Sunday, January 29, 2006

Elitism and dadag-bawas U.S. style

I would like to log here too my reply to Geo who has posted an answer to my comment on the Florida election and elitism in mlq3’s blog.



Criticizing media elites in general and reacting to a commenter, I once blogged on or about the Florida electoral fiasco:
Media organizations ... operate for the most part rather insidiously when they attempt to set agendas that could have national implications. They pass on their undertaking, in reality in pursuit of self interest, as a noble quest for truth. This is a truism nowhere truer in any other place than in America—the newly found pride of our kababayan Anastacio.

Apparently,our apostate poster whose nasty piece about the political and social follies of Filipinos has amused the Pinoy web community—seemed to believe many things that have been communicated to him by the mass media operating in his lofty and immaculate USA and, on the basis of which, he formed certain values by which he would put down Filipinos. If only Anastacio were a little more perceptive and circumspect, it would have not been that challenging for him to realize that while both the Gore and the Bush campaigns have invoked the concept of rule of law to capture the power of the US presidency, pre- and post-election news, commentaries, and even judicial rulings in the US have carried insidious slants and spins as well as legal maneuverings and manipulations in a manner that had all the trimmings of a constitutional hypocrisy befitting only a banana republic in disguise. On the other hand, other relevant stories that would have the effect of impugning the exalted foundation of American society, like the reports of intimidation and voter-lists purging of minority voters in Florida, have not been given sufficient attention.

Well, like the “little brown brothers” that some Filipinos have unfortunately become, our media has willingly emulated America’s sinister model of thought manipulation. And so also, as in the US, Filipinos would compensate more generously spin doctors and political media practitioners than the old-fashioned, adventurous, and romantic newsman whose “basic responsibility,” Prof. Teodoro underscored in a speech, “is to get the information out, and, to the extent possible, to disseminate information that is accurate, fair and complete.”
On the day the US Supreme Court handed down Bush v. Gore, Jesse Jackson, Jr. issued a statement, a portion of which reads:
In third world countries when democratically cast votes are not counted, or the person who most likely lost wins in a highly questionable manner, we usually refer to that as a coup d’etat -- the overthrow of a government, usually by a small group of persons. All legal votes in Florida were not counted. If they had been counted, there is at least a strong possibility that Vice President Gore would have received the most votes in Florida as he did in the country -- which is why the Bush people did not want the votes counted. Even more important than partisan politics, the votes should have been counted in the name of democracy in order to give the maximum amount of credibility and legitimacy to the eventual winner.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, many of its satellites fell. In the case of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel became the new President on the basis of a legitimate people uprising and a democratic “Velvet Revolution.” In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court orchestrated a questionable ‘velvet legal coup.’
Of course before the Velvet Revolution of Yeltsin or Vaclav Havel, and the fall of the other Soviet satellites, the Sandinistas defeat by Violeta Chammoro’s coalition, or the uprising in Tiananmen Square, there was the “Lady in Yellow” who inspired the original People Power at EDSA. But today the EDSA uprising as the paradigmatic representation of People Power is continually being attenuated - for obvious reason: of the above enumerated, it was the only revolution of such dimension that successfully has removed a US-backed dictator.

Justice Stevens’ dissent in Bush v. Gore has been shamefully scornful of things yet to come:
One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
And here’s what Greg Palast (so it was not only Michael Moore, Geo) has written:
Five months before the November 2000 election, Governor Jeb Bush moved to purge 57, 700 people from the voter rolls, supposed criminals not allowed to vote. Most were innocent of crimes, but the majority were guilty of being black.
92.02 per cent, Palast insisted, of those in the “srub” list are innocent and overwhelmingly democrats; and relying on BBC researchers, he further maintained Gore lost about 22,000 votes as a result. 22,000 are more than 537.

Since this particular blog of Manolo is on the subject of “collusion” of the political elites in the Philippines, Filipinos might well find it relevant to draw from it certain parallelism with the manner the high-handed activism of the US Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore has resulted in what could be considered as an exercise of one of the highest forms of American elitism. If Bush was confident about democracy in Florida, why did his conservative allies in the Supreme Court voting strictly along ideological lines stop the recount in Florida and in effect elected him the next U.S. president?

The Philippine Supreme Court has shown the same extreme tendencies in recent holdings and foremost that comes to mind is the ruling in Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representative as well as the Court’s vacillation in the Mining Law cases, both decisions (not to speak of Estrada v. Desierto) being, for all intents and purposes, amendatory of the provisions of the Constitution sans the benefit of a Charter change process. What else is more elitist than that?

Now the proposition: America’s “elite” keeps changing; there is much socio-economic migration (both up and down) between the upper and various middle-class entities. Meanwhile, errant members of “today’s elite” are jailed tomorrow. So…how again is the elite using the law to essentially defraud the general public of the truth?

First of all, Madison, the father of the American constitution, was categorical in classic elite terms “that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more in consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.” Madison believed that if unchecked, the majority, that is, the uneducated and the unpropertied Americans, would tyrannize the minority—the privileged, the wellborn and the wealthy, like him. And if it hasn’t been noticed, when Americans go to the polls during the presidential elections, they vote for Electors not the presidential candidates; or when you have federal judges appointed for life, how else could migration be allowed during the judges’ lifetime?

