The LABAN-Liberal rivalry

Remnants of the progressive struggle are locked together in a dance of mutual political survival.

As the news dailies ran stories on the increased scrutiny being placed on the presiden’ts pals, some within the movement that elected him have begun to voice some reservations or outright indignation at the way he has handled the situation so far. Following the Luneta incident and the firing/resigning of Secretary Jose De Jesus, many cannot reconcile the behavior of their “white knight” towards those in his camp that have not acquited themselves all that honorably.

It will one day make for an interesting study to look at the rivalry between the Balay and Samar factions, or what I would like to call the LABAN-Liberal rivalry. Although as Manolo Quezon once put to me commitment to political parties has yet to take root in the Philippines, these parties come close to approximating such a tradition. They were borne out of the struggle against martial law and the two opposing poles of how to bring it to an end.

To understand how or why the Aquinos behave in relation to these rivaling camps, you have to first go back in time to the 1970s, to 1978 when the imprisoned Ninoy Aquino was “abandoned” by the LP and left without a party to run in the parliamentary elections scheduled that year. Having none of the stalwarts of the party like Jovito Salonga or Gerry Roxas to provide a stiff challenge to Marcos, Ninoy turned to more junior people. This is how LABAN was formed.

Explaining the Aquinos

The man who helped create the name, Lakas ng Bayan, the late Alfonso Policarpio, in his book Ninoy: The Willing Martyr coined a very poignant phrase to capture the mood of the Aquinos during this period of their struggle. A caption of a photo of Ninoy and Cory standing together during his military trial reads, a time when so few cared. This perhaps is one of the reasons why the Aquino children have gravitated more to the Samar group, the ones that had supported the “Noy-Bi” ticket. They had been there during their darkest days. To quote a once popular beer ad iba ang may pinagsamahan.

Secondly, one has to go to the early days of the first Aquino presidency to discover why PNoy took the unpopular decision to support his close friends. In The Aquino Management of the Presidency: In the Face of Crisis (1992) published by the presidential management staff, one finds a vivid recount of those early days from the point of view of palace insiders. According to the document, Cory convened her cabinet on July 9, 1986 to assess the aftermath of the “Manila Hotel incident” the first coup of her several months’ old presidency. After their deliberations, Presidential Spokesman Rene Saguisag was quoted saying

In hindsight (Minister of Local Governments), Nene Pimentel was correct about removing the incumbent local chief executives and replacing them with OICs. Had the duly elected Mayors of Metro Manila been retained, they would have been able to mobilize in support of the Marcos loyalists. There would have been a greater likelihood that the government would have fallen.

In response to a reporter’s query on why he had not accepted in full DOJ Sec De Lima’s recommendations in the aftermath of the “Luneta incident” regarding Mayor Alfredo Lim and Usec Ricardo Puno, PNoy gave a very cryptic remark about sticking with your allies because of counter revolutionary moves to unseat them. Using the preceding bit of history you can easily decode his message.

This siege mentality on the part of PNoy can also be understood by recalling that Noynoy was ambushed and nearly perished in 1987 during the “God Save the Queen” rebellion staged by renegade RAM soldiers that nearly toppled his mother from office. His appreciation for allies and the need for self-protection led him to the firing range where he no doubt established strong bonds with his shooting buddies.

Thirdly, to understand the accommodation of Binay’s faction within cabinet, one has to go back to the local government elections of 1988. In the book From Marcos to Aquino: Local Perspectives in the Transition in the Philippines (1991) by Ben Kerkvliet and Resil B Mojares, one gains a “street-level” view of the rough and tumble world of politics immediately following EDSA I.

The OIC’s appointed by Interior Minister Nene Pimentel were made to defend their positions a mere 18 months after their appointment. Many of them were novices (like PNoy’s inner circle) but had replaced long-standing provincial and municipal warlords. The strategies for bringing the fruits of people power to the grassroots as observed by Kerkvliet and Mojares in the book either took the form of a hard-line approach or a soft, conciliatory one.

To illustrate their point, they turned to the experience of one OIC governor in Central Luzon, a PDP-LABAN member (in the interest of full disclosure, that man was my father Noli), who had employed the soft approach in the face of repeated assassination attempts. After the election, he along with many of Pimentel’s party had been decimated through the ballot either legitimately or illegitimately . In contrast, Mayor Binay whose house was strafed with bullets in the run up to the elections survived by employing tough ward politics in Makati.

