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

MISDIRECTION is a magician's art, making the audience believe what it sees while the reality is something else. It is an elegant deception when the trick is executed to perfection. The magician refocuses the audience's attention to where he directs it while achieving what he sets out to do in the first place. His tools of trade - optical illusions, smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand, hypnosis - may be applied all at once or in phases for the spectators' benefit, conjuring up different realities. He does not act alone. His accomplices and minions are privy to the misdirection's design. Overwhelmed by the magician's sheer dominance and control of the performance, the timing and the unfolding phases, the eyewitnesses' disbelief is momentarily suspended with their acquiescence. He is the main actor. His subordinates merely assume lesser roles.

All audiences love to be entertained; the Filipino audience is no exception. Before the movies, the internet, YouTube and Facebook, our amusements revolved around the entablado (stage) - zarzuelas and moro-moro (passion play), performed during town fiestas. The former" is a play with songs and dances, usually written in prose, depicting the vagaries of romantic love among idealized Filipino characters and often incorporating contemporary social, political, economic or cultural issues for relevance and interest." (Wikipedia)

Moro-moro on the other hand is a form of theater depicting epic battles between Christians and Moros (Filipino Muslims) from the Spanish colonial period. Also called comedia, it was created principally by Spanish priests to spread Christianity, where the Moros were portrayed as the anti-heroes, the villains. Now, its popularity has faded but what remains is the pejorative underpinning of a scripted scenario whose outcome is predictably a forgone conclusion. In contemporary parlance, moro-moro is akin to a subterfuge.

The combination of two themes, magician's misdirection and moro-moro sham amidst the current environment of political circus and electoral campaign is what could explain the garish entertainment value of the following subject matter circulated to the public lately, segueing to the second part of this column:

Duterte vs Duterte

Headlines in the dailies and social media refer to President Rodrigo Duterte's two families being at loggerheads. To those disposed to chismis (gossip), the Aug. 25, 2021, offering of Politiko (echoed by The Manila Times) describing what many political cognoscenti have been whispering all along could be juicy tidbits:

"All gloves off! Sara v Bong Go/Honeylet is a proxy fight between Duterte's first and second families. For over five years, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and her siblings have toed the line by staying in the background while showing a united front behind their father, President Rodrigo Duterte.

"A Politiko source said Sara, Paolo and Baste kept their cool despite being boxed out of their father's life in Malacañang by his longtime aide, Sen. Bong Go, who is allied with the President's partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

"With the end of the President's term looming and Sara's stock soaring in presidential surveys, the source said the time of Duterte's first family to rise in power was imminent.

"By making the President run for vice president or for Go to run for either president or vice president in the 2022 elections, the source said the Bong-Honeylet camp would ensure they would extend their power over the next term by riding on the President's enduring popularity.

"The source said Sara saw through all of the Bong-Honeylet machinations of using her to further their stay in power, with the President as leverage.

"'I was left with two letters endorsed to me by the President for consideration – one note explained why I should endorse the Go-Duterte tandem and the other suggested that I take in Senator Go as my vice president, said Sara in a Facebook post." (All of the persons named have denied these allegations.)

This item implies that President Duterte is not in control of his two families and that they are in disarray; and that senility may have set in requiring the need for a surrogate son, Go, as cordon sanitaire.

The current political landscape

Taking all these in with a grain of salt, I take a contrarian view; the reason why I predicated this column with misdirection and moro-moro. I don't think this family conflict is entirely accurate, and even if true, its outcome could be in Duterte's favor.

The pandemic for one has taken a turn for the worse with his subalterns clueless in mitigating much less resolving with finality these disasters. The "urong-sulong" lockdown policy is dangerously inducing a "whac-a-mole" random appearances of Covid virus variants in the country. The resultant effect of a crippled economy driven to its knees has thrown thousands of unemployed to desperation.

But deadlier is a pattern of corruption appearing in the bureaucracy with the President admonishing the Commission on Audit, dismissing their findings of anomalies as "insufficient and deficient," contradicting his Duterte Doctrine of dismissing bureaucrats on a mere "whiff of corruption."

