Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: April 2022
Wednesday, 27 April 2022 09:32

New kid on the block

BY Easter, when Christ has risen, the Bongbong may have caused the Marcos name to also rise again. I may be damned for blasphemy — but what the hell! The opposition was given the opportunity in the last two months to unite and create a momentum to prevent a Marcos from rising from the dead. This Easter Sunday, three oppositionist candidates stopped the impetus dead on its tracks. And fittingly for the Lenten season, one among them is someone's mole. A kiss of death by a Judas Iskoriot! It now appears that the fragmented opposition is comatose. BBM with his message of unity — fake or not — has won the day. So, congratulations to the Marcos family. You are back!

The Philippine political ecosystem will drastically change with BBM at the helm. He will reign as our president, but can he rule? To do that, he will need the opposition and those elected to flock to his side. This is a no-brainer as in the patronage system of Philippine politics, the opportunistic elected officials always gravitate to the power center — the presidency. It is the nature of the beast as what happened to the Deegong when opportunistic politicians swamped his adopted PDP-Laban — owned it then transformed it to a caricature of a once formidable ideological party, now broken with its members waiting to suck up to the next patron.

This structural defect will persist for as long as no corrected measures are applied. On the other hand, Marcos must magnanimously engage the anti-Marcos remnants and Filipino constituencies, listening in to their varied demands, longings and aspirations, unfulfilled for the past 36 years since his father was booted out.

The Marcos years

I was not eligible to vote in 1965 for Marcos' first term. I campaigned hard for Raul Manglapus against Makoy and President Dadong Macapagal. Marcos did well in his first term, pursuing aggressive infrastructure and agricultural development programs and putting in his Cabinet world-class technocrats. He tried to break the centuries-old hold of the landowning ruling class on the economy by systematically cultivating his own group of entrepreneurs and industrialists. He made war with the communists. The Philippine economic trajectory was on the way up.

I campaigned for Makoy and voted for him for his second term in 1969 — a first-time presidential voter at 24 years old. But the very people he elevated to the pinnacles of industries assumed upon themselves the combined role of technocrats and capitalists — and with his blessing allowed the formation of monopolies within these industries. In lieu of the old oligarchy, he created his own — a new breed of cronies and bureaucrat capitalists — fueled by "behest loans" to expand their turf. Gradually the rapacious nature of the man began to emerge, complemented by his alluring political wife Imelda. This organized plunder sucked out the blood of the Filipinos down to the bone marrow. Thus began the descent on a slippery slope toward perdition. I have been anti-Marcos from then on.

The first to third quarter storms were raging. Wanting to extend his term, Marcos perverted the 1971 Constitutional Convention. He declared martial law in September and by December a draft was submitted to Marcos. This was revised further and ratified by the Filipinos in a sham show of hands — subsequently proclaimed as the 1973 Marcos Constitution, extending his term by changing the government to a parliamentary system with him as president. He had Cesar Virata appointed as prime minister with a compliant unicameral Batasang Pambansa. But in fact, he ruled by decree reducing Virata to the proverbial "tawo-tawo sa humayan" (a figurehead).

After the fall

The EDSA People Power ending the Marcos era, to the subsequent post-Cory regimes witnessed the vilification of Marcos as a matter of course. The tragedy was that the Cory administration and the succeeding ones never did present themselves as the harbingers of change; not even the assumption to power of Cory's son — who should never have been allowed to lead our people in the first place. This continued demonization couldn't upend the residual affection shown by Ilocanos of the north from whence a political comeback was orchestrated. The Marcos rehabilitation was complete with the burial of Makoy at the Libingan and mga Bayani; the political strategy of the Deegong as payback for the Marcos support for his presidency in 2016 and the coming midterm elections of 2018. But today, unable to get his way by having his independent-minded daughter Sara run for president — a sure winner to the Deegong's mind — he turned around and spat at the Marcos son. A madman's act!

A new narrative

My generation and the governments we supported have bungled their way these past 36 years — from Cory to FVR to Erap to GMA to PNoy and to the Deegong. It was they who paradoxically collectively primed the stage for the return of the prodigal son!

