Posted by: daniellesabai | 2010/05/05

Philippines: Notes on the Current Situation – Part 4

Richard Solis

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III: A Virtual Reality?

The results of the latest surveys (the last before elections) are showing that Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is leading away from his closest rival Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr.  In fact, even if one combines the ratings of both Manny (2nd) and the former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada (3rd) Noynoy Aquino can still easily win. At the same surveys, Villar and Estrada are already statistically tie in the second place which means there is a big possibility that it will be a three cornered fight between Noynoy Aquino of the Liberal Party (LP), Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Erap Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

The abovementioned situation is saying that Noynoy Aquino is already a virtual winner as President of the Republic of the Philippines. He is already in the cover page of the US conservative Time Magazine of the April 26 issue which says a lot already about the preferential choice of the conservative section in the United States. International TV networks like CNN and other International Broadcast and Print Media have been closely covering the campaign parties of Noynoy Aquino. A possibility of having a regime change and the peoples’ hope of a new government which will bring a betterment of their lives is becoming a reality.

But while the peoples’ hope is becoming alive, the Arroyo camp is preparing themselves not only to thwart and douse cold water on the hope of having a new government in the country in ways that will try to impress upon the people and the international community that the Arroyo camp is acting to preserve democracy and fight terrorism. The more the reality of Noynoy Aquino being elected as President, the more the no proclamation and failure of election is being worked out by the Arroyo’s camp. The acting Defense Secretary of Arroyo, who also belongs to the inner circle of the Arroyo camp, has already started to spread around that money has already changed hands from the traditional politicians and officers of the COMELEC, the AFP and the PNP. This is simply conditioning the mind of the people of the credibility of the elections so that declaring its failure later with other scenarios they have started to create will be perfectly justifiable. And as if following the same script the COMELEC has also warned that there are those who are out to disrupt the elections. Does the so called OPLAN RAFAEL (Retain Arroyo through Failure of Elections) fully in place now? It seems that all the pieces of the puzzle are falling in the right place on the right time.

An added situation on this scenario setting is the possible cooperation of the so called oppositions to the Arroyo camp in declaring a situation of no proclamation and eventual failure

of elections so that they can have another chance in vying for the same position later. And this is worst than a “crab mentality” because of their narrow self interest they even can provide a “credibility” to the anti-democratic moves of the very un-popular President of the country. Another scenario is that the so called opposition will join hands with the losing candidate of the ruling party (LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD) as well as parties of other presidential candidates to increase the possibility of getting close to LP standard bearer – Nonoy Aquino and possibly the last minute change of voters’ preference.

A Problem on Configuration or “Garci-nization”?

The results of the mock automated elections in selected areas in Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces have showed a sample on how the elections will fail this coming May 10, 2010. Observers to the mock polls have all agreed that the Precinct Counting Ocullar Scanning (PCOS) machines have not performed and delivered the wrong results of the voting. The COMELEC officials are quick  to respond that there is a problem in the compact flash cards (or equivalent to the Sim card for the cellphone) which is the brain of the PCOS machine and they have to recall  76,000 units of them because they have to reconfigure them before sending them back to the already distributed PCOS machines. And this is less than a week to go before elections.

The abovementioned scenario will just be enough for the Arroyo camp including those incharge of the 2010 elections to impact the needed confusions and anger of people because as we made mention earlier if the lead difference of Nonoy Aquino to his nearest rival will not be considerable (like 5 to 7 millions) then the 20-30 percent expected to be affected and will be disenfranchised in the elections that means it can affect the results of the elections. And therefore, there will be no or delayed proclamation for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential winners by June 30, 2010. And what is revealing here is that the so called politicians from the opposition who have been packaging their campaign for pro-poor, and the first to call for possible joining of the camps of the ruling party in spite of reality that the present administration has a major role why more than half of the country’s population is classified as poor or living below poverty line.

The broadest section of the country have been calling the COMELEC to prepare and print ballots for the manual voting and counting because they are not simply ready for the automated elections but as of today the COMELEC refuses to consider such suggestions.

And as expected the Administration camp and their lawyers have called for the postponement of the May 10, 2010 elections. This means that the Arroyo camp has toyed again about changing the Constitution thru changing the stated date of the national and local elections. And if the COMELEC or even the Supreme Court will allow the postponement of the election and change the Constitution they can always change other parts of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, battalions of soldiers from the AFP have began occupying the different so called hot spots in several cities in Metro Manila. They are directly getting their order from Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue (the National Capital Region AFP Commander), Lieutenant General Reynaldo Mapagu (the Commanding General of the Army) and General Delfin Bangit (the Chief of Staff of the AFP) all from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class 1978. It seems that less than a week before elections all are set for the AFP while all have been  confused and worried of the PCOS machines and what will happen on the day of May 10, 2010.