A different scenario emerges from the current Senate inquiry into the DoH/DBM - a kutsaba (conspiracy) involving the anomalous transfer and disbursement of P42 billion to a syndicate which presumably includes Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd, Undersecretary Christopher Lao and a certain Michael Yang, the president's former economic adviser. The implication, still murky at best, is that Go stands at Malacañang's gates preventing the muck from spilling over to the presidency. Unless this stops short at Duque as a scapegoat! The senator, changing his tune, is now persuading Duque to make the supreme sacrifice - effectively falling on his sword. Thus, the need for this Duterte family chismis diverting our attention from all these problems confronting the country at the twilight of his reign that could precipitate his Götterdämmerung.

By a magician's misdirection, the speculation for the next presidency is a convenient substitute reality; Lacson-Sotto, Isko Moreno, Robredo, Trillanes, etc. - all bit players in this moro-moro. Even the unfolding tragedy of the Pambansang Kamao, booted out from the presidency of his party with the tacit consent of Duterte, party chairman on the eve of what to his adulating fans was to have been a triumphal valedictory of a pugilist career, an overture to his presidential craving that turned into a swansong for a debacle. He is now impelled into negotiating with the opposition.

So, for the next few media cycles, on the internet, in the airwaves and on social media, the dominant theme fascinating to the chismis-(gossip)-prone-soap-opera-Korean-melodrama-loving masa (masses) will be the internecine conflict of Las Familias de Duterte, the perfect misdirection and a grand moro-moro production. Will he run for vice president (VP) under his surrogate son as proposed by his PDP-Laban faction? Will the daughter allow herself to be "pursuaded" to run for president with tatay (father) as VP? Will the two sides of the family compromise with the daughter for president and the surrogate son as VP? There are countless permutations extending this telenovela with the opposition condemned to binge-watching. Unless the Senate enquiry produces more salivating morsels derailing this diversion and moro-moro.

My take for now. Sara will run for president. And she could win! The vice president doesn't really matter - Gibo, Bongbong, Sotto and even Pacquiao. In the end, Las Familias de Duterte wins!


Published in LML Polettiques
IN the span of two weeks, two political icons passed away. Peter Koeppinger (August 5), the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) representative in the Philippines from 2009 to 2015; and Jose "Ka Pepe" Abueva (August 18). Ka Pepe was University of the Philippines (UP) president from 1987 to 1993. Both were advocates of a federal-parliamentary democracy.

In the late 1990s with Ka Pepe, the late Rey Teves (RMT), Prof. Clair Carlos, political scientist par excellence, and Rep. Mike Mastura, an Islamic intellectual, I went around the country under the auspices of then KAS heads Willibold Frehner and Klaus Preschle, preaching the gospel of good governance and political institution-building with particular focus on federal-parliamentary government. We founded the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP), with Ka Pepe authoring a book on the Philippine federal constitution. This became our guidebook when we both were appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to head the 2005 Constitutional Commission (ConCom) as chairman and secretary general, respectively.

In 2009, after RMT's death, Peter Koeppinger came into the picture as the missing third element of the Successor Generation (SucGen) program, which RMT and I started to train "...the next generation of the youth, who may have to carry on the task of lifting the Filipino from the sociopolitical-economic quagmire we, the older generation have helped put them into." ("The birthing - an ideological political party," The Manila Times, Aug. 18, 2021.) The SucGen was the precursor of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) and eventually the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP). Peter's determination to replicate the German experience in creating real political parties for the Philippines starting with the youth and young political technocrats was simply remarkable.

This marks the point where the two icons conjoined. As my co-convenor, Peter provided the wherewithal and Ka Pepe the gravitas to build the CDM chapters in the country with the young professionals who we hoped would sow the seeds for political and social reforms in the country.

Centrist democracy (CD)

One of Peter's serendipitous acts was to invite a neophyte of the 15th Congress, then-Cagayan de Oro Second District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to the CDM. He would prove to be a prize catch as he worked with the Comelec for the accreditation of the CDP on Sept. 12, 2012. He was elective president of CDP.

Peter and Ka Pepe, the oldest members of the CDP, are no longer with us. But the CDP still exists, not as the founders envisioned it but in a lesser state. It is thriving principally in Cagayan de Oro and pockets around the country; which brings us to the theme of this column which seeks to answer the question at the masthead: Will an ideological party ever flourish?