And he is supported — if the numbers are true — by a majority of the Filipinos, many of whom have no inkling whatsoever of life under a dictatorship. And who never knew nor cared about Marcos the father — but could relate with Marcos the son. We the sexagenarians and septuagenarians of the Baby Boomers and Generation X along with the Yellow crowd of PNoy have utterly failed. With their support for the Bongbong, let the millennials and the Generation Z do their thing — and if necessary, allow them to fail if they must.

A tidal wave?

"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" – Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Awaiting this tide, we anti-Marcos, those who lived under the tumultuous days of Ferdinand Makoy and the conjugal dictatorship are a dying breed, ravaged by time, the onslaught of the pandemic and pure ennui. Towards the end of our lives and in the face of this new political regime, we need to dichotomize our emotional antecedents from the current realities, our hatred for a ghost of the father and everything he stood for that our sad experiences have imposed on us. Admittedly, it's hard to reconcile the dictum "you can't visit the sins of the father upon the child." I will not even attempt to ask the Bongbong to apologize for the father. Let him navigate his own path.

But we should not wish him to fail. His failure is the country's too. But we should never allow him license. Filipinos understand only too well the filial responsibility to cleanse and honor the memory of his father. But central to this cleansing process is for the son to do good by the Filipino, as the president for all. Avowals that martial law and what his father did was good are of no consequence, prone to open old wounds. He has to prove it by his deeds. Atonement as demanded by the anti-Marcos may not be appropriate too — as a son must cling to the fiction that a father is seldom wrong. But he was. The son's victory may have partially exculpated the father's sins.

But blind Lady Justice may still have her say!

Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 21 April 2022 08:55

Stopping BBM — the big if

NINETEEN days to the day of reckoning, BBM is holding his own. The Teflon boy is comfortably biding his time mouthing the same message that resonated with the tired electorate. "Time to Unite for the country" — and the devil takes the hindmost. Meantime his minions have been spreading manure measure for measure — plunging lately to a new low hitting Aika, Leni's daughter with a fake pornographic muck. Perhaps in retaliation for hitting BBM's wife Liza on a spliced — "I'm very New York — my way or the highway" video clip, which went viral.

With BBM's comfortable lead, the opposition — that is, everyone else against Marcos — is panicking; a "fight or flight response" triggered by a release of political hormones is most welcome at this late date. In this case, fleeing from the other moribund wannabees with surveys nailed to the low.04 to 3 percent, who by now should be categorized as nuisance candidates. The three major ones lagging behind — Isko, Manny and Ping — have numbers that even if added to Leni's won't still carry the latter to the top. But a case can be made for the three withdrawing in favor of Leni at this late date, as a "moral statement," creating a momentum, inducing people to think that the best option for this presidential election to stop a Marcos is to unite behind Leni. But will it?

The three stooges

My apologies to Moe, Curly and Larry, but Isko, Manny and Ping are performing like the originals with nary a shred of comedy but provoking instead a looming tragedy. Invited to form a united front to fight BBM and to avert an imminent debacle, only Leni — self-serving as it were — agreed, knowing perhaps she would be the logical choice. And indeed, she is. The last two months saw the three stooges' numbers comatose — except perhaps for Isko. But the latest surveys show the three are running behind Leni and the gap is widening, resulting in defections from their camps. In late March, Ping Lacson was dropped by his own party — a slap to his face. I like Ping, but what Alvarez and his own political party did to him was a clear sign that he must give up. He's down to 4 percent.

Isko's "Ikaw Muna" and "Nais Ko" umbrella campaigners led by Tim Orbos have defected in droves to Leni. Isko's groups from the Visayas and Zamboanga chapters have likewise decided to shift to Leni.

Manny with his catatonic 7 percent is awaiting divine intervention before he quits. Hasn't he heard that the "appointed son of God" has already bet his kingdom on BBM?

