Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Restoration Accomplished

My column suggested simply saying “next” or “future” president instead of “presumptive.” We don’t know who’s helping put together his coming Cabinet but we know it’s half technocrat, half politico. The future First Lady is, likely, key.

As it turned out, yesterday Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte were proclaimed president-elect and vice president-elect by Congress.

This week’s The Long View

Future president | Inquirer Opinionopinion.inquirer.net

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:35 AM May 25, 2022

During the campaign, it seemed to me that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went through a kind of “Bam Aquinofication,” doing with hair and shirt-jac what Bam did with hair and glasses, to imprint himself with the aura of greatness. Since his return from Australia, a more relaxed, in-between look seems in place, as befits a future president who now has his own mandate.

Clumsy linguistic contortions (“presumptive president-elect”), simply because the congressional canvassing and proclamation aren’t done, are ridiculous. He is the next president. Before May 9 turned into May 10, the country knew it would be him. His is the third-highest first-term victory, percentage-wise, of any president in our electoral history. This is the only enduring point of comparison over time in a country with an ever-increasing population (the records stand as follows: Ramon Magsaysay, 68.90 percent in 1953; Manuel Quezon, 67.98 percent in 1935; Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 58.7 percent in 2022, which edges out Diosdado Macapagal’s 55.05 percent in 1961, a ranking held for 62 years).

It is a mandate secure enough to make everyone, including the members of both chambers of Congress themselves, blind to the conflict of interest or simply poor taste represented by Sen. Imee Marcos and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez being members of the joint canvassing committee tasked to proclaim Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (their brother and first cousin, respectively) as president-elect.

We are so unfamiliar with this that it’s even been remarked, as if it was peculiar, that the highest-ranking senator, Robin Padilla (grandson of Jose Padilla, a Bulacan congressman-turned-actor who used the screen name Mario de Cordova), received far fewer votes than Marcos. In the first place, in a presidential election year, less attention is paid to the senatorial race, unlike in midterms, when the senatorial results are a referendum on the sitting president. So, it was that in the last pre-martial law elections, the top-ranking senators all received fewer votes than the winning presidential candidate: in 1961 (3,554,840 for Diosdado Macapagal; 3,489,658 for Raul Manglapus), in 1965 (3,861,324 for Ferdinand Marcos Sr.; 3,629,834 for Jovito Salonga), in 1969 (5,017,343 for Marcos Sr.; 4,826,809 for Arturo Tolentino) just like Marcos Sr.’s second term victory, this year was a landslide for Marcos Jr.

We know very little, in fact, next to nothing, about who, at this stage, constitute the brains trust of the next administration. The role of the first first lady we will have in 21 years is little-discussed as well, but of his wife, a lawyer, Mr. Marcos has already concisely described her vital value-added: “She knows how to put a group, a team together, find good people, put them in the right place, all of these things, motivate them properly.”

While undisclosed, the future president’s selection committee trusted by the future president and first lady has been said to be composed of Anton Lagdameo Jr., Iñigo Zobel, Benhur Abalos, and Vic Rodriguez, and that Ramon Ang has the next president’s ear and gives advice when asked.

To be sure, it’s been said that the next president wasn’t in a rush, indeed found it only proper, to announce his full Cabinet until and unless Congress proclaimed him president-elect first. But with no real controversy to accompany the overwhelming results, public opinion abhors a vacuum of information. In time-honored fashion, names were floated, only to be denied. Trial balloons? More jaded observers put it simply: The first names released are the ones least likely to make it past the final cut.

The political front has Benhur Abalos for Interior, Boying Remulla for Justice, and Vic Rodriguez for Executive Secretary, along with the first Cabinet member named, future vice president Sara Duterte for Education. It took a week (May 17–23) for them to accept, but Bienvenido Laguesma, an old hand at Labor, and Toots Ople, for the newly created Department of Migrant Workers. Between the two of them, they will likely avoid the hostility and recriminations in the current administration. The respected Arsenio Balisacan returns to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), with his bona fides secure on two fronts: as former Neda chief and because he’s a “good friend” of the incoming chief executive. “At last, a G.I.!” (or Genuine Ilocano) enthused the peanut gallery.

