: the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Roman Catholic Church. Two of these are under the command of the President of the Philippines, and in 1986 and 2001, presidents learned that if the hierarchy deprives an incumbent of the “Mandate of Heaven,” the result can be a fragmentation if not outright rebellion by the military and the police, leading to the loss of command and control necessary to maintain power.

For the military, the spark for a rebellion is having to confront the question, “if the President orders the army or the police to fire on the crowd, will it comply?”

This is entirely different from ordering the military and police to disperse demonstrations; since the 1960s an elaborately-choreographed, symbolic, symbiosis has emerged, in which, generally, everyone, from those protesting to the military and policy, adhere to scripted roles; people make noise, a little shoving for heroic effect, the authorities growl, but as much as possible, everyone tries to get to go home in one piece.

But there are times when the protests end up not only sustained, but start growing; in which case the question of extreme measures arises.

Recall, also, that at 2:25 AM on August 25, 1987, when the soldiers of Gringo Honasan fired on civilians in Nagtahan (according to some accounts, the civilians were heckling his troops; other accounts say the rebels were careless and caught civilians the crossfire), it turned public opinion fatally against his cause.

The public does not like extreme measures, and even the most ruthless among the military realize that these do not pay off. the public does not like extreme measures on the part of governments, however beleaguered (unless the public feels it’s as beleaguered as the government: hence the implict endorsement by the middle class, of the crushing of the May 1, 2001 rebellion), and it does not like military adventurism whether in 1989, 2003, or 2006 although once rebel officers are prepared to offer themselves up as candidates, the public actively encourages their trying to reform the system from within, by electing them into office.

And here is something by way of a gentle criticism of people like Gen. Lim or even Antonio Trillanes IV. As the top brass divided on the question of whether to support President Estrada, you may recall that aside from the meetings going on among the AFP top brass, the PNP brass had a showdown in which the police brass basically ganged up on then PNP Chief Panfilo Lacson and gave him an ultimatum: withdraw support from the President, or else. Lacson threw in the towel and said as much to then President Estrada.

The President, whose husband and other strategists cultivated hard-liner support within the military and police before 2001, and accelerated the pampering of officers after gaining power, have ensured that no one can turn the military or police against them: anyone trying to do so would be eaten up alive by loyalists within both institutions. This is what happened to Lim in 2006, for example, and to Trillanes even when he was still trying to plead for reforms with the President herself before Oakwood in 2003.

Trillanes and Lim have both tried to outflank the President by appealing directly to the enlisted men and also, to the broader public; but they refuse to see that their own institution will not move unless the officers reach a consensus, and that neither man reflects the opinions of the top brass; and second, they refuse to recognize, for ideological reasons, that the public simply will not tolerate the military deciding the rise and fall of governments unless there exists a declaration of the withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven (the moral basis for the ouster of a government), and an unmistakeable manifestation of public indignation and resistance by means of a spontaneous outpouring of public protest.

If Lim or Trillanes had gotten their troops together and actually dared to round up corrupt general and either summarily shot them or held impromptu courts-martial, I think there would be an outpouring of popular enthusiasm such as we’ve never seen: because they would be seen as cleaning up their own ranks, which would make it difficult if not impossible to further pervert the military; yet at the same time, they didn’t take the frightening step of appointing themselves the ruling junta.

It’s like Churchill said -democracy may not be the best system but it’s the least bad; if things are bad now, a military or even military-civilian junta is as bad as PaLaKa Forever.

But returning to my point on the diminishing usefulness of the Big Rally.

The best that massive rallies can do, then, is exercise the atrophied civic sense and political muscles of the public; but if what’s attempted are the same old boring calisthenics, no one will get with the program. In which case rallies become counterproductive, because they will fail to gain ground, which will depress the committed, leave the uncommitted unmoved, and will not necessarily embolden the other side, but confer on it the aura of invincibility, which is possibly worse.

And unlike the late, great, Yoyo Villame, yesterday’s effort to get the public exercised was neither quaint nor cute. Just a novelty number turned stale over time.

There has got to be a better way, not least because so much is at stake.

Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.’s dismissive observation in 2005 remains valid: the more you try to manufacture a People Power moment, the less likely it will actually take place, if the authentic components of it remain lacking.