Numbers don't lie — but can change

Going back in time, comparing presidential surveys at approximately a month or less before the elections would give us an insight into the expected outcome. In 1992, in a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, Fidel Ramos (FVR) was tied at 18 percent with Miriam Santiago in a field of six presidential candidates. FVR eventually won with 28.58 percent and Miriam 19.72 percent. She cried that she was cheated.

In 1998, Erap Estrada kept his lead a month before the May 11 elections, doubling that of Speaker Joe de Venecia who eventually lost at 15.87 percent against Erap's 39.86 percent.

Pulse Asia in 2004 had Fernando Poe Jr. leading in February 8 vs GMA 35-33 percent; they were even on February 20, at 32 percent; and GMA overtaking Poe 34-31 percent on April 4; and 37-31 percent a week before elections. Fernando Poe claimed he was cheated.

In 2010 in a field of nine candidates, President PNoy led all the way, with Manny Villar and Joseph Estrada fighting it out for second place.

In 2016 in a field of five presidentiables, the comparative four-month figures before the May election were volatile between Mar Roxas and Duterte with the last week before the election stabilizing with the eventual winner, Duterte 33 percent to 22 percent.

This election season's comparative figures established early BBM's lead over Leni hovering between 50++ to Leni's high teens and low 30s. The three stooges, Pacquaio, Isko and Ping, couldn't break the 20 percent combined levels.

Today BBM is on track to a majority win — if the numbers hold till May 9. But then here comes the kuro-kuro being whispered among the cognoscenti.

What if?

Duterte so far has been moping, wasting away his lame duck period, not oblivious but irrelevant to the unfolding drama. But even a lame duck in some weird and peculiar way can still influence this election's outcome. But he has to make his move now. By his silence and with his daughter as BBM's VP, Duterte is in effect tolerating BBM. But to openly endorse a "kawatan, a weak leader and a cocaine user" (his words), he will look foolish. For an alpha male this turnaround, if ever, will mark him as an idiot for life.

His allowing his PDP-Laban faction to endorse BBM-Sara and not Manny Pacquaio shows where his sympathies lie. I'm sure Marcos would welcome his endorsement, but at this point — "para que"? He has a humongous lead and "suma total," BBM doesn't really need him.

But what if the Deegong wants to show the world that he is no lame duck and still can influence the course of Philippine political history? Endorse Leni, now! Wild speculation perhaps but this will be a real game changer and put fear in the heart of the Marcoses. A long shot perhaps but one that will create a positive momentum for the Kakampinks.

So, what has he got to lose? Sara is going to win hands-down anyway — so his legacy, for whatever it's worth, is protected. Leni as president doesn't have a political dynasty of her own — unlike Sara Duterte who has in her wake, Paolo, Baste and Bong Go, the surrogate Duterte. Thus, the Duterte dynasty will live on — writing finis to the Marcos clan.

Conspiracy theory

But there are other kuro-kuro going around — particularly among the desperados wanting to prevent a Marcos return to power. This total hatred for the Makoy and his martial law regime has so permeated Philippine politics, poisoning the election process itself, encouraging weirdos to proffer their ten cents' worth. Among the compelling ones, particularly from the DDS and fist-bumping crowd, is that the Deegong is really in control and orchestrating the whole scenario allowing the election to go its course.

BBM will win the election but with the help of the structure put in place by the master strategist Duterte beforehand — BBM will be disqualified immediately after his swearing in. And daughter Sara steps up to take over. Not before President-elect BBM's swearing in date — as BBM's disqualification will trigger Leni's ascendancy. Beautiful scenario! And a stupid one!

Such despair is understandable, particularly from the remnants of the original Yellow Army (this columnist not excepted) plus the post-Cory descendants that have failed to erase the Marcoses from the Ilocanos and now a vast number of Filipinos' affections; and despite more than three decades of vilification and demonizing of the Marcoses — they will be back.

