Revisiting old forces — before the deluge Featured

THIS 2021 to 2022 election season is no different from past Philippine elections except in the degree of insanity where vicious mudslinging and engaging in dirty practices are par for the course. Framed by a circus-like atmosphere toxic to the citizenry's political lives, paradoxically they are egged on by partisanship, not unlike the gladiatorial combats of old. What heightens the frenzy is the looming reenactment of a clash of incompatible forces from an era that has been so politically contentious. The slow burn started as far back as the 1986 eviction of Marcos — a regime that has taken deep root in all facets of Filipino life; upending the civilized concept of governance with the single-minded lust for power and dominance of the body politic; an insatiable appetite for loot and plunder; and creating in its wake a parasitical class, the cronies, replacing the old oligarchy; and a perpetuation of political power through designated political dynasties.

Liberals' capture of Cory's Yellow

Its main adversary was the short-lived government, headed by a pious woman whose piety did not extend to her descendants. Cory's regime had established roots not as deep, but extended its residual brand of governance through surrogates who were themselves offspring and inheritors of the EDSA People Power upheaval. FVR's and GMA's regimes were an extension (Erap's was a brief anomaly) culminating in PNoy's regime where the Yellow color, pervasive over two-and-a-half decades was esteemed as a symbol of that very same upheaval. The color was hijacked for PNoy's presidential run in 2010, foisting exclusivity. It is worthwhile recalling that the original Yellow forces then allied with Cory were a hodgepodge assemblage of civil society then known as the "parliament of the streets" that included Cardinal Sin's religious-based communities, Gen. Fidel Ramos uniformed faction and those of Enrile and the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement), who tied yellow ribbons on their weapons during the EDSA People Power Revolution — the same yellow ribbon worn by demonstrators protesting Ninoy Aquino's assassination in 1983.

Poured into this cauldron were the disinherited oligarchy and political dynasties that had the primary handle on Philippine traditional politics even prior to the Marcos ascendancy. What bound these original Yellow Forces together were their anti-martial law stand and anger against the repressive and corrupt Marcos regime. They were not ideologically assimilated with each group insinuating its own agenda coming from a wide political spectrum. It was at best an amorphous army impelled by the euphoria of expelling Marcos and the conjugal dictatorship ending his regime. The clueless PNoy, deluded by a contrived sense of destiny and impelled by a mother's timely passing, manipulated this universal residual love for Cory to propel his own ascendancy, totally ignorant of the character and nuances of the original Yellow army. But in 2010 allied with the revived oligarchy, the political dynasties, the rogue cabinet members of the "Hello Garci scandal" that precipitated GMA's downfall, the traditions, colors and symbolisms of the original Yellow army were co-opted and made into PNoy's own. Thus, the perversion of Yellow was complete.

Yellow mutates to 'Dilawan'

The six years of PNoy's regime dismantled Cory's old coalition and replaced it with a totally new belligerent, politically exclusive, personal group under the Liberal Party banner, and called the Yellow army — "Dilawan." Shunted aside, the remnants of the original Yellow forces were left in disarray in search of a more competent leadership. Nene Pimentel, Cory's trusted loyalist, EDSA warrior, Fidel Ramos along with Cory's old guards — Bert Romulo, Rene Saguisag, Heherson Alvarez — were now advancing in age, leaving the likes of Makati Mayor Jojo Binay of the PDP-Laban at the top of the original Yellow coalition. Binay could have consolidated the support of the old Yellow forces had he stayed the course. His abandoning the PDP-Laban and joining Erap's forces coupled with the relentless attacks by PNoy's "Dilawan," now under the command of Mar Roxas and the newly minted Liberal Party, derailed him permanently.

The coalition — a full circle

The last major remnants of Cory's original old Yellow coalition was the PDP-Laban under Nene Pimentel. The venerable party founder executed perhaps the greatest coup since the party's 1982 founding and his sacrificing the VP post to Doy Laurel in 1986 to preserve the original Cory Yellow coalition, which ultimately won the snap presidential election.

In an analogous move, Nene in 2016 offered the PDP- Laban to this maverick from Davao, the Deegong. His mother, Nanay Soling, a staunch anti-martial law NGO leader, headed the "Yellow Friday Movement" and his father, Vicente, was a former governor of the then unified province of Davao, subsequently appointed to the Marcos Cabinet. The Deegong was a Cory-appointed officer in charge vice mayor to the PDP-Laban Davao City Mayor Zafiro Respicio.

Nene Pimentel's singular act in 2016 was meant perhaps to reconcile the Marcos and Cory forces — "the yellow and the red." Duterte, the Yellow's prodigal son, could have engineered the ultimate reconciliation, ending the enmity that began with Ninoy Aquino's assassination. Things proved otherwise. The man failed to discern destiny's path.

An ongoing storyline

This 2022 presidential election marks a twist in this narrative. The once formidable ideologically driven PDP-Laban from Mindanao, forged in the anvil of the dark martial law years, and championing the ascendancy of the Yellow forces of Cory in 1986, in hindsight may have drawn a "compact with the devil" in 2016.

It is a given that PDP-Laban benefited, imbibing the fruits of their investment in Duterte — cabinet posts, undersecretary/assistant secretary posts in the bureaucracy, sinecures, government corporate seats and pelf. In return, they needed to surrender something — their ideological soul.

The PDP-Laban has split and now competes for the same political space that Cory's Yellow forces and Nene Pimentel sacrificed for. The rest of this narrative has yet to produce an appropriate ending.

Current political scenario

President Duterte's idea of running for VP under Sen. Bong Go was a ludicrous impulse. Now he's putting the senator in his stead leaving the presidential post vacant. And his spineless PDP-Laban faction is compliant. His motives were largely seen as mundane and pedestrian. For one, it was perceived as a desperate move by a despot longing for continued relevance, avoiding being a lame duck. Perhaps this International Criminal Court (ICC) "crimes against humanity" hanging over his head unravels the fiction that the illegal drug problem in the Philippines has been solved. The long arm of justice could still catch up with him.

I wrote before that the daughter will have to run as president, and she could win. She could protect the father in many ways, particularly from the long arm of international law — the ICC. But then again, she could lose. But more deadly, this election could also see the replay of an old conflict, between the Marcos forces, buttressed by the DDS, on the one hand, versus the old anti-martial law coalition given fresh motivation by the break-up of the PDP-Laban.

Or the Marcos and DDS may even go their separate ways now that a different Duterte could be in the driver's seat.

The permutations are endless. We live in interesting times!

 

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