The symbolic absorption of the former ruling party
It began with an expulsion and is unfolding as an inquisition. The expulsion was of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from her leadership position in the House; the inquisition is of former President Duterte who has been summoned by a city fiscal in response to a case filed by a radical Representative.
The casus belli was the removal of funds, as reported by the Inquirer:
OVP asked for a P500 million CF for 2024, while DepEd made a P150 million request. OVP’s CF bid was removed, while DepEd’s P150 million request was channeled to the assistance for teachers and students.
The former President has taken to petulantly denouncing undemocratic behavior and muttering warnings about the military and the police reacting to the goings-on in the House. Oddly enough, his former spokesperson defends him by saying he’s all bark and no bite.
The sign of things to come? Duterte’s nemesis has been granted bail. Congressmen abandoning PDP-Laban, an exodus that started as a trickle but has turned into a kind of stampede. To cut a long story short, the former President attacked a radical Representative, the Speaker got up and said the attack on one, was an attack on the whole, the entire House convened as a Committee of the Whole to circle its wagons, and the result was the rapid reduction in ranks of the PDP-Laban, whose party head is the former President — Rodrigo Duterte.
After the radical Rep. floated the possibility of impeaching the Veep, the House leadership then said such talk was baseless. What’s important about such stories is that the topic of impeachment — and the potential vulnerability of the Veep — has been raised.
The only thing spoiled would be an Arroyo-style “self-impeachment,” to innoculate the Veep by filing a failed impeachment thus putting into effect the one-a-calendar year provision on impeachments. But that requires a sure control of the majority or a big enough minority to prevent the passage of a bill of impeachment.
What most look-sees into the Marcos-Romualdez-Arroyo-Duterte story fail to take into account is the dynamics surrounding Prexy-Veep relations. There are traditional dynamics at play. The oldest of these dynamics being that because of circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Vice-Presidency in 1935, the position has its own mandate which more often than not, represents an invidious comparison with the mandate of Presidents. The next-oldest dynamic is that the shotgun marriage of factions leads to uneasy alliances. The third oldest dynamic is that Veeps who break away from Presidents suffer a hit in terms of public opinion, which expects Veeps to be supportive of Presidents. The fourth is that the Speakership is a poor springboard for the presidency.
Meanwhile, clouding the issue, at least for the Duterte faction, is that one oppositionist, former Senator Sonny Trillanes, has reached a modus vivendi (at least) with the Marcos administration and this has convinced Duterte’s loyalists that the Marcoses have formed an alliance with their former mortal enemies, the remnants of the so-called Yellow Forces. In the first places those forces are nearly extinct, and in the second place, there is as much a possiblity of cohesion and unity among those remnants as there is with both the Reaffirm and Reject factions of the former monolithic Left.
This week’s The Long View
THE LONG VIEW
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:13 AM November 15, 2023
Six years, eight months, and 21 days: this is the amount of time stolen from Leila de Lima by everyone who took part in making trumped-up charges stick for so long. Case after case ended up dismissed as witnesses recanted, until at last, only one charge is left, and she has finally been granted bail. De Lima has never been convicted but has already served time for taking her duties as a lawyer, a member of the Cabinet, and the Senate, seriously.
The time stolen from De Lima was stolen from the Filipino people, too. It deprived not only those who voted for her, but the entire national constituency that elects senator, of representation. It likely robbed her of a second term, as well, as she took a reputational hit from the attacks mounted by former president Rodrigo Duterte and his entire infrastructure.Unlike the many unknown citizens whose value lay in their being liquidated in the dark with little to no trace as to who, specifically, did it, the liquidation of Duterte’s political enemies took place in broad daylight and with him taking ownership every step of the way. The reason for this is that they were in the nature of public, political, executions as a deterrent to either opposition, investigation, or mere independence. For new money, there was Lucio Tan, for old, the Zobels; for print, there was this newspaper, for TV and radio, ABS-CBN; for online journalism, Rappler; for local governments, a small sampling of mayors, and for the legislature, there was De Lima.