So, if these weird scenarios do not pan out, be prepared for a new and different narrative.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 13 April 2022 11:15

Bongbong, the Teflon candidate

A MONTH to election day last week, The Manila Times came out with a screaming headline, "Marcos expected to rake in 36M votes." This would translate to over 56 percent of eligible Filipino voters, a clear majority comparable to Ferdinand Makoy in 1986, where he garnered 53.62 percent and Cory 46.10 percent. Marred by massive electoral fraud exposed by the walk-out of 30 Comelec poll computer technicians, this triggered mammoth protests resulting in the booting out of the dictator from power. Now the son, if the figures hold, may reprise Makoy's win for his second term in 1969, garnering 61.47 percent over Sergio Osmeña Jr.'s 38.51 percent. After that year, Marcos declared martial law. And the subsequent referenda — not elections — were simply "Yes and No" votes for Makoy; garnering "Yes" 90.67 percent in 1973 and 89.27 percent in 1977. Walang kalabanlaban!

Released by Pulse Asia, three other pollsters had equivalent results with their own polls published earlier. Social Weather Stations (SWS) came out in early February, placing Marcos in the lead with 50 percent; PUBLiCUS Asia, (March 30 to April 6) BBM 56 percent, Leni 23 percent, Isko 9 percent. OCTA, February 12 to 17, BBM 55 percent, Leni 15 percent, Isko11 percent.

These pollsters came out with similar figures establishing a "trend" — or whatever appropriate syntax one uses to avoid disturbing partisan sensibilities. Pollsters claim to be non-partisans — but we know better — advancing a mantra that a poll is simply a snapshot of a particular time-period and therefore has no bearing on the next "photograph." But to the partisans of BBM who is leading — this is it!

For the Leni Kakampinks, they see a "trend" of a 9 percentage points gained from the last polling period with BBM losing 4 percent — or an effective net gain of 13 percent — raising excitement among the true believers that this captures the so-called nationwide surge seen on the tumultuous pink crowds during rallies, thus — "this is it"!

I am not aware however that in the group of Isko, Manny and Ping — they can also say — confidently, though tongue-in-cheek, that indeed, "this is it!

Travails of pollsters

I never had the pleasure of meeting any of the three leading presidentiables, but this doesn't really matter. It is they who are being scrutinized, placed under a political microscope with voters now making up their minds. I too have formed mine. I will not vote for any of them. In fact, I will not vote at all. I will be in America gracing my surrogate daughter Justine May's wedding — family obligation trumping my civic responsibility.

But having observed for decades Philippine election circuses and subsequent results, I have become jaded and very cynical of the capabilities of whoever wins to effect the changes my advocacies demand — not Marcos, not Robredo and not Moreno.

But I have confidence in surveys reflecting sentiments captured at the time the polls were made — particularly if the four major pollsters show comparable results. Unless these four collude to push for a certain candidate. But I doubt it. Polling is a superb statistical tool where technology has improved over the decades and has reached a certain sophistication producing better accuracy. The four pollsters cited above may have captured a "photograph of a particular period in time" — showing a certain kind of trend — careful not to peremptorily establish one. Offhand, the four agree that Marcos is leading the polls and if sustained, he could be President Bongbong on May 9, 2022.

I can hear partisan dissenting voices, calling the pollsters all sorts of names. In the Philippines and elsewhere, bad news and contrarian polling results are seldom accepted at face value. Politicians and their supporters have accused survey firms of being politically biased when these results are unfavorable to their side. In the olden days harbinger of bad news were disposed of, their heads or tongues cut off. Today, they are vilified.

"In 2010, Sen. Richard Gordon sued Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations...in connection with his poor showing in pre-election surveys in which he was listed as a candidate for president. Gordon explained that 'surveys serve no public purpose except to rob the people of their right to be able to engage in a mental exercise where they can gauge their candidate's capability. It is mental conditioning in no uncertain terms.'...During the actual presidential elections, Gordon received 1.39 percent of the vote, even less than the 2 percent the pre-election surveys had indicated." (Wikipedia)

But poll results can be mystifying. Our lame-duck president has been maintaining high ratings in the surveys for the past six years. Duterte's partisans declare that this reflects the President's superb handling of the ship of state, his accomplishments, especially his Build, Build, Build projects, his pro-poor "ayuda," his populist policies, and his style of leadership — giving him an unprecedented approval rating never seen among the presidents before him. In short, his bond with his constituency has been highly emotional and stable over the years as gleaned from the DDS and the fist-bumping hordes' behavior — despite contrary arguments from the partisans. But I leave this to later historians to ponder.