Electing Democracy and Fighting Tyranny

At this point, it should be cleared that the May 10, 2010 National and Local Elections is not just electing the new leadership in the country but also fighting against tyranny which has been in the country for more than nine years and is manifesting itself that it wants to continue before its term ends on June 30, 2010.

The campaign line should be clearly drawn between the fight of democracy and tyranny and should not be focused on how one should solve the poverty situation of the majority of the people and worst is that one is packaged to surely solve the problem of poverty because he came from poor background (case of Villar). Another is that poverty is caused by corruption in the government (case of Noynoy). And another candidate would say that if he will be re-elected he will make the poor his priority and make them feel wealthy (case of Estrada).

Nobody has been touching the basic framework which the Arroyo camp has been using which has caused the massive poverty among the people. Nobody has touched about the role of the neo-liberal set up of the current globalization in lay person’s term so that ordinary people can understand and what better time to have this basic learning process with the people. Not even the presence of the so called progressive groups and militant parties have corrected or contributed to this rare ocaasion of people’s education of the “whats” and “whys” of their poverty. And worst is that they joined the crowd that a solution to the poverty or even the peace issues of the country can be solved by changing the current leadership and not so much with the framework and the geopolitical context of the country’s standing.

In the case of a successful proclamation of an elected new President and Vice President, one can already expect the kind of Administration and governance the country will have in the next six years. It is because of the composition of people in the lineup  of Presidential candidate and the manner of their campaigns that one will always be sure of the quality of leadership and management such administration will run the country.

Noynoy Aquino for instance, is surrounded by people who once served his mother during her presidential term and also by people who had once worked with the early period of GMA. Both groups have had the rare opportunity to place the peoples’ agenda above all and worked for the closure and rectification of political errors in the respective contexts because they were both the products of people power 1 and 2. On the local levels, one can easily notice the traditional politicians who became members of Noynoy’s Liberal Party but do not show any big difference with the local government officials who belong to the ruling coalition of LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD nor with the partymates of Manny Villar (Nationalista Party) and Erap Estrada (Partido ng Masang Pilipino).

A case in point here is Davao City (Mindanao). The ruling party through the speaker of the House of Representatives is contesting the mayorial position held by the Dutertes – father (vice mayor) and daughter (mayor) who belong to the Liberal Party.  Both are employing the use of guns, gold and goons methods of campaigning in various forms. Speaker Prospero Nograles has tapped the services of two well-known anti-communist personalities like Pastor Alcover and Retired General Palparan who also belong to the rightist partylist ANAD and BANTAY. Mayor Duterte on the other hand has tapped the services of his armed followers who many would identify as Davao Death Squad (DDS) which is well-known to deliver swift punishment for those who violate the ordinances of the city and especially those who are known to be drug pushers. But what happened is that both hired men and followers of Nograles and Duterte knew each other because of the common nature of their works before the election period. First blood has already been drawn and those who belong to the Dutertes have a “home court” advantage. So what will be new with Noynoy Aquino wins the Presidency?

Another case in Cebu (Central Visayas) where the traditional ruling clans and families of the Garcias of the LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD and the Osmeñas for the Liberal Party are contesting electoral positions in different levels in the city as well as in the province.  And between the Belmontes and the Defensors in Quezon City in Metro Manila where the former belongs to the Liberal Party while the latter belongs to the ruling coalition.

Practically, it is the same game and the same personalities involved and they are just competing who will be governing this time around and not because they have different

platforms of governance or whether it will be a fight between democracy in economic, political and cultural governance of the country on one hand and tyranny of the Arroyo-type of management and governance of the country as what had the two EDSAs have stood for on the other hand.

The manner of the campaign has been a little complicated because everybody is watching about the type of fertilizer scam of Jocjoc Bulante who at present is strongly running for governor in the province of Capiz as if nothing has happened in the case against him. The strategic positioning of the “Garci” people in the COMELEC in different areas in the country or about the zero vote of the opposition in the case of Ampatuan in Maguindanao is made to ensure the votes of the Administration preferred candidates.

