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Posts Tagged ‘Marcos’

The filing of candidacy for the 18,053 seats–from senators to municipal councilors–has ended yesterday. As expected, the majority of key positions will be contested by members, loyalists or affiliates of dominant political clans. The Senate race is heavily affected with the dynastic disease, with almost all candidates of the Liberal Party coalition and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) tracing their antecedents (and credentials) to political families.

We have the following 18 candidates who are from prominent political families in the two Senate slates: Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Loren Legarda, presidential cousin Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Rep. Maria Milagros Magsaysay, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, vice-presidential daughter Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, Rep. Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., former senator Ernesto Maceda, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, former senator Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, former senator Richard Gordon, ex-senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, former Tarlac governor Margarita Cojuangco, Rep. Cynthia Villar, and Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.

The three others–former MTRCB Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, and former AKBAYAN representative Ana Theresia Hontiveros–are not known to belong to traditional dynastic clans. Three candidates–Escudero, Legarda, and Poe-Llamanzares–are common candidates of the LP coalition and UNA.

At the local level, political clans and dynasties are all over the political landscape–from the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte to the Dutertes of Davao City. Only a sprinkling of candidates are non-dynasty or non-traditional politician, the most notable of whom are the two Catholic priests on leave who are running for governorship–former Pampanga governor Fr. Eduardo “Among Ed” Panlilio (Pampanga) and Bicol Regional Development Council Co-Chair Fr. Leo Casas (Masbate).

The uncontrolled proliferation of political dynasties betrays the severe weaknesses of the political party system in the country. There simply are no checks and balances in place to curb or even guide the self-serving political agenda–and by extension the carpetbagging economic agenda–of dominant political clans. At worst, these clans turn into warlords with control over territorial fiefs and their power protected by political violence, electoral fraud, and vote-buying.

The weaknesses are starkly manifested in the dearth of original Liberals in the Liberal Party senatorial slate. The three Liberal Party members in the 12-person list are either newly-sworn party members (Madrigal and Aquino) or a turncoat from another party (Magsaysay). In addition, Sen. Pimentel, who is the president of UNA’s member-party, the PDP-Laban, runs under the LP coalition.

In the UNA slate, the situation is much the same with the three leaders (Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and former president Joseph Estrada) reserving seats for their own children (Nancy Binay, Jackie Enrile, and JV Ejercito). Rep. Mitos Magsaysay is from Lakas-Kampi, the erstwhile main opposition party.

The phenomenon of common candidates (Escudero, Legarda, and Poe) can only happen in a situation of  an absence of real opposition. Both the LP coalition and UNA parties are in the ruling coalition headed by President Aquino. The opposition that is the Lakas-CMD-Kampi is a pitiful, dying shadow of its former overpoweringly dominant stature–it cannot even field a single senatorial candidate and its head, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is able only to run for a congressional seat in Pampanga.

All roads now lead to Malacañang and Aquino. Of course, the political configuration will change in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Meanwhile the real–but covert–fight in the 2013 elections are between the would-be presidential aspirants in the 2016 presidential elections. As such, what we are witnessing is a proxy war.

Meanwhile, political dynasts sit comfortably and go with the tide of the president’s electoral wishes even as they profess support to all sides of the presidential contest. They are survival specialists, after all.

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Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir is an autobiography of one of the most controversial figures in our contemporary political history, the defense minister and implementor of the Marcos dictatorship, a failed coup d’etat plotter against both the Marcos and Aquino governments, a political lord of the far-north province of Cagayan, a habitue of Congress, both as a congressman and as a senator, and the presiding officer of the impeachment court that convicted and removed from office Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Now almost 89 years old, he can claim a certain place in our nation’s history, having served in high places throughout his political career–on both sides of the political fence. He is a political survivor, missing only the post of presidency in the 1998 elections.

The interesting thing about Juan Ponce Enrile is how he can glibly change his story to fit the political necessity of the moment. Two of the most memorable stories came from him during the 1986 failed coup against Marcos. Holding a hasty press conference in beleaguered Camp Aguinaldo–and desperately calling for help–he admitted to his participation in the conduct of electoral fraud in the 1986 snap elections and in the staging of a fake ambush on his own convoy in Wack Wack Golf and Country Club on September 22, 1972, the night before martial law was publicly proclaimed the next day.

In the book, he made nary a mention of the 1986 snap election fraud and completely changed his story about the fake ambush, asserting the opposite that it was really a genuine ambush by unidentified persons. And to think that this was the last act in the series of staged terror attacks in the three months preceding the declaration of martial law and cited as basis for Proclamation 1081!