Not in the short run! Perhaps in the next generation or two. To recall, this series of columns at The Manila Times sought to dissect the state of our political parties within a dysfunctional system touching on the old two-party regime of the LP-NP rivalry to the creation of PDP-Laban; its journey and growth through the years, attaining its apex upon the assumption of the Rodrigo Duterte, a party member himself to the presidency; to its recent split into two factions. PDP-Laban, founded during the dark days of martial law, sought to be different, priding itself as ideologically Christian Socialist, shedding the same over the years and leaning toward the center - as centrist democrats. But today, these labels are irrelevant. Admittedly, it is too early to judge whether the PDP- Laban retains its ideological profile or has turned amorphous chiefly influenced by its leaders, remnants of other political parties or opportunistic 'transferees' or applying the derogatory term - political butterflies. Can it push through with its agenda of good governance to the benefit of the citizenry - the raison d'être for a political party's existence?

It is unfortunate that our dysfunctional political system breeds the type of traditional politics that permeates political parties where the fundamental consideration is political survival of its elective members and preservation of its pelf and privileges based on the oppressive tyranny of numbers - the more elective people in power the better, notwithstanding the quality of its leadership or purity of purpose. Thus, the dictum "politics is addition" becomes an aberration. Elections simply based on candidates' popularity and their winnability trump ideological perspectives. Political parties therefore are forced to recruit actors, athletes and entertainment personalities already popular with the masses, relegating political creed, principles and their beliefs to the back burner. The electorate is thus blamed for their choices perpetuating another anomalous dictum - "one deserves the government one votes into power" - as the dysfunctional system precludes real choices and debates on issues, condemning the voters to perpetual ignorance.

Political party development bill

Pending in Congress for years, the proposed Political Party Development Act of 2011 seeks to correct these anomalies in part by allowing state subsidy of real political parties for the education of the greater masses of the electorate, understanding the dynamics of politics and more importantly reconstruct the political party system, in effect taking out the patrons, the oligarchy and the family political dynasties from the electoral and political party equations. In short, reforms are instituted that will allow unimpeded access to our political system by the ordinary citizenry (see "Political parties - what we need," The Manila Times, July 21. 2021). It is unfortunate that the very people tasked to enact these laws are themselves the culprits - Congress.

We cited some European countries, particularly the German model, where government steps in to assume the responsibility of financing both the education of voters and professionalizing their political parties - a central tenet of political reform.

Short of enacting the above reforms into law, an ideological party surviving is almost impossible. A long shot is still for the youth and the young political technocrats with their vibrancy, idealism and anger, still intact, to take the lead. This was tried in the last decade where Peter and Ka Pepe were directly involved - when the CDM was created. It produced a political party with some modicum of success electing local officials. This can be replicated in selected pockets where NGOs, civil society and active youth proliferate and where the national government's presence is not strongly felt. As 'all politics are local, strengthening the political party at that level and using local resources primarily for educating the membership and voters are imperatives. These small places are also where relationships between the electors and the elected are more personal and intimate.

Experimenting with tradpols

A controversial move may be enticing winnable politicians into using their expertise but providing them with a degree of CD principles. This is seemingly surrendering the purity of the party's creed. But the dominance of internal party mechanisms and discipline are guarantees against this prospect.

The CDP in Cagayan de Oro is one such party with its structures and mechanisms in place anchored on a national agenda. It needs to recruit winnable like-minded politicians with CD leanings in adjoining districts. This could be the right formula for a sustainable political party to survive and flourish - one at a time - capture, hold and expand!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 18 August 2021 09:03

The birthing - an ideological political party

Fourth of a series

THE previous columns of this series were devoted to the ups and downs of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) from its traumatic birth during the dark days of martial law, midwifed by Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel; its maturation as part of former president Cory Aquino's coalition government; to its hiatus after the debacle of 1992 Liberal-PDP-Laban coalition; the revival, relapse and split former mayor Jejomar "Jojo" Binay's tutelage; and the younger Pimentel's reacquisition of the party, riding on the coattails of the Rodrigo "the Deegong" Duterte to the Philippine presidency.

The latter marked its apex and the complete takeover of the once ideologically driven party by traditional politics, culminating in last month's split between the factions of President Rodrigo Duterte with Secretary Alfonso Cusi on one side and Senators Aquilino "Koko" Pimientel 3rd and Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao on the other. It is worthwhile recalling that the latter group kicked out Cusi from his PDP-Laban executive position and subsequent instant retaliation by booting out Pacquiao from the party presidency. Both sides displayed a cartoonish, slapstick and childish behavior worthy of the classic bumbling Keystone Cops. The Deegong now owns the party and will do whatever he pleases with it.

