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

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) reports that "18,100 positions will be contested for the May 9, 2022 elections from president down to the local municipal councilors. Of these, 48,000 candidates and party-lists have filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs)." But what has captured voter interest is the presidential and vice-presidential tickets. Much has been written and posted in the mass and social media about the five serious presidential aspirants (out of 97). No doubt the most important is speculating on the Deegong's successor.

But this column will devote space instead to the Senate, particularly on the 12 senators (out of 176) who will join the 12 others elected in 2019. (Please refer to an excellent piece by Malou Tiquia, The Manila Times, Sept. 27, 2021.) The senators' terms total 12 years each (with one reelection). But their importance goes beyond their tenure, doubling that of the president's. Borrowed from the old Roman concept of the senatus, the occupants were considered the wisest, most experienced and respected senior members of society, particularly the elite.

In America, two senators are voted by each federal state to compose a 100-member Senate, unlike that which the Philippines adopted in 1946. Our 24 Philippine senators, like our president, are "elected at large," thus arrogating upon themselves self-proclaimed status as heirs apparent to the presidency, acquiring over time a certain demeanor underscored by developing egos equating them with the president they eventually seek to replace. Of the 16 Philippine presidents, 10 came from the Senate. These senators have created for themselves their own political enclaves with prestige and influence a little lesser than that of the president's.

Senate post-Marcos

Since the expulsion of Marcos and the abrogation of the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the Cory Constitution of 1987 was designed to be principally anchored on anti-martial law doctrines. Philippine concepts of governance have not adapted to the realities of a dynamic and evolving Philippine society and the exigencies of modern society. Thus, our laws, based on the now flawed constitution have proven to be the main hindrance to our total development — cultural, economic and political. The two last criteria are glaring when our country is compared to our neighbors that have left us behind — Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, et al. Comparatively, our economy has virtually stagnated, if not deteriorated. Poverty is widespread and barely mitigated. Our political development is stunted with political power and authority concentrated at the center causing disparities in the periphery, a weak rule of law, ongoing impunity, and corruption in all levels of governance. These all need to change.

The Senate holds the key to these changes. Principally a deliberative body of a chosen few from whence the laws of the land spring forth, they are the conservative keepers of the familiar, more concerned with preserving the status quo through the old, tried and tested formulas than trying out the modern, the dynamic and the unconventional. From the 9th to the 13th Senate, Presidents Ramos' 1997 Pirma, Estrada's 1999 Concord, and Arroyo's 2005 ConCom, moves to revise the 1987 Constitutions were met by the Senate's intransigence.

The 15th/16th Congress during the presidency of PNoy never did consider any alteration to the 1987 Constitution. "Not even a comma," he once declared, holding the document as a sacrosanct legacy of his mother. The subsequent Senate during President Duterte did not seriously consider the proposals of the 2018 Charter Change Consultative Committee seeking political restructuring.

Thus, the ingenuities for changes to the laws of the land that will impact Philippine society for generations to come are stuck at the obstructionist Senate. The need therefore to shift our attention this election to the upper chamber becomes imperative, hopefully evoking the ancient concept of Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR), peopling it with "persons of wisdom."

What changes are needed

I am presenting proposed constitutional revisions of the 1987 Constitution centered on the Centrist Democrats' (CD) core value of human dignity, guided by principles of Christian and Muslim social teachings. "Political, economic and social order must be so logically designed that the dignity of each person is protected and promoted. An atmosphere of freedom is a prerequisite upon which human dignity is enhanced. Self-determination by everyone, an essential component, is the impetus for collective expression toward the development of a just society." ("Call for change: PH constitutional revisions," TMT, Aug 19, 2020.)

To be more specific the guiding principles are simple: 1) a strict adherence to democracy and the rule of law; 2) a parliamentary government based on program-oriented political parties; 3) a decentralized state structure with regional autonomy and local self-government, leading towards federalism; and 4) a "social market economy" with a well-functioning open market, protected by a strong state.

What these all amount to is the Senate's role in providing the impetus for fundamental change. The Duterte administration never did push through any long-lasting political reforms except perhaps for passing the BARMM law, which, in the first place, propelled his presidency in 2016 on his campaign commitment "to a set of political reforms, including establishing a federal system of government. It was assumed that the President would keep his word, ushering all these under his promise of pagbabago (change)."

