Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: November 2021

LAST week, I wrote about the mini saga of Sara Duterte-Carpio that started on Duterte's midterm when the intimations and the whispering of her succeeding the father as heir-apparent began to reverberate first among the political cognoscenti in Davao City; then spreading throughout the islands. The last few months witnessed the calculating Sara displaying what in hindsight, could now be considered as a feigned reluctance to go for the presidency, bolstered by the Deegong's statement seemingly with faux sincerity depicting a loving father's desire to protect a favorite child, asserting that the presidency is not for women. She had media eating out of her hands in the "on-again, off-again" moro-moro that dominated speculative politics for a good part of at least a year; until lured into what could only be deemed a gambit by the Marcos siblings, BBM and Imee, with the unwitting participation of GMA and the Lakas-CMD. Sara's "last two-minutes" move was a study in political timing – the seeming public denial hele-hele bago quiere, the CoC for mayoralty, the withdrawal of the same CoC, the last minute oath-taking with Lakas-CMD, a feather to GMA's cap, to the "almost-declaration" of her presidential candidacy. This game with the public's and her fans' emotional ebb and tide culminated in the one-week flurry of political masterstrokes. This one-week drama could rival that of any pandemic Korean telenovela except that Ferdinand Macoy's genius of a bloodline flows on the Marcos siblings. They saw or maybe even predicted Sara's last-minute moves, painting herself into a corner — ensnaring her at the end, perforce a forced VP run under a Marcos. The Marcoses came in with an all-in bet figuring Sara will not contest BBM on a MAD (mutually assured destruction) run for the presidency. This was Machiavellian at best applied to perfection.

Revival of a political divide

With these developments, the political divide has been somewhat defined. We now have the Marcos-Duterte firmly on one side tempting the opposition, if there is still one, to consolidate. This means the remaining presidential candidates may have to do some drastic recalibration and renegotiations. Offhand, Leni is now perceived to be the "true opposition," for whatever its worth as the rest are seen as "royal opposition" what with Isko promising the Deegong a cabinet post and Manny reportedly reconciling with the lame duck presidency. Perhaps, Ping can equate with Leni, but his campaign is in the doldrums. This state of disarray has principally been exacerbated by our arcane electoral laws encouraging last-minute substitutions.

With Sara, ignominiously sliding down to VP, she has surrendered the initiative to BBM and will settle down as a "spare tire." Her status has changed drastically, not necessarily for the better. She is not even assured of winning the vice presidency hands down now. Her long-running melodramatic performance may have been overplayed, stretching the play and the patience of both her fans and the general public, and in the end turning into a mere political satire.

Duterte playing his last cards

Duterte, playing a part in this overall moro-moro, advising his daughter "kunwari" at first to stay away from the presidency, penetrated the veil of deception and saw what for him was the Marcos subterfuge perpetrated on Sara forcing her to take second fiddle even as she led BBM in the polls from the very start. This precipitated a wild illogical reaction resulting in Bong Go, the son he never had, to give up his VP candidacy for the presidency and meet BBM head-on, while Duterte himself runs for senator.

As a digression, for the cinema aficionado, this reminds one of "The Devil's Advocate" where Al Pacino's character, John Milton, the devil himself, conspired with fate to have his daughter, Christabella Andreoli, portrayed erotically by Connie Nielsen, to procreate with her brother, Kevin Lomax, Keanu Reeves' character, to protect and perpetuate the Devil's legacy.

Political pairings

Now the political daggers are unsheathed. The fentanyl-using President has viciously attacked the erstwhile ally BBM as a cocaine-using cokehead and a weak leader. This singular character assassination attempt by the President himself has established BBM as the frontrunner. The other candidates must be salivating for similar assaults by an outgoing chief executive refocusing much needed media attention on them. More importantly, the Marcoses are now absolved from defending the Duterte administration as part of its "utang na loob" for allowing the reburial of the Marcos patriarch. All bets are off for the Marcos siblings and the Duterte père. This could prove to be complicated and embarrassing for Sara.

