Thursday, 23 March 2017 10:10

A grand game of chess

CHESS is a mind game of strategy between protagonists that involves tactical moves and counter-moves. And the winner purportedly is the one who thinks ahead by several moves.

The Duterte presidency has been involved in an exciting game of chess of late pitted against several players – akin to an exhibition tournament where the grandmaster simultaneously clashes against several amateurs. But in this political chess, it is not simply an exhibition; and the adversaries are not of lesser caliber; and the spectators are left guessing as to the next moves of the combatants.

Several recent moves may be part of a larger scheme to throw him off balance and could be a concerted effort towards an eventual checkmate. Ponder upon the following: the re-emergence of Arthur Lascañas as a perjured prime witness against the Deegong accusing him as the patron of the Davao Death Squad (DDS); the recent video clips released by VP Leni Robredo in the international media on the DU30-authored extra-judicial killings (EJK); and now the first impeachment complaint against Duterte by the Magdalo party-list representative Gary Alejano, all within the space of one month. One can’t help but conclude that this could be part of the “destabilization” directed against the DU30 administration.

As a flashback, the Magdalo group, led by an active Navy officer mutinied against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in that infamous Oakwood episode of 2003; the same officer Antonio Trillanes is now a senator of the land and the bete noire of the Deegong. And they are at it again, throwing rocks at the DU30’s ship of state, hoping and waiting for it to sink.

And now the minority partisans of this deadly political chess game are drawn into the fray once again taking sides; the fanatical Red and Blues defending the status quo and the Yellows relishing the role of the opposition. The moves and counter moves are currently fought in social media and in the halls of Congress – deflecting attention from the all-important task of good governance. The greater segment of the citizenry, we, mere onlookers, no doubt could be the biggest losers.

PRRD could be his own worst enemy here if he continues to be waylaid by these irritants – for indeed, they are. I have no doubt in the President’s sincerity to do good for the national constituency as he did well with the local community as a city mayor. In fact, Gina Lopez, the beleaguered environment secretary has described Duterte as “the real thing”. His economic programs as enunciated by his economic team are laudable, but it needs his personal attention. His election promise to usher in a new governance paradigm, rejecting the defective unitary form of government through a shift to a parliamentary-federal form will need the revision of the 1987 Constitution. This is his other priority and he needs to stay in focus.

But let us examine closely his current predicament and see if these are really worth his being derailed from his chosen path. First, he has barely warmed his seat in office and an impeachment complaint has been filed. But what will it take for this to prosper in the lower house; just another numbers game and the endorsement of the leadership. He has the backing of his super-majority – and its leadership in his pocket. There is no way impeachment will succeed.

Second, the noisy opposition is mulling over the possibility of filing cases in the International Criminal Court for crimes committed during his stint as a city mayor and on human rights violations. PRRD need not concern himself with his own defense. He has a thousand lawyers who can carry the burden of litigation if ever it will come to that; not to mention that the Lascañas and Matobato confessions, perjured witnesses all, are being used to make these cases against him. Legal luminaries doubt these will prosper at all.

Third, VP Robredo’s rant at a United Nations commission may bring her sympathy internationally and girl scout points but bluster does not get an international criminal trial going. PRRD need not concern himself with the fall-out if any, and social media is heavily on his side.

Clearly, Trillanes, a major instigator along with the Magdalo group and the disgruntled LP congressmen and senators who lost juicy committee chairmanships are doing everything to “destabilize” this administration. Even then, this is expected and par for the course. The Deegong from the very start of his regime has attracted controversy and in fact has in some bizarre way, sought it. These are merely bumps on the road and he will survive them. As the saying goes, “…what doesn’t kill him can only make him stronger”.

The Deegong—with 80 percent of the people’s approval; the political support of his elected super-majority; and the near-subservience of a bureaucracy long inured to patronage—has the singular ability to lead this country where he said he would: out of the clutches of corruption and poverty towards the promise of real “pagbabago”. He simply needs to keep his eyes “on the ball” as it were.

To paraphrase Michelle Obama: “If they take the low road, we go high”. It is high time for the President to do the same. Though somewhat aberrant, we are still living under the precepts of democracy, where criticisms and controversies may arise at any time.

What would really take PRRD to face these head-on? Perhaps it is time for a game changer. Buckle down and work diligently towards the fulfillment of his electoral promises; become less ambiguous on his responses to questions given by the media; and simply stay on message.

Simply put, still be the Deegong without the expletives!
Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 09:32

A campaign to unseat

THE key words of the campaign are: culture of impunity, hate and anger. Platforms used are local and international media as well as the drilling effect of social media. That a culture was built overnight (because it has been 10 months only) was surprising, but that is what one gets when the oppositors (they put opposition in a bad light) are loaded, well-connected and consistent. And yes, despite elections being over and a winner declared by Congress, a campaign rages to unseat a duly elected President because of alleged sins of the past, constituting 22 years of being mayor.