Current Senate profile

One third of the present 12 senators are members of the PDP-Laban whose platform includes political reforms and government restructuring from a presidential to parliamentary form of government and is unitary to a federal system. These are congruent with the CD demands, too. Joining the four (Go, Bato, Tolentino and Pimentel) are two who may go for federalism (Imee Marcos and Angara). This block going for Charter revision comprises one half of the rest (Poe, Binay, Lapid, Villar, Cayetano and Revilla). This means that at least the incoming seven out of 12 senators could go for Charter revisions, and for the 19th Congress to pass a law calling for a constitutional convention for the revision of the 1987 Constitution.

Possible incoming senators

Six reelectionists are running to regain their seats — de Lima, Gatchalian, Hontiveros, Gordon, Villanueva and Zubiri — plus the usual "branded names" who at some point in the past won as senators or possess an excellent name recall for a shot at a slot: Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda, Jojo Binay, Bam Aquino, Gibo Teodoro, Jinggoy Estrada, JV Ejercito, Greg Honasan, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Raffy Tulfo, et al. Their views on political reforms and shift to a parliamentary/federal government structure are vague and for some, belied by their belonging to political dynasties. It is therefore incumbent on the advocates for structural change to scrutinize these senatorial hopefuls.

There are, however, some uncut gems on the side who may emerge in the course of the campaign with good chances at winning. As a service to those advocating for political party reforms, a shift to federal parliamentary government, underpinned by the social market economy (SOME) and allowing foreign direct investments (FDI), this column will from time to time highlight senatorial candidates with their own advocacies congruent with this column's Centrist ideological profile.

Meantime, be discriminating for the lies peddled as truth! This is their stock in trade.


Published in LML Polettiques

INDAY Sara's defiance spells the death of a father's hopes for a continuing legacy through her, narrowing down the field to five serious wannabes who, no doubt, will fashion their own — Bongbong, Manny, Leni, Ping and Isko. The rest of the pack can be dismissed as nuisance candidates. The Cusi PDP-Laban's last-minute move installing Senator Bato as presidentiable, admitting that if Sara substitutes for him — "di mas mabuti!" — belies a serious intent.

Bongbong and Manny have no vice presidents (VPs) in tow — an indication of weakness, an ongoing surreptitious negotiation or simply waiting for whatever opportunities appear in the political horizon. Only Leni/Kiko, Ping/Tito and Isko/Willie are decisively committed — although historically, voters split their votes for president and VP.

Trolls are propagating the idea that this election is a "rebancen" of sorts of the internecine political combat between two families — Marcos vs Aquino and by inference Duterte vs the Dilawan. Partly true but the overarching fight is in reality, We, the people, against the generations of traditional political practices permeating and undermining our system of governance that resulted in the ills of our society: stark poverty, impunity, corruption, inequality and social injustice. All these predated the Marcos-Aquino rivalry and were already at play when Duterte came into power.

Current political forces

What is shaping up is a Marcos/Duterte alliance fusing shared legacies. The former, a devoted son palpably working for a reversal of family fortunes, employing historical distortions that those years could have been the best years had they not been cut short by "external extenuating circumstances." The latter, a Marcos acolyte bent on propagating a legacy of political travesty, nourishing a fiction that his bloody drug war and escalating bureaucratic corruption are a success, and that human rights abuses are nothing but a figment of the "dilawan imagination." A consolation is that he will leave behind the fruits of his Build, Build, Build, which are the visible and tangible signs of an administration poised to take off but thwarted by the pandemic and marred by his profligacy.

Arrayed against this pair is a ragtag army of the reconstituted "parliament of the streets" modified by social media echoing those movements during the martial law years that toppled a dictatorship. But this time, the opposing forces are not led by the old Cory Aquino Yellows allied with the "PNoy Dilawan" (see "Revisiting old forces," The Manila Times, Oct 6, 2021) but those of the disenchanted multitude — the youth, the growing mass of the poverty-stricken victims of economic dislocation caused by the insufferable pandemic quarantine harebrained schemes, disillusioned by the "Pharmallys" of this regime. They don't necessarily agree with each other and are not ideologically interwoven but they have several commonalities, foremost among which is, anger. Rage at what's happening to them — to the Filipino. This could be an intense emotional tinderbox that could be triggered by irrational behavior but if harnessed and disciplined, can start a conflagration that may consume this unholy alliance. But who will lead them against this formidable tandem? These are the valid questions for the wannabes arrayed against the Marcos/Duterte coalition.

Leni, who has been thoroughly demonized by the DDS, redefined by the Marcos/Duterte trolls, and weighed down by her own naivete, has a track record of being an ideological oppositionist. Ping Lacson was part of the Senate majority coalition allied with the President but possessed with an independent streak, untainted by corruption and the congressional pork barrel scandals and, more importantly, has a killer disposition, a critical ingredient that could pass for a semblance of "political will" — a trait endearing to the DDS. Ping is the Deegong with good manners.

