Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Patriarch in Winter
My column today looks at Sept. (see: Winter is coming) to explain Oct. to Nov. developments as a series of attempts at intimidation that didn’t succeed. Plus, I tackle why the President is unhappy over the eventual configuration of candidates. Can something still be done?
This Week’s The Long View
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:06 AM November 17, 2021
Ever since we restricted presidents to a single, six-year term, the dilemma of an incumbent nearing their expiration date has been twofold. First, continuity is the toughest pitch to make to the voter in a national election because the one who ought to continue can’t be in contention. Second, since the race necessarily becomes one for a successor, an incumbent’s power of endorsement is weak, because nontransferable mostly, while in the ensuing electoral battle, the authority and resources of the incumbent evaporate as election day nears.
Going into September, the President showed every sign of bucking the 1998–2016 trend in which Ramos, Arroyo, and Aquino III all failed to significantly muster a successful succession operation. Then two things happened: the Pharmally probe, and the surveys, which set the stage for the looming filing of candidacies in October. The President, formerly unassailable, took a hit in his ratings; more to the point, his political heir, Sen. Bong Go, became entangled in the whole mess. To top things off, even Daughterte took a hit in the surveys.
The results played out from September to October. The trial balloon of a Go for president and Duterte for vice president was lowered. Instead of the President seeking the vice presidency, Go announced he was setting his ambitions lower to seek that post. Others proposed that the President, in turn, seek a seat in the Senate as a kind of insurance. This left the question of Daughterte seeking the presidency. But when the October deadline for candidacies loomed, she excused herself from the presidential proceedings. What followed was a mad scramble to produce placeholder candidates until the administration could get its act together.
As I’d suggested in this space, the President lashing out at the Marcoses was due to his realizing they now knew he needed them more than they needed him. Back in September, I pointed out the tensions between the President and the Marcoses after the President had taken pains to spell out the limited, user-friendly nature of his political relationship with the Marcoses, one he’d considered fully paid with the state funeral he’d granted the late dictator.
For her part, former president and speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, with whom Daughterte had successfully engineered a congressional coup, was widely seen as brokering a deal in which Daughterte would seek the presidency and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the vice presidency. This was obviously a problematic, not to mention humiliating, state of affairs for Marcos Jr., suggesting as it did his having to bow to the Dutertes and Arroyos.
Then the President got into the act. A bully more often than not relies on an already fearsome reputation to intimidate his targets into giving in. The past month, then, was about the President trying to bully Marcos Jr. to sliding down, and his daughter to sliding up, in the 2022 presidential and vice presidential derby. Because from the point of view of the President or his people, all the maneuverings left him a bystander. Being on top of the heap also meant it made no sense to bow out for the purpose of a Marcos restoration, which serves no one’s interests but the Marcoses themselves. Not least since the President’s popularity has stabilized and Daughterte would make just as viable a candidate — without putting the President, after he leaves office, at the mercy of the Marcoses. Go, on the other hand, might stand a better chance for the veephood.
The problem was, neither Marcos Jr. nor Daughterte blinked when it came to Mr. Duterte’s bullying. Instead, Daughterte blinked in the face of Marcos Jr.’s pushing back against Arroyo’s effort to pressure him to slide down and let Daughterte seek the presidency. She settled for the veephood, which leaves the Dutertes with less than nothing: Politically, she’d have been better off continuing to run for mayor.
It may be, to their other political peers, that Daughterte could be expected to blink just as the President has been known to blink, too. It was a peace brokered by Jesus Dureza that ended the word war between Mayor Duterte and Senior Superintendent Eduardo Matillano in 2010; a face-to-face showdown, as Matillano had dared Mr. Duterte to do, was averted. Neither had the mayor shown up in the duel to which he’d challenged broadcaster Waldy Carbonell in 2003.
In his first test of leadership, Marcos Jr. held firm. The President’s last card is to disqualify Marcos Jr., to fix the problem Daughterte had created. But the Commission on Elections is independent, just like Congress.
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @mlq3
Today began yesterday
Where did today’s drama begin? 1961 when Rogelio dela Rosa first celebrity senator made a bid for the presidency, egged on by Pres. Garcia but his former bro in law Diosdado Macapagal, convinced him to withdraw. By 1863, the violence in political language was already causing unease among politicians. Two classic pieces of political reportage by Nick Joaquin bear close reading today.
The Yabut broadcast started a run on the bank. From noon of November 3, the bakya-and-salakot crowd began storming Roger’s house, wanting to know if his slogan — “We Shall Return To Malacañang With Roger De La Rosa As President” — had indeed shrunk to a starker notice: “No Returns, No Refunds.”
His henchmen say they were afraid there would be trouble that night, so ugly was the temper of the idol’s fans. The early-evening crowd, mostly from the suburbs, eventually dispersed; but by two o-clock in the morning another crowd, from more distant hinterlands, had formed in front of the senator’s gate and was demanding to be let in. These indignant visitors were admitted and staged what practically amounted to a sit-down strike in the large nipa house on the senator’s lawn.