The social experiment involving the soft and hard approaches and the lessons learned from that period help to define the philosophy of the PDP-Laban to this day. The Pimentels themselves have suffered at the hands of “dagdag-bawas”. Like some battle-weary revolutionaries that later get accused of employing the same tactics that they had once raged against, the idealism of these players has been tempered by real world events. PNoy knows this, and he knows he can count on them when the going gets tough.

Where to from here?

Finally we ought to consider where this rivalry is likely to lead. Having formed a coalition ticket back in 1992 (Salonga-Pimentel), will its current incarnation be counter-productive or supportive of the president’s agenda?

Vice president Binay with his vast experience in providing effective government service at the local level and who has had one year to settle into his new role might have a head start. DOTC Sec Mar Roxas might struggle at first. He has never been in this type of role before, nor does he have a technical background.

The handing over of the DOTC to a politician may not necessarily have been an astute move from the policy angle given the pricing and subsidy schemes that it involves. Being more sensitive to public opinion with regard to fare rate hikes might cost the government more than it can afford.

On the other hand, both the housing and the transportation and communications portfolios rely on private financing; and both involve projects that are labor intensive and employment generating. Their managerial abilities in moving investments through the project pipeline and securing local content for projects will determine their success at generating employment. Here perhaps Mar Roxas will have an advantage having worked with big investors at the DTI.

The developmental state’s dual role

If we are to use the developmental state as a model for what the Philippines should be striving towards, then apart from delivering services to the socially disadvantaged, the other, and often neglected role of the state, which is to channel resources to the more productive ones, has to be attended to. The growth sectors of the economy are after all the main sources of additional taxes used for expanding redistributive programs.

If one looks at the Philippine Development Plan, the main objective of which is to generate faster, deeper and broader growth, one finds a succinct diagnosis of the current situation:

Low growth is due to low investment and slow technological progress because of inadequate infrastructure, as well as glaring gaps in governance. Narrow growth, meanwhile, is largely attributed to lack of human capital formation among the poor and the failure to transform output growth to job creation.

To address this, the Plan aims to unlock investments in infrastructure through PPPs and better governance frameworks and re-distribute the growing revenues from a more productive economy through social development. If one looks at the 2011 budget, this intent is backed up to some extent by an increase in allocation to the secretaries of transport and communication (of about P14 billion), education (about P20 billion) and social welfare and development (about P20 billion).

To manage these resources and implement the Plan well will require dedication and perseverance from all the president’s men. Let us hope that this rivalry within his cabinet produces the kind of healthy competition or constructive engagement required to produce positive outcomes. If it doesn’t, it could spell the end of the people’s faith in their brand of governance.

When straight emits the odor of crooked

When straight emits the odor of crooked
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star

There is a paid TV ad titled Ituwid natin (Let’s straighten it out) that has been airing on ABS-CBN TV Patrol and Umagang kay ganda (Good Morning). It is hosted by showbiz personality Toni Gonzaga and she is assisted alternately by lawyers Geronimo Sy and Cesar Villanueva.

The paid TV ad is formatted to appear as a public affairs segment, similar to a typical talk show. It is well funded — PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Petron, San Miguel Corporation and the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) among the listed sponsors. The PCSO and DBP are under the government.

One would think that with the devastation being caused by the El Niño, the funds of the PCSO and the DBP would have been better allocated for the affected farmers. Other than those affected by the El Niño, there are easily 20 other public needs the PCSO and the DBP would do well to address instead.

Ituwid natin purports to promote discussions on the gains and lessons of EDSA I and EDSA II and the roles of the presidents since EDSA I. But that is not how your Chair Wrecker saw it and yours truly is not alone in this observation. Two leading ABS-CBN news and public affairs veterans share the view that Ituwid natin is soft propaganda for massaging the exit image of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).

Normally, we would not take issue with that. GMA is entitled to put her best foot forward, especially now that she is stepping down from the highest office in the land. But when GMA’s image repair is accomplished at the expense of the truth — whether it is the failure of omitting the whole truth or of telling a lie — then we must expose and challenge it.

Watching Ituwid natin gives the trained eye the impression that there is another agenda being served other than to repair the image of GMA. That other agenda is to lessen the monumental image of the late beloved president, Cory C. Aquino, the historical titan the whole world hailed as the Icon and Saint of Democracy when she passed away last August 1, 2009.