My own recollection of the period is that the fake Enrile ambush and its citing as the signal for martial law declaration already circulated among some newsmen at least a month before the event. This is the reason why many student leaders and activists of the period were able to elude the massive dragnet by the military and police forces under Enrile’s administration and supervision in the first hours and days of martial rule.

Of course, it is Enrile’s decision on what to write and say on the history of his times. However, it is also our decision to believe him or not. In many accounts in the book, he provided new glimpses, maybe even truths, on the historical events he participated in. However, in the most important of them, he ended up rewriting and reinforcing old Marcos myths.

The question, therefore, hangs. What for? The nuanced presentation seemingly points to pandering for a Marcos revival while maintaining enough traction as a people power hero. Another myth, but its another story…

Shakespeare here is maybe relevant when he said in The Tempest: “What’s past is prologue.”

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The announcement by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Jr. of a coalition into the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) between the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) led by Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) led by former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada is a major indication that the 2013 midterm national and local election season has already arrived. Most political events, including the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, will thus be affected, one way or the other, by these elections or by the requirements of these elections.

Before this, the ruling Liberal Party (LP), under its president Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, has started its own moves vis-a-vis the 2013 elections. It has undertaken a series of high-profile party raiding, primarily from the ranks of a weakening Lakas-Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi CMD). One of the recent examples is the switch to the LP of the Ebdane father and son team (Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane and newly-elected 2nd District representative Omar Ebdane) in Zambales.

The LP move and the PDP-Laban coalition building will define the 2013 electoral contest. By no means, however, are these two the only players. There is still the formidable Nacionalista Party led by Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar who reportedly handed the reins to Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. This party keeps its cards close to its chest but quietly organizes on a nationwide scale.

A new party, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), led by Lito Lorenzana, has also organized and is challenging the Lakas-Kampi CMD on its political ideology. Before it, the National Unity Party, led by Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, split from the the Lakas-Kampi CMD. The latter, considerably weakened due to turncoatism of most of its members to the ruling coalition, is still considered the leadership of the political opposition and is still led by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A Left party, the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party (Akbayan) is a significant member of the ruling coalition and an LP ally. Another Left formation, consisting of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Anakbayan, and the like, today plays the independent game, although they aligned with Villar’s and Marcos’ NP during the last elections.

At any rate, the irony of the 2013 elections is the fact that opposite wings of the ruling coalition, LP and PDP-Laban, will lead separate senatorial slates. There is also a distinct possibility of a third NP-led slate.

The principal reason for these developments and scenario is the early pole positioning for the 2016 presidential elections. The president has announced his decision to forego any political move to prolong himself in power and will definitely step down in 2016. It thereby precipitated the early scramble of presidential aspirants to maneuver in the 2013 elections and even before to capture strategic resources such as financing, local alliances, and campaign infrastructures and capabilities.

The 2013 elections is a hunting ground for 2016 elections. No presidential aspirant can ignore its importance. Nor can politicians, whether national or local, ignore the implications of the 2013 elections for 2016 elections and on their own political fortunes. The political hunting season is open.

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In the midst of the testimony of Philippine Savings Bank president Pascual Garcia III, the Supreme Court granted his bank’s petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the disclosure of SC Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar accounts. In an 8-5 decision with 2 abstentions, the SC invoked RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of 1974 (as amended by PD 1035 and PD 1246), a Marcos-era law absolutely prohibiting the disclosure of FCDU accounts without the consent of the depositor.

Thus, two schools of thoughts or doctrines will be tested in the coming week. One, is the constitutionally mandated Senate impeachment court with “sole power” to try impeachment cases subject to the jurisdiction of or is it superior to the Supreme Court in its own jurisdiction? Two, does a law–decreed by dictator Marcos no less–have an absolute application and not subject anymore to any interpretation or exception, particularly by a constitutionally-mandated sui generis impeachment court.

In the first case, any weakness by the impeachment court by accepting, to any degree, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can fatally undermine its own jurisdiction and will open the door to more SC intervention. This includes the possibility of the SC stopping the impeachment trial altogether as what is prayed for by a separate petition for certiorari and TRO filed by no less than CJ Corona in his own court.

In the second case, acceptance of the absoluteness of any law, in this case the FCDU act, will also undermine the jurisdiction and even the capability of the impeachment court to fulfill its mandate  of determining whether or not an impeachable public official is still fit to hold office. An impeachment process implies the fullest use of state power to get at the truth precisely because the impeachable official is in a position to use the power of his office to derail the search for truth. What this implies, in turn, is that the impeachment court–when it is convened–has only itself to turn to for interpreting its mandate.