See, who was heartened by the event; and photos in rain contreras, Touched by an Angel, the University Student Council of UP Diliman, and in Davao City. See also Dr. Giovanni Tapang on estimating crowd sizes. Meanwhile the Palace crows FFCCCII supports charter change (but as one observer interpreted it, perhaps fairer to say they simply stated they want to be consulted, whatever happens?)

Manuel L. Quezon III.

32 thoughts on “The dilemma of the good soldier

  1. I disagree with your anti con-ass ideas but respect your right to express it.

    So let me do you one better. Here’s an idea: instead of congregating around Makati (where I live-thanks to your mass actions there’s less vehicle pollution), you could instead:

    1. round up the names of all the pro con-ass
    2. do guerilla interviews, asking why they want to change constitution
    3. compile all the guerilla interviews (it doesn’t have to be just interviews. You can pelt them with eggs, curse at them, spit at them, etc. Just make sure it’s caught on tape)
    4. put it up in youtube. Edit it so it looks like the pro con-ass congressman are clueless, stupid, douche bags.

    Voila! 10 million eyeballs. CNN and BBC picks up on it. Imagine the international headlines “Filipino activists bring corrupt legislature to disrepute”.

    Protests are so 1984. Make creative, imaginative, use of the internet. There’s more to it than your network of boring blogs.

  2. I agree with you, in terms of these ideas being better than the same old banging of the head against the wall, but the groups in a position to accomplish these things are not interested because it would be, oh, i don’t know, the sort of thing that ends up labeled “revisionism.”

  3. I was at the Katipunan gathering yesterday, and must qualify one point of what you’ve said about it.

    There were indeed addresses yesterday at the Ateneo campus, but they were either by way of information (like what exactly is this ConAss thing all about), or they were short (less than seven minutes) ones from the groups represented at the gathering. However, I must note that there was equal time between the music and the speeches, if not more for the former. That is a point I have to clarify.

    Secondly, what you have raised today has been a point people I know have been discussing with me. Rallies of the Ayala/Makati type no longer seem to make a difference for my generation, though they are sometimes fun, and I hope those who are already planning for July 27 will stay home and not cause any more inconvenience to the rest of us who work and live regular lives. And “a series of rallies” may peter out in the long term, because people will indeed grow tired, as they have.

    I suppose it is a sign that the current dispensation will survive beyond 2010 that people have indeed grown tired of these things. I do offer something of the alternative that has emerged:

    “Don’t complain, affirm.”

    Affirmation, in this statement, means celebrating what is good about our country and our lives and what we can do to make it better. It is no longer a mass-based struggle, but one built on individual effort and individual worth. The government, I suspect, has yet to tap into this powerfully enough, though some of its Evangelical Christian constituents are very good at expressing this message and have undermined the Roman monolith as a result.

    I do think some of the newer movements, such as Boyet Dy’s One Tama group and others, are founded on this principle, which the Left will denounce (and I have gotten one riposte from a left-wing lawyer on this brand of nationalism). But when you see that this is the kind that lay behind the smaller gathering in Ateneo and whatever efforts are taken beyond June 10… there is hope yet. Remember, the torch relay isn’t over.

  4. Ren, thanks for the clarification. I think you raise an important point -there has to be “fun” element, the exhilarating, inspiring, and not the same-same, old-old, predictable and utterly boring element that I think most people identify with rallies the same way no one in their right mind would probably go to a miting de avance on a purely voluntary basis.

  5. Hello to everyone. I agree with Manolo. It’s just not how it used to be in the 1980s, particularly in the rallies against Marcos (I was a 3rd year San Beda high school student then).

    For the past days, I’ve been advocating virtual protest rallies with the use of shirts, arm bands, buttons, stickers and the like because street rallies have certain limited effects as Manolo has explained (i.e., the logistics of getting people at rally venues).

    But I went to the Makati rally yesterday because it would do more harm to the cause if I didn’t. Solidarity was needed. However, I stopped by Galleria first and had two bag tags made sporting a “Stop Cha-Cha ni Gloria!” on them.

    Yesterday’s rallies are over, but because of my bag tags, my protest is continuous — and I didn’t have to go out of my way to rail against the HR 1109 traitors.

    Don’t worry, Manolo. Those groups will find that out sooner or later that they have to more than the traditional street rallies.