Second of all, I have yet to see the Americans follow the Philippine example of jailing an erring president for corruption, defrauding or misleading the nation or other high crimes.

I agree that the nature of elite system allows upward mobility of non-elites yet this process, in a pyramidal and hierarchical system, is definitely a creeping one. But even those non-elites who have been welcomed to the club must agree to the elite consensus, i.e., they are stakeholders in the system in which their privileges depend. At least in the Philippines, the party-list system has somehow remedied this anomaly.

Leave the Americans out of the analysis when one is contemplating the best solution for the Philippines? Well, tell that to AGILE, the Venable wheeler-dealers, and the agents responsible for the “leaked” Aragoncillo dossiers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

More notes on People Power

After a brand new constitution, two people powers, one EDSA Tres, and a score of military coups, there are a number of great lessons Filipinos should have learned from realpolitik, such as -

1) A triumphant multitude may govern, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t rule;

2) When the prerequisites for democracy do not exit, even a well-written constitution is meaningless;

3) Political competitions do not guarantee the policy choices of the majority but they stimulate the vibrancy of the minorities (civil societies) whose choices when communicated in an organized way, the minority (the political and economic elites or the oligarchy) must somehow take into account in making policy decisions;

4) In a true democracy, the people (the multitude) and the minority (the oligarchy) do not rule; the minorities (civil societies) do;

5) In the Philippines, people power notwithstanding, neither the multitude nor the minorities rule; the minority does.

But first, on advice of Dean Bocobo, let us take on the claim by Pulse Asia to the effect that the multitude that sought to govern either in People Power I or People Power II was neither a majority nor a plurality. Only 10% of Filipinos favored the People Power that ousted Estrada while a plurality of 42% did not favor such or any other People Power, hence it was not even close, Pulse Asia points out. So, was the Aquino government or the Arroyo government illegitimate assuming that the Philippine Supreme Court in either case did not say anything to affirm or disaffirm any claim of legitimacy by both governments? My position is: if you are a Filipino and you are not one of those one or two million protesters who rallied on EDSA to exercise the ultimate political decision, then your voice does not count. And if you are a supporter of the regime sought to be removed but you are too intimidated to come out and stage a counter rally at the critical time, then your choice doesn’t count either. For, as soon as the public acquiesces in the new order, it would be all over including the counting. Therefore, it is too late in the day for Pulse Asia to come up with some tally sheet that could have no other meaning politically than to denigrate People Power.

The Quezonian dilemma (of mlq3, I mean) comes into play at this juncture. “(W)hat is decisive in a People Power event: is it the people, or the military? Or: what makes a coup different from People Power?” Manolo answers himself: “the military, by themselves, can never decide the issue, just as the civilians, when it comes to toppling a government, cannot do it by themselves. A fine balance is required . . . .”

I suppose a military coup without the support of People Power will have legitimacy issue and People Power without the support of the military will have lesser chances of success or of succeeding peacefully. But People Power must be both “intense” and “legitimate” enough to earn the military’s support in the first place. It seems that by experience one million protesters meet the requirement of intensity. And to be credited with legitimacy, I surmise, the multitude should be sufficiently representative so that any fair-minded observer could regard it as a cross-section of the various components of the Civil Society.

Now, triumphant, why would a multitude still fail to rule? Randy David finds some answers. He writes:
. . . to have any enduring force, it must resist the temptation of giving up its advocacy-be it human rights, good government, or social equity-when the regime it is criticizing has collapsed. Protest must become a system of its own; it must ceaselessly recruit its own supporters, and continue the analysis and criticism of society from the standpoint of its chosen value.
The chosen values underlie the political system to be formed. They serve as the prerequisites for a democracy. But what are these values and prerequisites? Maybe, the rhetorical questions posed by former senator Ernesto Herrera will give us some ideas about them:
Does anyone remember the events in June 2004 when the objections being raised by opposition lawmakers during the canvass of votes in Congress were dispatched simply and expeditiously with nothing but the “noted, noted” replies of then representative and now Justice Secretary Gonzalez and Senator Francisco Pangilinan?

. . . even former President Cory Aquino wanted Congress to just get the congressional canvassing over and done with so that GMA could be proclaimed president, and that Senate President Franklin Drilon found nothing wrong with the canvassing procedures . . . .

In the end, none of the due process measures were applied to challenge the votes of Mrs. Arroyo in the congressional canvass. . . .

If Congress simply acquiesced in to this power grab, then you might say, the Supreme Court also did nothing to stop it . . . .

No wonder the GMA administration can be brazen enough to ram Charter change down the people’s throats, hand down dictatorial edicts like E.O. 464, and stifle legitimate protests without batting an eyelash. Who is left to check its powers when the legislative and the judiciary can do nothing but approve what the executive proposes and demands?
Indeed, who needs a constitution as part of the social contract when those whose example really matters only pay respect to what it says when it suits them?