The first among many clichés in Philippine electoral politics is a historical anomaly imposed by our forefathers — that of splitting the president and vice president slate. Except perhaps for GMA and Noli de Castro, voters split their choices.

Putting on center stage again the Marcos name evokes old enmities and awakens fear among those martial law denizens now mostly in Leni's corner, opening the possibility of this election season's first permutation, derailing the BBM-ISD tandem with two women at the helm — a Leni-Sara partnership. This could be the recalibrated move of the "yellow cum pink" and a fanciful strategy. This effectively discards BBM and Kiko Pangilinan from the equation. Seemingly impossible, but in politics, nothing is, and the final arbiters are the voters. And the Filipino voters, sadly the masa, are driven more by gambling instincts — last two or jueteng syndrome — a popular number's game, and a predilection for the popular.

A second permutation is a subscript from the narrative of the DDS and fist-bumping loyalists, the Bong Go-Sara dream team. This is what the Deegong lusts for to still be in virtual control or at least be the major influence in the next administration. With him pining for the Senate presidency and GMA the speakership of the lower house; this would assure Duterte's protection from the clutches of international courts for charges against human rights violations resulting from the anti-illegal drugs initiatives.

A third permutation is the opposition's capturing the two top positions, a remote possibility: a Leni-Kiko or a Leni-Sotto — whose numbers are pretty much lethargic nonetheless a possible offshoot of the deterioration of Marcos-Duterte alliance forged from the time of Ferdinand Macoy's re-burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Now the Deegong going for broke has labeled BBM's family as "kawatan." A sad end to a once thriving "lust affair."

Other permutations would depend solely upon the partisans' perception of the political flux emanating from the mockery of this election process triggered partly by the November 15 deadline for candidate substitutions. Through the splitting of the slate, a case can be made too for a BBM-Sotto, Isko-Sotto, Manny-Sotto, Ping-Sara — all possibilities but as remote as the polls have shown so far.

On the other hand, these musings are probably borne of jet lag after my 16-hour direct PAL flight from Manila to New York. Meantime, I look forward to enjoying my Christmas holidays and a skiing vacation in the kiddie slopes with my American grandchildren. The convoluted election circus campaign in the 'Pinas and Covid-19 be damned!


Published in LML Polettiques

I WAS totally wrong! That the substitution game no longer dominates the political conversation was erroneous as shown when Sara Duterte-Carpio withdrew her mayoralty bid, resigned from Hugpong and joined Lakas-CMD, all in the span of four days. And declared ___?

I am writing on board PR126 bound for the US to visit my grandchildren. By the time I enter US airspace (Saturday, Manila time), the political tectonic plate may have shifted in the Philippines. In whose favor, I can only conjecture as we still have until November 15 for candidates to change their minds — making a mockery of these elections.

Leaving PH airspace

(Dateline PR126, somewhere in the Pacific, Friday)

Still a columnist's compulsion to discern the implications are overwhelming. Everything is in a flux; realities may drastically change upon my arrival at JFK. Meantime I can merely speculate but will trim this column based on new developments — on the ground, literally.

With Sara taking her oath as Lakas-CMD, there is no way for her but to go for the big enchilada — the presidency. This indeed is a coup by the traditional politicians —Romualdez, Revilla and the master traditional politico of them all — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), who would most probably be speaker of the house in a Sara administration. But again, I could be wrong on both.

Bongbong Marcos (BBM) may have to redo their war plans if he goes head-to-head with Sara. Both could lose — canceling each other. This is a zero-sum game. But with the Marcos resources and their presumed "solid North" in the bag, this election could prove to be very heated — the South versus the North with hard pickings for either in between — but over-all a fatal one for the Marcos and Duterte forces and a boon for the opposition.

But if BBM slides down to VP now — which is very unlikely — then we have an heir apparent – conveniently and comfortably repairing the Marcos name with BBM firmly at the helm by 2028 — if he can wait that long. Such a script includes the collapse of the Duterte PDP-Laban faction with Bato and Go folding, leaving the Comelec to decide on the Pacman as the official PDP-Laban standard bearer — merely a consolation prize.