  6. The decision of Gloria Arroyo to order the railroading of the Con-Ass Resolution could very well be the tipping point in her eventual decline from political power.

    It was a strategic mistake on her part to underestimate the extent of public opposition to Con ASS>.

    Future historians will draw parallelisms between the Gloria’s Con Ass Move and Marcos’ Snap Election.

    In both cases,”ayaw ng Pinoy na sobrang maisahan!”

  7. Some people will see these rallies as a waste of time, as fruitless, noisy, exercises in futility. Perhaps even those who join them can feel the vagueness of purpose also. How can these rallies achieve anything if the organizers don’t have any worthwhile goals to begin with? If the object is to make noise, to make more people aware of political issues – most of us already know. Even the peanut vendor has something to say about politics.
    Unless there’s a really motivating, and rewarding reason, these rallies will just be that – noise.
    After all this time, the way I see the past EDSAs changed…these were not spontaneous, nor did they result from a sudden outpouring of patriotism as we would like to believe or were made to believe. These were the end result of someone’s agenda, an organized, perfectly planned event (or series of events) that had a common end – money and power. Behind all these drama are people who stood to gain from it all. Unless there’s a more worthwhile reason, nothing will come out of all this. There will always be people who can shake and move things, and I don’t mean the figureheads that we see each time. People who can organize the church elite, big business, politicians under their influence, shady elements of the military, and media. They will be more discrete with appearances and credit, preferring the more lucrative pursuit of power and money.
    These may be Arroyo’s clique, or Estrada’s, or someone else’s…one things for sure, there are always groups with agendas, the difference lies in how good they are in attaining their objective.
    …but these people believe they are doing the people a favor, we need leadership, whether good or bad, as long as the illusion of freedom and democracy is fed, its not really that bad.

    Some videos of celebration after s successful, well planned, endeavour.

  8. mlq3,

    I agree that protesting should be fun too. I suggest that you create fun holidays for the whole year. Last Friday was National Donut Day in the US. Everyone got free donut. Maybe SONA day can be NO TV day, GMA’s birthday can be Clean your Toilet day and so on.

  9. Manolo, I have some points to raise.

    1. The good soldier’s dilemma was not resolved in your column so I’ll just offer my thoughts on the matter. In a situation where our soldiers are ordered to open fire and kill rallyists, I believe our soldiers won’t. This was proven when, at the height of EDSA I, Col. Balbas was ordered by Gen. Ver to fire mortar shells at Crame (this was when Enrile already transferred there) but the former refused. Same with the F-5 planes who were ordered again by Gen. Ver to strafe the EDSA crowd even after Marcos himself publicly told him not to do so. This order again was disobeyed. Hence, our soldiers still value righteousness over the so-called obedience to the chain of command, which is how it is supposed to be in the first place.

    2. I believe the pre-planned ‘big rally’ concept is not passe or ineffectual altogether. It has its purposes. First, it provides the visuals for the local and foreign audiences to stress that sectors in our society reject the tyrannical ways of GMA. Second, it can help the protest movement build-up its momentum. Third, it keeps GMA’s forces preoccupied and on their toes (at least an added mental/physical stress).

    3. I am convinced that GMA is not afraid or even unmoved by internet activism or anything new that will not result to the actual paralyzation of her government.

    4. Finally, a big rally will only have a chance to succeed if it is conducted at EDSA. That would be a clear signal that the organizers, leaders and the rallyists are now ready to cross the line.

  10. “It is said there are only three national institutions in this country: the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Roman Catholic Church.”

    And all of them are puppets of the ruling elite.

  11. George, I do think I mentioned that the dilemma literally in the case of soldiers, is indeed solved at the time officers are told to tell their men to fire on unarmed civilians massed in the streets. But if the account of Al McCoy in “Closer than brothers” is any guide, one of the main problems at Edsa I was the poor generalship of Ver. His instincts as head of the praetorian guard were to seal off the Palace and secure it; this led to the Mother of All Traffic Jams as the heavy concentration of troops got stuck just when it was necessary to move swiftly to neutralize the rebels. That, and the combination of Marcos apparently being in a foggy state due to ill-health meant that crucial hours passed when the initiative -politically, anyway- passed from Marcos to his enemies.

