Manolo Quezon is The Explainer Newsletter — Issue #6 (1Sambayan Snafu?)

Saturday (Independence Day) I launched the Manolo Quezon is The Explainer Podcast. Do listen if you have a chance, it’s currently available on Anchor itself, on Spotify and I’m working on getting it on Apple Podcasts.

Update: It’s now available on Apple Podcasts!

Question: would you like the contents of these newsletters as a podcast, too? Let me know.

Electoral Merry-Go-Round: 1Sambayan SNAFU?

Even without heckling from administration loyalists, the opposition-inclined seem to have been left if not unimpressed, then actually disappointed, by the 1Sambayanan effort to present potential opposition candidates.

For my part, I gave my two cents on the effort by 1Sambayan’s opening round robin: see yesterday’s Inquirer front page story. My takeaway: We simply aren’t used to the idea of a convention anymore.

As I understand it, it was supposed to go like this. Potential opposition candidates would introduce themselves to the public, which would then select the opposition candidates for the presidency and vice presidency sometime in July.

1Sambayan names 6 choices to pit vs Duterte’s anointed in 2022 | Inquirer
Vice President Leni Robredo, the acknowledged leader of the political opposition, a human rights lawyer, and four prominent political figures were included in a shortlist of possible presidential and vice presidential candidates of the 1Sambayan against the administration ticket in the 2022 national elections.

The end result is what led to much head-shaking and tsk-tsking. One potential candidate after another backed away: in the end, the only two who seem to be willing to remain in the process are Vice President Robredo and former senator Trillanes. That provides a certain amount of clarity, it seems to me. For whatever reason — whether a change of mind, bad organizing, or both — those being mentioned as opposition standard bearers backed off. So that solves that.

Where we are

The Tweet below — and the article it links to — got me thinking.

Here is the passage(s) from the article that I found peculiar.

Good governance and competence were the buzzwords during 1Sambayan’s launch. The plan is to select the final slate by subjecting potential bets to a vetting process, where they would be screened based on their track record, “upright” stand on key issues, platforms, and winnability.

The danger here, argued governance expert Michael Yusingco from the Ateneo School of Government, is 1Sambayan getting stuck in the anti-Duterte narrative. They could end up failing to articulate the specific programs they can offer to the people — much like what happened to the LP-led Otso Diretso slate in 2019.

“That’s actually one of the problems of Otso Diretso — their grandstanding [overshadowed] their platform… So this is exactly what the 1Sambayan should avoid,” said Yusingco

The Otso Diretso bets focused on attacking Duterte, instead of presenting themselves as the better alternative to the senatorial candidates whom the President was endorsing. They even resorted to a publicity stunt with a jet ski and a boat docked at a pier to showcase their intent to protect the West Philippine Sea from the Chinese military.

There’s much to be disgruntled about with Duterte, the misogynist president whose government could not stop the coronavirus infection of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. Yet Duterte remains popular among ordinary Filipinos, who remain averse to confrontational politics and prioritize livelihood and survival over everything else.

Now let me tell you what’s peculiar. The end explains why the Ocho Direcho Slate lost — the President was popular; he threw his popularity behind some, if not all, his administration candidates. That is all you need to know because that is the dynamic of a mid-term senatorial election: a referendum on the sitting president.

Midterm scorecards as determined by Senate results

If an academic doesn’t know this and talks to a reporter who doesn’t know this, you get pointless conclusions. A curious commentary; not that it doesn’t make fair points but I was really surprised at characterization of 2019 midterms as “embarrassing result” — it was a wholly predictable result and if it came as a surprise, it tells you there’s a shortness of perspective at work.

Why we’re here for some time to come

Yesterday I strung some thoughts together returning to themes I’ve been exploring in recent years.

We have to realize a 30 year era, its values and assumptions ended in 2016, a long run by any standard in any nation in any time. There’s an ingoing reaction to that reflecting the new personality so to speak of our society, as much a result of intended but also unintended consequences of the three decades that came before — and the decades before that. The majority of 1986 is now a minority and the majority of 2016, which was actually a minority, thinks and acts as one and by so doing may be poised to actually become one, which means this era still has a long time left to play out. As in previous eras, the dying of the old and the birth and maturation of the new, have a period of overlap. I personally believe the current era is still going to play out and the public will look for a new improved “Great Eagle Father.”

On a functional note the worm within was the inability of the Constitution to be amended which fostered extremism as our body politic found itself unable to reform the rules from within; on a societal note, rise of a New Middle Class without the civic consciousness of the Old.