Many of the original founding members anticipated this eventuality after traditional politicians were allowed in earlier. In the late 1990s, Rey Teves, my political twin, and I reluctantly left Nene Pimentel's political biosphere, but with his acquiescence and blessings. He was now a respected senator and at one time a Senate president. Rey Teves concentrated on the Mindanao-based Tacdrup and Kusog Mindanao and other nongovernmental organizations. After my Harvard stint, I took a further sabbatical to work on rebuilding my finances in the "dog-eat-dog" world of business, particularly in government power contracts, real estate and the financial markets.

Political struggle - our antecedents

But the call of political technocracy was a compelling one and we were drawn to the unfinished confrontations we were part of even prior to the martial law years. Political endeavors were inexorably woven with our daily lives. It is part of our DNA. We were captives of our own historicity.

To recall, as part of our nostalgic baggage, our serious political initiation started with an almost forgotten man in Philippine politics, Raul Manglapus, our original mentor who took us into the Christian Social Movement (CSM).

CSM-1967 (excerpts)

"Raul Manglapus was one of the leading political figures of the 60s having been elected to the Senate at the age of 42. He was a fresh face in the political scene and endowed with genius, making him attractive to the children of the era. It was logical that we rushed to his side when he ran for the Philippine presidency. It was also a first hard lesson for us, the young idealists, that we were no match for the organized traditional political machinery that propelled his opponent, Ferdinand Marcos, to power.

"Raul's role in our understanding and appreciation of the principles of Christian Democracy was made no less compelling by our exposure to the seminars and leadership formation of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS). Our association with this German foundation has been fruitful and reinforced over the years by warm friendship with its country representatives interrupted only during the years of Martial Law."

Author's note: In some ways, Nene Pimentel, Rey Teves and many of us in the CSM imbued with the principles of Christian Socialism and Christian Democracy had to continue the political fight with the formation of the PDP-Laban (see parts 1 to 3 of this series, The Manila Times) while CSM was in hibernation with Manglapus exiled in the US (he went on to establish the NUCD, that won the presidency with FVR).

Successor generation

After an interval of two decades, since the CSM dormancy in the 1980s and a decade after the PDP-Laban debacle in the late 1990s, the remnants of the Christian Democrats (CD), which include many who left PDP-Laban, were scattered all over the political topography; their frustrations driving them to either lodge themselves with the extreme left or allow themselves to be co-opted by regimes in need of their political skills.

A few of us in the southern part of the country, after having been in the political struggle since the late 1960s, going through the fourth quarter storm, through the turmoil of the martial law years, our disillusionment with the Cory government in ushering in her concept of "democracy" and our frustrations with PDP-Laban and faced with our advancing age - perhaps it was time to change gears and train while we could the next generation of the youth who may have to carry on the task of lifting the Filipino from the sociopolitical-economic quagmire we, the older generation, have helped put them in. We were never under any illusion that changes, political or otherwise, would take generations. We saw these young politically astute individuals - "the masters of the universe," those who are burning with passion to spread the ideology of Centrist Democracy and those still imbued with the arrogance of youth that they could indeed change the world. Rey and I both counted on this as the compelling force to mold themselves and emerge as the transformative leaders our country needs. This was the core concept of our successor generation program (SucGen), under the aegis of Tacdrup.

In the course of developing this concept, Rey succumbed to pneumonia in November 2009 and passed away. Enter into the scene, Peter Koeppinger, the new Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) country representative. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party in power in Germany and our partners since Manglapus' time, he understood the necessity of forming a political party. This led to the founding of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) - composed of young professionals who must first understand the uses, misuses, abuses and even nonuse of political power.

Berlin protocol

Peter Koeppinger just died a week ago. I wrote this obituary:

"It is a measure of Peter's determination and strength of character that he single-handedly moved the Konrad Adenauer Foundation to support our initiatives. Thus, the CDM was born with thousands of young professionals undergoing seminars and training toward party building. And in 2011, in Berlin, Germany, CDM officials and members enacted the "Berlin Protocol" - the document for the creation of a political party. The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), ang partido ng tunay na Pilipino, was born."

The CDP managed to field in 2013 a nationwide roster of 68 candidates winning 14 elective positions for a respectable 20 percent, a fairly decent number for a maverick political party. It is difficult to win if we cling on to principles in an environment ruled by money and power play. But since we have the best of intentions, the innocence of the just and the impudence to beat the odds, we gained the favor of the gods!