Next, to the suggestion that the multitude is incapable of coordinated action as amply demonstrated by the failure of EDSA Tres, my question is: who then is, if somehow it succeeds as in removing an unwanted regime, at least in certain matters of basic policies? The various components of the multitude, having found their common grounds on other matters than a regime change, do have the means for action, I believe, that the power holders cannot simply ignore. But first, these various minorities must discover their commonalities and then form consensus around them and on the effective methodlogies for enforcement. When civil societies assert their primacy, the result could be their collectivization into Civil Society.

I have also writtten:
People Power democracy . . . is the exercise by the people—the Civil Society—of the republican principle of the last say which may result to replace (as in People Power I) or keep (as in People Power II) the existing system. It does not decide particular issues for that would notionally be direct democracy. The triumph of People Power democracy should be measured not upon its physical manifestation that successfully brought about the immediate change desired, which is an end in itself, but when the consensus formed by civil society or civil societies—those politically informed, active and diverse minorities groups such as the business sectors, political alliances, labor unions, religious organizations, and the like—is brought to be reckoned with by those formally vested with policymaking. It is thus a continuing transformative citizenship. Whenever civil societies are marginalized in the governance process, the result could either be the rule by the privileged minority (or the oligarchy) or by the multitude, irrespective of the agreed upon formalities of governance.

Friday, January 20, 2006


On January 16, 1899, Yale professor William Graham Sumner, a libertarian and author of many books and articles about social evolution, attacked American imperialism in a speech titled “The Conquest of the United States by Spain” that was later published in the Yale Law Journal. To Sumner, imperialism and militarism are antithetical to liberty. For such criticism and other writings, he earned the label as the greatest foe of American imperialism.

The year before, America went to war with Spain, a war that actually started when some Cuban rebels agitated for independence from Spain. The rebels resorted to terrorism as to which the Spanish authorities responded with equally harsh counter insurgency measures. American “yellow press” downplayed the atrocities of the rebels (they were actaully cheered as “freedom fighters” in today’s lingo) while caricaturing the Spaniards as despots of the Old World.

The war was in fact in accord with America’s plan to take on its global role and join the other imperialist powers in the rush for territory around the world. Commodore Dewey was then dispatched to proceed to the Philippines, then a Spanish colony, while American forces were routing the Spaniards in Cuba. That the Spanish-American War lasted only three months was testimony to America’s emerging global stature at that time. It was “a splendid little war,” the US Secretary of State described it. The quick triumph elated the American public in the belief that it was also a victory for the American way of life. It was against this backdrop, William Graham Sumner spoke against American imperialism, spoiling in effect the public euphoria.

A month after Sumner’s speech, or in February 1899, hostilities between the Filipino independence movement led by Aguinaldo and the American forces broke out. But unlike the war America won against a former world power Spain, the Philippine-American War was not splendid at all; it was a dirty big war. During the conflict, Americans employed torture and other atrocities such as the burning of villages and forcible zoning in derogation of the American ideal or of the mission to “Christianize and civilize” the “benighted savage.” Around 60,000 American forces (certainly a massive contingent by comparative count today) were sent to the Islands to defeat the “insurgents.” About a quarter of a million Filipinos, mostly civilians, died as a result. However, ideologues and yellow journalism manipulated information to suit America’s imperialist aspirations.

The criticism of Sumner resonates today in the face of some serious accusations by reputable individuals and institutions that the Bush administration has, among other things: manipulated intelligence information to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the name of national security as well as supposedly to spread freedom and democracy in the region; used or authorized the use of torture and other inhuman treatments of suspected terrorists; spied on American citizens in violation of fundamental privacy right as part of the anti-terrorism campaign and caused undue “collateral damage” against thousands of civilians and properties. While denying some of these charges, the Bush government justifies those that it admits as being necessitated by post-9/11 America.

The following excerpts taken from Sumner’ speech deserve some reflection today:

There is not a civilized nation which does not talk about its civilizing mission just as grandly as we do. The English, who really have more to boast of in this respect than anybody else, talk least about it, but the Phariseeism with which they correct and instruct other people has made them hated all over the globe. The French believe themselves the guardians of the highest and purest culture, and that the eyes of all mankind are fixed on Paris, whence they expect oracles of thought and taste. The Germans regard themselves as charged with a mission, especially to us Americans, to save us from egoism and materialism. The Russians, in their books and newspapers, talk about the civilizing mission of Russia in language that might be translated from some of the finest paragraphs in our imperialistic newspapers. The first principle of Mohammedanism is that we Christians are dogs and infidels, fit only to be enslaved or butchered by Moslems. It is a corollary that wherever Mohammedanism extends it carries, in the belief of its votaries, the highest blessings, and that the whole human race would be enormously elevated if Mohammedanism should supplant Christianity everywhere. To come, last, to Spain, the Spaniards have, for centuries, considered themselves the most zealous and self-sacrificing Christians, especially charged by the Almighty, on this account, to spread true religion and civilization over the globe. They think themselves free and noble, leaders in refinement and the sentiments of personal honor, and they despise us as sordid money-grabbers and heretics. I could bring you passages from peninsular authors of the first rank about the grand rule of Spain and Portugal in spreading freedom and truth. Now each nation laughs at all the others when it observes these manifestations of national vanity. You may rely upon it that they are all ridiculous by virtue of these pretensions, including ourselves. The point is that each of them repudiates the standards of the others, and the outlying nations, which are to be civilized, hate all the standards of civilized men. We assume that what we like and practice, and what we think better, must come as a welcome blessing to Spanish-Americans and Filipinos. This is grossly and obviously untrue. They hate our ways. They are hostile to our ideas. Our religion, language, institutions, and manners offend them. They like their own ways, and if we appear amongst them as rulers, there will be social discord in all the great departments of social interest. The most important thing which we shall inherit from the Spaniards will be the task of suppressing rebellions. If the United States takes out of the hands of Spain her mission, on the ground that Spain is not executing it well, and if this nation in its turn attempts to be school-mistress to others, it will shrivel up into the same vanity and self-conceit of which Spain now presents an example. To read our current literature one would think that we were already well on the way to it. Now, the great reason why all these enterprises which begin by saying to somebody else, We know what is good for you better than you know yourself and we are going to make you do it, are false and wrong is that they violate liberty; or, to turn the same statement into other words, the reason why liberty, of which we Americans talk so much, is a good thing is that it means leaving people to live out their own lives in their own way, while we do the same. If we believe in liberty, as an American principle, why do we not stand by it? Why are we going to throw it away to enter upon a Spanish policy of dominion and regulation?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Red’s hearings

Alex: The most rabidly anti-Arroyo think Cha cha is nothing more than a ploy to extend the President’s lease (on power). This is not right. The unelected are dictating on the elected.

FVR: You’re not speaking of me Alex, are you?

Conrad: Well, I am, sir. But whether you are a rabid anti-Arroyo (or, I fact, anti) is the least of my worries. But, who the hell are you telling anyone what to do? Decide what kind of government we should have? Or who should head the country or which direction it should go? And being an ordinary citizen, just like you and me, you are an “unelected . . . dictating on the elected.”

Cid: Elected, unelected? In the Philippines, nobody gets elected. Politicians either cheat or get cheated. That’s how election Philippine style works. Anyway, our senior statesman is the best we ever had e-- er -- elected.

Pacman: Pasingit. Para maiwasan ang dadag bawas sa score card, patutulugin ko nang maaga si Erik. (Translation: Ad lib. To not contend with hanging and pregnant chads on the score card, I will KO Erik early.)

Dean: Yeah, right. I should have known better, too. Those supreme judges junked the automated system deliberately to pave the way for that massive GMA-Garci electoral bamboozle ala Vegas. My mea culpa. I succumbed to mob rule, then.

Conrad: Let me tell you what mob rule is, Dean. When people like Ramos and De Venecia and Pichay decree who resigns and who does not, who is wrong and who is not, who keeps power and who does not, that’s mob rule. That is not politics of principle or ideology.

Alex: Hi Cid. I agree that our electoral system is weak. But, that will not be cured simply by selecting better people to manage our elections. It will, if we alter the electoral format itself. Elections at large - not the COMELEC or the PET for that matter - are the real culprit. And to you Conrad, don’t you realize by now that your ranting and raving do not work at all. Those who have the time and the energy to philosophize about alternative political orders (and bloggers and commenters are you listening too?) do so simply because they are in no position to do anything about the system. They might have the sound bites, the media (or blog) space, but the reality is that they neither have the power nor the means to do anything about their utopias.

mlq3: The only way forward, and I’m paraphrasing the esteemed Justice Palma, whether first to replace a discredited incumbent, or to institute structural reforms, is within the parameters of the Constitution. There is no substitute for the hard work, the painful and painstaking methods under our basic law, for resolving all things.

Cory: I’m sure you are not talking about me, hijo, ha? Let me say this though: the least painful path for the nation today is for the President to make the supreme sacrifice. My dream, you know, is to create an empowered citizenry as the foundation of our democracy.

GMA: Wake up! Oh, I’m sorry, I mean you Manolo. Anyway, in politics, never speak in absolutes. Government is not only about the ends but also about the means of pursuing choices effectively. You can only go far also about the means because there are times when a leader, a true leader (this time GMA side-glancing at the lady in yellow) must continue to lead despite being unpopular.

Alex: Dream on (inaudible). You had your chance (still inaudible). Thanks, Madame President. Now, please let me continue . . .

Dawin: Objection, your honor. Not Madame President, just Madam GMA . . . and thanks, Manolo for the correct English usage . . . since, since her legitimacy is a prejudicial question.

Alex: . . .hmm, Lakas has the organization, the elected base, the logistics, the plan and most of all the audacity to undertake what the nation needs. It is the only party in a position to do anything about a situation that most of us can only whine about.

GMA: Shut up, Alex. That’s just another absolute. And grow up too! Who needs a party if you could be absolute? Didn’t you hear what I’ve said: The means, you know, the means . . . isn’t my phone ringing, where is it? Someone pick up the phone. Who is it?

Secretary: Heto, po. Ayaw sabihin po ma’am. Parang someone I’ve heard before, someone talking to you many times before, somewhere, I’m pretty sure.

GMA: Hello . . . hello . . .