Bongbong Marcos (BBM)

But an interesting phenomenon is the rise of BBM since his loss to VP Leni. From an actual deficit of a few hundred thousand to the current survey gap of a few millions, his minions continue to maintain that BBM was cheated in 2016. Today, his numbers continue to rise despite the mud thrown his way by his presidential rivals, particularly VP Leni's camp, caused no doubt by some of his indiscretions in the past, his outright lies, his less than stellar performance as an elective official, and the overall perception that he refuses to debate with the other presidentiables fearing exposing himself as dumb — the same accusation his partisans throw at VP Leni. Again, his partisans' retort is, "Why risk a debate when he is already leading in the polls. There's no advantage for him in that venue?"

He failed to get a college degree from Oxford University in England and should have been expelled were it not for Imelda pulling strings. BBM hinted that he got a degree — although it was known that he lived a life of a dilettante. So what! his partisans retort. So what, indeed!

He failed to pay his income taxes for several years and therefore criminally liable with a conviction meted out by the courts. Even the Deegong calls him "a weak leader, a spoiled child, a 'kawatan' — hinting of cocaine use!"

These are just some of the negatives hurled at the man. And his response! Ignore all these and take the high road. Cloak oneself with motherhood statements and stake his candidacy on strong positive unifying values. Perhaps this will resonate with the voters tired of all the muck and dirt. As a respected Manila Times columnist Yen Makabenta wrote: "The negative campaign that has been desperately mounted to stop another Marcos from entering Malacañang appears to be generating the unintended effect of making BBM inevitable."

And if Bongbong ascends the throne on May 9 — with a majority, not a plurality — then perhaps his affirmative message of unification resonated across only too well.

And good luck to us all!


Published in LML Polettiques
"SOPHIE's Choice" was a compelling movie where baby-boomer moviegoers, my age group, were persuaded to confront, think and suffer moral dilemma vicariously throughout the entire film unlike contemporary flicks where computer-generated images (CGI) with motion-capture (MoCap) driven technology enhance the actor's emotions and nuances in movements — all in technicolor. These types of cinema tease the visual and aural senses, are addictive and regular brain food for the Generation X, the millennials, and the Generation Z — movie buffs that came after us. But the 1982 film where Meryl Streep won an Oscar, her first of an unprecedented total of 21 nominations to date — the most of any American actor ever — placed the actress and the movie in a classic genre of its own. Hollywood doesn't make such films anymore.

The story is set during the Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany when Jews were rounded up across Europe and transported in cattle cars to be gassed in concentration camps. In this particular case to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The plot revolves around a single mother (Sophie/Streep) of two young children, a boy and a girl who upon arriving in the camp, was made to choose between the two — who will live or die. If she didn't make a choice, she would lose them both. This was a terrible ethical conundrum. Sophie's choice to sacrifice the daughter to save her son will haunt her for life, committing suicide at the end.

Stretching the example to juxtapose with current political drama, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) made a similar Sophie's choice. Admittedly in a less dramatic fashion, the ideologically driven political party was confronted with a dilemma — a choice between upholding its long-held advocacies versus its utilitarian imperatives.

Faithful to its process-oriented culture, the party went through local debates and discussions before presenting their recommendations to the larger body in a zoom convention. CDP favored Leni Robredo, the leading oppositionist presidential candidate over Ferdinand Marcos Jr., though they opted for Sara as VP. Methinks this was done on two counts. The CDP's antecedents were attuned more to the "original yellow" predispositions of the post-Marcos regime. And the second is the voters' propensity to split a presidential ticket — BBM from Luzon and Sara from Mindanao.

Party conundrum

The CDP stands on its advocacy for systemic restructuring as preconditions for the solution of what ails the country — from stark poverty to social injustice, to impunity, to the naked use of political power negating the rule of law. Embedded in the 1987 byzantine Cory Constitution, the CDP demands revisions. In contrast, the two leading presidentiables, BBM and Leni, are utterly clueless, putting Charter revisions in the back burner.