On mandates and expectations

The day began with some reflections on mandates, transitions but ended on a note I’d previously begun commenting on: that of a Restoration. Here’s my interview on ANC.

Scenes from a Restoration

Consumatum Est

So someone asked, after the Restoration Scene we witnessed in Congress, is there something about us Malays that brings about these restorations (upon news in Malaysia, Najib is making a comeback, and talk of nostalgia for Suharto in Indonesia).

My reply: I think it’s a human trait. Restorations have their own dynamics: one of them being, the restored dynasty often makes the fatal mistake of assuming their restoration is a sign of renewed love from the people that once ousted them. Often, it’s not.

Rather, it’s the outcome of stubbornly remaining in the game, so that when options are exhausted, they become useful in the political calculus for those who’d prefer the risk of a restoration, to the dangers of losing power if they don’t bring the deposed back to the table.

Restoration 3.0

[ANALYSIS] We have been down this road before: The dynamics of Restorationwww.rappler.com

MAY 18, 2022 12:01 PM PHT

MANOLO QUEZON III

‘The truth is that we Filipinos aren’t merely sore losers; we can be even worse winners’

The political world is full of shadows — of the past. On anniversaries, the population of that past — the former officials, hangers-on, foot soldiers, and lieutenants — shuffles out, briefly, to lay wreaths and trot out memories shiny yet threadbare from constant reuse. It is a population that has learned to keep its head low, in submission to the new cock-of-the-walks now ruling the roost. But in their heart of hearts, they still remember what it was like to have power, and the warmth of their memories comes from that undying ember of ambition that radiates heat in every political being until the moment of death.

I have lived my whole life in this world of shadows, which is a pleasant and genteel place where the ancient get fewer every year and the old multiply every year until both are suddenly gone because you have become old. It is one, like so much of the now-vanished pre-war and pre-Martial Law Philippines, that was much smaller and much more overlapping than our society is today.

The dynamics of restoration before Martial Law was between the two parties, Liberal and Nacionalista, in an era when even sari-sari stores identified according to party and gave (and denied) credit on the basis of whether customers belonged to the party faithful. In 1961 after the victory of Macapagal, Nick Joaquin penned a wonderful word portrait of that vanished world, with a reunion of the Liberal Old Guard as the Nacionalista Old Guard prepared to go into temporary eclipse.

One story will suffice to describe that world. There used to be a tradition that with every new administration, the former presidential families would visit the newly-inaugurated one to ask that the Palace household help dating back to their time be retained. Decades after it happened, I could still feel the shock felt by my aunt when Mrs. Macapagal refused to honor tradition with the bluntly dismissive, “Panahon na namin!” The truth is that we Filipinos aren’t merely sore losers; we can be even worse winners.

The Marcoses themselves, the first time around, both respected and rejected, tradition. They followed convention in the choice of schooling for their children (as was traditional since the Commonwealth, presidential sons went to La Salle; daughters to the Assumption) but they had new bedrooms built for themselves because, as Mrs. Marcos pointed out, in the two traditional choices for presidential bedrooms, the presidents who used one “all died” and the those who used the other “all lost.”

Still, in other respects, tradition was followed. The room reserved for presidential sons would become Ferdinand Jr.’s; his sisters stayed in the same rooms all the previous presidential daughters had used. In 1978, however, six years after martial law was imposed, the Marcoses, confident they were now permanent residents, essentially demolished Malacañan Palace, expanding, redecorating, and fortifying it.

Since only a very few were left to care or notice, the first Aquino administration in 1986 was actually the first Restoration. From furniture to protocol, it tried very hard to bring back the practices and traditions prior to martial law, except in one very significant and unfortunate respect: wholesale firing of the Palace household, abolishing an institution as old as the presidency itself, and scattering a staff that had worked there for generations. While it was politically impossible to reside in the Palace, the house on Arlegui (familiar because it was where Benigno Aquino Sr. had stayed for a time as Speaker during the Laurel Republic) was furnished almost exclusively with surviving pre-Marcos furniture from the Palace.