Of all of them, it was De Lima who’d dared to investigate Duterte and thereby do justice to those liquidated in his so-called “war on drugs,” and it was she who bore the brunt of his fury. Some say the only thing she was spared, was a bullet or knife to her throat; but it very nearly ended up that way, in October 2022.
Of course, his hatred of her predated her joining the senate. It dated back to before she even joined the Cabinet. It dated back to when she was in the Commission on Human Rights. But it very nearly became an existential threat to Duterte once De Lima became a senator, had subpoena powers, and could shine a national spotlight on the question of liquidations. The hearings of the committee led to testimony that, to this day, are at the heart of ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court. The hearings couldn’t be allowed to continue with De Lima at the helm.
Here, the chamber she was elected to be part of, turned its collective back on her and did their chamber a disservice as a result. For this reason, the senators voted to oust her from the committee chairmanship didn’t merely engage in a routine shuffle of committee heads, they raised a white flag of surrender when they saw how angry De Lima made the then-chief executive. For this reason, Koko Pimentel, Tito Sotto, Alan Cayetano, Migz Zubiri, Ping Lacson, Cynthia Villar, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gringo Honasan, Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva, Dick Gordon, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Manny Pacquiao, Loren Legarda, and Grace Poe betrayed the fundamental duty of every senator (and, indeed, the reason for being of the senate) to think nationally instead of parochially, and to effectively provide a balance to the chief executive as the only other officials with a mandate from the same national constituency.
Duterte’s point had been made and the damage done, when others tried to belatedly do a De Lima. Dick Gordon, who was put in her place, vowing a more “objective” investigation, would, eventually, edge toward opposing Duterte but gain nothing politically from it. Only four senators voted against her ouster and thus, didn’t soil themselves: Frank Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, and Bam Aquino. Two more abstained: Ralph Recto and Antonio Trillanes IV, and two more didn’t vote: Chiz Escudero (and of course, De Lima herself). These soiled themselves a little less.
Sen. Bato dela Rosa reacted to De Lima being able to post bail, by saying he respected the decision of the court but felt compelled to ask why the cases against De Lima hadn’t been dismissed during the time of Duterte if, in fact, the cases were weak. Reading between the lines, what he’s really suggesting is that the difference between Duterte and President Marcos is that one president had the power and the interest, to suspend the full operations of the law, while the other seems uninterested in spending political capital to keep De Lima in jail. And there lies the vexing conclusion we’re left with.
In the (as of now) cold war between the Dutertes (the old man and to a certain extent, the daughter) and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (who’d also been reportedly insistent on De Lima being detained as her own revenge for being charged and detained) and the Marcoses (meaning the President and the First Lady but not senior sister-senator Imee, who remains a “Dutertista”), De Lima’s detention was the continuing maintenance cost for the now-defunct alliance.
Here is a truly remarkable piece of online journalism, in the way it graphically illustrates its topic, Fleets of Force: How China strong-armed its way into dominating the South China Sea:
China’s maritime militia is made up of civilians who on paper hold jobs as commercial fishermen. The blurring of lines is deliberate: China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has stressed the need for civilian-military unity to promote national security.
Such gray zone tactics help China quietly gain command over disputed areas. Beijing has used this method across its vast frontier, from the mountainous borders with South Asia to rocks in the East China Sea. And once China incrementally takes over, a new reality reigns.
That reality is literally inscribed. In May, Chinese coast guard and militia vessels operating in and near Vietnamese waters sailed routes that appeared to trace the first Chinese character in the word “China.” And that word has also been carved on the hills near China’s land borders.
China has already built military bases on multiple Spratly reefs. In the air over the South China Sea, Chinese fighter jets are confronting American military planes with greater frequency. At sea, Chinese vessels have, thus far, avoided a deadly confrontation. But an incident in a remote part of the South China Sea could well spark an international crisis.