“Let us not move from here,” said they, “until he himself comes and tells us what he really intends to do.”
Noon came, and they were still there, squatting inside the nipa house and along the driveway, but their leader had still not appeared to them.
Only a few of them were allowed inside the senator’s residence, and there they found not Roger but his brother Jaime, who, when asked about Roger, replied with a scathing attack on the administration.
One thing must be said for Roger: he really drew the peasant crowd, for the faces one saw on his lawn that morning had the look of the Philippine earth: burned black by the sun and gnarled by misery. The men were in cheap polo shirts, the women in shapeless camisolas. It was obvious they had dressed in a hurry. One heard that this one had come all the way from Quezon, that one all the way from Cagayan; a man said he had flown in from Mindanao. All had a common complaint: why did they have to learn about this from Yabut? Why hadn’t Roger taken them into his confidence? They all claimed to be volunteer workers who had used their own money to spread Roger’s cause. If Roger backed out, they would lose face. How could they return to their barrios if they had lost face?
They all clung to the hope that all this was but more “black propaganda.” Their boy had not withdrawn; or if he was thinking of doing so, they would persuade him to continue the fight: let him but appear before them.
A cry rose up:
“Matalong lumalaban, huwag matalong umuurong (To go down fighting, not to go down retreating)!”
Had he lost heart because he had run out of funds? There was still some money they could scrape up among themselves; one man said he had already contributed P3,000 and was willing to contribute more; after all, there were only ten days left of the campaign. It didn’t matter if Roger was a sure loser.
“Let the votes we cast for him,” cried a bespectacled woman from Binangonan, “be a clear picture for 1965!”
The cheers that greeted this seemed to indicate that the Roger extravaganza would, by insistent public request, be extended for another ten days. Poor deluded rustics who did not know that the decision had already been made! They could cheer and argue and weep all they wanted; they were standing outside a closed door. Their fate was being settled, without their knowledge, in other rooms of other houses behind other doors, while they offered their very blood to the cause.
But as the day climbed toward noon and no Roger showed up, hope became feebler, the mutterings became darker. Inside the nipa house and all over the driveway, angry knots of disciples debated what to do.
Some said they would still vote for Roger, even if he had withdrawn, even if their votes should be “nulo.” Others cried that Roger could commit himself but not them to another candidate. The angriest spoke bitterly about the quality of Pampango blood and swore that they would, in protest, go over to the Garcia camp. A few still wistfully hoped that Roger would come and tell them that the show would go on.
By five that afternoon, the hope was dead. Roger had appeared on TV, with Macapagal; the withdrawal had been announced, the change of stand had been made.
That night, Roger’s house stood dark and silent. Gone were the noisy folk who had filled the lawn all day. The angry ones made good their threat and went over to the Garcia camp that very night. The undecided ones crept back to their barrios, wondering how to save face. The trip back must have been agonizing: whichever way they looked they saw that handsome face smiling from posters, from billboards, from streamers hung across roads, promising Malacañang to all these pathetic folk who had hitched their carretelas to a star.
Manileños who attended both the LP and the NP miting de avance could not but note the “visayanization” of their city, its utter conquest by the seafolk of the South. The LP crowd was still recognizable Manileño (Villegas’s yeba urbanites) though it’s significant that the speaker who made the greatest hit with the audience that Sunday night was Climaco of Zamboanga. The other “Star of the South,” Gerry Roxas, didn’t shine so bright that night, through no fault of his own. He was rising to speak when word came that the President had not yet arrived. It turned out that the President had not yet arrived; so Roxas preceeded to the mike. As he started to speak the stage and plaza buzzed again with he rumor that the President was already there. “I rushed through my speech,” recalls Roxas, “like a locomotive.” Had he been allowed to speak at his leisure he might have proved that the witching powers associated with his province now work as well on Plaza Miranda.
The following night, at the NP miting de avance, there was again no doubt that the crowd responded most fraternally to another Southerner, Senator Roseller Lim of Zamboanga — and this on the testimony of a Pampango-Manileño, Senator Puyat. A forecaster could indeed have read in the size and temper of that multitude on Plaza Miranda the great swing of the South to the Opposition that the next day’s polls would reveal. If the politicos want a new rule on Manila, here’s a possible one: As Manila goes, the South goes. Because Manila is now the biggest Southern city in the Philippines.
Puyat says he felt rather scared when the atmosphere became so charged with passion the miting turned into a mighty dialogue between speaker on stage and the crowd below.
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
“I felt,” says Puyat, “that if the speaker had shouted On to Malacañang! that mob would have followed — and I fear to think what would have happened there. We politicians carry a big responsibility.”
As one listened to Puyat’s account, one had the creepy feeling, too, that our political campaigns have gotten out of hand and are becoming sick.
You could make a very interesting Venn diagram of the Marcos Jr. constituency based on these points. Each one represents agroup of people with sincerely-held beliefs, I’d say. And there are much many more than you might think. It’s like that election in the 60s when Filipinos suddenly discovered there was a significant US Statehood movement in the PH.
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