    ramrod, i beg to differ concerning your view on the past edsas. To be sure, as in any issue and in any crisis, leaders, political, religious, financial, etc. are all trying to make sure they will win out; but they can only succeed if there are other factors in play; the ultimate factor is, who can claim to have the spirit of the times behind them, a rather mystical thing demonstrated by omens and revelations for a society that continues to take these things seriously. and of course, as in all political activities, there is the matter of messaging and of building up tension. all the rallies prior to january 2001, for example, only served to prove there were a committed few increasingly prepared to take on estrada directly. but if you recall, the first edsa rally against estrada was easily neutralized by estrada getting bro. mike and the iglesia to hold a truly massive rally in the luneta. the arena then shifted to the senate and then the house, and there was estrada’s having alienated a crucial number of congressmen by withholding their pork barrel, which primed them for revolt, and then, villar’s clever jujitsu. then the drama of the impeachment trial, perhaps the greatest sustained experience in legal education this country has ever experienced: whether or not it was actually a combination of the house managers and the arroyos provoking the second envelope showdown, the estrada strategists fell into the trap and the public’s patience snapped. it could have gone better: no one could have imagined tessie aquino oreta would do her little dance and this was the gasoline poured on the smoldering resentments of people.

    but i do agree that the public will wait and see for at least a broad consensus to occur, and signs that the leadership poised to take over is at least marginally better than the one it aims to topple; so that whether due to his own conscience or the pressure of other leaders, doy laurel’s sliding down to vp was the kind of patriotism that inspired confidence to fight; and the resignations of cabinet members without any tangible signs they were doing anything but withdrawing into private life, unsettled estrada’s administration; while the public originally was as shocked as the president was by the resignation of much of her cabinet but she was able to turn the tables on them by painting them as ambitious when they took the lead in asking her to resign. that, perhaps, was the beginning of her being able, not necessarily to claim moral high ground, but at least peddle the effective message that everyone’s as ambitious as her. and the ones able to harness a more disinterested appearance, the hierarchy, would not or could not step up, and so, combined with fvr’s taking her side and the military accordingly taking the prudent course of sticking with the incumbent, the initiative was lost.

  12. About Torn and Frayed brilliant observation. As I’ve pointed out, oligarchic morality trickles down. If he observed a systematic illegitimization of earning in the Philippines then it’s much worse than I thought. Also, think about how corrupt officials stay in power by simply democratizing corruption in the institution he oversees. Genius, no?

  13. it’s not really that puzzling why rallies against charter change have failed to gather enough numbers. it’s the Filipino psyche just exhibiting what’s natural. we do love to wait until “puno na ang salop” before really exploding.
    so far, Filipinos in general have not yet really had the idea sink in that the administration is willing to go so far as to extend arroyo’s term, by hook or by crook. most still cling (or hope) that elections will go trough as scheduled.
    try and pull that rag under our feet – and hell hath no fury greater than a pinoy begrudged of his vote.

    i’m willing to bet that if ever charter change happens, minutes within that banging of the gavel approving that resolution, we’ll witness an outpouring that cannot be manufactured.

    remember that many moderates and most of those belonging to the so-called silent majority advocate waiting out arroyo’s term until 2010. they positively await that day with bated breath.

    this is a constituent just waiting to be pushed into action.

    charter change might just be that catalyst to unite everyone who dislike arroyo but cannot agree on how to remove her.

    but first, it has to happen.

    sa bikol, pinapaunog pa lang noy ang sinapna. halatang matuyo ta ilingon ta kung si isay ang maluluto.

    we’re just waiting for the rice to rise. wait for it to dry and let’s see who’ll get cooked.

  14. Manolo,
    As always, I admire your strong faith in Philippine democracy. I will be happy to be proven wrong…

  15. btw, is this a suggestion or just an observation?

    If Lim or Trillanes had gotten their troops together and actually dared to round up corrupt general and either summarily shot them or held impromptu courts-martial, I think there would be an outpouring of popular enthusiasm such as we’ve never seen: because they would be seen as cleaning up their own ranks, which would make it difficult if not impossible to further pervert the military; yet at the same time, they didn’t take the frightening step of appointing themselves the ruling junta.