Saturday, January 14, 2006

‘Show me the (unassailable) proof’

Somewhat self-assuredly, Geo taunts Ricky:
. . . The Garci tapes may be for real - I’ve never denied that. And if GMA is proven to have orchestrated massive electoral fraud, she must go. However, I have not seen proof. And that’s what I want . . ..

I don’t find my position to be ludicrous at all, but nonetheless there are many who are convinced that they know the real score and disagree with my thinking (which is: “please show me the proof”).

I don’t understand why you would disagree with me about demanding proof. Especially when we both CAN agree that you are an intelligent guy.
I think Mario Taguiwalo’s Newsstand post in August 2004 in reply to a comment by Bobi Tiglao in the same blog is pertinent here. Mario wrote:
Ok, Bobi, let us sit back and see where we are now with regards to the culpability of GMA in electoral cheating.

It has been nearly two months since the tapes surfaced. Are the tapes downloadable from PCIJ website authentic or not? Let us assume that these tapes contained conversations that were made up, manufactured, spliced, merely performed or otherwise tampered. Clearly a thorough investigation of these tapes would have then benefited GMA would it not? Yet, do we see anyone in government doing anything to establish the provenance, character, authenticity of these tapes? No one! We then ask, why not, if indeed these tapes are in anyway compromised? I would be happy to hear Bobi’s explanation for this serious lapse in competence that has been going on for two months now, and which, if corrected, could have helped us avoid all this excitement. Yehey! FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol have all concluded that the tapes were a hoax!

My next question is this: Why has there not been a direct and simple denial that that is not GMA’s voice on that tape? Maybe because such a denial would be blatant lie? Does the Palace think the avoidance of truth is somehow more respectable than direct lying? Again, Bobi, please explain to us this strange pattern of behavior for defending a president supposedly innocent of the crime of election cheating and merely undergoing unfair trial by publicity.

So finally we come to the GMA-Garcillano conversations. Suppose, for argument sake, we have agreed that the tapes are a real record of actual conversations that actually took place. Suppose further that GMA actually had those conversations caught on tape. Bobi, can you explain to us lesser mortals why we would not conclude that those conversations were about cheating planned, intended and executed. Why is GMA talking to Garcillano about provinces for which he was not even the commissioner in charge? Why is GMA reporting events to Garcillano so that he can take damage control measures?

Prior to June 6 when the tapes emerged, I did not question that GMA was duly elected. But the tapes are simply too gross to be ignored. The Presidency is not a right, it is only a privilege granted to the duly elected. Once that privilege is challenged by facts like those contained in the tapes, there is no hiding behind constitutional niceties or due process or presumption of innocence. The burden of proving she should retain the privilege of deciding for us must be on GMA’s shoulder.

This is what I mean when I say it is about legitimacy, stupid! Show me that the tapes are not authentic! Prove to me that it is not GMA talking to Garcillano! Convince me that those conversations between GMA and Garcillano are innocent and not about election cheating! Then you got your citizens back respectful of the mandate of your president.

But don’t tell me - go ahead sue me! Don’t tell me respect due process and grant GMA the benefits of her rights because she has not earned the right to be president, she has merely been granted that privilege by virtue of her election. Now that the very credibility of that election is under question, she has an obligation to re-assure us not provoke us, to establish her innocence not for us to pin down her guilt.

The president rules by contract granted by the people. Now we have reason to question that that contract was fraudulently concluded. She must show us convincingly that the facts contained in these tapes did not impair that contract.

That GMA has survived thus far is not a testament to a strong republic, it is merely proof that one can fool some people some of the time.
In support of Mario’s stance I also posted:
. . . perhaps differently put, GMA’s conduct after the outing of the tapes and up to the present has not comported at all with the conduct of an innocent person even in a rather legalistic frame that GMA apparently prefers to operate. Within that context, the doubting public reasonably should look forward to her going further than merely confessing “lapse in judgment” because even non-lawyers who are still giving her the benefit of the doubt expect her to state something like – “Ok, I have had this ‘lapse’ but I actually did it to avoid a greater evil or injury.” But we are not hearing any of those exculpatory circumstances at all except for the suggestion that some privacy rights could have been violated. Hence, the strong public perception of guilt that strangely she is not trying to overturn even after losing critical allies and constituencies.

Now, may be a distinction should also be made between “legitimacy” and “legitimation.” The latter term may be explained in the Clinton perspective. Recall that Clinton has been impeached for “lying under oath” about a misconduct that has nothing to do with the performance of his office as President. So Clinton upon acquittal was easily “re-legitimated” his legitimacy never having been in question at all. GMA doesn’t seem to have this luxury because she will have the baggage of both “legitimacy” and “legitimation” if a failed “un-election” process through impeachment would be perceived as equally tainted as her “election.”
We have waited for days for Bobi to respond prompting Jojo Abinales to wonder: “And has Bobi responded to Mario yet? I kind of miss his voice here . . ..”

