Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #45: Our hamster-wheel Republic
After five columns on the Marcos candidacy (The Marcos Maneuver, June 23, 2021; Winter is Coming, September 15, 2021; Peak Marcos? September 29, 2021; A Soft-Boiled Start to 2022, October 10, 2021; and Marcos Jr. biding his time, October 20, 2021), an effort to contextualize such candidacies in terms of broader trends over the past thirty years. That’s the purpose of my column today.
This week’s Long View
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:06 AM October 27, 2021
Here is the danger: In a republic where the rule of the minority, and not the majority, prevails, the path for those discredited in 1986, to achieve not just rehabilitation, but restoration, by 2022, is wide open. This early in the campaign, it’s not an inevitability — yet.
The problem, we are told, is that post-Edsa administrations failed to instill critical thinking and “soulful awareness” of the dictatorship.
How quickly everyone forgets. Edsa Dos was proof of the absolute contrary. An entire generation of the young took to the streets in validation and emulation of Edsa. What followed is what’s instructive because stillborn: you cannot fit people power, an exercise inherently outside the law, into a constitutional straitjacket. Which is what happened.
The logical outcome of Edsa Dos should actually have been a revolutionary government and the sweeping aside of the institutions that had failed the moment impeachment led to the streets and the armed forces, blessed by the Church, shifted the balance of power.
This is what made foreign observers uneasy and it led to the twin phenomena of the urban insurrection known as Edsa Tres in 2001, and the State of Emergency of 2006. People power ended and gave way to a consensus to endure Mrs. Arroyo rather than risk further adventurism in the streets.
For 20 years whether we like it or not, we’ve lived in dead-end times, because the system itself is impossible to change. The path to refreshing our operating system, the Constitution, through people’s initiative and referendum was closed due to a combination of factors. Taking to the streets at the behest of Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin was understood at the time to be calls to give the then-new Constitution a fighting chance to prove its relevance. But it began a process that closed off institutional paths to Charter change. Even without the two, our leaders from all sides have lacked the courage to attempt a constitutional convention as well as public support because what interests the political class, unicameral parliamentarism, is unattractive to a public that does not want to lose its power to choose presidents and a senate which, for all the flaws of its membership, is still the best training ground for the presidency and the main venue for a national approach to national problems. Without public support, administrations cannot risk a constitutional crisis by forcing through Charter change in Congress, not least because the Constitution was mangled in such a way as to make that process problematic, as any senator will tell you. The military, for its part, has outgrown the decades of political adventurism. Even the Supreme Court is not immune to occasional fits of clarity and statesmanship.
But a country that cannot find a path to updating or simply modifying its basic law is a country condemned to institutional stagnation and irrelevance. That irrelevance has long been shown by the economic refugees we hail as heroes: OFWs. For those left behind, whatever change that is attempted has proven either too little too late or too painful and inconvenient to be tolerated by those who already have something to continue; furthermore, out of the impossibility of changing the system has sprung a committed minority never reconciled to Edsa and its verdict, who are energized in seeking other means to destroy the democratic system from within.
Administrations are elected to govern. All have, to one extent or the other, proposed policies and pitched plans to be able to govern more effectively. Where they have succeeded is when these policies and plans are done within the ambit of legislation — and here the catalog ranges from the Local Government Code to VAT to reproductive health and K-to-12, with this last law going to the heart of the matter. It is in school that the arena for instilling critical thinking and “soulful awareness” can be found and should be fought.
We have an educational system in which the state actively interferes by requiring specific classes which in turn eats into the overall time and resources devoted to education. Rizal is one example long proven to be observed in the breach in many Catholic schools and be pointless in the case of most other institutions of higher learning. The Constitution is taught in its own subject but the teaching of it, survey after survey has shown, has resulted in little knowledge of it. The purging of the General Education curriculum, on the other hand, accompanied by media’s banishing of current affairs program to the ghetto of cable, has led to the atrophy of our collective civic sense over the past 20 or more years.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mlq3
The persistent myth of Marcosian “vision”
In reaction to the above: The autobahn argument. But the vision thing itself was freely borrowed and often debased from his predecessors. See 48:00 onwards in this talk (below) in which I reacted to a presentation on FM and his “Science policy.”
Incidentally the autobahn argument’s a myth, too. Up to now too few see how a veneer of modernity was lacquered over a profoundly antimodern regime, which dismantled the things that got in the way. That a mishmash of ultimately larcenous projects displaced projects and plans discarded because predating the conjugal dictatorship.
The 1973 Constitution was a pale imitation of the 1943 Constitution just as Batasan Pambansa was the Occupation National Assembly as KBL was Kalibapi; that a theoretical attempt at Federalism expired on the need to gerrymander to coddle warlords (look and ask why Regions were established, and representation shifted to being regional, then abandoned); that even in culture the Cultural Center was ultimately a disguise to landgrabbing of the get rich quick scheme of Harry Stonehill at the cost of the thought-out development plans for the Rizal Centennial Compex in Rizal Park; how QC was killed off and replaced with an ultimately unfocused Pasay/ everywhere scheme.