  16. If Lim or Trillanes had gotten their troops together and actually dared to round up corrupt general and either summarily shot them or held impromptu courts-martial, I think there would be an outpouring of popular enthusiasm such as we’ve never seen: because they would be seen as cleaning up their own ranks, which would make it difficult if not impossible to further pervert the military; yet at the same time, they didn’t take the frightening step of appointing themselves the ruling junta.

    Judging by the personalities of these two, this will never happen. Unless the the people will literally carry them on their shoulders and install them to power, these two can never (or won’t) grab power forcefully for themselves – akin to William Wallace, they would sooner give power to who they believe should wield it.
    We have yet to see someone who can really grab power for himself because he wants it badly, because he wants to be the king of the Universe at all costs to shed blood, sacrifice people like pawns, without the limiting effect of consceience – these people usually get what they want…but is this what we want?

  17. Quite simple, reallyâ„¢: It’s time to evolve.

    Of course me always being at least five years ahead of everyone in thinking already foresaw this waaaay back in 2001 just as Arroyo was taking her “oath of office” after shouting down Erap in the last of the big ocho-ocho “revolutions”.

    Congratulations. 😀

  18. Once again bO is somewhere in outer space. There is an equilibrium of sorts between the various contendng political forces gunning for power and the government.

    It is simply power for powers sake. That uneasy balance will hold as long as neither side (most esp.) the government side does not try to attempt to alter the balance.

    That would then bring in the unorganized into the fray. Hence the government will alays try probing actions to test the waters to upset the balance….

    There will be a peaceful transfer of power come 2010. Our system compared to more advanced societies is far from their level of perfection but we have implicitly the political system we are happy with.

    As long as the unorganized as not disturbed the equilibrium process will continue with the revolving door at the top.

    Shorty term survival precludes anything else.

  19. There will be a peaceful transfer of power come 2010. Our system compared to more advanced societies is far from their level of perfection but we have implicitly the political system we are happy with.


    My sentiments exactly. We will not get the leaders we truly deserve, but we will have leadership nevertheless…

  20. Rallies should remain as what they basically are — street protests as a way for citizens to voice out their grievances and should not be used to scare or threaten the administration about a future people power phenomenon (which is quite pathetic).

    The opposition is fragmented and has no solid plan of action, goals and strategies. Queen Gloria and her knights are very very much ahead of the game and it looks like she won’t be check-mated any time soon.

    The worst thing that can happen to GMA, even if no cha-cha occurs prior to 2010 is that she can run as congresswoman and she will win — and she will go scot-free from all cases against her. This is her ultimate goal I guess, to be safe from prosecution; if she could still hang to power as the chief executive, then that would just be an added bonus.

    Most people are sitting it out, meaning not voicing out their unequivocal position — not because most are apathetic — but because they see that many groups in the public arena are out due to vested interests. Though, I for one, did not find it distasteful for politicians and cause-oriented groups to be there. They chose to make a stand publicly and that is at least commendable (as to the consistency of their position, it remains to be seen) and people eventually would be able to judge whether their appearance is due to short-term considerations or due to ideology or real belief.

  21. “Don’t worry, Max, within six months we’ll both be out of here. The Filipino people are used to democracy — they love liberty. You just can’t take it away from them,” Ninoy Aquino to journalist Max Soliven after their arrest following the declaration of martial law in 1972.

    As we know now, democracy didn’t come until 1986, two and a half years after Ninoy’s assassination. It took Ninoy’s death — not martial law — to finally get people into the streets and drive Marcos out.

    The public anger boiled over. That’s what Arroyo is so afraid of.

    Back then, it was “us versus them”. Good versus evil.

    The noise barrage at Katipunan? It a classic that goes back to the Marcos years in the 1970s. We — and I say “we” because my father was barkada with Ramon Mitra’s nephews — had to resort to creative demonstrations because rallies were simply forbidden. Yes, that’s how it was. Hold a protest and you get a free trip to Camp Crame or Fort Bonifacio, assuming you come back alive.

    The term “maximum tolerance”? That’s also a Marcos thing that was invented when he realized in the 1980s that people were finally becoming less and less afraid of street protests.

    Why the public reluctance for street rallies? One factor: the opposition is fractured with groups having separate agendas and no Cory Aquino to rally the people and Cardinal Sin to back her.

