Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Maharlika Mess

Manuel L. Quezon III
3 min readDec 10, 2022

Ahead of next week’s column, some observations. There’s been an influx of news, the latest being that the House is looking for a scapegoat, but let’s rewind to this week’s developments.

Some thoughts on #maharlikafund and two news items and what they suggest. The House blinked, caving in to public opinion, while it seems the BSP Governor blinked, too: caving in to palace pressure. Both reveal which constituents matter compared to others. Let’s explore this.

Per .@tinapperez’s thread, House — here she mentioned sponsors as a whole, which suggests it includes Speaker and the Senior Deputy Speaker — believes they provoked the members of SSS and GSIS to anger and decided to backtrack:

This, after two of the major sponsors, the Speaker and Senior Deputy Speaker, thought they were imbued with Marcos magic to inspire instant obedience from legislators. The House tried to move, the Senate right away sent signals of skepticism. Invoking the President didn’t help.

Here is the reality in terms of the factions in the ruling coalition. They are stacked up against both the President and Veep, neither of whom thought it necessary to grow their nominal parties upon winning. In the first place for an ex-ruling party, PDP-Laban remains remarkably large, and under the control of former prexy RRD. Direction of Lakas may have been taken from GMA and now held by Martin R., but she waits in the wings while he can’t even get his cousin, the prexy, to head the party. The three other biggest pol groups are corporate subsidiaries.

And in the end all politics is local and while most national issues may have little impact on House districts, every district has a large chunk of SSS and GSIS members. There is no win-win with the issue joined at the level of “do you trust…” (universal mistrust is a default).

On the other hand, the BSP Governor, Medalla, at first may have resented (or not) being painted as willing to sacrifice a full term to speaking truth to power to the Palace, in contrast to the ex-BSP Governor turned Finance Chief, Diokno, reportedly wanting to go back to BSP.

So at first Medalla expressed misgivings about Maharlika Scheme, Diokno trumpeted support beginning with the loyal declaration that it was the President’s desire; Medalla was seemingly backstopped by a swift declaration by business and civil society groups opposing the scheme.

Which at first blush seems a rousing backstopping of Medalla and cover for resistance to the scheme: but if you wanted any more proof that technocrats are utterly at a loss when it comes to politics, Medalla surrendered to the Palace just when he had the statement of business to support his position of prudence — and worse, he caved in just when the House, normally slavish, decided its loyalty to the President ends where its loyalty to reelection begins. This leaves the Speaker and Senior Deputy Speaker appearing weaker, and GMA with her statement able to say she was a team player tho her pointing to the President as the person at whom the buck would stop, may have greatly hindered the effort to build up public support for the Maharlika scheme. At the very least the Palace and its legislative lieutenants came up short on this.

The parties that matter
The conglomerates’ veto power

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Manuel L. Quezon III

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