For instance, the segment where RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement) retired colonel Red Kapunan appeared is the best proof of this insidious Cory bashing agenda of Ituwid natin. Neither Gonzaga nor her co-host challenged Kapunan when he stated that the RAM launched their coup attempts against Cory Aquino because of their deep concern that the Communists were gaining ground under her administration.

The truth is Kapunan and his comrades launched their coup attempts because they were out to grab political power. The truth is it was the militarization under the Marcos regime that promoted the growth of the Communist Movement and that it was the democratic space Cory Aquino introduced after EDSA I that divided the Red Sea like Moses did in the Old Testament.

The truth is it was the growth of the Communist Movement owing to the oppression and repression during the Marcos regime which compelled then US President Ronald Reagan to stop supporting Marcos and pushed Marcos to vacate Malacañang Palace. Up to February 22, 1986, Reagan still supported Marcos. Reagan only relented after then US State Secretary George Shultz impressed on him that the Communists will attain stalemate here within two years if Marcos remained as president.

During the Cory years, the Communists were thrown into disarray and fought among themselves because many of their comrades were tired of fighting and were convinced by the sincerity of the new administration and the attraction of the new democratic space. To prevent their comrades from returning to the mainstream, the diehards started their own version of the Killing Fields of Cambodia — slaughtering their own kind.

The Communist political fronts were all dismantled by the political component of the Cory Aquino administration’s anti-insurgency program which was launched by then Local Government Secretary, the late Jimmy N. Ferrer. Ferrer was assassinated in what was made to appear as a job of the Communists but would later on tend to indicate that it was a Right Wing job designed to promote more conflict that will weaken the Cory administration.

Unlike Kapunan, Hector Tarrazona, another RAM member who also helped oust Marcos, did not join the coup attempts against Cory Aquino. During the 1989 coup, Tarrazona was the most senior officer at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City. He stopped the officers and men under his command from joining the coup. The plan then was for the rebel sympathizers in the air base to take off in the trainer planes and to drop explosives on pinpointed targets.

Another RAM member, Rex Robles, is still remembered for sharing his tears before a national television audience when Cory Aquino passed away last August 1, 2009. Those were tears of regret from Rex Robles which enhanced his manhood for having admitted a wrong done to a great president and to the country. In contrast, Kapunan would rather prefer to rewrite history.

It is bad enough that many Filipinos do not know the real history of their country. What makes the situation worse is the constant attempt to rewrite contemporary history just to attain political gain or to simply save face.

Not knowing our real history, we end up embracing our biggest oppressors and rejecting the nationalists who are fighting for the real interests of the Filipino people. Just to show how sick the Filipino national soul is, we have found it acceptable and legal to promote the interests of another country and deemed it criminal for Filipinos to protect their national interests.

As a consequence of our folly, many foreigners have become filthy rich from the natural resources of our country while many of our people remained misinformed, uneducated and impoverished. For not knowing the historical truth, the Filipino has become the biggest impediment of Philippine progress.

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Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: [email protected] and www.chairwrecker.com

Scenarios of doom if polls fail

Scenarios of doom if polls fail
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The country will celebrate the 24th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution on Feb. 25 amid threats to the holding of the presidential election on May 10.

Ahead of the Edsa I anniversary, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile raised last week the specter of military intervention in the event of a power vacuum stemming from a failed election.

On Wednesday last week, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines placed Mindanao under red alert, warning that the region, home to about a fourth of the country’s 50 million voters, faced a critical power shortage that could disrupt the conduct of automated elections on the island.

The warning triggered a call from a member of the House of Representatives to grant President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo emergency powers to ward off an energy crisis on Election Day.

What’s curious about this move is that this crisis is claimed to be due to a dry spell.

It was quickly pointed out that if the problem was acute water shortage, how could emergency powers create rain to fill the dams. (Half of the power supply in Mindanao comes from hydroelectric plants whose turbines are run by water.)

The proposed solution could allow Ms Arroyo to cling to power if the May general elections failed to elect a new set of national leaders.

Fraught with more peril

What this illustrates is that there is no shortage of opportunities to create a political vacuum or of individuals or groups ready to take advantage of chaos arising from an election failure and to grab power.

The May elections are fraught with more peril to the orderly transfer of power than any election since Edsa I.