    Then there is also the resignation that whoever we put in the presidency is replacing one thief with another. Arroyo is an example.

    Another: most Filinos have no idea of what is at stake if cha-cha succeeds because they were too young to remember Marcos, if at all. But try taking away the civil liberties that they take for granted today, then the fun begins.

    So what can we do? Get creative in showing your anger.

  22. Manolo, looks like you were punk’d by GMA. You wrote this long-winding article that basically says protest actions don’t work anymore. Then the next day, GMA suspends con-ass because of the protest actions.

    You couldn’t have been more wrong.

    I guess you gotta be wrong sometimes right?

  23. SoP, don’t think so. She says that, but had received the support of the Chinese Chambers of Commerce for pursuing amendments, and then some of her officials start floating trial balloons of her running for the House, where apparently billboards have gone up with the message GMA (photos of her, DM, and son) PM = Pamilyang Maasahan in her future congressional district. So the suspension, we will have to see, whether it’s a pro-forma one as some House members say they will pursue it, and you can expect the Palace to respond by virtuously announcing it respects the independence of the House.

    The tactic is to nip it in the bud because the culmination of the actions was supposed to be the national noise barrage on the eve of the Sona, which does not require a rally and would spread out all over.

    anyway, all i see is the usual tactic of establishing plausible deniability:

    Note the last paragraph.

  24. There’s going to be national protest during the SONA anyway. Was there ever one without it?

    Regarding GMA running for congress, the indignity! I believe there has never been an ex-President anywhere in the world, or even ex-prime ministers who reverted back to a lower position. Presidents usually spend their retirement years playing golf, writing memoirs, or getting paid big bucks for keynote speeches.

    I guess she’s really desperate for congressional immunity.

  25. Sop, John Quincy Adams was one. He was the son of John Adams, one of the founders of the United States. He was also a signatory in the declaration of American independence, I think. John Quincy Adams was a character in the Steven Spielberg movie “Amistad”.

  26. playing the devil’s advocate here: is there anything wrong objectively about GMA running for congress? Is this fuss all about speculation, or do we have real and definitive sources that will pin the real reasons why she would want to do that?

  27. Manolo and Norman, any president or prime minister from recent history?

    “#PARI on Mon, 15th Jun 2009 10:56 am playing the devil’s advocate here: is there anything wrong objectively about GMA running for congress? Is this fuss all about speculation, or do we have real and definitive sources that will pin the real reasons why she would want to do that?”

    There is nothing wrong with it per se. Her running for congress could be a ploy to either avoid prosecution from corruption or become prime minister. She had eight years as president, the most powerful position in the land. What could she do as a future congresswoman of Pampanga that she could not have done as president of the Philippines? As president, she had control of the congress for most of her term. She could have swayed policy if she wanted-all for the benefit of Pampanga.

    Sure she was a senator first before she became president. According to wikipedia she authored 55 laws. There might be something to it. I think she’s better at being a legislator than being president. She could not even do much improvement to her bailiwick under her term. Just look at what happened with the North rail project. That would have been big for Pampanga. But she fucked it up.

    Maybe the presidents or prime ministers of third world countries need more time to enact real changes. Fixed terms presidencies only seem to work in rich countries. If you look at the experience of Asian tigers, it took decades for leaders to make significant progress. Just look at Ramos’ presidency. All the progress he made were erased by two years of Erap bungles.

    But for my money, it ain’t Gloria who deserves to rule the Philippines under parliament. I really hope Ramos considers rerunning for congress under a parliament. He still has political capital. People remember his presidency as prosperous being prosperous times. We should have allowed the chacha under his watch. His demeanor is presidentiable to boot. And I genuinely think he’s a charismatic guy and a pragmatist.

    But Filipinos, tsk, they’re so paranoid of chacha. Man if they only knew what 10 years of Erap and GMA presidency would give them, they would have given Ramos the extended presidency/prime ministership he deserved.

  28. just imagine how the UK PM was forced to resignation- how come that never happens here. it’s because our people have no sense of “hiya” anymore. well, not really our people but their kind of people, the Congressmen and others in power. they have a sense of entitlement that virtually puts them way, way ahead of us in rights.

    SoP i agree with your point- had we allowed Ramos to do Cha-cha then it would not have come to this.

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