The current method of campaigning is manifested in releasing additional budget (between 1.5 to 2 million pesos) for special allocation for mayors and the massive release of the calamity funds as a results of the El Niño phenomenon but in reality they are only given to the local executives who are supporting the Ruling Party’s candidates and not to all places which were hit by the drought.

One can easily notice that campaign funds are flowing from the Arroyo Administration for the candidates of Congressional and Party List or the House of Representatives which strongly shows that the Arroyo camp is preparing something big in Congress.

In the Upper House of Congress or in the Senate it is becoming clear in all the surveys that all the old names are almost assured of their seats in the 12 slots which means that no new names except maybe for one or two will be elected to the Senate. This means that Senate will be more or less control by the Villar camp especially if Villar and his running mate Loren Legarda will re-take their seats in the Senate after they loss their Presidential and Vice-Presidential bids respectively.

This means that if Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas would be the President and Vice-President they will have both houses unfriendly to them – the House of Representative is controlled by Arroyo who can always become speaker and the Senate controlled by Villar and who can become the Senate President.

The civil society has been preparing for the worst scenario (even as they hope for the best) during election and post election days. The so called yellow army of the Aquino group has been doubling their efforts in organizing up to the grassroots levels. These actions are geared towards preventing the failure of elections (OPLAN RAFAEL) and no proclamations of the winners especially on the Presidential and Vice-Presidential levels. They are expecting that a

convergence of events will develop into a critical mass and with the coordination of the disgruntled sections of the AFP and PNP will lead them to an EDSA type revolution. This will happen even if one major component of such type of people’s insurrection – the church is missing.

The hierarchy of the institutional church is visibly divided where many of the senior members are too afraid to leave the comfort zones of their little kingdoms (dioceses and arch-dioceses) and be with the people in this critical period of history. All the other groups and denominations will try to extract the highest amount from the traditional politicians to give endorsement to these candidates.

The different revolutionary groups will also be divided where for instance the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has ll its legal machineries throwing support to many Villar and Loren Legarda which are steadily declining in the survey results because of the allegations of corruptions and untruthful propaganda. The CPP and all its fronts cannot even save or make a difference to arrest the decline of Villar. With their armed group New People’s Army (NPA) has continued to launch tactical military offensives but mainly to deliver a message that they mean business about the permit to campaign taxes. In the configuration of the EDSA type revolution one can hardly place the role of the CPP-NPA. In fact, as things are going today they will go down together with Villar and Legarda and be isolated once again in the historic moment of the peoples’ struggles against tyranny and anti-people’s scheme of the Arroyo government.

The Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF) moves with its allies to declare “Fatwa” to those candidates they think of as anti-Islam or anti-Muslims like the former president Joseph Estrada, Mar Roxas, Senatorial candidate Frank Drilon and governorial candidate Manny Peñol have not had an impact at all. If one is to base on the results of the survey, Estrada has his highest popular rating in Mindanao and second only to Noynoy Aquino. So either the call not to vote for Estrada has not gone to the grassroots level or people including the Muslims do not believe in the calls coming from the MILF. The same story in the case of Mar Roxas who is now number one in the Vice presidential race and Frank Drilon is consistently on the top 5 in the Senatorial race while Manny Peñol is the one leading the governorial race in the province of North Cotabato.

And if an interim agreement (sub-state recognition) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF is going to push through anytime from now then the isolation of MILF not only in Mindanao but in the country will become a reality.

The revolutionary groups like the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa- Mindanao (RPMM) and its armed group the Revolutionary People’s Army (RPA) and the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) and its armed group the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB) will surely join in the people’s movement against the continuing tyranny of the Arroyo regime especially with its plan to prolong its stay in power and establish its civilian military junta.

Electing New Leaders Means Installing and Strengthening Democratic Institutions and Mechanisms

In the development of critical mass it is important that any genuine progressive and revolutionary groups should be in the forefront in order to help in correctly reading the situation and effectively launch pro-active movement for genuine democracy and peace. In fact, the struggle in attaining both objectives should start now and continue even after the EDSA-type movement so that the interest of the grassroots and the democratic sections of society will continue to be nurtured and in the forefront of the new government. Such struggle is so complicated and delicate to just let the new government especially if it is born out of people’s movement, to manage it. The fear that after the election and the attendant’s struggle which will accompany or follow it that it is not just the change of leaders from one set of disgraceful leaders to a new set of elected leaders will only happen if the civil society, the church, the business community and the non-state actors or revolutionary groups will not be part of the integral struggle from electoral to democratic and political rights of peoples. Tyranny is not only felt by the physical presence or prolonged stay of the Arroyo regime. It is much felt without it because it has developed into a system with well entrenched support mechanisms which symbiotically need each other to survive. It is found in the laws, presidential decrees, executive orders and carried out by the loyalists of the Arroyo regime and the system with the midnight appointees. The three branches of the government have been developed by the Arroyo regime to provide a strong and almost formidable foundation so that her regime can govern even if they are not anymore present.

