Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making sense of it all

Now that the elections have come to pass, it is time for anyone with an access to media to come forward and offer his or her two cents’ worth on the outcome of the elections.

Brother Mike Velarde of the El Shaddai religious community has offered advice to the President to listen to the voice of the people as expressed in the results of the mid-term elections.

I think the results are mixed, and in a number of cases, expected.

I am not quite sure that the results categorically say that people are tired of the political system or political leadership in the country. The senatorial elections do show that the same old faces are leading the tally. The frontrunners are either re-electionist candidates or traditional politicians from the House of Representatives. The same can be said of the race for seats at the House of Representatives, or even for local government posts. Even the choices for party-list representation generally indicate that except for a token few the same groups are returning to Congress.

Some political clans have suffered losses, but a number of family dynasties have been fortified in the last elections as well. So the results are mixed on that one —I think that people voted for individual candidates rather than a leadership brand.

It’s just another sad reflection of our political system that we do not have as yet leadership brands. When we talk of leadership in our country we do not talk about values or principles, we talk about individuals instead. So quite frankly, those pompous statements about how the results indicate repudiation of the political system are really stretched. No sir, we are not there yet. We’re not yet talking leadership brands today; we’re still stuck with personalities.

So are the results of the elections a repudiation of the President as many pundits are claiming? I wish I could be as categorical as the others and make egotistical statements like “the people have spoken and they say Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must go!” I wish I knew God’s cellphone number so I can also speak with the conviction of the morally suffused.

But we all know that unless divine intervention happens (which, we must acknowledge, is rare nowadays) the opposition failed to muster enough numbers in the House of Representatives to impeach the President. They’ve known this for sometime now. So any talk about impeaching the President as a platform for office was just that—talk. And I doubt if a people power type of uprising will occur. So they can hem and haw and make all kinds of noise. But in the end, we know unseating Macapagal Arroyo as President is a distant possibility.

We can look at the victory of Catholic priest Fr. Ed Panlilio as governor of Pampanga as a protest vote—but I think it is first of all a protest against the Pinedas and the Lapids. I know that I will get flak again and be accused of being a rabid GMA supporter, but for crying out loud, the priest won by a mere thousand votes and the votes of the three candidates were quite close.

My own take on the Panlilio phenomenon is simple: For once, an alternative was offered and the people grabbed it. That’s it. And I wish the same situation prevailed in the national political landscape.

I personally believe that we will all suffer for this Panlilio phenomenon in the future, but then again, we have to live with the choices that we make. I have nothing against Panlilio personally. I just do not think that electing a priest is a sign of maturity in our political processes and systems. When we have to resort to extreme measures, when our alternatives become so limited that we have to turn to our religious leaders for secular needs, then we are seriously in trouble. There are more issues, but hey, I am willing to cut the reverend some slack. I wish him luck, and I pray that he learns how to survive in the swampland where various kinds of political reptiles and creatures inhabit.

However, I will not argue with everyone else who has been saying that there is a message in the results of the elections that the President needs to listen to. It seems she will lose the Senate, although with only three more years before the presidential elections in 2010, who actually knows how the political divide will be shaping up in the next few months? As has been said many times, politicians do not have permanent enemies or friends, just permanent interests.

Put another way, if Noli de Castro intends to make a go for the Presidency in 2010, we all know it is impossible for him to become the opposition’s standard bearer. He will probably be the administration candidate. And he will probably start to consolidate his hold on the Wednesday group, which of course includes Senators Manny Villar, Joker Arroyo, and Kiko Pangilinan.

But it is clear that the people want the Senate to continue being a fiscalizer of sorts. In other words, people don’t want the President’s last three years in office to be a walk in the park, or to be crude about it, an opportunity to amass more fortune through graft and corruption. I think people are resigned to a Macapagal Arroyo presidency until 2010, but people want her to do well and work hard.

The other people who wanted to say something about the results of the elections but had no easy access to media addressed the problem with a simple solution—they bought media space or airtime.

Thus, in some newspapers yesterday, representatives of the business community bought full-page advertisements saying it is time to “move forward.” The ad cited the way the market has been reacting positively to the elections. Actually, the market’s reaction is not just positive—it has been quite stupendous. The Philippine stock market has breached all-time records. On the other hand, the Philippine peso rallied to its strongest finish within a six-and-a-half year period.