The populace is lukewarm to any boisterous celebration of this anniversary; the government is not encouraging any celebrating that would reawaken the spirit of the popular uprising.

Last year, Ms Arroyo hosed down the 23rd anniversary, saying, “The world embraced Edsa I in 1986. The world tolerated Edsa II in 2001. The world will not forgive an Edsa III, but will condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is unstable.”

From that succession at Edsa II, the stability of the democratic political system has deteriorated and has been undermined by tampering with the system, such that the country now faces one of its most uncertain elections since Edsa I.

Of the four key players in Edsa I—along with opposition leader Cory Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin and Gen. Fidel Ramos—Enrile came out the loser in the power-sharing after Aquino was inducted President after Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown.

Edsa I for Enrile has been an event of painful memories—over his frustrations to seize power from Marcos against whom he plotted with seditious colonels in the coup attempt in 1986.

Celebration scorned

On Feb. 23, 2009, Enrile scorned the official celebration of the 23rd anniversary, saying, “… seemingly lost in the festivities and often glossed over in the yearly celebration, is the patriotism and sacrifices of our soldiers who were willing to lay not only their careers, but [also] their very own lives on the line to pave the way for such change to happen.

“For this reason, I have mostly foregone the opportunity to celebrate the Edsa Revolution publicly. I have long nursed a certain discomfiture at being paraded as an ‘Edsa hero’ while those who bravely dared to fight the hard battle with us seemed to have been forgotten, their idealism ignored, and even their heroic contribution belittled.”

Seizing power

Enrile added, “This chamber (the Senate) which I now head probably would not even be in existence now, if not for the bravery and commitment of the men behind the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement), who gambled their lives to redeem the freedom of our countrymen.”

Let us not forget that the RAM’s coup plot was primarily aimed at seizing power from Marcos—not to restore democracy.

One of the many archival materials on the military revolt of Enrile and Ramos, in their breakaway from Marcos, narrates that “on Saturday, Feb. 22, 1986, Enrile, accompanied by the RAM colonels, flew by helicopter to the defense ministry compound inside Camp Aguinaldo, while Ramos was ensconced in Camp Crame … where he commanded the loyalty of constabulary forces.”

Ambivalent toward Corazon Aquino, Enrile’s aim was to head a National Reconciliation Council (euphemism for junta) which would rule in the transition until another election.”

Making a fresh pitch for the importance of military intervention in a political crisis, Enrile reechoed his dangerous ideas justifying military takeover in the event of a failure of democratic processes governing the transition to power.

Military to choose leader

Speaking in the crypto-fascist accent derived from his experience as martial law administrator of the Marcos dictatorship, Enrile was at home last week when he told ABS-CBN that in case of massive failure of election, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police could intervene and choose an acting head of government.

He invoked a provision of the 1987 Constitution, drawn after Edsa I, Article II, Section 3, which anoints the AFP as the “protector of the people and the State.”

This provision is an upshot of the key role played by the military rebellion in ousting Marcos. This provision seems out of character of the 1987 Constitution, which restored the pre-martial law democratic institutions, and sticks out like a sore thumb in a libertarian document.


The provision opens a way for the backdoor entry of the military into power, making a mockery of the central tenet of democratic constitutions, that of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military.

Built on the concept, dearly cherished by authoritarian regimes, that the military is the paramount institution for national salvation, the provision was used by the AFP chain of command to withdraw support from President Joseph Estrada, when his impeachment was aborted by Edsa II in 2001—in reality a bloodless extra-constitutional coup.

Enrile has provided a legal argument for the AFP to intervene in a crisis when, in their opinion, they had to intervene to break an impasse and restore public order and safety.

Should there be a failure of elections, there would be no civilian authority on June 30 when Ms Arroyo’s term ends because there would be no President, Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House, Enrile said.

Most organized

“The only authority that you have are those with guns except they are the most organized people in the bureaucracy,” he said. They are the “permanent institutions” and the only ones who could “control the country at that point.”

Enrile added that the AFP chief of staff and the PNP director general could pick a civilian authority “to administer the government in transition.”

He said the PNP was one of the state “institutions of legitimate violence” in the caretaker role.

“The Constitution is just a piece of document and if it is not enforced, nothing will happen,” Enrile said.

“Who will enforce the Constitution? It is the police and the military if there is no civilian authority that can enforce,” he added.