In a situation of a divided Supreme Court, with Supreme Court majority decisions being questioned in the impeachment articles, it is dangerous for the impeachment court to allow any interference from this body in its proceedings. In its turn, the Supreme Court TRO exposes the eight justices who signed the order to contempt by the impeachment court at the least. It may, as a possibility, lead to their own impeachment.

It is–as yet–not a constitutional crisis precisely because both sides are still adhering to constitutional processes, albeit with differing interpretations of their respective role and mandate in relation to impeachment. The crisis will arrive when–as a consequence of each one’s decisions–the other side does not recognize the decisions and consequently defy them.

In this situation, the Executive will play the crucial role of choosing whom to recognize and therefore implement the orders, particularly in relation to contempt citations and orders for arrest. Unfortunately, for the Supreme Court majority, they will lose in this battle–it is an open secret that the opposing protagonist in the impeachment trial–despite not directly participating in it–is no less than the President of the Republic.

Will this weaken the Supreme Court as an independent institution? I don’t think so. For what weakened already the credibility of the institution is CJ Corona himself and the majority SC justices appointed by former president Arroyo, whose collective antics have lost the trust of the vast majority of our people in the impartiality, independence, and soundness of the present occupants of the institution.

The charge of the king’s knights only confirmed this. Alas, it is the charge of a light brigade.

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Events are moving fast in the national political front even as trends firm up for the rest of the term of the Aquino government. The center of the tempest, of course, is the current attempt of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the rest of  the Arroyo faction to evade the inevitable criminal cases being prepared against them and their impending arrest. Though the fight is being fought in medical opinions, in legal petitions before the Supreme Court, and in media blasts, the real arena is political.

On the one hand, there is the Aquino government drive, with a clear political will behind it, to address the unfinished issues of the Arroyo administration, including the issues of massive corruption and electoral shenanigans in the 2004 and 2007 national and local elections. In the majority of these issues, the key figures are none other than former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the erstwhile First Gentleman, Atty. Miguel Arroyo.

On the other hand, there is the Arroyo clique that has ruled the country for almost a decade, weakened and almost brought down the post-Marcos democratic regime, suspected to have systematically amassed illegal wealth in billions of dollars, and is now exerting efforts to defend itself and its gains.

Despite the various attempts to derail the 2010 elections and–when this failed–to prevent an Aquino victory, the people threw out the former Arroyo administration. Despite the  midnight appointments, laws, executive orders, and other maneuvers, the Arroyo clique failed to stop the consolidation of power by the Aquino administration.

Erstwhile allies of the Arroyos changed sides in droves even as its own hardcore supporters tried desperately to challenge, even futile trying out out possible destabilization campaigns. The Arroyo clique tried to maintain their dominance in Lakas and in the House of Representatives but even this ended in futility.

The lone apparent Arroyo-influenced institution is the Supreme Court. The current Arroyo petitions for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a favorable ruling on the constitutionality of the Department of Justice Order No. 41 is certain to be seen as a test of the political position of the  Arroyo appointees in the court. This is unfortunate but the high court is still under a cloud of doubt in the public mind because of its previous pro-Arroyo rulings.

Whatever the SC decision is, the political battle develops to the advantage of the Aquino government. There is a great amount of public support for the closure of the issues against the Arroyos.

The basic options open to the Arroyos, if they chose not to admit their guilt, are only two: flight or fight. The latter–the path taken by former president Estrada–would mean political humiliation and a long stay in a detention resthouse while the case is being tried, and, if convicted, a probable long stay in the penintentiary.

Flight means going on an asylum in a friendly country with no extradition treaty with the Philippines and waiting out an unfriendly Philippine government such as the Aquino administration. Then, negotiate when conditions are favorable. This was the Marcos strategy.

At the end of the day, the politics of it will determine the option.

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[My forthcoming column in Catalyst].

The predicament of Philippine Air Lines, the nation’s flag carrier essentially parallels the problem of the Philippine National Bank, the erstwhile government’s own bank (which is in the process of a merger with Tan’s own Allied Bank). In both cases, the cause of the problem was named Lucio Tan.

The essence of the Tan strategy was to buy into the government asset at a minimum share percentage to establish a bridgehead, cajole the government (or as some put it, put forward an offer some key public officials cannot resist) into deciding for the privatization of the asset. When the asset is sold to the Tan group, the most profitable components of the asset are stripped away or transferred to a similar Tan-controlled company. Then, the now-unprofitable government asset is left withering on the vine and eventually dies.

Or, if it can still be cajoled further, the government infuses more money into the asset and the asset redirected to new markets (with the big advantage of having the government on its side). Eventually, the asset is still merged into a Tan-controlled company and is left to die.