Of course, there are still people out there who continue to insist that there is no relationship between what is happening in the economic front and the country’s political situation—that the continuing bull run is a fluke. But as I have already pointed out many times, economic forces are not like forces of nature. Investors do not bring in their money unless they have faith in the strength of the systems.

I wish we listen to our economic managers more often instead of to our political leaders.

1 comment:

domingo said...

Bong

In 1978, a catholic priest, Fr. Jorge M. Kintanar of Cebu, was among the candidates under Pusyon Bisaya that swept, 13-0, the regional (and block voting) elections for the Interim Batasang Pambansa assemblymen, representing Region VII (Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor).

Together with the lone winner from Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro Assemblyman Reuben R. Canoy of the Mindanao Alliance, the Pusyon Bisaya became the opposition voice in the interim Batasang Pambansa from 1978-1984

Among the 13 elected was Atty. (later Supreme Court Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide, Jr., and among those defeated, running under Marcos’ KBL, were the Cebu dynasties of Osmena, Gullas and Cuenco.

I remember this first election held after martial law was declared in 1972 very well, Bong, since I was then serving my third 4-year term as councilor of Lapu-Lapu City (a member of the Liberal Party and, allow me to add, one of only 3 incumbent city councilors in all of Region VII during martial law who did not join the KBL). The Oponganons (Opon was the name of the former municipality) I headed--Ang Mga Kaliwat Ni Lapu-Lapu (The Heirs of Lapu-Lapu)--linked with Pusyon Bisaya. My area of responsibility during the 1978 election was Lapu-Lapu City, including the 4 other smaller islands that comprise it, particularly Olango where I was born and where my forebears (relatives of Lapu-Lapu?) came from.

But very few now recall the massive protest (and this was at the height of martial law) Cebuanos held for several days at the Fuente Osmena circle all the way to the Cebu provincial capitol after COMELEC proclaimed the KBL candidates the winners. I was there.

Note that votes were canvassed by regions. Ballot boxes from Bohol and Siquijor were delivered to Cebu; but those from Negros Oriental, upon arriving at the wharf, were brought (the term then was “hijacked”) instead to the Durano enclave (another dynasty) in the north of Cebu. It was this hijacking of ballot boxes that infuriated the Cebuanos, since Pusyon Bisaya was already leading by a mile in the votes already tallied from Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor. In our city where I was in charge of listing the precinct results, if I remember right, it was 70-30 in Pusyon’s favor.

I retired from politics after Marcos was ousted. But, had Marcos not caved in and declared a 13-0 win for Pusyon Bisaya, the Cebuano protest would have escalated and turned into EDSA 8 years earlier (that was 1978). In fact, talk of seceding from imperial Manila was ripe then.

Bong, our Constitution and laws allow the “person having the highest number of votes” to be proclaimed elected. So, where is the majoritarian popular sovereignty rule there? Arroyo needed only 39%, Estrada 40%, Ramos 21% of votes cast to assume the office of President. How can a mere plurality in these instances be regarded as the expression of the majority, of the “voice of the people”?

In fact, for that matter, recent opinion polls (2007) showing that 60% want to kick Arroyo out is merely reiterating what the election results were in 2004--that 61% prefer other candidates instead and that only 39% are in favor of allowing Arroyo to stay 6 years more.

Similarly, since the 12 Senators are to be elected “at large by the qualified voters of the Philippines” with no provision specifying that each candidate should receive at least 50% of votes cast, how can Senators claim to represent the majority of the national constituency (or even regional constituency, if Senators are to be chosen by region)?

As regards Fr. Ed Panlillio, following is the obituary of Fr. Robert F. Drinan, SJ, the first priest elected as voting member of the U.S. Congress (Boston Globe, 28 Jan 2007):

“In 1980, Pope John Paul II ordered Father Drinan either to forgo reelection or leave the priesthood. Father Drinan had relished holding office, but there was no doubt in his mind over what to do. With "regret and pain," he announced he would not be running for reelection.

"’It is just unthinkable,’ he said of the idea of renouncing the priesthood to stay in office. ‘I am proud and honored to be a priest and a Jesuit. As a person of faith I must believe that there is work for me to do which somehow will be more important than the work I am required to leave.’"