Manny Pacquiao of humble pedigree and an authentic national hero won as senator under Duterte's slate and a loyalist until his own presidential ambition was waylaid by the rift within the ruling PDP-Laban party. And the new kid in the block Isko Moreno was a Duterte-appointed DSWD undersecretary — before winning election as Manila mayor. He declared making Duterte a cabinet member when elected. But what is egregious is his historical ignorance in simply defining the Marcos-Aquino family feud as just that. His approach to winning over the Marcos partisans is to underplay the decades of martial law, the conjugal dictatorship's profligacy, plunder, atrocities and oppression of the Filipino. The last three wannabees are perceived to be either pro-Duterte or "Duterte-neutral."

Exit the Deegong?

At the twilight of his regime the Deegong should be comforted that he has done some good by his own lights, although people may be ambivalent as to his methods. He replicated into the national stage the well-worn approaches that met with a modicum of success as a local mayor. His "tokhang" against suspected drug users resulted in thousands of dead addicts and criminals, earning for him serious attention from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for "extrajudicial killings" (EJK) and human rights violations.

To his credit, PRRD understood the systemic character of society's ills and vowed to provide comprehensive solutions improving basic good governance, among which were structural political reforms, devolving centralized authority to the periphery, redefining political power, diffusing the same through concepts of subsidiarity in an eventual federalized system of government. He rounded off his agenda with his fight against corruption with his now famous Duterte Doctrine — eliminating from the bureaucracy all manner of corruption even on a mere "whiff of it." Unfortunately, he abandoned all these in midstream.

Earlier in his regime, he projected a sincerity coupled with his daunted "political will" to meet these concerns head-on to defeat them. Alas, sincerity has never been an effective and relevant political strategy. And now, we come to this final episode of his regime. Although the Deegong has tried hard to employ every gimmick to brand this 2021-2022 presidential election with his imprimatur and a continuance of his legacy, he is failing. This election will witness the dying throes of a presidency and will pass on to history for final judgment.

His last stab at relevance using his daughter was stillborn. His subsequent haphazardly executed alternative was even more bizarre; putting up Sen. Bong Go as presidential bet with him as VP. This arrangement was so obviously inane and could not gain traction. His subsequent scheme was to declare retirement from politics, abandon his VP post and put in Bong Go in his stead. And to portray a semblance of normalcy, a buffoon was elevated as presidential bet in his PDP-Laban faction. At this late date, there could still be a penultimate act. A VP post under Marcos! But what will this cunning political strategist do with the tandem of Bato and Go?

There was a time many of us were convinced Duterte, backed by his strong government, could precipitate a revolution from the top and the middle-class changing society for the better. We were wrong! Now he needs to let go. He can improve on his legacy by perhaps accepting the inevitable. Being a lame duck is a time for introspection and rise above himself. He still has a few months to bring us all together and perhaps, as his last act, heal the wounds.


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 13 October 2021 07:41

The gathering storm

THIS column was meant to start a series on the serious wannabe presidentiables from Ping, Bongbong, Isko, Manny to Leni — and their impact on the body politic. But I am awaiting the finale of the "pa coy-coy" or "hele-hele bago quiere" frontrunner, the very same tactic used by the father in 2016. But I respect our mayor too much to dare offer unsolicited advice. Don't run! The next president will most likely fail in the next six years, what with the pandemic, its resultant economic breakdown, and the massive rent-seeking and bureaucratic incompetence contributing to the interminable amounts of debts burying the country. The next president will be rendered inutile putting out fires. Sara should bide her time, ripen well, run our city effectively and create her own legacy not her father's. Her moment will come in 2028.

Our convoluted presidential politics

Meantime I am dumbfounded by the stupid expedient "oido strategy" employed by the compliant and pathetic Cusi faction of the PDP-Laban soon after their puerile plans to conscript Bong Go/Duterte fell flat on their faces with the President unceremoniously revoking his vice-presidential candidacy when polls showed it was a ludicrous idea, consequently demoting "their best presidential candidate" to vice president. I sympathize with Bong Go's castration. I truly like this man, who rose from being a flunky to senator. He will come into his own someday out of the shadows of his puppeteer. But this faction's subsequent singular act to scour the bottom of the barrel to elevate a buffoon to a presidentiable, takes the cake. With his assertion, "Do I look like a mockery to you? Eighteen million Filipinos voted for me," Sen. Bato dela Rosa registers this phrase into the lexicon of inane aphorisms with his name forever etched in this ridiculous genre equivalent to "The problem with political jokes is they get elected."