In all of these hullabaloo which at first was entertaining but now verging on the banal, one thing is certain. Sara has been playing her game all along keeping her intent and next moves only to herself undoubtedly following the father's playbook in 2016 — putting everyone on tenterhooks, pulling a surprise at a propitious moment, maintaining her place in the media's eyesight, perforce the voter's consciousness. This is the perfect playbook model for any political PR team to concoct. But this could solely be Sara's. Because it involves surreptitious moves which until now people believe her to be incapable of execution.

The other presidentiables would kill for this kind of media attention but Leni, Ping, Isko and Manny may not have the resources, save for BBM, whose family's fortunes intriguingly float around, confirmed in some bizarre way by their matriarch, Imelda, in one of her odd interviews.

This singular act of Sara, has placed her at the head of the pack, the cynosure, with the rest reduced to reacting, trimming their campaign strategies, and scrambling for whatever opportunities may come their way. But five months is an eternity for sustaining this Sara-centricity. She still has to establish herself as a real no-nonsense leader — interpreting her local achievement as mayor and communicating this effectively to the national stage — beyond the shadow of a maverick of a father. The next few polls will merely be a collective photograph of this week's act — propelling Sara to the top. But to sustain a trend, she has to go beyond the hype and do something extraordinary and more substantial. The 2016 presidential campaign serves as a case in point on how VP Jojo Binay led for months until the rest of the pack tore him to shreds. This is a template tempting to the current pack of wannabes who may likewise unsheathe their daggers — reverting back to the traditionally dirty politics practiced for generations. But I believe that the candidate who chooses to run a different campaign, extolling his or her qualifications, confronting the others head-on on issues on what the country needs and elevating the political discourse to a higher plane, may still have the time to reverse a trend in his or her favor. This is a gain for the country and the pattern of behavior that we hope will emerge will contribute to the continued emancipation of voters from ignorance and the sordid electoral practices imposed on them by the traditional politicians for generations.

Overtaken by events

(Dateline JFK, 11:30 p.m. local time Friday)

I was partly wrong! Upon landing at JFK my streaming service just announced Sara filed her CoC for vice president under Lakas-CMD, her new party, and forthwith adopted by BBM's Federal Party in its slate. Wow! She just did a "last two-minutes" — for someone who said she wouldn't. Could this augur well for her personally in terms of her credibility. Could her promises as a politician be trusted? Well, she could always say that a woman has the prerogative to change her mind — setting back women's lib and her trust rating. Be that as it may, she did indeed surprise everyone and warmed the cockles of BBM's heart — his campaign derisive of the tyros in her camp who must have been advising Sara all along.

But here, Sara is dead wrong! And too late to correct this terminal error. Leading in the polls over BBM, she must have thought the presidency within her grasp, confident that BBM would slide down to VP. She withdrew her CoC for Davao mayor, installed her brother in her stead, left her political party, Hugpong, and succumbed to the wiles of the tradpols at Lakas-CMD who must have massage her ego perfectly well — assuring her of the top post. She painted herself into a corner with no room to maneuver. Bongbong Marcos got her where he wants her with a Marcosian declaration: "May kilala ba kayong Marcos na umatras?" Thus, ending Sara's preeminence. BBM can now use her popularity, the Duterte clout and possibly her machinery and reduce Sara to a spare tire. I take my hat off to BBM — and sister Imee — who must have thought this scenario through. But I commiserate with Sara, who I truly like. But then, my conjectures may be proven wrong after my column's printing deadline.

Collateral damage

Another aftershock is with the Deegong's PDP-Laban faction — utterly left in shambles, particularly their presidential and VP slate. It has to be reconstituted, in particular discarding like a wet rag their presidential standard bearer — Mr. Mockery himself. They still have up to midnight of Monday, November 15, to conjure up something. But the tragedy here is this ideological party founded by Mindanaonons led by Nene Pimentel has been reduced to a shell of its former self. The man must be turning in his grave.