But oddly the CDP began to fray at the edges in its subsequent support for the Deegong in 2016. That same year, CDP went into a torpid state.

Next week: Will an ideological political party ever flourish?
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 11 August 2021 11:27

The new PDP-Laban: A revival of sorts

Third of a series

(Cont'd excerpts from A Fragmented Political Opposition):

"IN the 1995 elections, PDP-Laban went into a coalition with President FVR's Lakas-NUCD, but Nene Pimentel lost in the infamous 'dagdag-bawas.'

"Around this time, one of the few PDP Laban groups that operated was in Makati City, where Mayor Jejomar 'Jojo' Binay reigned supreme. He started a weekly meeting at the mayor's office where we planned out the revival of the party. For a time, the mayor enlisted some of us, which included Elfren Cruz, the first of Binay's series of secretaries-general. The PDP-Laban brand was still very strong, but the structures nationwide were in shambles. The roster of membership was almost nonexistent. Makati seemed to be the exception as Binay understood the need for sustainable political machinery. Himself in the mold of a traditional politico, Binay came from the masses and civil society, active in the 'parliament of the streets' during martial law. He personified the new breed of PDP-Laban politician, politically savvy while retaining the language of its ideology. His grasp of local party politics is superior, propelling him to establish a political dynasty that includes a senator, a congresswoman, a mayor and a vice president.


"The PDP-Laban now reached a crossroad. The original concept may have been too advanced for its time. It was born in the midst of political and social turmoil forged under the intense heat of a repressive regime. The times are different but the political truths that propelled the creation of PDP-Laban then, exist now. They are universal. PDP-Laban must exist to aggregate the hopes and aspirations not only of its membership but a greater segment of the population it seeks to serve. To do this, it must strive for political power anchored on a set of principles clearly manifested in its platform of governance. The party must guarantee that these are to be translated into policies and mechanisms that must hew close to their beliefs - once they are gifted the privilege to govern.

"One road leads to winning the prize using the same methods used by countless traditional leaders since the time we became a Republic, using the same formula that would benefit the populace and those that wield the power only for the duration of their tenure and maybe for a little bit more. This path had been traversed countless times, well-trodden, safe and comfortable.

"The other avenue requires the reinvention of the party bringing it back to its roots examining why it was created in the first place and for whom it was intended. These three decades of its history needed to be assessed as this will provide valuable lessons for those presently in control of its mechanisms. For one, who now owns this party? Who are its current stakeholders and what are their claims to their ownership? A subsidiary question may be forwarded: why are the personalities who brought its perversion back at its helm?

"The more important queries perhaps bore deep into our core beliefs: Were the principles we believed in at the outset still valid; and are they the basis of our actions today and part of our strategy for governance in the future?

"Simply put, should we leave behind the PDP-Laban as our legacy?"

Author's note. This was written after 1995, when after a debacle PDP-Laban lost many adherents who migrated to the ruling party - Lakas Tao-NUCD. But PDP-Laban was still intact. With Nene Pimentel having lost a Senate seat, formal leadership passed on to the mayor of Makati, Jejomar Binay. These musings were and are part of the soul-searching that propelled the party to reinvent itself.

In some peculiar way, 2021 is a near reenactment of 1995-2010 but with fatal and final consequences. While it was a smooth transition from a defeated senator to a city mayor who won the vice presidency in the 2010 elections, with PDP-Laban in coalition with President Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), it is different today. July 2021 marks the end of the founder Pimentel's era, and his vision of a political party attaining political power driven by the ideals and principles of Christian socialism - the soul of the party borne out of the centuries of sociopolitical struggle blending Christian doctrines and societal responsibilities depicted in the Catholic encyclicals.

From left of center to the center

Over the years, even before he became senator, Nene Pimentel - and by inference the party - ideologically had begun to drift toward the center beginning to identify itself with Christian democracy. Even concepts of stewardship and public ownership of the modes of production gave way to appreciating private ownership with social responsibility. In the mid-1980s when Pimentel and I visited countries in Europe, particularly Germany, we were exposed to European practices adopting concepts of market economy with heavy social components. Social market economy (SOME), long practiced in European countries, became more attractive as the PDP-Laban's economic philosophy for the Philippines in contrast to our original socialist leanings. It helped too that PDP-Laban was enrolled in the Christian Democratic International (CDI) when we were both invited by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) to attend the CDI Conference in Bonn, Germany in 1985 - meeting with Prime Minister Helmuth Kohl - and Pimentel addressing the gathering. (Details are treated exhaustively in the book.)