The aesthetic aspect of this Restoration could take place because of an accident of history. The Aquinos and Laurels, and many of the small circle of friends and relations surrounding the two families, had already been associates during the Commonwealth but had gone through the Japanese Occupation and the postwar years as a small, tightly-knit community of families that had experienced profound crises, including legal persecution and social ostracism due to the War. Malacañan Palace was familiar to them in a way stretching back far longer than the Marcoses. Shocked at the wholesale elimination of the complex’s history by the Marcoses, serious study was given to trying to reverse the architectural and other changes made by the Marcoses. But too much had been done, and in a nation thoroughly looted by the Marcoses, little public money was left for the purpose.

This disassociation of Malacañan Palace from its history would preoccupy President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who embarked on the careful restoration of the few remaining old buildings and parts of the Palace. She herself would stay where she’d stayed as a girl; but her eldest son would stay where Ferdinand Jr. and before that, her brother Diosdado Jr., had stayed. Yet she wasn’t beyond destroying history by demolishing the Commonwealth-era Bahay Pangarap (given that name by her own father) and building a new concrete home where the all-wooden one had originally stood; the Commonwealth-era swimming pool retained the pillars of its old pre-war pergolas but now became an infinity pool in the modern style. The Aquino Restoration, for its part, continued to treat the Palace itself as a haunted place, but the Pangarap of Arroyo now became the perfect presidential bungalow for a bachelor president: it would prove equally practical for his successor.

The Marcos Restoration has been 36 years in the making, but it isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. In recent memory, as we’ve seen, there have been two others: the Macapagal Restoration in 2001 and that of the Aquinos in 2010. All three have commonalities that might be obscured by the rarity of an institutional, or even social, memory in our society. But for those who remember or who know where to look, there will be the repeat of familiar patterns and well-trodden paths of expectable behavior.

There is no Restoration without there first having been defeat. Whether a rebuke at the polls or flight due to war or revolution, if Filipinos are, politically, bad losers, they are even worse winners. A core characteristic of restorations, then, is a perpetual feeling of persecution. This means a very close-in circle of proven friends and advisers, and a highly skeptical attitude towards all declarations of loyalty and affection. As my father once described it, our ingrained approach to the powerful is slavish yet insincere: when it comes to our leaders, “we refer to them very impertinently when they are not around, and yet when they do make an appearance, we practically fall on our faces before them.” No one knows this better than a family that has been at the top and then been treated like it will always be at the bottom.

President Rodrigo Duterte, for all his populist posturing, was always conscious of, and fiercely sensitive to, any dismissive attitudes to being part of the gentry. Ferdinand Marcos had the same sensitivity, and his children are old enough to have been integrated into the small club-like association of first families that existed prior to Martial Law. The sheer length of their occupation of the Palace transformed them from democratic tenants to rajah-like proprietors, and this is reflected in his supporters saying it’s about time he returns home — to the Palace. — Rappler.com

Manuel L. Quezon III is a columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and a co-host of the civics program, Proyekto Pilipino. His work can be accessed at www.quezon.ph

Emotional quotients

In the Philippines, a dictator’s son won because illiberalism is popular — Voxwww.vox.com
The landslide victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s longtime dictator, has exposed one of liberal democracy’s greatest vulnerabilities.

Here is the quick problem with interesting articles like the one above. The story prior to 2016 was actually the frustration of the illiberal to maintain their illiberal ways: hence swinging back and forth between populism and reform. 2016 broke the impasse, but why? Answer lies in emotion.

It was a seismic moment just as the liberal-democratic restoration accelerated after a previous seismic moment in 1983. When that emotional moment arrived, it justified all that would follow, including embracing the illiberal package deal because fundamentally packaged as heart.

It is the empathetic brutality that became the key because it replaced what was found to have been absent — the lack of empathetic heart in reform. This is what code words like “elitist” actually means because the brutalism that replaced it may be vulgar, but it is very proud.

That pride is lived out in reflected glory by the constituency that’ discovered something fundamentally missing from the divisions post-1986. The country lurched back to what has been its frustrated, because majoritarian, historical identity. Tasting that, it clings to it.

