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The word war between the Anakbayan party-list group and Akbayan regarding the latter’s qualification to run under the party-list system would have been an ordinary event in the never-ending tirade of the Reaffirmists against other Left groups since the split of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1991. This time, however, the Reaffirmist-led youth groups Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) plus its worker coalition Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) took it a step further. They wrote a formal letter to the Commission on Elections “to investigate AKBAYAN party-list and their nominees and if it is determined by the Commission that they are not qualified as party-list groups and nominees, remove and/or cancel the registration of AKBAYAN and deny due course the certificate of nomination filed by the party-list group.

In so doing, these groups have crossed a political line, presumably with the blessing of the CPP leadership. They presume now that they should have the monopoly of Left parliamentary politics. This is in addition to their false assertions that their group has the monopoly of Left mass politics and that armed struggle is the only way to power. It is a step up from the previous threats of physical elimination of specific Akbayan personalities and leaders.

It is to be recalled that in the 1998 national and local elections, the CPP and its organizations in the legal mass movement boycotted the newly-implemented party-list system, calling it a “reformist” institution. However, an outcry among the leaders and ranks of its legal mass movement to participate forced the party to revise its policy and led to the formation and participation of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Anak ng Bayan, Gabriela Women’s Party, Migrante, and Suara Bangsa Moro in the 2001 party-list elections.

When the party decided to participate in the party-list system, it did so on a grand scale. The strategy of separate sectoral formations was resorted to make use of its wasted votes above the six percent required of the three-seat maximum set by law. Bayan Muna was maintained as both a national political party and a multi-sectoral party-list group, with the objective to make it as the center for their parliamentary work. In the current 2013 party-list elections, more than 10 party-list groups coming from this same political root have applied for party-list accreditation. It does not include Makabayan, which had been reportedly accredited by Comelec as a national political party apart from Bayan Muna.

The current CPP-led attacks against Akbayan are evidently aimed at monopolizing Left parliamentary politics and curtailing its political influence, especially after the latter entered the popular Aquino-led ruling coalition. In the 2013 elections, they ride on the popular call for cleansing of the party-list system of bogus groups, and called for the disqualification of Akbayan. There is a real fear that Akbayan will successfully attain the status of an independent national political party after the elections.

This fear comes from the realization that the CPP-led armed struggle is getting nowhere, without a strong cadre backbone, a broad-based mass base, and effective international support. This is especially acute at this time when there is a real possibility of permanent peace in the Moro rebellion with the signing of a “framework agreement” between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The CPP is faced with the strategic dilemma of continuing a politically dead-end course of a protracted armed struggle or pursue the possibilities of the parliamentary arena. The attacks on Akbayan are evidently aimed at preparing the ground for the latter. The applicable Marxist tactical term here is “directing the main blow against the secondary target.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for Akbayan, it is now classified in the same league as the Lavaites in the late 1960s–the principal obstacle to be removed so that there is only one Left group standing. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for those in the CPP who opt for the parliamentary struggle, the current state of Philippine democracy allows their meaningful participation.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Akbayan had already blazed the trail towards meaningful Left participation in the parliamentary struggle. Anak ng Akbayan.

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Free but not free

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was released from detention through a grant of bail by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court. Expectedly, her camp extolled the court decision as a “victory against dictatorship,” presumably the Aquino administration. It was even posited as a big blow to the anti-corruption campaign and the political standing of President Aquino.

I do not think these views are correct. The order for release of Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo does not, in the first place, mean her innocence in the charge against her; it only means that the evidence presented against her by the prosecution is considered weak by the prosecution. The case will continue to be tried on merits and additional evidence.

The political battle last November 2011 revolved around GMA’s attempt to flee the country and possibly escape prosecution. The instant case of electoral sabotage in the 2007 elections served then to prevent her from doing so by virtue of the hold-departure order issued by the Pasay City RTC. Incidentally, this also rendered moot and academic the controversial “watch-list order” issued by DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. I doubt if GMA’s arrest and detention–which is the subject of the bail decision–was the primary objective during that period.

The political impact of the release on the Aquino administration is minimal. The hold-departure-order is still in place, reinforced by a similar HDO from the Sandigangbayan for a separate plunder case. Other cases are in the pipeline.

The GMA political base has already shrunk dramatically while the Aquino administration has already consolidated the power. If reports of her continued illness are correct, then the release would a correct move–from a political point of view–since it would remove state responsibility.

She’s free but not quite free.

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It’s the season for State-of-the-Nation-Addresses or SONAs. Everyone worth his or her salt is writing, arguing, venturing one’s own take on the SONA. The important SONA, of course, is the SONA of President Aquino, which is the constitutionally required annual report to Congress on his government’s performance and plans.

All other SONAs are usually critical of the President’s SONA or reflective of specific concerns of the issuers. Rarely does one find an alternative SONA completely in accord with that of the sitting President.

So, what does one expect from next Monday’s official SONA. Certainly, it will contain glowing statistics and accomplishments, probably the top one on the achievements of the macro economy (growth rate, investment climate, credit ratings, etc) and on anti-corruption (filing of cases and arrests of big fishes, Corona impeachment reforms in procurement and other bureaucratic processes, etc.).

There will be claims of progress in anti-poverty work, but this would be muted as there is as yet  no discernible–more so, dramatic–achievement to crow about. Asset reforms are a bit more problematic, with land reform in the doldrums, entire communities still losing their forests, fishing grounds, and prime agricultural lands, and even their very environment (clean water, clear air, and open spaces) to powerful and greedy carpetbaggers, and entire industries continuing to be monopolized by a few billionaires.

