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Posts Tagged ‘presidentiables’

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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House Aquino is straining in different political directions as it attempts to simultaneously confront the realities of the upcoming 2013 elections and the requirements of a reform government. Preserving unity in this situation is impossible and it is a probability that the post-2013 political landscape will be qualitatively different from the present.

Today, the Aquino-led ruling coalition stands virtually unchallenged with the once-mighty Lakas-Kampi  opposition reduced to a pitiful handful in both Congress and local government units. The main reason, of course, is the continued support of the people–still a 2-out-of-3 majority–for the Aquino administration.

However, the unsavory side of this strength is the wholesale turncoatism of almost the entire rank of the incumbents to the Aquino coalition. Most of them, I am sure, did it for pragmatic reasons–to maintain the flow of largesse from the seat of power to their own bailiwicks. However, along with the good ones, the bad politicians have also gone over to the incumbent president’s side.

These newcomers now make up the overwhelming majority of the president’s coalition, swamping both the Liberal Party original liberal-minded members and the reform-minded civil-society support base of the Aquino campaign.

O course, the reason behind this trend–started in the run-up to the May 10, 2010 elections and accelerating in the present preparatory period to the 2013 elections–is the imperatives of the 2016 presidential elections, including the building of a winning vote base for the presidential contenders.

Unfortunately, almost all the possible contenders are in the ruling coalition. A messy situation therefore arises, with two coalition senatorial slates and coalition members fighting each other in almost all local positions throughout the country.

One can argue that it is nothing new, that it has been that way for so long–dynasties fighting it out for local supremacy with nary a look at the absurdity of “friendly” parties fighting each other. Well, this is actually the wrong thing to happen to a reform administration. To get sidetracked from the reform path because of the political ambitions of some of the purported drivers of the reform bandwagon.

Within the LP “ruling” party, the newly-clothe LP turncoats are being groomed for candidacy in many local contests. Within the ruling coalition, the PDP-Laban-PMP UNA electoral coalition steadily draws away from the LP which has initiated its own electoral coalition with NP and NPC. By the day, the adherence to the reform “straight path” weakens.

Despite his popularity, Noynoy Aquino will end up endangering his own reform agenda and democratic legacy if he cannot rein in his own leaders and his new allies and fellow travellers. The prospect of a lameduck Aquino preesidency looms after the 2013 elections.

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[This opinion-article was published in the GMA News Online on June 3, 2012]

The Senate, acting as an impeachment tribunal, voted 20-3 in favor of the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. It was a comfortable margin over the super-majority vote of 16 required for conviction. Politically, the outcome solidified the standing of President Aquino and his administration, both among the political elite and among the people themselves.

There was the view at the start and the middle of the impeachment process that the voting would be a close race, or even a bit in favor of CJ Corona. This was glaringly evident in the important 13-10 vote in favor of recognizing and following the Supreme Court’s Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the opening of CJ Corona’s dollar accounts.

The main political reasons given then were 1) the relative independence of the Senate vis-à-vis the President; 2) the presidential contest of 2016 will divide the ruling coalition this early and affect the impeachment vote; and 3) the efforts of the camp of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to influence the impeachment vote.

The latter was most effective in playing up the possible scenario of the ouster of CJ Corona leading to the favorable ruling for Mar Roxas in his protest against Vice-President Jojo Binay.

Insofar as these factors are operative throughout the proceedings, they constituted a continuing pressure for acquittal. However, there were countervailing factors which—in the end—proved stronger and more compelling towards a verdict of conviction.

First, there is the factor of evidence. The evidence for Article 2 showed that CJ Corona admitted owning properties, bank accounts and other assets amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos, and that he admitted he wilfully did not enter these in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

The prosecutor made the case that there is a substantive betrayal of public trust sufficient to remove him as a Chief Justice and justice of the Supreme Court. In addition, it stressed that CJ Corona lied and acted well below the standards set for members of the judiciary, much more as justice and chief justice of the Supreme Court. The body of evidence made it easier for the senator-judges to support a judgment of conviction and made it harder for those who want to vote for acquittal.

It is also contributory that CJ Corona himself admitted both the facts of his huge dollar and peso deposits and that he reportedly insisted on getting Ombudsman and former associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as a “hostile” witness. Without the benefit of advice from his legal team,he also reportedly wrote and delivered his disastrous opening statement, and reportedly staged his own surprise walkout.

He thus dug his own impeachment grave. Even the last-minute concession of an unconditional waiver for a look into his bank accounts and the seeming reconciliation of his wife’s family and clan were not enough to turn the tide.

Second, the strong public opinion against CJ Corona—as manifested in the March SWS survey of 73% who judged him guilty—provided an incentive to senators who have a political stake in the 2013 elections to vote against him.

Third, the impeachment was initiated and publicly supported by a very popular president Aquino and the ruling Liberal Party, with the acquiescence from most of the ruling coalition in the House of Representatives. This provided the necessary political and logistical framework to the impeachment campaign.

At the end, only three senator-judges (Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Senator Joker Arroyo, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago) voted for acquittal. They all based themselves on the legal interpretation of the Constitution and pertinent laws provided by the defense and on their own opinion that the quantum of evidence did not support the verdict of impeachment. They would even accept the defense accusation of a persecution of CJ Corona by the Aquino administration.

As such, their position basically is a political position. While Senators Arroyo and Defensor-Santiago are at the end of their respective political careers, Senator Marcos runs the risk of a backlash in his own young political career.

The vote for impeachment, though a touch-and-go affair for a major part of the process, rapidly solidified into a decisive one after the CJ Corona walkout. He never recovered after.

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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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