So Mario pressed on:
. . . And what we see from Malacanang since these tapes emerged do not offer much hope. First, Bunye’s real and altered tapes went bust. Second, Iggy’s guy claining he is Gary not Garci fizzled out. Third, Gonzales illegal wiretap threat failed to stave off its spread. Fourth, silence from GMA only increased demand for response. Fifth, the debacle of the apology without admission. Sixth, just sue me in Congress. All these actions do not point to a defense by a misunderstood president who may be innocent of cheating, rather these are all consistent with mere damage control of a president indefensibly exposed as a cheater.

Bobi thought he was clever in referring to these tapes as “mere snippets of conversations” signifying nothing. But the actions of Malacanang relative to these tapes demonstrate a recognition that these tapes contain the cancer that is eating away at the legitimacy of GMA. And that cancer has already metastasized and continues spreading to this day.
The silence of Bobi propelled me to jump in once more:
First to Jojo’s question: “And has Bobi responded to Mario yet?”

In a microcosmic but parallel sense, that’s the same question the nation is asking GMA. Mario’s position is too inescapably compelling that if we don’t hear any further from Bobi, it would leave the impression from whoever is following this exchange that Bobi has really nothing to controvert it. In other words, all Mario has to do, without substantiating his points any further, is to sit back. Hence, the burden of going forward [as distinguished from burden of proof] is on Bobi. Otherwise, Bobi’s justification for the Strong Republic will sound like the bites in GMA’s SONA, even if we assume the merits of some of them in both.

I agree with Mario that the ringing tones of the Hello Garci tapes are more damaging than the whistle blowing of Chavit, in fact also too deafening to render Sammy Ong quite dispensable. My point of departure is where the metastasizing of the tapes into the “cancer” that it is now is somehow suggested to be a phenomenon independent of the transforming dimension of “people power,” I mean the “thinking” (or the “liberating” in the Gramscian tradition, thanks, Jojo) and not the “hooting” aspect of it. I think the saga of the Garci tapes and the buffooneries, the anger, all the rhetoric surrounding them, have converged in the social checks and balances that we now call “people power.” This power is equivocating today because it is thinking. Evidence of this thinking nature (and process) is the proliferation of blogging. As Mario has noted, this is what was absent in the “coalition” (although the CPP has always been ready with its prayer book) that produced EDSA I and the rather extemporaneous “uprising” (downgraded to “speechifying” by the SC to “force a constitutional succession”) of EDSA II.

What I’m hearing from Mario is that GMA is basically a lame duck now because of her “illegitimation” by the Hello Garci controversy so that even if real reforms were pursued, including certain specific salutary goals and initiatives (e.g., federalism) of Bobi’s Strong Republic, she would not only be politically hamstrung but economically as well because having lost her political bargaining position, the “marginal cost” could be prohibitive, meaning consensus (or “aregluhan,” in the Filipino fashion as suggested by Jojo) will require more uneven trade-offs. But “elite consensus” (of the peninsulares and the insulares of the Erap diatribes) is perceived as part of the problem, is it not? So, I agree with Mario that collaboration the Dodong [Nemenzo]’s way as the starting strategic vision - which implies “experimentation” - offers a better systemic as well as creative alternative to Abueva’s customized plans.

Given the sovereign-tampering (or, in fact, polity-shattering) implications of the Garci tapes . . ., Mario’s argument against John [Nery]’s disdain of the “unelected” won’t look like an overstretch anymore. It may even go past the “idealism” hurdle . . .
Apparently avoiding to confront the foregoing, Bobi had decided to post his Witches’ Brew piece as his next reply as to which I posted my own rejoinder wherein I have summarized the rather “technical” [hence, subversive of the substantive] grounds upon which GMA’s refusal to go forward is anchored:

1. The other complaints violate the one-year bar rule on initiating impeachment proceedings;

2. The impeachable offenses (prominently, the ones based on the “Garci Tapes”) were committed during GMA’s first term (referring to the unexpired term of Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who was deemed “constructively resigned” by the Supreme Court);

3. The supposed impeachable offense, the “election fraud” in particular, is a matter that only the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) can try and decide on;

4. The “Garci Tapes,” even if true, are inadmissible in evidence because the phone conversations between the President and a COMELEC commissioner about altering election results are private conversations;

5. If at all, only the original complaint should be entertained because the other complaints were filed without the permission of the “court”.

Is Arroyo really interested in the Rule of Law?” was the title of my rejoinder; and pertaining specifically to ground 4, I have argued:
It is claimed in the FOURTH argument that the “Garci Tapes” even if true, are inadmissible in evidence because the phone conversations between the President and a COMELEC commissioner about altering election results are private conversations.

The president talking to a COMELEC commissioner about elections a private conversation? Private as a frog, maybe. Besides, if GMA is really interested in the truth [or proof about the truth], it is her high duty to waive her supposed right to privacy at this crucial juncture. GMA owes it to herself to prove her innocence once and for all and then, if successful, resume forthwith her governance responsibility. To say the very least, it is not very pretty for her to hide behind some technicalities while the nation is in crisis.
Okay, Geo, we have not seen proof. But WHY not?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reconsidering whose final decision?