The record so far of the Aquino government centers on making the entire economy work, establishing a corruption-resistant government. However, the impression on the ground, except maybe for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), the beneficiaries had been the wealthy elite, and not the vast majority that is the poor.

However, since the Aquino government has only completed one-third of its shelf-life, the poor are still giving it the chance to make good on the inaugural promise of “delivering the benefits of democracy to the people.” At this point in our history, “the people” is almost synonymous with “the poor.” Only an agenda for the poor is relevant in the coming SONA.

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Introducing Parallaxis

My apologies to my readers for the long delay in updating this blog. I had to pay more attention to my work which entailed more paper work than I’d like. On the other hand, I’d like to introduce you to my other, new, blog titled Parallaxis with Yahoo! Philippines at http://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/parallaxis/. You can also follow me there. I will still be maintaining this blog as is.

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After the Supreme Court finally made up its mind that running appointive officials are considered resigned, a flurry of Cabinet appointments were made to fill out the vacancies. The retirement of General Victor Ibrado (Class ’76) as AFP chief of staff and the appointment of Lt. General Delfin Bangit (Class ’78) has also just occurred. There is also the simmering controversy regarding the possible GMA appointment of successor to Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

All these appointments happen or will happen at twilight time of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency. Due to her decision to run for the congressional post in the 2nd district of Pampanga, GMA’s last-minute appointments have fueled speculations and aroused suspicions of an election scenario favoring her stay in power or of a post-election scenario favoring her comeback to power.

It is obvious that her appointments still follow the pattern of loyalty-based criteria. This, in itself, is already an indication that she does not want to sit outside the dining table once she is out of power. Indeed, she wants to be still in the center of things and serve as the paramount headache of the next president.

Such criteria are practiced–in the classic follow-the-leader fashion–by her own people. It has already claimed a victim with the removal of Roger Peyuan from TESDA headship, who barely warmed the seat for two days.

The musical chair is singing–and it is Gloria belting out the female version of “The Exodus Song.”

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Entering May, 2009, we are reminded that only 12 months separate us from a decision Filipino voters will make that can undo the country or push it to unknown heights. The presidential choice is more crucial than any in the past since the 1986 snap elections.

Elections 2010–if the democratic course is maintained–will end the nine-year Gloria Macapaga-Arroyo government. Only major constitutional coups, embodied in the increasingly desperate charter change initiative, the rumors of various forms of emergencies, and failure of the 2010 elections, can derail this conclusion.

The successful holding of a credible 2010 elections remain the principal scenario against which all the other scenarios should be measured. The former represents the prevailing public consensus based on the unalterable conclusion of a failed and hugely unpopular GMA administration. The electoral process to end the GMA government is also dictated by the same public consensus for a relatively peaceful and democratic transition to a new administration.

However, various scenarios threaten to replace the election scenario or at the least vitiate or weaken its regime-changing role. One, of course, is the current charter-change move. Other possibles are the attempts to manipulate or–failing–to sabotage the automated elections (and revert back to manual election system), the creation of artificial political atmospheres to justify various forms of state of emergency, and the scheme to form a caretaker government premised on a nationwide failure of elections. Various combinations of these are also possibles.

One thing is sure. The next 12 months are a politically-sensitive period where there is a wide latitude for many scenarios to happen. They also call for a heightened vigilance from all citizens and democratic forces in order to ensure that the 2010 elections happen as planned in accordance with constitutional mandate.

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Jun Lozada’s arrest for the crime of perjury is being painstakingly downplayed by both Malacañang and the accuser, presidential loyalist and fair-haired boy Mike Defensor. They stressed that the case is non-political, that the timing has nothing to do with political consideration, and that there is no political objectives to be achieved.

Of course, the opposite will be believed by the public–if only because GMA and her people have no more credibility with two-thirds of them. I would opine that the people had their instinct right. A Defensor political move (it’s political, believe me!) cannot be divorced from his role as a key GMA operator.

So we come to the crux of the matter: Why a Lozada arrest, and why now? To know the probable truth, one has to put the action within the context of the current political battle and the Malacañang boys’ objectives.

The obvious, unequivocal, and unyielding political objective is to maintain themselves in power. A lot has to do with keeping GMA in power, but the logical options include secret negotiations to jump–at the proper moment–to the probable presidential winner. Almost all of them pursue these two options simultaneously and several others beside. The over-all atmosphere is one of distrust and disloyalty, even as the trusted and the loyal desperately pursue seemingly convincing avenues for maintaining the course towards a GMA continuity.

The Pacquiao fight, with its bad impact on the legislative quorum, reveals the widening gap in the ruling coalition. The charter change initiative continues to unravel after the SC decided to dramatically increase party-list representation in the lower House, and the needed ¾ votes continues to be elusive. The Pacquiao fight provides a respite to the political conflict but three developments–the early Yano retirement, the so-called assassination plot against GMA and, now, the Lozada arrest–underscore the fierce political battle going on.

Whatever the truth in the Yano early retirement and the “plot,” it can be said that the immediate issue right now is the role of the president and her men in the coming elections. An election with GMA still the president and an election without GMA are two different situations, with broad implications on the fortunes of all the players in the presidential contest.

An increasingly lameduck presidency has to maintain and demonstrate it still has the power. With luck (or by manufacturing the luck), it may even turn the table against its opponents, bypass or set aside the elections, force charter change, and maintain itself in power.

The Lozada gambit is a test of the public’s oppositionist bent, the will to undertake political protest, and the actual strength of the street parliament. Malacañang has its own scenario and it is trying to put all elements in place. Whatever it is, it’s not the 2010 elections.

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