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 10 November 2021 08:10

The boiling political cauldron

THE way things are shaping up, the political environment is in a flux and chaotic at best, but some blurred images are clearing up. The November 15 Comelec deadline, closing the window for candidate substitutions, no longer dominates the political conversation. Sara Duterte-Carpio's decision to remain local and the much-hyped Cebu meeting with Bongbong Marcos (BBM) have put a damper on the guessing game distorting the political scene thus far, favoring BBM's candidacy and touting a formidable Luzon-Mindanao combination crafted in Cebu purportedly sewing up the Visayan votes. But any one candidate's breakaway is still too early in the game. Recalling 2016, VP Jojo Binay was the early favorite. The final tally gave Binay the third place after a no-holds-barred exchange of ad hominems with Mar Roxas, who shot up to number two in the closing weeks — both candidates neglecting to keep track of Duterte, who sneaked in. The same scenarios could play out with Leni Robredo or the three others currently eating BBM's dust.

The daughter's exit

Sara's persistent refusal to enter into direct combat was a great relief to the BBM camp. With her numbers going through the roof, the game for now is to divine to whom these numbers will be awarded. BBM's camp has the edge as Sara's regional political party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), has thrown its support behind BBM. But then again, all politics are local, and with this dictum, some political analysts are speculating that HNP may not be that influential in regional politics. Sara's HNP was almost annihilated in the last midterm elections, losing to the former House speaker Bebot Alvarez's Partido Reporma (PDR). Ping Lacson is chair of PDR, giving the Lacson-Sotto ticket an advantage. On their bailiwick, Sara and the Duterte dynasty will win — hands down — with practically just a token opposition. It's a different story outside Davao City however.

Another factor that could prove a hindrance to BBM's dominance is Mindanao's own — the Pambansang Kama-o. Votes will be split which may not favor BBM. And the Visayan votes could go to the "Bisdak" (Bisayang Dako) — Manny Pacquiao. And the other Mindanaoan whom the PDP-Laban Cusi faction sought to impose on and insult the voters, may just siphon off some votes, the majority from his bailiwick — in the upscale residential subdivision of Monteritz. But the betting is that Bato dela Rosa is likely to withdraw by November 15, hinting at an eventual BBM-Go slate. But this is an unlikely combination. Among the cognoscenti, it is a known fact that la fille Duterte supporting the Marcoses loathes Bong Go.

It is unlikely too that the touted "Sara factor" is going to add substantially to BBM in Luzon. The other four presidentiables (BBM-Leni-Ping-Isko) all come from there with their own solid bailiwicks — Ilocanos, Manileños and Bicolanos.

The sidelined president

No lameduck president will admit this. But in this election, he is! The symptoms are there. A confusing slew of indecisions remarkably undermining the strongman image he has carefully crafted — from an intent to run as vice president to an underling; to his subsequent withdrawal and declaration of retirement from politics; to a hint of now throwing his hat in the senatorial ring. This ambivalence and vacillation could be a panic reaction to the ongoing telenovela of a Senate inquiry exposing collusion with his Chinese friends on the Pharmally corruption scandal, pushing him into a corner, and the threat of an international investigation into the human rights violations once stripped of his presidential immunity.

The DDS and his PDP-Laban faction have been complicit feeding the President's hunger for relevance with its absurd scheme putting up Senator Bato as president, oblivious of the inconsistencies and impact on the campaign of BBM — the candidate that Sara and even the Deegong show some preference for.

This is what happens when a despot knows not how to exit the stage gracefully in these closing months, bungling his way about passing on his legacy to an anointed successor. He opens himself to being vulnerable to sycophants. Such is perhaps the reason also why he has packed his PDP-Laban faction senatorial slate with his cabinet members to the exclusion of "branded" senators who were once in his pocket but are now guest senatorial candidates to two or three other political parties — a phenomenon exclusive only to Philippine politics.

But I won't count Duterte out yet! He still has the enormous resources of the presidency and government under his thumb to tilt the presidential race to where he will be benefited the most. And Marcos is where he owes allegiance to and vice-versa; and a joker card in the deck, Bong Go. If there is any argument gauging Duterte's desire to be relevant, it is his fielding his devoted alter ego. But God help him if Go wins as VP under a President Leni. Even a President BBM will not favor a VP Go.