The presidential campaign of 2016 came as a realization and a shock to the country’s ruling economic and political elites. Economic, because Duterte can’t be controlled, and political, because he will change the status quo. The BSA3 and Liberal Party formula was to jail, impeach and file cases against those who would not go with them at the start. In the vernacular, sampolan nyo. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested for so many cases that came late in the day. The mantra was arrest her and jail her and we think of 8 to 9 cases from PCSO to electoral fraud, etc. Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was threatened with impeachment and resigned. When the operation to secure impeachment was uncovered, Napoles came in to save the day for the Aquino administration. And names included in the Napoles list were controlled.

The Liberal Party and some Cabinet members forming the inner core, learned a thing or two from Marcos and Arroyo. They dished out the dossiers of legislators and controlled them to the end. Those who did not want to be included in the public shame campaign, towed the line. Others had to clench their fists, muttering, may araw rin kayo.

Two years near 2016, the directive was launched to hit, damage and weaken the leading declared candidate for 2016 so that their presumptive candidate can be strong and competitive in the 90-day campaign. Doing the task for them were Pimentel (now Senate President), Cayetano (the other half of the Duterte ticket) and Trillanes (the designated Pambansang Handler who continues to tax the patience of the public). Control at the start and control at the end. In fact, the campaign of the Liberal Party in 2016 was tied with the legacy of BSA3, Tuwid na Daan. The political marketing plan was simple. Attach “Tuwid na Daan” and the candidates will win hands down because of the “accomplishments of the Aquino II administration.” Besides, oodles and oodles of money had been used to prop it up. The LP presidential and vice-presidential candidates had the same political nicknames, which COMELEC allowed. You guessed it right, Tuwid na Daan. And all monies and machinery of government were used to ensure victory, only to be defeated by a Duterte, a mayor, from Mindanao and without the huge war chest of the candidate of Aquino. It was shocking to say the least, when they controlled all the levers for victory but forgot the electorate.

When they realized the overwhelming wind that was coming, they again dispatched Trillanes in the last week of the campaign period, to hit, without let-up, candidate Duterte. Trillanes did not use the killings in Davao narrative, he chose the hidden wealth (taking a leaf from the destroy-Corona plan) card and went to town. He was not able to deliver, and therefore promised to get Duterte, win or lose. With money, media and legislative glare, Trillanes launched his termite-like offensive. Gnawing at the base, he tries to weaken the foundations, aiming for a legislative coup, impeaching the duly elected President. The timelines were laid out clearly. Everything uniting to that one single moment of our Camelot, EDSA. If things do not work out, there is a year in office (May), second SONA (July) and the politically charged months of August and September.

The other cards are De Lima (not political but violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The HRW and ICC have their own processes that no Trillanes can mess around with. But it completes the narrative of having a “killer, lunatic and corrupt President.” Indeed, the coup provocateur has shifted to a most rewarding profession: handler of termites who will weaken the base, provider of protective cover to the termites (praetorian guard par excellence), media operator and paid political assassin. The hope of everyone is for Mr. Trillanes to inform the public about his 16 trips to China (no paper trail and no immigration stamps). That is being transparent and accountable. Interestingly, what led to the change in Trillanes’ position since March 9, 2009 to September 2012? Was Trillanes the back door of BSA3 to China? Was it his “Russian roulette” equivalent to a good retirement befitting a career of destroying buildings and institutions?

Yes, it is true that doing 100 percent in the fight against illegal drugs is crucial. It highlights what has not been done for the past six years; it contrasts PRRD from BSA3, especially on narco politics and fundraising for political ends. But these contrasts are marginalized since PRRD, day in and day out, speaks of only a single issue with passion and resolve: battling the drug menace. The more he talks of Tokhang and Double Barrel, the more impunity, hate and anger are lighted up, just like a Pavlov experiment. The more he calls himself a mayor, the more the stature issue is highlighted. Think big, be President!

No, there is no destabilization in the traditional sense. But there is definitely a campaign to weaken and pounce on the presidency. The line, “culture of impunity, hate and anger” has been echoed by De Lima, Trillanes, the Liberal Party and the Vice President. It has been echoed in social media conversations. Those who propagate the line are said to be warriors of truth and those who do not are dream weavers.

And then there is that single star in the dark horizon, Cadet First Class Rovi Mairel V. Martinez of Cabanatuan City, valedictorian of PMA Class 2017, who reminded all of what service is: “To the Filipino people, whom we have pledged to serve with honor and integrity, utang naming ang lahat ng ito sa inyo. We will strive to become officers who are worthy of your respect and trust. We vow as young leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to always serve you and our country with vigor and unwavering commitment. Sa buong sambayan ang Pilipino, handa na po kaming magsilbi sa inyo!”

A very simple message that reverberates. You serve the country you love. You do not destroy it just because your kind did not make it. You do not spend a minute scheming. You roll up your sleeves and help. That is being Filipino today!
Published in Commentaries
MANILA, Philippines – All six vice presidential candidates agreed that it is time to pass an anti-political dynasty law during the Commission on Elections (Comelec) debate on Sunday.

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Published in News
THE ATENEO Economics Association (AEA) hosted its first set of socio-economic forums of its series, KamalAEAn, which was held on March 8 at the Leong Hall Auditorium.
Published in News