Posts Tagged ‘con-ass’

The declaration of martial law in the province of Maguindanao have more implications than its own objectives. Ostensibly, the declaration aims to preempt a rebellion from the Ampatuan clan, facilitate the arrest or capture of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre, and reestablish civilian authority in the province.

The argument has been made that the declaration of martial law can achieve these objectives. Counter-arguments have also been put forward that the same objectives can be achieved by the use of normal means available to state authorities, even the declaration of a state of emergency.

Martial law or not, the key measurement of the appropriateness of the method used is that it achieves the objectives with the least collateral damage and with no additional or subsequent problems. In this, the martial law approach fails miserably.

First, there is as yet no rebellion and therefore no justification for martial law. What is there is a specious argument of a threatening rebellion (expressly incised out by the 1987 constitution from the previous constitutions). There is simply no factual basis for the declaration of martial law.

Second, for the sake of argument, if ever martial law is declared in relation to the Maguindanao massacre, it should have been done immediately after the incident, when the state authorities have actually attempted to arrest the Ampatuans and other perpetrators and their efforts are met with armed resistance. Conceivably, martial law could have been resorted then if the local civilian authorities–including the local officials and police–either belong to the Ampatuan clan or else their supporters and therefore these fail to perform their duties;  the perpetrators are protected by armed means; and the local population is under a state of terror.

Doing this after a period of delay and with no evident escalation of the situation opens to speculations of other objectives, particularly when the conditions for the declaration of martial law are not met.

There is fear that the declaration of martial law may be extended by an Arroyo-influenced joint Congress session to more than the 60 days allowed by the Constitution to possibly include the election day itself and thus possibly influence the outcome of the elections in ARMM and even the national elections. There is also fear that the joint session itself can lead to the resurrection of the Charter change initiative. The worst fear is the possible no-elections because of the breakdown of law and order in ARMM and even on the nationwide scale.

The declaration of martial law will not contribute much to the solution of the Maguindanao massacre. It may even lead to problems of the nation. It is a gambit–which if not opposed vigorously–can well lead to a sharp turn against Philippine democracy. The closest vigilance is therefore called for even as the nation does not let go of the search for justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

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After Cory, the attention shifts to Gloria. The political reason is that the death of Cory Aquino and the huge outpouring of people’s grief and respect–tantamount to a new demonstration of people power–threw a monkey wrench on the various plots by those in the administration to effect charter change and thereby maintain themselves in power beyond 2010.

The inability of these schemes to come to fruition inexorably drives the nail on GMA’s lameduck presidency. The factions in Malacañang suddenly realized the little time they have left and are scrambling to hasten their plots, make hay, or prepare to leave. The resignation of NEDA Director-General Ralph Recto is the latest event–and certainly not the last.

The time remaining may not be much. There is certainly tremendous pressure right now for her to resign and give way to Vice-President Noli de Castro. This would give the ruling coalition a breathing space, remove her as a centerpiece election issue, maintain the coalition, and possibly field a viable presidential candidate.

Standing against this pressure, GMA offers an emergency-based forced charter change through various permutations of unconstitutional measures, such as the House of Representatives-only Con-Ass, “revolutionary transition government,” or no-election caretaker government. Cory’s people power placed an almost insurmountable wall against all of these.

If GMA persists in her lameduck presidency, whatever loyalties of those around her would melt away. This will lead to insider conspiracies against her and defections will increase. All will fight for last-minute and carryable spoils of power.

GMA had tried negotiating with winnable presidential bets before but she always faces the problem of her counterpart offer in exchange for political cover. Like the Marcoses, the Arroyo family simply does not want to let go of their “earnings.”

She also explored fielding a trusted (or a controlled) candidate but nobody among the possibles have a Chinaman’s chance to win unless a massive cheating operation is put in place. The latter would certainly compromise the credibility of the elections and lead to the same political crisis that the 2004 elections provoked. With an awakened people power, the risks become unacceptable.

Today, the Arroyo family faces the same endgame that the Marcoses faced in 1983. The political logic of 1983 led to 1986. How will GMA choose?

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Among all SONA scenarios, one stands out. Former Defense Secretary Nonong Cruz exposé of a martial law plot strikes at the heart of a scenario whose bits and pieces the plotters are unable to hide. The larger scenario is not really–as most who commented on it–the maintenance of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power. Rather, it is to perpetuate the plotters in power.