If CDP were true to its ideological predilections, they could have opted for non-tradpols Ernie Abella or Bert Gonzales — who have been singing the constitutional revision song. But the CDP, departing somewhat from its purist ideological moorings, also recognizes the realities of politics. These two whose views are congruent with CDP's possess poll numbers way off the presidential probabilities. They can't win. The CDO chapter, the strongest political unit of CDP, led by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the party president, opted for the pragmatic — to survive and eventually to flourish — by buying the influence of BBM or Leni. If Leni wins with CDP support, well and good; if BBM wins, we can negotiate. Elect one and lose the other — or lose both — if the CDP sticks to its moral underpinnings. The second and more substantial segment of Sophie's choice is to sacrifice the CDP advocacies to gain influence with either BBM or Leni, or support the sure losers, effectively relegating CDP to the twilight zone of political realities and be irrelevant in the coming regime.

Senatorial choices and CDP pragmatism

But CPD's choices on the more important senatorial slate appear to be dubious even by its own standards. Among the 12 candidates recommended by the CDO-CDP, only three have a similar stance with the CDP. The rest of CDP's choices are antithetical to charter revisions. If Gibo Teodoro, Migs Zubiri and Risa Hontiveros make it, they will join the four pro-Charter change bloc of senators — Koko Pimentel of the original PDP-Laban and Bong Go, Bato and Tolentino of the Duterte faction. Still, they don't have the numbers — unless deals have been concluded by CDO-CDP to revise the party's constitution in exchange for CDP support.

CDP, a decade-old political party, a fledgling one compared to the 1907-founded Nacionalistas (NP) and its 1946 splinter, Liberal Wing (LP), couldn't complete their own ticket and slate. In fact, the two leading presidential candidates are owned by a hodgepodge of political parties; Marcos by a hastily formed Federal Party of the Philippines as its core, shedding his father's KBL; in alliance with Sara's Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), Lakas-CMD and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. Leni Robredo on the other hand discarded her disgraced Yellow Liberal Party affiliation, ran independent (while still the Liberal Party chair) and assumed the color pink — "kakampinks" symbolizing a new "yellow." These convoluted convenient alliances are nothing more than political parties in names assembled solely to advance personal interest with no shred of ideological leanings identifying them in the political spectrum.

Even the PDP-Laban, the ruling party that adopted President Duterte, has disintegrated with one faction now supporting the son of the dictator against whom this party was partly founded in the first place — during the dark days of martial law. It can't put up its own standard bearer, much less complete even a half-slate of candidates for senators. The other faction of the PDP-Laban, mouthing a mumbo-jumbo of political creed, has adopted for its standard bearer a mongrel of a politician-boxer-entertainer who was a member of perhaps 7 or 8 political parties before coming on his own.

The CDP prides itself in its ideological pronouncements and public advocacies that differentiate the Centrist Democrats and dichotomizes its position from the rest based on its stand on a well-developed party platform extracted from more than a decade of seminars, discussions, dialogue, debate and soul-searching. Lifted in toto from its literature, I cite relevant portions: "The CDP upholds human dignity as its core value. We hold therefore that political, economic, and social order must be so logically designed that the dignity of each person is promoted and enhanced. Freedom is a prerequisite upon which human dignity is enhanced. Self-determination by each individual, an essential component, is the impetus for collective expression towards the development of a just society. And for society to prosper, it must make available to each individual the needed ingredients for a decent life."

From this preamble, the CDP's four pillars in its platform were articulated: shift the government from unitary-presidential to a parliamentary form; leading toward an eventual creation of a federal republic; the adoption of a social market economy (SOME) as the underpinning of the economy; and the institutionalization of real ideology and platform-oriented political parties.

But the CDP's choices in this 2022 election, particularly among the senators who must initiate the changes in the 1987 Constitution, may have been a disaster. A tragic version of CDP's own Sophie's choice.
Published in LML Polettiques