Foreigners looking in

But this column devotes space for cursory discussions on our presidential politics viewed by foreign observers particularly the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). The JBIC provides policy-based loans to the Philippine government. The Japanese companies doing business in the Philippines are no doubt concerned about political stability impacting business and governance — underscored by the oft-repeated cliché "leveling the playing field."

Their questions show unfamiliarity with our political processes but somehow reveal an innocent indictment of our convoluted system:

1. "KBL nominated the younger Marcos as its standard bearer, while PDP-Laban now has two candidates. ... What is the process of a political party in endorsing their candidates for elections? Is there a standard procedure? Is it acceptable for one party to have two candidates, or [does] the other candidate [need] to set up a new party? Does a presidential candidate need to choose a candidate for vice president, and vice versa, is it a precondition to run for president?"

2. Roque said it will be the Comelec that will decide which PDP Laban faction is legitimate. "If there are only five requirements stipulated in the Constitution in order to run for public office...what is the purpose and significance of Comelec's role in determining the legitimacy of two factions within one political party? If one party is recognized by Comelec, what will happen to the other party's candidates... Does this candidate need to set up a new party so he/she can go ahead with his/her candidacy?"

Responding to the first question, the Philippine political situation is fluid and changes from day to day. I surmise the young Marcos (BBM) trying to shed his family's martial law bloodline by being nominated by the Partido Federal — not the vilified KBL. This is obviously a play on federalism — the popular slogan of Duterte who idolized Bongbong's father, Ferdinand. As of this writing Bongbong Marcos (BBM) has no VP in tandem and barely a few "neo-Marcos" slate for senators. Such configuration is not crucial in Philippine presidential elections as voters split the ticket. These happened with Duterte/Robredo in 2016, Aquino/Binay in 2010, GMA/de Castro in 2004, Estrada/GMA in 1998, etc.

Arbitrary selection process

The party selection process as to who runs as president, vice president and senators is arbitrary at best. As in Pimentel's PDP-Laban faction where no VP compliments Manny Pacquiao, every wannabe starts with the personal — "I want to run" — and awaits the endorsement of whoever has the logistics and the money, in particular the oligarchy and the political dynasties. These decisions are core to our perverted party system. There is no vetting process similar to the system in politically mature countries, like the preliminaries and caucuses in America. It could be equivalent to Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) choices done in "smoke-filled rooms."

There are no real sustainable political parties in the Philippines. They appear intermittently during election season. The closest could have been PDP-Laban until the Pimentel father struck "a Faustian pact" in 2016. The declared candidate can claim, create, is invited to, or revive moribund ones, irrespective of the ideological profile. Isko Moreno for one found shelter in Raul Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko. Even Pacquiao has run the gamut of memberships: LP before 2007, KMP in 2007, NP in 2009, UNO in 2012, PDP-Laban in 2016 and now Promdi. Our candidates shamelessly change political parties like discarding dirty underwear.

On the second question. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will decide which faction is legitimate. It should be obvious that the Cusi faction, backed by the President, will be accorded legitimacy with all the privileges accruing to them, particularly allowing election watchers in polling places and an authenticated copy of precinct results. But irrespective of legitimacy, both factions will still field their own candidates with mostly incomplete slates.

Sara-centrism, near-term scenario

All these are symptoms of the bankruptcy of our political party system. All are on an ad hoc basis awaiting developments like speculations on Senator Bato's warming the seat for Sara on a sudden change of heart. Waiting in the wings are the Marcoses that may adopt Sara with BBM sliding down to VP. This Sara-centrism will only be resolved after next week's Comelec's final proscriptions on substitutions. Sara's registering for a mayoralty run this week has thrown off-balance presidential conjectures.

This could precipitate a reenactment of a BBM vs Leni Robredo 2016 clash — Marcos/KBL against Leni/PNoy's "Dilawan." Nothing can evoke old enmities than the Marcos/Aquino names. We could even witness the DDS/Marcos break-up, or the PDP-Laban complete disintegration, a house divided upon itself. But the field has widened with the Lacson/Sotto old guards, and the new kid on the block, Isko Moreno.

In past discussions (The Manila Times, June 3-July 21, 2021), among others, "...what is wrong with Philippine politics are traditional patronage politics as practiced for decades. This has been ingrained in our political culture permeating the very sinews of a good part of our political life. Our political system itself is a perversion and this travesty has been embedded in our Constitution."

These have skewered our concepts of democracy and electoral politics Unless these are remedied by political reforms, this country will forever remain a backward Third World one. Whoever sits at the head of the table!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 06 October 2021 07:11

Revisiting old forces — before the deluge

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!


Published in LML Polettiques