The key to the plot is control of the armed forces, including the police, or at least its line of command. This control (or appearance thereof) can then be parlayed to GMA herself or to various groups dreaming or naive enough to believe in a shortcut to power. There may or may not be 2010 elections but the substantive reality of the scenario is the ascension to power of the military institution. In all variations, the one requirement is that democracy or a reasonable facade be retained.

The core plot can be weaved into various scenario threads: one, it can be used to oust GMA and replace her with a favorite in a “palace coup”; two, it can be used to overthrow her and set up a military junta or a civilian “transition” government; three, it can be used to set up appropriate fall guys as an excuse for a martial law regime; and four, create a situation of false unrest and subsequent rise of a “hero” to prop up candidate popularity in the 2010 elections.

All the signals on the plot and scenarios emanate from–you guessed it–those people in the cabinet cluster on internal security and peace and order. They are also the ones most vociferous in denying Secretary Cruz’ exposé. Why do these mix of retired military and civilian militarists doing this destabilizing in full view of the public? Again–you guessed it–the normal course of the 2010 elections is anathema for them as they lose all the powers they have derived from GMA’s nine-year hold on power. Ironically, they also expose GMA’s lameduck status and the consequent appearance of factional centers within Malacañang.

The elections and its scheduled holding enjoy overwhelming support from the people. Unfortunately, these officials do not yet have a viable presidential candidate. In another front, Con-Ass, as the House resolution 1109 mandates, is not going anywhere. They are in what is called DESPERATION mode.

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After a longer-than-anticipated bidding process, the automated elections contract is due to be signed between the Commission on Elections and the joint-venture of Total Information Management Corporation and Smartmatic International Corporation. The bidding process was hailed by all observers as transparent and fair, even overly strict sometimes. Despite the delay in processing, the project is still within the timetable stipulated by the Comelec.

The implementation of the automated election system now presents as the crucial next step. It is where the twin threats of a subverted system and a sabotaged system present themselves. It is also the time when genuinely constructive critics should join with election monitors to guard the system and prevent the above-mentioned threats.

The successful bidding strengthens the argument for pursuing the 2010 elections and leaving behind the futility that is the Con-Ass initiative of the House of Representatives. Only the desperates, the fund-raisers, and the electoral deathwishers will still pursue this suicidal course in the face of the widespread and universal anti-Con-Ass resistance among the people.

The more the sponsors push the Con-Ass agenda, the more the ruling coalition breaks up as individual congressmen confront the specter of losing their historical hold on the increasingly anti-GMA local electoral bases. Pursuing Con-Ass to its logical bitter end at the eve of the presidential elections opens up more dangers of political polarization, such as people power uprising, martial rule, and other extra-constitutional scenarios–all of which endangers the traditional politicians’ hold on power.

Something’s got to give. It won’t be the people and the 2010 elections.

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The congressmen who voted for the holding of the GMA constituent assembly feel the universal heat. Putting up a brave face, many of them contemplate the possible impact of their decision on their candidacies and political future. Some even blamed the Senate (?) for the HOR Con-Ass decision.

There is a miscalculation of the public’s anti-GMA sentiment–it’s transferable. In the 2007 elections, it translated to losses of erstwhile high-rating senatorial candidates. It also led to Senator Trillanes’ victory who ran only on this single issue. The GMA kiss of death, despite Secretary Gilbert Teodoro’s optimism, is a major factor in the coming 2010 elections, particularly if GMA continues at the helm of the current government.

The congressmen went out on a limb when they–for their own reasons–chose to push forward with the Con-Ass initiative. In many places, even in their own dynastic heartlands, GMA is the current issue. Combined with the rising anti-trapo sentiments and various citizen’s initiatives in electoral monitoring, there is a greater chance this accommodation of GMA’s survival scheme will cost them their political influence, even their own seats.

This is still too early to see how the Con-Ass participation will actually impact on them. However, the trend is the widening and deepening of the opposition to the initiative. A defiant House of Representatives will increasingly be beleaguered along with GMA herself. The unconstitutional convening of the constituent assembly itself can tip the balance and send the whole thing spiralling into a constitutional crisis. People power is a distinct possibility in this case.

The worst-case scenario stares the congressmen in their collective faces. Charter change this late into the electoral scenario turns them into political pariahs–it may even lead to their political demise.

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