The Long View: Ruling coalition fiesta


Ruling coalition fiesta

 / 05:10 AM June 28, 2023

The appointment of Eli Remolona, on one hand, seems favorably received by the markets while, on the other, communicates the frustration of the thinly veiled ambitions of the secretary of finance and the end of the line for the outgoing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas chief. It was widely bruited about (on Sept. 5 last year, Biz Buzz mentioned widespread scuttlebutt of the continuing ambitions of Benjamin Diokno while as late as June 12, it quoted the man himself as saying that he wasn’t out of the game). Back then, however, Biz Buzz had already pointed out the race was down to then-incumbent Felipe Medalla, and the eventual choice, Remolona. What was significant, though, was that Biz Buzz said the chances of Medalla had waned because of his remarks on the Maharlika Investment Fund — which suggests to me, at least, that the chances of Diokno were torpedoed by his own advocacy, politically inconvenient as to its timing, of military and police pension reform when the President was wrestling with the problem of a disgruntled officer corps because of the ill-conceived chief of staff fixed-term law.

This isn’t to say Remolona’s appointment is a repudiation of Diokno who, after all, is credited with paving the way for the former’s renouncement of his United States citizenship so as to serve in the Monetary Board; but it does mean his current post will be the cap of Diokno’s career.

Meanwhile, other appointments may have sparked either derision or lack of comment. For every attack dog given a warm spot in the kennel (among the jokes going around: “Marcos Jr. lowers unemployment by giving Larry Gadon a job”; “Q: What is the biggest joke of all? A: “That Gadon thinks he has a real job”), there are more boring but useful appointments. Most recently, the Intramuros Administration has a new administrator whose background isn’t culture or heritage but is a lawyer who teaches persons and family relations, legal writing, and legal judicial form; the Commission on Filipinos Overseas has a new chair with past experience in the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and who belongs to a political clan in Tuguegarao City; and a new member of the board of trustees of the GSIS is prominent in the Tau Rho Xi fraternity, former director of the Meco Kaohsiung Extension Office during the Aquino administration, and is with the Roxas, De Los Reyes, Laurel, Rosario, and Gonzales law firm.

As this space mentioned before, the forthcoming Sona will mark the opening salvo in the 2025 midterm elections campaign, where initial explorations are already being made through surveys. Those midterms will, in turn, determine if the President can firm up his base as the countdown to the inevitable confrontation with the Duterte half of his coalition starts, within the last year and a half or so, of his term.

As is usually the case, it’s any potential cracks in the coalition that will determine what kind of opposition will be factored in: Will it be the negligible kind that currently exists, or will it consist of a much more worrisome, because genuinely threatening, faction from the current ruling one? Will we have an emerging two-party system (Marcos-Romualdez and Duterte-Arroyo), or a multiparty system? With an opposition with no teeth, speculation on ruling coalition intramurals has sucked all the political oxygen out of the room. Here, two figures are currently serious studies. There is the Speaker, whom the Vice President has already tagged as lusting for the presidency, but who must then decide if he wants to continue consolidating support for the President in the House, and face a possible presidential bid knowing the speakership is, historically, not a path to the presidency. The Senate presidency is more promising, but he already failed once; and it would, in turn, mean confronting the currently cooperative and pliable Senate President.

Might it be more useful to abolish the Senate, and institute the parliamentary system, which is the tempting alternative for those convinced they can never win a national election? After all, the Senate as an institution, which requires both celebrity and money, is increasingly fated to become an old folks’ home as it is past senators who retain the stature to have viable candidacies.

There is, too, the Cinderella of the First Family: the President’s eldest sister who remains firmly on the outside because of the impregnable shields of the First Lady. But even there, she could easily run for mayor of Manila, that other, relevant path to the presidency which, in turn, frees up a Senate slot either for the present Speaker, or the current First Lady. In the Revived New Society, old ideas like a president being succeeded by his first lady are as ripe for a revival as any.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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