(This post was published by on March 24, 2001 and is now part of the UST Publishing version of Build or Perish! I am reposting it here because of some renewed questions on the ascension to the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001)

Former senator Rene Saguisag was back with more lures after the Supreme Court had decided in Estrada vs. Desierto (March 2, 2001) to demote People Power II to an inchoate cousin of People Power I. And the SC is likely to allow itself to be coaxed once again to take more missteps and be entrapped to a perpetuity in juridical misadventures [Dean Jorge Bocobo today is blogging off from where Rene has for now left off].

To put it more succinctly, the SC in Estrada has held that President Estrada’s six-year tenure as a duly elected president of the Republic was cut short because a throng of protestors talked, rather than forced, him out of it. Erap says, “No way, I was just a bit tired then and wanted some respite.” Hence, Rene’s petition, and now his motion for reconsideration. The seeming recalcitrance of the once gutsy human right’s lawyer (who founded MABINI) was almost annoying to some partisans, but others are translating it as a stratagem that looks more political than scholastic or legal, given that the [outcome of the mid-term senatorial elections of May 2001] could be seen as the more objective gauge of [the legitimacy of People Power II.] (1)

Erap did a Macoy
Anyway, what the various accounts appear to show is that Erap simply did a Macoy, his rogue kingpin image being just as mythical as his mentor’s war medals. Erap decided to jump into the waiting barge in the Pasig River because he was as craven as Marcos to be dangled by the raging multitude on a Malacañang lamppost. If, as the SC found, People Power II were a mere exercise of free speech and a way to petition the government for redress of grievance within the framework of the existing legal and constitutional order and not an uprising that overturned such order, then how does the SC define the crime against public order of insurrection, and the lesser crimes of sedition, tumults and other public disturbances for that matter, or, otherwise, disloyalty of public officers as regards all the self-confessed schemers and tumultuous dissenters who have risen in a “tsunami” of public uprising? And again, as the SC so found, hasn’t Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes “defected,” instead of resisting the uprising, by declaring “on behalf of your Armed Forces, the 130,000 strong members of the Armed Forces, we wish to announce that we are withdrawing our support to this government”? (Italics mine.)

The Left and the Right in perfect cadence
Now, review this narration by former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and General Lisandro Abadia (ret.) that was published by the Philippine Inquirer in its March 2, 2001 issue:
It was surreal. I felt like I was Chief of Staff again, but this time, conferring with and giving instructions to a rainbow army. The Left and the Right seemed to be marching in perfect cadence.

Who were in that room? Apart from myself, the agreed overall planner and commander, there were Metro Manila police chief Edgardo Aglipay, Western Police District chief Avelino Razon Jr., Teddy Casiño of Bayan, Nathanael Santiago of Bayan Muna, Dinky Soliman, retired Vice Adm. Armando Madamba, Fr. Robert Reyes and their assistants.

When I asked Nathanael and Teddy for the strength of their forces, they gave figures from a low of 50,000 to a high of 100,000. Then I asked Generals Aglipay and Razon for the number of police troops they would commit to the area. They assured me of 1,200, with reserves on standby. When I asked about the whereabouts of the pro-Estrada forces, they answered that they would be at Mendiola.
And before “(going) for the jugular by marching to Malacañang,” Gen. Abadia further recounted:
There are things that are not quite clear to you, and so you have to make assumptions. And one must anticipate the enemy’s intentions using intelligence information. All of these data and assumptions are analyzed until one finally forms a course of action. I’ve been retired for nearly seven years but the military planning habit has not left me.
The proof is in the diary?
The month before, or in its February 4, 5, and 6, 2001 issues, the Philippine Inquirer had serialized the diary of former Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara and the SC relied on Angara’s diary to resolve the crux of the matter - that Estrada was not ousted; he simply “resigned.” Couldn’t anyone by any plain reasoning just regard the People Power II uprising as a mere exercise in free speech and peaceably to assemble any more than the SC could construe the diary of Angara as proof of Erap’s resignation?

Let’s look at the following letter that GMA faxed to the SC before her oath-taking, which the main opinion conveniently omitted to cite:
The undersigned respectfully informs this Honorable Court that Joseph Ejercito Estrada is permanently incapable of performing the duties of his office resulting in his permanent disability to govern and serve his unexpired term. Almost all of his cabinet members have resigned and the Philippine National Police have withdrawn their support for Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Civil Society has likewise refused to recognize him as President.

In view of this, I am assuming the position of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Accordingly, I would like to take my oath as President of the Republic before the Honorable Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., today, 20 January 2001, 12:00 noon at Edsa Shrine, Quezon City, Metro Manila.

May I have the honor to invite the members of the Honorable Court to attend the oath-taking.
People Power, not SC, installed GMA
The letter indicated that not only did GMA not talk about resignation on the part of Erap, she also assumed the presidency (after being installed by a successful popular revolt) BEFORE her oath-taking. If for no other purpose than to affirm what legal order shall be applicable thenceforth, the oath-taking was no more than a ceremonial icing on the cake. And note likewise that when GMA said in the letter that “Civil Society has likewise refused to recognize him (Erap) as President,” the “C” in Civil and the “S” in Society were in capital letters, signifying that GMA was using the term in its classical acceptation, meaning that the body politic itself (not the “hooting throng” as Justice Puno’s obiter dictum put it) has made its decision extra-constitutionally. Until the moment then that GMA took her oath to serve under the 1987 Constitution, there could have been no juristic distinction between the extra-constitutional character of the Aquino government during the 1986 revolt and revolutionary takeover of the government by the Civil Society following the People Power II uprising.