It is unfortunate that the PDP-Laban literature and documentation did not keep pace with this ideological development as Pimentel and the party were hurled into turbulence encompassing the country in the aftermath of 1986 EDSA Revolution.

Currently, the PDP-Laban in the hands of the party chairman, the country's president, is no longer occupied with the nuances of ideology. Government and the leadership are driven toward pragmatics - eliminating illegal drugs (at all costs), corruption in the bureaucracy, poverty alleviation, economic infrastructures, and pandemic mitigation, among others - all worthwhile concerns. But Duterte's parameters are now the PDP-Laban's and labels like Christian socialists or Christian democrats are irrelevant.

Even Sen. Koko Pimentel, disinherited heir, an accomplished politician in his own right, may no longer lay claim to the ideological soul of PDP-Laban. It lost its soul long ago once it allowed the tradpols entry. And like the Buddhist belief, is reincarnated into a lesser life.

The Pimentel-Mindanao PDP-Laban borne out of the turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s is condemned to simply draw on a baggage of nostalgia and the narratives of dying old comrades. But nostalgia and the hankering for past glories are a poor launching pad for electoral victory and eventual capture of political power. The old PDP-Laban went that route and it failed. Pragmatic political considerations are now in the hands of President Duterte and the traditional politicians whom the Pimentel pere et fils opened the party doors for. History will still have to judge the rectitude of this act.

But PDP-Laban will only exist until after the patron is gone. Perhaps by that time, PDP Laban will regain its ideological footing. Perhaps!

Next week, Aug. 18, 2021: The birthing of an ideological political party
Published in LML Polettiques
Second of a series

THE PDP-Laban was part of the Corazon "Cory" Aquino ruling coalition in 1986, but a small segment, principally coming from Davao, Bohol and some Muslim areas, was opposed to the 1987 Constitution. Our group wanted Cory to extend her presidency beyond 1992 under a "revolutionary government," using an amended version of the March 25, 1986, Proclamation 3, adopting a Provisional Constitution. We felt the remnants of the Marcos government could successfully engineer a comeback while our fledgling democracy was still finding its footing; and the decades of the pre-martial law structures and traditional politics, buttressed by the clout of the old and new oligarchs and political dynasties, needed to be dismantled. The disparity between the rich and the poor was growing wider, and poverty alleviation was nowhere in sight. The core tenets of PDP-Laban were shunted aside by Cory: parliamentary government (adherents were narrowly defeated in the 1987 Constitutional Convention); the institutionalization of real political parties; the banning of political dynasties; and federalism, declaring she was not doing a Marcos - ruling by presidential decrees. She would restore democracy - however nebulous her concept of it was. In hindsight, the Philippines lost a rare opportunity for a systemic restructuring. Instead, she opted for a cosmetic facelift by just replacing overstaying Marcos local government officials within the same government structures with officers in charge (OIC) - a task assigned to the Interior and Local Government Secretary Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. (I was his undersecretary tasked to implement the OICs on the ground).

Cory's distaste for politics

Those were tumultuous years, 1986-1992, under this convent-bred saintly president - a tyro in the world of politics although married (and widowed) to a compleat traditional politico - who did not herself believe in political parties. She had no taste for politics, relying instead on advisers from the Catholic Church hierarchy, a smattering of Ninoy's political colleagues, personalities from the oligarchy, and the old moneyed political elite from whence she sprung and whose values she shared. She was in some ways a captive of her class. More importantly, she relied heavily on her close relatives, foremost among which was her Rasputin of a brother who held sway over the PDP-Laban as secretary general - Jose "Peping" Cojuangco.

But we were still hopeful that she would transcend this with the outpouring of love and adulation shown by the masses - whose values were not congruent with hers. But we were no match for the ruling class. Cory surrendered her prerogatives for real socioeconomic-political reforms by rejecting the people's gift - the 1986 Revolutionary Constitution. She then proceeded to embed her dogma in her 1987 Constitution that her son, President Benigno "PNoy" Aquino 3rd, vowed "not one of its comma be altered" during his regime.

