Crunch time

Today’s Inquirer editorial, Laying the predicate, looks into the jitters provoked by the bombings in Cotobato, Jolo, and Iligan. Meanwhile, there is news of a possible reshuffle in the President’s cabinet, with hardliners (the “hawks,” who’ve been in the ascendant since 2005) supposedly poised to consolidate control over strategic departments. An intriguing aside to this is Tony Abaya’s belief (oddly enough unavailable on the online edition of his paper) that Interior Secretary Ronnie Puno’s being shoved aside because the Palace no longer trusts him -and the man he believes should be the next president, Gilbert Teodoro:

The logic goes like this. Once the Teodoro-Puno team wins the May 2010 polls – an easy enough task for the specialized expertise of Puno -. it is reasonable to assume that Puno will not wait for the Arroyo Dynasty to play itself out “until 2020 (or beyond) when Prime Minister Gloria Arroyo fancies she can turn the Philippines into a First World country.

Nor will Puno wait for the Teodoro Dynasty to exhaust itself, with Gibo and his wife taking turns at the helm, like the Kurchners in Argentina or the Binays in Makati.

By the time the Arroyos and the Teodoros step down from power, if ever, the presently 61-year old Puno will be 80 to 90 years old. All logic dictates that the ambitious Puno must make his move SOON, and the most logical time would be in the days or weeks following the May 2010 elections, when the newly elected Congresswoman from the second district of Pampanga, Gloria Arroyo, has not yet been chosen Prime Minister for Life by the Kampi (ironically, the personal creation of Puno), and the new President Teodoro and Vice-President Puno have not yet been stripped of their executive powers, as they would be under a parliamentary system of government.

And how would Puno betray Gloria Arroyo? Several ways. The most effective would be to release, or cause to be released, his dossiers on the Arroyos (which must be considerable by now) with or without the help of the Americans, who have their own dossiers on the First Couple.

Now there’s been speculation in the past (see my June 16, 2009 entry) that the President -or her hawks- wanted Teodoro out of Camp Aguinaldo, where he ended up in the first place because he and his uncle have long cultivated the top brass, preferring that he hold the Justice portfolio instead. The latest round of talk concerning the cabinet indicates this may finally happen, and that Hermogenes Esperon would finally get the Defense portfolio. Add to this Tony Abaya’s belief that Puno, presently Interior Secretary, is poised to be edged out by former Police General and prominent hawk, Ebdane. He has already been named Officer-in-Charge of the Interior Department.

What stirs things up further is the recent spate of bombings and how they’ve shifted from the amateurish efforts recently in Quezon City, to the horrifying blasts in Cotabato, Jolo, and Iligan -the targeting of two Catholic churches, in particular, represents a dangerous escalation of tensions. Coming at the heels of this is a scoop by The Daily Tribune which suggests CIA Chief Panetta is coming for a hush-hush visit, itself reminiscent of when then-Intelligence Czar Negroponte came to Manila as the government was mulling over declaring martial law in 2005-2006.

An intriguing possibility is thus raised. No plan ever unfolds in exactly the same way as an older one; even if one argues the administration would like to impose martial law, it cannot do it in exactly the same manner that say, Marcos did. If one makes the assumption the country would not tolerate martial law, what if martial law were imposed -but on only part of the country?

What if martial law were imposed only in Mindanao? The bombings, undeniably an escalation in that they’ve gone beyond “the usual,” could provide a justification for imposing martial law, which the House majority could healthily approve, since no one doubts the Senate and the House vote together, as one, in the specific case of authorizing or not, a declaration of martial law. And so the question for the Americans would be to find out if the plan is justified or not. The visit of Panetta is crunchtime, for the administration, in convincing Washington there’s something seriously afoot down South.

And the benefits? Restive elements in the military will be tied up going after the MILF or whoever; and as 2007 and 2004 proved, Mindanao is key (because the antidote to the uncontrollable massive Luzon vote) to providing victory for the administration and its candidates in 2010.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

13 thoughts on “Crunch time

  1. Assuming their is some sort of martial law plan in the works, the bombings in Mindanao justify a state of emergency in Mindanao only.

    Mestizo martial law. A mestizo martial law is easier to sell to the americans and to filipinos who don’t live in ARMM or near it.

    Mestizo martial law is all the administration needs to guarantee victory in 2010, winning votes always come from the usual suspects – ARMM and vicinity. Thus Martial law in that area will come in handy.

    The recent bombings might just convince the CIA’s Panetta that a declaration of a state of emergency is needed over there.

    If the americans do not object, then the idea is to make the declaration and get on with stopping the bombings. In three months or less the bombings will stop and the state of emergency will be lifted. Now people in affected areas will say “that was not too bad. and it stopped the bombings.” Outsiders will agree.

    By March next year, if the campaign is not going too well, there will be a resumption of the bombings. A state of emergency for ARMM and neighborhood will be reimposed. And this time around it will be easier to do. It worked the first time around, right? It will be lifted after the election period.

    Why a mestizo martial law rather than a full-blooded one?

    It will reassure america, filipinos, and the international community that the country remains democratic. The military will remain under the control of Malacanan, instead of the other way around, because military rule will be temporary and limited to ARMM and trouble areas.

    That also means only a limited number of brass will be needed for this operation. The situation that occurred under Marcos, the necessity for hold-over generals which eventually led to discontent among the officer corps, will not be repeated. There might be a few strategic hold-overs but it will not become widespread. And so the rest of the brass will still be at the mercy of a promotion system. Loyalty to the commander in chief will still be the norm. The chain of command will be left intact and in full compliance with the Constitution.

  2. Connect The Dots:

    * A couple of days after the deadly explosion in Cotabato City, two bombs went off – one outside a Catholic church in Jolo, Sulu, another beside a parked military vehicle in Iligan City, and two others at a transmission tower in Lanao Del Norte, resulting in deaths and injuries.
    * Former Speaker Joe De Venecia told reporters the rash of bombings was carried out by “nonterrorists” and could be part of a plan to declare martial law.
    * A key ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposed that she be part of a military-backed transition government that would reform the electoral system and amend the Constitution—all before the 2010 elections.

  3. We’re going to be ruled by the ultimate trapos. A couple of unpopular, no-names for the masa, but well-connected men. How can anyone even digest the idea.

  4. I hope they declare martial law and end this moro-moro. At least with martial law in place everything will be either black or white. It’s either you’re with Arroyo or not.

  5. supremo.

    That’s why martial law in certain “troubled” parts of the country only is a good scenario for the admin. It will leave a huge grey area. It will avoid an either/or situation and yet it will allow the admin to act with impunity in those vote-rich ARMM areas come May 2010.

  6. Loyalty to the commander in chief will still be the norm. The chain of command will be left intact and in full compliance with the Constitution.

    So here we go again…

  7. So the ruling class reigns supreme? I wonder when they will get old and tired already, and give way to the next ruling class? ’78? whats next? somebody once commented its just a rigodon…who’s adopted by who?

  8. I wonder if the holiday (first non-working, now working) is an attempt to buy/silence the INC

    Teodoro or his wife might be aspiring to be PM

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