Nor is the brutalism new: afaik researchers discovered the poor among others already associated liquidations with local governance; when local governance was elevated to national governance, then what was already normal in the local became normalized nationally. The fundamentally hierarchical aspect of it was always exemplified by the President himself who was always touchy and resentful of anyone ignoring he belonged to the provincial barons: Marcosian in that sense of slighted petty nobility exacting vengeance on the metropolitan elite. Restorations in this sense, are reassertions of traditional values in the face of unsettling complexities of globalization and modernity, which risks creating a permanent underclass which craves the familiar comforts of patronage and static class structure where all know their place and roles.

The more I look at it from every angle the more two lenses remain durably sharp in understanding the dynamics of the past 30 and possibly next 30 years.

1. Randy David’s “Crisis of Modernity” and 2. Mina Roces’ “Palakasan” as part of “Politica de familia.”

You can look at what I mean by measuring public satisfaction. Note where it plunged: in March 2015. It had remained in the cellar during the illberal Arroyo years.

It’s clearer if you just look at the numbers. The swinging between reform and populism and the fatal drop, after surviving all previous shocks (including self-inflicted ones) after 2015 and its replacement with a new consensus that sustained stratospheric approval.

I do believe the design of a system can have profound effects on political behavior: the law of unintended consequences is particularly evident here at home. Politics may be managed scientifically (polling to measure opinion, even social media manipulation to fool) and governance may be approached rationally, but it is fundamentally an emotional experience and it is the quest for the way to mobilize emotions once unleashed that preoccupies those who participate in politics. Therefore to understand it requires trying to identify the mood swings, basically.

Outtakes from a Restoration

The semiotics of power: accompanying the future Vice President is the former President-Speaker. Thus, 2/3 of the soon-to-be Ruling Coalition. The crouching Romualdez like his cousin knows he’s politically living on borrowed time. Perhaps reading too much despite their being elected as a tandem that Marcos and Duterte arrived separately. Put another way would have taken very little to underscore UniTeam by both symbolically arriving at the Batasan together.

Family dynamics. Semiotics of the future First Lady’s terno (we haven’t had someone formally play that role in 21 years!) it’s steel grey and the dots look like rivets. Literally, iron butterfly.

My favorite line from the movie “Anastasia” (1956). The dowager empress is told by a courtier as they see guests arriving: “Majesty, it’s like the good old days!” “Yes,” the old ex-empress replies, “I can smell the mothballs.”

Semiotics of New Society 2.0 the future First Lady takes the future President in hand and leads the way:

In a previous era when Filipinos still appreciated satire you can imagine the parody news report writing itself: “The President-elect arrived at the Batasan… accompanied by Mr. Marcos.”

But seriously, the New Society 2.0 has all the warmth between the tandem of the Marcoses and the Lopezes in 65–69, complete with Inday Sara upstaging the future president by arriving in a chopper like a president. Meanwhile Madame Marcos arrived in an L300 like someone on parole.

The other part of the semiotics of a proclamation is it’s usually a victory over the previous regime. For only the second time in our 5th republic, this is a continuity regime, yet the outgoing president overshadows the incoming one in being liked/adored.

Meanwhile on open mike time, the Senate Majority Leader is complemented on his hair dye.

A good observation, below. Authenticity matters and they are establishing themselves as apart from New Society 2.0, down to dressing-down.

These two represent 2/3 of the Ruling Coalition.

The semiotics of power: If it were possible for Inday to look tougher, then she did it with the instant wardrobe change to polo barong.

And still, faithfully beside her, is ex-President-ex-Speaker Arroyo.

Quick Change

In one respect. the Marcos Restoration will be a relief to the political class, even as Inday serves as a reminder that the breather is only temporary: they are a known quantity, know the rules, are integrated into the national web.

Madame in full spraynet-splendor, helmet hair defying gravity: The ozone layer died a little today. She casts a shadow on the next first lady. Imagine what’s going on through her mind.

Acknowledging she who holds the balance of 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.