PAL has always been a problem for the TAN group because it has been milked before by the past managements and it miscalculated the effects of the Asian crisis of 1997 and the rising oil prices. It has also to contend with various new competitors, notably the Cebu-Pacific Air. Its own Air Philippines languishes.

Tan has an additional problem with PAL. As a national carrier, it has certain advantages in the international routes, such as preferential treatment for national carriers, first choice in newly-opened routes, and as official government carrier. However, these advantages cannot be carried over to Air Philippines in a merger, and if Tan continues to operate PAL, it would only compete against Air Philippines and cause losses for both. Additionally, it has to contend with stricter requirements for air travel as a national carrier, suffer stricter government supervision (it is still partly owned by government), and cannot compete favorably against the new king of the sky—the budget airlines such as Cebu-Pacific Air.

Tan’s solution is to squeeze PAL more within these limits while attempting to convince government to assist it in its merger plan (straightforward or de facto) and to transfer the national carrier status to Air Philippines. This is the context of the move to emasculate PAL’s independent capability for various services such as catering, maintenance, and other ground operations by outsourcing these to other TAN companies (which also service Air Philippines). At the end of the day, the two TAN airline companies will have been indistinguishable from each other.

In the meantime, the 2,600 PAL ground-based workers are forced into early retirement or re-hired into TAN’s service companies at reduced benefits. The fate of PAL’s pilots and air stewards and stewardesses is not far behind.

PAL should not have been outrightly privatized and should have remained under government control, not only for economic reasons but also for political and security reasons. Tan himself is heavily investing in China and has partnered with prominent Chinese businessmen identified with the Chinese government. Just like in the ZTE-NBN case –in which security concerns have been raised—the PAL case also has a security angle, especially in the light of tensions in relations with China.

The PAL case demands a longer-term solution from government. So far, the Aquino administration has sided with Lucio Tan. What magic does Tan have to inveigle Philippine presidents, all the way from Marcos, into agreeing with his schemes?

Remember, in PAL’s case, greed does not fly planes.

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In the morning of July 15, 2011, Mariano Umbrero, a political prisoner, died at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital. Four days after, on July 19, 2011, he was given by the president an executive clemency. When asked why, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted that Malacañang was not informed that Tatay Umbrero has already died earlier.

This incident, more than any other recently, defines the current Aquino administration’s handling of its human rights commitment. It responds to human rights issues such as the human rights compensation bill, the Marcos burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the passage of the law criminalizing enforced disappearance excruciatingly slow. It has not even approved the CHR’s National Human Rights Plan and even plan to replace the Presidential Human Right Committee (PHRC) with an inter-agency body without the participation of the human rights community.

This kind of a response is expected of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. In the Aquino administration, with its avowed legacy of democracy and human rights, it is raising quite a few eyebrows not only in the local and international human rights community but even in the wider public. It seems that human rights is still subject to political expediency and can be handled opportunistically as public sentiment react to human rights issues.

A case in point here is the criminal classification of and handling of the various cases of convicted political prisoners. These should have been handled separately from the cases of common criminals and subjected to different criteria and procedures. The model here is the way the Diokno Commission–way back in 1986–handled the political cases. A review of the relevant procedures for parole, executive clemency, and humanitarian exemptions should be done.

Precisely, this is the concrete demand of the political prisoners who are now in their fifth day of a hunger strike, which was precipitated by the death of Tatay Umbrero. The request for him in March 2011 to die in peace in the bosom of his family was a humanitarian one, considering his 4th-stage cancer and old age. The human rights community supported his request, addressing the Aquino government to immediately grant it. The Commission on Human Rights and Department of Justice Secretary de Lima endorsed this.

The Aquino administration took all of four months to act on the request. My own opinion here is that the urgency of the situation should already have triggered easier and faster response such as an immediate release to an authority (church or public official) while formal legal processes are being executed for an eventual executive clemency. The Aquino administration should have exerted the necessary effort to do a humanitarian act.

Now, there is the nationwide hunger strike of political prisoners to deal with. I hope that the Aquino administration–at the highest level–pay attention to this because time is of the essence. We know the timetable of fastings and hunger strikes since the time of the Marcos dictatorship (including Ninoy Aquino’s own fasting) and that there is no luxury of time here. There should be a cabinet-level negotiator to attend to the demands and to end the hunger strike as soon as possible. At the same time, the hunger strike should define reasonable and doable demands.

The key here is to make sure that human rights prevail, including the rights of political prisoners. We do not want this Aquino government to be tainted by the death of a single political prisoner under its watch. Free all political prisoners!

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