Which brings me to the extraordinary campaign strategy conducted by the young Marcos. Having a family name vilified for over three decades, their toxic impact has somehow been diminished over time. One half of the population was not born then and cannot relate now to the narratives of martial law. And the other half are in their mid to twilight years. Time has burned out the passions of those who lived under that regime, and memories have dimmed. The political icons of those days have passed on. But more importantly, the Marcoses persevered, perhaps aware that the systemic defects underlying our concepts of governance, including the justice system, can be outlasted by a determined family with resources and the fanatical compulsion to redeem its name. And what has helped is that the seven administrations, including the present one, that followed Ferdinand's have not gone on to correct the systemic anomalies and live up to the promises of 1986. The Marcoses instinctively understood that history is not written by the vanquished nor by the flawed victors — and that it is continually being written. And they are surreptitiously part of the authorship. In the end, history in its unbiased, impartial, dynamic and dispassionate character will confer its own verdict. By then, we may longer care. We will all be dead and gone.

But what is really intriguing is the response of the family, eloquently expressed by the young Marcos — their resilience! Faced with these assaults to their name, BBM chose to occupy the high ground, remain cool and cloaked himself with an armor of positive ideals and universal values; fashioning a language that is unifying, encompassing the hopes of a people tired and angry at the mundane, portraying an image of a statesman refusing to dispense the pedestrian promises of a politician.

Although motherhood statements, still they resonate with people aghast at the vitriol capriciously thrown by the other candidates. Thus, the constant negative attacks against the Marcoses, particularly at BBM, are deflected like Teflon, with the unintended effect of making him the political David — the underdog. Perhaps Leni, Ping, Manny and Isko may have to rethink their political strategies. Or, we will have the ghost of Ferdinand Macoy back.

But if the son can draw us all together and heal the wounds — why not?


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 03 November 2021 06:23

The presidentiables — up close impersonal


I have never met Leni Robredo. I know little about her politics as a congresswoman and as a vice president where for six years Duterte made sure she would fail. She was a social activist, the darling of civil society. She grew into prominence after the untimely death of her husband, inheriting his populism mantle. Jesse Robredo was President Noynoy's Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, plucked from the provinces where he gained a legendary reputation as the much-loved tsinelas (flip-flop)-wearing mayor of Naga. Leni's scant legislative agenda centered on "empowering people," creating partnerships between local governments and nongovernment organizations and more transparency in government dealings. Having defeated a political dynasty in Camarines Sur, she supported an anti-dynasty bill, which was peremptorily killed in Congress.

In the Philippine personality-oriented politics, it was logical that one carries on the public role of a next of kin, as it were an inherited heirloom, as Leni did similar to PNoy after an iconic mother. Bongbong Marcos is, likewise, replicating the Ferdinand Marcos brand.

I worked with PNoy's mother in her cabinet and was one of the original Cory yellows in 1986 until it was hijacked by the son and converted into the "dilawan." ("Revisiting old forces," The Manila Times, Oct. 6, 2021). I have never met PNoy personally and was excluded from his administration in the six years that he was president.


I was never introduced to Manny Pacquiao. But I admire him as the "pambansang kama-o," proud of his achievements, burdened with a pedigree that in most societies would have guaranteed him failure. Despite the odds, he reached the heights never before attained by any Filipino in his profession. A billionaire boxing icon. Using his popularity, he cashed in to "serve the public" as congressman. Then proceeded to establish the dubious honor of being the top absentee with no bills or laws of note to his name. His constituency in Sarangani province was duped of representation in Congress.