That erasing of a civic sense was due to the ghettoization to cable, of public affairs shows and the chaotic nature of news chasing minute-by-minute ratings; the professionalization of the military ended coups but police corruption has made us a police state, literally. And the corporatization of political parties has led to our democracy now being the rule of minorities who no longer have to be convinced but instead, stoked in their preconceived prejudices as the economy is on autopilot due to umbilical cord to OFWs.

Thing is all sides: left, right, center, are out of answers and even a deep bench of leaders. The desire for order has checkmated liberal democratic, centrist, politics; the only big ideas of the right: federalism or a constitutional authoritarian revival, are checkmated by public opinion, too; the Left can split its vote and maximize in a sense its token representation in a party list swamped by dynasties but fails at a national vote (with solitary exception of Rissa Hontiveros as face of half of left at civil war with itself). So everyone’s stuck.

Today Began Yesterday Department

Trivia: the June 12 1Sambayan primary of sorts took place 36 years to the day after the UNIDO convention to nominate Salvador H. Laurel as the opposition candidate against Ferdinand Marcos. The video above, from the AP Archive from June 12, 1985, shows contrasting scenes: Marcos at the Luneta pretending to raise the Philippine flag, and (6:11 onwards) Laurel at the UNIDO Convention (at the Areneta Coliseum, where the premartial law conventions had once been held), which nominated him; the picture above shows Aurora A. Aquino speaking (her husband and Laurel’s father were close wartime associates; Ninoy and Doy had friendships dating to the wartime era) and then the opposition refused to coalesce.

June 12, 1985 — The Philippine Diary Project
Today was a whole day affair. More than 25,000 delegates and leaders of UNIDO attended the Nominating Convention at the Araneta Coliseum. They came at their own expense. All we gave them was a hamburger, two hard boiled eggs and a banana for lunch. All political leaders identified with the opposition were present. Even Cory… Read More »June 12, 1985

It took the Convenor’s Group to finally figure out a system that would get the different factions to unite: something the UNIDO convention on the model of the premartial law ones, failed to do. I wrote about this back in 1996 in a summary of the 1973–1985 process of consolidating the opposition:

Around the time of the May 14 elections, a Jesuit and businessmen’s group began deliberating again on the contingencies should Marcos die. This group called themselves the Facilitators. They finally decided on a way to find a candidate quickly. They called it the “fast-track system.” Its aim, to avoid the inevitable bickering and internecine strife sure to attend the selection of a common presidential candidate should elections be suddenly called.

Emmanuel Soriano, Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, Ricardo Lopa, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, and Ramon del Rosario Jr., all members of Manindigan!, were the architects of this process. They met with the Convenor Group, composed of Tanada (representing the “Left of Center”), Jaime Ongpin (representing moderates), and Cory Aquino, the “symbol of unity.”

Both groups met on November 13, 1984,and came up with a list of “potential standard bearers”: Butz Aquino, Jose Diokno, Teofisto Guingona, Eva Kalaw, Salvador Laurel, Raul Manglapus, Ramon Mitra, Ambrosio Padilla, Aquilino Pimentel, Rafael Salas, and Jovito Salonga. A month later these people met with the Facilitators and the Convenor Group, and agreed to sign a Declaration of Unity. Kalaw and Laurel abstained.

Laurel did not sign because to the already tone-down anti-US bases line in the declaration. He did not think the cause of freedom needed to add to its enemies. He also offered an alternative method for selecting a united opposition’s champion, one that sidestepped the cause-oriented groups, relying purely on the politicians. His group called itself the National Unification Committee or NUC.

The Convenor’s Group and the potential standard bearers, in an agreement signed on January 2, chose a system in which the potential candidates would chose in secret ballot the standard bear from among themselves by a simple majority vote. They committed themselves to look for a more creative method, but in the meantime this would do.

The NUC offered a compromise solution, whereby the cause-oriented groups would be entitled to 30 percent representation in the convention that would choose the standard bearer. It invited the Convenor’s Group to a meeting. The Group declined, sending Mitra to read a message politely explaining that it could not abandon the fast track system.

But the negotiations went on, in time-honored political fashion, with a continuing exchange of proposals and counter-proposals. They came to a tentative agreement on the actual selection of a candidate…

This model was adopted in 2000 to unify opposition to Joseph Estrada and is again being attempted in the form of 1Sambayan, with its “Convenors” and the round robin process that seems to have been rushed into execution on independence day. This is because once they died, political party conventions have never recovered the vitality or relevance they had prior to martial law.

Ironically Justice Carpio in his politically active earlier career, helped kill off the party nomination as a selection process, when FVR bolted the Lakas Party in 1992. Parties have become electoral vehicles — branding for pollwatchers — instead of real electoral players.