'A Fragmented Political Coalition' (excerpts)

"The refusal of President Cory to run for another term (legitimate) under the new Constitution portended an open melee among her fragile EDSA People Power coalition. Among the contenders as Cory's successor, Speaker Ramon 'Monching' Mitra was the heavy favorite. An erstwhile PDP-Laban stalwart, and a Pimentel competitor, Mitra had the backing of President Cory's brother and the majority of the congressmen. But his image as the epitome of trapo was pervasive. In contrast, Fidel Ramos, now Secretary of Defense, was the 'non-politician' whose role as Cory's protector and the People Power hero - in the process rehabilitating himself from among the Marcos originals - was a huge positive albeit lacking a party machinery. He was enticed by Mitra to join the newly created Laban Democratic Party (LDP) and naively agreed for the convention to decide on one candidate. Mitra was chosen, whereupon Ramos bolted LDP and formed his Lakas-Tao, merging instead with Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus' NUCD, which provided the Christian Democrat ideology. FVR won the presidency and governed up to 1998. This was one of the biggest opportunity losses of PDP-Laban.

PDP-Laban and LP - ideological soulmates

"Cory made no secret of her preference for a Ramos-Pimentel tandem. Apparently, this didn't appeal to Pimentel as he felt ideologically bound to the avowed Christian Socialist Jovito Salonga and couldn't trust the rightist General Ramos, Marcos' one-time martial law implementor. But many in the PDP-Laban found Salonga unattractive. Since the PDP-Laban didn't have the wherewithal to field a complete presidential and senatorial slates, a coalition with another party was mulled over. PDP-Laban President 'Janet' Ferrer constituted a negotiating team to pursue talks with allies of President Cory to push for the dream slate.

"The negotiations failed. Nene Pimentel, defying the PDP-Laban national convention accepted Salonga's offer as his VP, with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) heading the senatorial slate.

"This split the PDP-Laban into several factions: a segment supporting President Cory's preference, Ramos-Osmeña of Lakas Tao-NUCD; and two major wings of the PDP Laban - the larger Pimentel-Salonga wing, and the PDP-Laban Secretary General Peping Cojuangco-led Mitra-Fernan LDP group. Both Raul Daza and I representing our parties were appointed as national co-campaign managers. (The PDP-Laban-Liberal Party coalition, however, is worth reviewing in some detail.)

Line-up unravels

"Early dawn of the day before the deadline for the filing of candidacies, former president Diosdado Macapagal wrote a letter to Salonga advising him of the withdrawal of daughter Gloria from the LP-PDP-Laban senatorial slate to run under the Ramos-Osmeña ticket instead. This precipitated a crisis and a rethinking of the slate, as Gloria in several surveys was consistently the only probable winner in the incomplete LP slate.

"Consequently, the Salonga-Pimentel campaign was a debacle. We couldn't raise the logistics and couldn't even put in place the crucial precinct poll watchers. And we created hundreds of disgruntled members and PDP-Laban candidates.

"With the two wings of the PDP-Laban unable to reconcile, the party remained in hiatus for the next three years 1992-1995 - until the assumption of Makati Mayor Jojo Binay at the helm, unifying the factions."

1992 and 2021: The Pimentels

Comparing scenarios, the Pimentel pere initiated the break in 1991 when he defied the PDP-Laban 8th national convention decision on May 12-13, 1990, in Laoag City, for him to run as PDP-Laban standard bearer in the 1992 presidential elections. His consenting to run with the LP's Salonga as the latter's vice president was a personal choice - not the party's, nor the wishes of President Cory who preferred him to run with Ramos. But he was still reluctantly supported by a majority of the original party intelligentsia.

Today's 2021 PDP-Laban's break-up is different yet curiously bears some similarities. The Pimentel fils abrogated his presidency, appointing Pacquiao "acting president" in contravention of party processes - the main issue that PDP-Laban chairman, President Duterte, has chosen to harp on. There was no way Koko Pimentel/Manny Pacquiao could withstand Duterte's ire.

Like the virus, the party has mutated. Duterte's wing is the only game in town. It is a small comfort that Nene Pimentel who nurtured it to its pinnacle is no longer around to witness his PDP-Laban's metamorphosis from "left of center" to "left or right" of...nothing!

Next week, Aug. 11. 2021: Revival of sorts
Published in LML Polettiques