Again, using his inventory of goodwill as an international athlete, he won a Senate seat, next salivating for the Philippine presidency, a position he believes is attainable solely by popularity and heavy pockets. Knowing his lack of formal education, he corrected this with all sorts of gimmicks to obtain an academic degree — which was not necessary, as presidents in the Philippines by law need only know how to read and write; and the Pacman had more brains and intellectual capacity than many of his peers. His political rise was fueled by prostituting himself as a member of seven or eight political parties. He became Duterte's attack dog, defending EJK on the war on drugs, protecting the President's son in a Senate smuggling hearing while quoting inanities from the bible, establishing his reputation as an ignorant evangelical. Having his plans for the presidency belittled by the President, he proceeded to ineloquently criticize Duterte's China policies and other programs provoking Duterte to label him an ignoramus.


Isko Moreno is not aware of my existence. I never met him. But his rise from the slums of Tondo to Metro Manila's mayor is admirable. He is seen as a no-nonsense local executive comparable to the Deegong, speaking the language of the masa with nary the expletives. Having been an actor, he understands the psyche of fans and has command of the crowds, toying superbly with them.

Another populist in the mold of his predecessor, the failed President Erap, he introduced an off-the-cuff economic program to revive the Philippine economy through a two-point mini-Marshall plan rehabilitating the MSMEs. Copied as a miniature version of the US reviving Europe after World War 2. A compendium of initiatives will be introduced relying on "creative financial engineering" applying a 5o percent tax cut on fuel and electricity; introducing a regime of LGU partnerships with national agencies to draw up economic rehab plans, giving out low-interest loans to LGUs. He grandiosely labeled this mumbo-jumbo of a menu of goodies as ISKOnomics.


I have not had the pleasure of meeting Bongbong. He doesn't know me from Adam. And that's fine. Nor have I met Ferdinand "Macoy," the father. But the Marcoses have been a feature in my political life since the mid-1960s. Macoy first came into my consciousness when he ran for president in 1965. I was enamored with his opponent, Raul Manglapus, who came in third after incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal. Raul recruited me to the Christian Social Movement where my political philosophy took root, anchored on the papal encyclicals and morphing into a body of thought under Christian Democracy.

The Marcos administration was initially welcomed, positioning the Philippines toward a type of growth that was in step with our Asian neighbors. Until his second term in 1969 when Philippine debt skyrocketed, social unrest became pervasive, corruption unbridled and effectively ending his second legal term on Sept. 21, 1972, when martial law was declared.


But I met Ping Lacson some months back. In 2004, he ran against the incumbent, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo disagreeing with his party, the dominant LDP, and causing a split. Some blamed him for siphoning off the votes from the second placer, Fernando Poe Jr., giving the win to GMA.

But what impressed people is that Ping Lacson refused to access the corruption-laden pork-barrel funds and returned his allocation of P2.4 billion back to the National Treasury. As such, he was not tainted with corruption scandals and served the Senate well.

Where do they stand?

In my six decades dabbling in politics, I participated in some ways in nine presidential elections from Carlos Garcia's time, tailing my father who was campaigning for Dadong Macapagal, who won. I learned about presidents' promises proffered to get votes, then do whatever pleases them once in power. Only the reluctant President Cory Aquino fulfilled a pledge — to bring back democracy. Which she did! The tragedy was that being a child of the elite from whence her family sprung, she merely revived that which Marcos killed. She could not provide a follow- through on the democratic concepts — being only "a housewife."

Matched against expectations and purged of my long-held biases, this column will attempt to scrutinize the candidates' promises. I want this election to be a fight between the principles of good and bad governance, not one between political families with the rest of us merely supporting actors. The potential victor must be able to unite all of us, despite ourselves.

Will Leni shed whatever color she has concocted to masquerade the "dilawan" image and live up to the unfulfilled promises of the once formidable Liberal Party? Will Ping go beyond the image of a corruption-free bureaucrat and capture the imagination of voters as a leader who has at last come into his own? Will Isko and Manny elevate themselves from their populist roots, their youth and become leaders for all? Will Bongbong fight his own battles and tread his own path away from the father's. Can Bongbong heal the deep wounds brought about by the martial law years and the resultant effects of the people power revolution?

My next few columns will mine the five wanabees' actuations hopefully reconciling my own post-1972 biases!


Published in LML Polettiques