Interesting Readings

A very interesting response to the first episode of Manolo Quezon is The Explainer Podcast came from Jay Fajardo on Medium. An interesting read — and listen,

Marcha Patriotica. Exploring the Soundtrack of Philippine… | by Jay Fajardo | Jun, 2021 |
I just finished Manuel L. Quezon III’s inaugural podcast episode of The Explainer, reviving his old show that presented current events contextualized by history, which aired on the the ANC Channel…

So what were campaigns before martial law like, including party conventions? This round-up provides a crash course.

Mid-term and other elections as reported by the Free Press « The Philippines Free Press
May 2013 is a mid-term election. The classic chronicle of a mid-term, and particularly interesting as it reported trends that have become par for the course in modern campaigns, is Nick Joaquin’s Ayos na ang Buto-Buto, November, 1963: This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains.…

Spotted online

Peace Research Institute Frankfurt published a report by Peter Kreuzer. Will return to it soon, but it’s a noteworthy study.

Governors and Mayors in the Philippines: Resistance to or Support for Duterte’s Deadly War on

When Rodrigo Duterte took office as the President of the Philippines on June 30, 2016, his campaign focus on illegal drugs as a national security problem that necessitated an iron-fisted response became government policy. Duterte gave carte blanche to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to kill drug pushers and dealers at will as long as they could somehow claim to have been acting in self-defense. Thousands of suspects died at the hand of police officers and vigilantes who understood Duterte’s rash rhetoric as an invitation to participate in a state-led, nationwide killing spree. However, killings were not uniformly spread across the Philippines, but focused on highly urbanized regions and especially the National Capital Region (NCR) and the adjacent regions of Central Luzon and CALABARZON (regs. 3 and 4a) as well as the urbanized metropolises of the Visayas and Mindanao (Cebu and Davao). It was hardly noticed that there was not only huge variation between rural and urban environments, but also within regions consisting of otherwise fairly similar local government units (LGUs). This spatial as well as temporal variation of police use of deadly force within the urbanized core of the Philippines was accompanied by huge variation in the related phenomenon of vigilante killings. These differences in local reaction to a central government policy militate against explanations of police violence centering on specifics or deficiencies of police organization, ideology, culture, or patterns of policing. Given that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is a national organization with uniform training, structure and policy of career advancement, uniformity would be expected rather than variation. Structural explanations also fall short, given that many of these urban LGUs are as similar as could be expected under real-world conditions. In the Philippines, national politics are crucial as an explanation for the campaign in the first place: by fiat of the president. This report argues that local politics are crucial as an explanation for variations in local implementation of the campaign against illegal drugs.

This might be illegal now but it wasn’t in 1928…

oli r. on Twitter: “Variations on the Philippine National Anthem (1928), by Alexander Lippay (1892–1939) Performed by the Manila Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Arturo Molina. Happy Independence Day!"
“Variations on the Philippine National Anthem (1928), by Alexander Lippay (1892–1939) Performed by the Manila Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Arturo Molina. Happy Independence Day!”

“…Eaten by a shark” belongs in the Ripley’s believe it… or not department!

oli r. on Twitter: “From Left to Right: Deposed and Died in Exile, Eaten by a Shark, Assassinated While Having Dinner, Deposed and Died in Exile, Voluntarily Retired, Deposed and Died in Exile, Deposed and Exiled, and Pressured into Retirement.…"
“From Left to Right: Deposed and Died in Exile, Eaten by a Shark, Assassinated While Having Dinner, Deposed and Died in Exile, Voluntarily Retired, Deposed and Died in Exile, Deposed and Exiled, and Pressured into Retirement.”

Environmental horror story:

Shyla Francisco on Twitter: “This makes Philippines the top source of plastic emission into the ocean, followed by India and Malaysia. According to the study, more than a quarter of rivers responsible for 80% of ocean plastic pollution in the world are from PH.…"
“This makes Philippines the top source of plastic emission into the ocean, followed by India and Malaysia. According to the study, more than a quarter of rivers responsible for 80% of ocean plastic pollution in the world are from PH.”

Quote of the Day

“The people care more for good government than they do for self-government,” adding that, “the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.” — Manuel L. Quezon, quoted by former Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison in his diary on December 23, 1938

Today in History (and The Philippine Diary Project)

June 14, 1942 — The Philippine Diary
At the Shoreham in Washington. Quezon came in greatly exhilarated, having just signed the United Nations pact together with the Mexican Ambassador –with whom he left the White House, arm-in-arm, saying to the press: “This is not put on –this is the way our two countries really feel towards one another.” Quezon remarked to me:… Read More »June 14, 1942

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.