Issues for voters, and the leaders looked for
Interesting excerpts: what the electorate considers important issues in 2022, the characteristics they seek in elected leaders, and the public standing of the administration (different from the president’s standing) sinking over time.
The Stratbase ADR Institute had commissioned a Social Weather Stations survey in June 2021 to determine the issues that should be addressed by candidates running for national positions in the May 2022 elections. The findings reflected largely the same sentiments in the September 2021 Pulse Asia survey: The first top three political-economic issues were “providing jobs” (56 percent), “controlling the prices of basic services and commodities” (54 percent), and “eradicating graft and corruption in government” (43 percent).
Stratbase also commissioned a Pulse Asia survey on June 7–16, 2021, to determine the most important traits or characteristics a national candidate should possess. “Political integrity” took top priority. Other traits raised included “Has concern for the poor, pro-poor” (48 percent), “Not corrupt” (47 percent), “Trustworthy and honest” (37 percent), “Has a good platform and can give solutions to the problems of the country” (32 percent), “Fights anomalies in the government” (25 percent), “Untarnished name and reputation” (22 percent), and “Fulfills promises” (21 percent).
Surveys have also revealed the decline in approval and performance ratings of the national administration on selected national issues, demonstrating the ebb of populism in the country. As early as November 2020, the comparative ratings on issues related to addressing the needs of the population were going downhill.
The administration’s approval ratings in the September 2021 survey showed significant declines in a broad range of issues: “controlling inflation” (-26); “fighting graft and corruption in government” (-25); “controlling the spread of COVID-19” (-25); “increasing the pay of workers” (-25); “reducing the poverty of many Filipinos” (-24); “creating jobs” (-23); and “providing assistance/subsidy to those who lost their livelihood and jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic” (-20).
Additionally, the roiling West Philippine Sea issue has gained the attention of many Filipinos, according to the June and September 2021 surveys: 14 percent believe it is one of the national issues that needs to be addressed by a national candidate, while 22 percent say a candidate should offer clear solutions to the problem. Comparatively, the national administration’s performance in addressing this issue has declined by 16 percentage points in the past year.
Electoral Merry-Go-Round: Tulfo’s jab
His recent column, to my mind, suggests November 15 is fast approaching with things still up in the air, as far as the logical administration goal being a slate that consists not just of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. but another person representing the Duterte coalition of 2016–2022. The Tulfo column by this measure aims to provoke in aid of such a unification. The provocative part is suggesting that the Cusi-Romualdez combine (which is code for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) is against a Daughterte candidacy. Yet the two women — Daughterte and GMA — cooperated effectively enough, in making GMA Speaker without regard to the President’s wishes.
Undeniable speculations have flown thick and fast about the meeting between Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte-Carpio and former senator and presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in Cebu City…
My little birdies in Cebu said that Sara might just run as Bongbong’s party-mate to upset Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who’s running for the vice presidency.
She also wants to unsettle her father, President Digong.
Several times during the party, Sara expressed abhorrence over Go’s close bonding with her father, according to one of my little birdies…
Go was the Special Assistant to the President, or SAP, a title he held until he was elected senator.
Sara implied that even after getting elected senator, Bong Go continues to be “servile” — that’s not my choice of wording, but of my little birdies — to Digong.
There’s nothing wrong with Bong being a servant to her father, Sara implied; it’s just that she and her siblings can’t go directly to the President without passing through him.
To be fair, Go is just following orders from the President: everybody, including his relatives, will have to pass through him.
So, what really transpired during the “chance” meeting between the presidential daughter and the son of former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.?
Here’s what I gathered from my spies in Cebu:
Sara said that in August her father’s wish was to run for vice president with Bong Go as standard-bearer. She called it “Plan A.”
The “Plan B” was for Sara to run for president with Bong Go as her running mate.
But last week, “Plan C” was hatched by Majority Speaker Romualdez and Energy Secretary Al Cusi, touting a Bongbong Marcos (BBM)-Bong Go (BG) tandem.
Why? They want to stop headstrong Sara at all costs, according to my spies.
As we all know, there’s bad blood between daughter and father.
Sara hasn’t gotten over her parents’ separation; she sides with her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman, a Filipino-German who’s a former Philippine Airlines flight attendant.
When Sara was elected mayor along with her father as vice mayor, her first order of business was to dismiss all her father’s Davao City Hall subordinates.
Under Plan C, according to my Cebu spies, Digong would run for the Senate, with an eye for acquiring the position of Senate president.
Plan C, which will be presented to Bongbong Marcos anytime now, requires the following from Bongbong himself: he would have to retain all key Cabinet members, such as Francisco Duque for health, Cusi for energy, Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez for finance and Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea as executive secretary.
From where I sit, it seems that the current administration has figured out everything, including a Marcos-Go win and a victory for Digong in the Senate race.
Why are they so cocky about winning?
What if Bongbong Marcos does not accede?
What will happen to him if he doesn’t agree, given that he’s leading in all the current surveys for “presidentiables?”
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