The best way to install and strengthen democratic institution and mechanisms is for the new government to be transparent and people-centered in its governance. The institutionalization of the grassroots participation in governance and the government’s accountability with the people can be the best foundation against tyranny.

Reconciling with the Past and Moving Forward

The experience of the country almost a quarter century ago is still fresh. The people thru the first EDSA revolution had removed the dictator but the system and laws of dictatorship have practically remained for a long time. The new government established by the people power had been busy recovering their lost wealth and their vindictive moves against the dictator, his family and his allies.  The system and mechanisms set up by people-backed Aquino administration had not made to develop and prosper by the instruments of the United States inside and outside the Aquino government. The several quos launched by the AFP against the Aquino government were meant to put her and her progressive cabinet in check in order to safeguard the economic and political interests of the US in the country in particular and in the region in general.

Until the present period, the country through several elected and not-elected leadership has not put a closure to the Marcos dictatorship. The recovery of the stolen wealth of the Filipino People by the Marcoses has been assigned to the Presidential Commission on Good Government or the PCGG and how it ended to be spending more than the total amount it has recovered from the Marcoses. In fact, there is now a possibility to have a midnight deal with the Marcoses on their stolen wealth with the Arroyo regime with big commission to the PCGG Commissioners.

The hope of the victims of the human rights violations (HRVs) under the dictatorship has become bleaker especially under the Arroyo regime. The compensation they are supposed to get out of the stolen wealth of the Marcoses is even blocked by the government which is supposed to protect them against the Marcoses. The non-closure of the issue on the victims of human rights violations is saying about the moral ascendency of any administration. One cannot expect much even if we have a new leadership and even if it will be again backed up by the EDSA-type revolution today if the victims of HRVs have not obtained justice and the historical error is corrected.

Today, it has reached a full cycle with the Marcoses returning to power once again. The only son and namesake of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos is consistently high in the survey results which means that the people have forgotten about the Marcos dictatorship and what it did to the people and the country. Or maybe the Marcos dictatorship has been forgotten by the new generation because what the last generation has been passing onto them is nothing compared to the present tyrannical rule of the Arroyo regime. Or maybe the situation with the so called revolutionary candidates of the Communist Party of the Philippines and all its allies especially its chairperson had been campaigning for the party led by a businessman billionaire Manny Villar together with the family of the Marcoses have impacted and contributed to the confusion of the present young generation of the country.

In the Ilocos province (Marcos country), the whole family is running with the mother (Imelda) for congress and the daughter (Imee) as governor against their former loyalist and first degree cousin respectively.

One can expect right now, that if will be a Noynoy Aquino presidency not much will happen in terms of correcting the past which will be the cornerstone of moral governance in the next six years. It is simply because the people who will be surrounding him in the cabinet and other appointive positions will be a recycled group coming from the Cory Aquino government, Ramos group, Estrada group and even from the Arroyo camp especially those who have jumped ship earlier upon sensing that their patroness is about to fall down. This group of people will be at the forefront of Aquino government in the next six years.

If no new framework and systematic overhaul of the country’s system and method of governance then not much is expected to happen aside from a regime change. The new Aquino government will be busy reconstructing economic mechanisms so as to survive with the  standing deficit of the Arroyo regime in the tune of Php 280 billion as of April 2010.

The opportunity therefore can be presented if the Arroyo camp will cling on to power even after the June 30, 2010 Constitutional limit. The no proclamation or failure of election (OPLAN RAFAEL) in varying forms like postponement of may 10, 2010 elections can be the opportune moment for all the progressives and democratic forces to take advantage and get hold of the power to the people themselves.  The Noynoy Aquino government will be best reminded and steered by the power of the people which will put him and his group to the presidency but will be with them all through out to ensure that democratic institution is built up and strengthen so that the system put up by tyrannical rule of the Arroyo regime and the dictatorship of the Marcos regime will be eliminated so as to allow a truly new democratic and sovereign Philippines.

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