Nate Silver on how Free Speech is in Trouble:
College students aren’t very enthusiastic about free speech. In particular, that’s true for liberal or left-wing students, who are at best inconsistent in their support of free speech and have very little tolerance for controversial speech they disagree with…
Reason #1: Woke ideas are popular on campus and are considerably less tolerant of free speech than traditional liberalism
I’m at the point where I’m tired of putting the term “woke” in scare quotes. Although the word is sometimes abused by conservative politicians, there exists a distinctive and influential set of ideological commitments that differ from traditional liberalism or leftism. And wokeness — or whatever you want to call it — particularly differs from liberalism when it comes to free speech…
John Gray on the Great Unraveling:
The Israel-Hamas war threatens to overturn what remains of a Western-led international order. An escalating conflict will empower Iran and Russia, strengthen swing states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and alienate the Global South. A blockage of oil supplies in the Strait of Hormuz would fuel inflation and ravage Western economies. Pulled back into the Middle East, the United States will turn away from Ukraine, its commitment to defending Taiwan will become more equivocal and the faltering hegemon will retreat. A fully multipolar system will come into being, with all its instabilities and dangers.
A great long read from The Guardian: The ghosts haunting China’s cities.
A chilling read for writers, in particular those who once upon a time flourished in the Twitter ecosystem: reading Max Read’s piece is both an exercise in self-awareness and a kind of out-of-body experience, as you’ll see:
More than a decade ago, the scholars Alice Marwick and danah boyd coined the phrase “context collapse” to describe the way social media platforms “collapse multiple audiences into single contexts.” The phrase is usually invoked to explain the particular vertigo-inducing weirdness of using platforms where you are encountering friends, coworkers, family members, breaking news, propaganda, Brazilian Dua Lipa fans, foot fetishists, etc., all at once. But in the case of Twitter, the “single context” into which all the others collapsed was often quite useful, especially the journalists: a means of understanding yourself, your work, and the social and professional positions you occupied. This remained true even well after it became clear that Twitter was “not real life,” and at best presented a warped mirror of the world outside of Twitter. (Up until Musk’s purchase of the site last year I would still search URLs for this newsletter’s posts, to see how the columns were being received and shared.)
That single context has now disappeared. Just on a practical level, it’s much harder to get a sense of where your pieces are being read and in what ways. This is particularly dismaying for the dying culture of #longreads, and magazine writers who relied on Twitter power-user “dutch ovens” of circular praise to enforce a sense of vitality and relevance, however narrowly confined. Someone recently asked me what I thought of [REDACTED FAMOUS MAGAZINE WRITER WITH MAJOR TWITTER PRESENCE/PERSONA]’s piece on [REDACTED SUBJECT OF WIDE POPULAR AND TWITTER INTEREST] and I realized I had no idea that the piece had even been published, even though it was a few weeks old at that point. I’m sure the piece was good, and likely successful by whatever metrics publications are using these days, but just a few years ago it would have been shocking to think that a piece by this writer, on this subject, could have completely passed me by.³
As a matter of software the replacement of Twitter with “X.com” is irrelevant to most people, who never used Twitter at all, or if they did knew it as a tool for following celebrities and news accounts, rather than as a whole context for their lives and work. But the disappearance of Twitter as a “single context” for not just the media business but adjacent reality-representation and meaning-making industries like entertainment, politics, and (some fractions of) tech means also the erosion of a relatively coherent, relatively shared elite understanding of the world.
What is happening feels like a kind of re-balkanization of the web, as our more-or-less single, more-or-less shared context — that is, “Twitter” the social ecosystem, not “Twitter” the specific website — seems to be distributing itself into other social networks, chat rooms, forums, newsletters. People like me are less clear about “what’s happening online” than we have been in more than a decade, and are also consequently willing to believe basically anything we’re told. On a small scale this means that you can’t tell whether or not a given magazine piece is part of “the conversation” beyond your immediate circle; on a larger scale, it means you feel even more in the dark about (say) American political opinion.
This is the internet economy in which Yashar Ali’s tweet claiming that “thousands of TikToks (at least) have been posted where people share how they just read Bin Laden’s infamous ‘Letter to America’” can gain real traction.⁴ Between its novelty, its design, and the general youth of its user base, TikTok appears as in an impenetrably different context to Twitter,and no one can quite gauge what’s happening on it.