That’s how Rene Saguisag should have seen it having been on the other side of the fence during the first People Power. But since the GMA people have not taken the same path, Rene has had a field day taunting both the SC and the GMA government.

I have earlier advanced that a popular revolt is an ultimate exercise of political power; that People Power I and People Power II are of parallel dimension; that the underlying expediency of both revolts is beyond the review and sanction of any other authority inferior to the Civil Society (therefore, a “political question” the Supreme Court cannot rule upon); that the only possible sanction against a people’s revolt is the harsh consequences of its failure; and that, if otherwise successful, the revolutionists would be free to set new rules and use or set aside existing ones. Therefore, that GMA, as the acknowledged leading representative of the rebelling Civil Society, has chosen to revert to the legal order of the status quo ante (by taking her oath under the existing constitution), which the exultant rebels have compliantly acquiesced in, opting in that way for incremental rather than radical transformation, is no valid argument that the revolt was not successfully completed.

Davide disrobed
It was in the same light I have argued that Chief Justice Davide’s decision in administering GMA’s oath was a patriotic class act of an instant revolutionist who wisely stepped down as the presiding officer of the impeachment proceedings to join the multitude at EDSA. (2) The exercise served as a moderating event during those critical and uncertain hours while it also set the turning point to reestablish immediate continuity with the past. The interval was indeed brief but enough to legitimately install GMA as leader of a new regime.

Justice Vicente Mendoza in his concurring opinion was of the view that the uprising only created a “crisis, nay, a vacuum in the executive leadership.” Didn’t John Locke confront this issue a long time ago in his Second Treatise on Civil Government? Locke postulated that “(w)hen the supreme executive power neglects or abandons that charge,” the government is effectively dissolved for, “where the laws cannot be executed it is all one as if there were no laws . . ..”

‘Dirty 11’ helped cracked the system
I have disagreed, in one exchange, with such a proposition as Justice Mendoza’s more specifically in this manner:
It should be noted that the “system in place” was illegitimated as the people’s consciousness about the fundamental crack in the system was hastened by the education provided by the impeachment trial through the intercession of information technology and, of course, the ubiquitous media. The realization that the government has been criminalized by the likes of Atong Ang and Dante Tan, that the malevolence of patron-client complex is not a leftist concoction after all, that the people’s representatives in the legislature personified by the ‘‘Dirty 11” [the eleven senators who voted during the impeachment against the opening of the envelope believed to contain evidence incriminating Estrada] would openly pursue narrow selfish interests at the expense of salus populi, and that establishment icons like retired Chief Justice Andres Narvasa and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza could mock and manipulate the legal and judicial system through all the legalistic chicanery at their disposal, all contributed to the illegitimation of the “system in place.’’

Through people power, the people collectively aspired to overthrow the system via the symbolic ouster of Erap, whom they perceived as the man at the helm of the status quo ante. The people revolted with the full knowledge that Erap is not the only enemy. They saw that the real enemy is the “system in place. ”
On the other hand, Justice Jose Vitug in his own concurring opinion has submitted that “(a)ny revolution, whether it is violent or not, involves a radical change” and that what is “vital is not the change in the personalities but a change in the structure.” Noting further that “(t)he ascension of Mme. Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency (not having resulted in) the rupture nor in the abrogation of the legal order, . . . (t)he constitutionally-established government structures, embracing various offices under the executive branch, of the judiciary, of the legislature, of the constitutional commissions and still other entities, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and local governments as well, have all remained intact and functioning.”

Justice Vitug has obviously failed to distinguish between a revolution as a process and a revolution as an immediate outcome. While both People Power I and People Power II were successful revolts, they are however somehow intricately linked together as a continuing and unfinished revolution of the Filipino People. GMA herself has said post-revolt: The fight is not over yet.

Jefferson: revolution is good
More reminders from an elder: Thomas Jefferson once held the belief that a revolution about every generation would be good for society. Such a view could very well be an indictment of the elitist root of republicanism. But the United States, like other older large-scale democracies, has somehow gone the route of democratic elitism that looks down upon popular action, what the trilateralists of the 70s called as “excess of democracy.” The challenge of older democracies is really how they could continue to enshroud democratic elitism with the rhetoric of republicanism. To the Filipinos, the challenge, I suppose, is how to perfect their re-invented system of representative government co-existing with People Power. As societies become more and more compressed as a result of technology, it would seem that Jefferson’s populist idea wasn’t wistful thinking after all. Filipinos have proved it twice in a row, and peacefully, securing, deepening, and further advancing in the process their democratic culture, beliefs, and institutions. That’s an excellent batting average.

In some contorted way, probably equivalent to the whiffling career of Rene Saguisag, Filipinos ought to laud his second quixotic charge if only for the rare historic opportunity thus offered for the Supreme Court to reverse itself in favor of People Power. But whichever way the SC would have gone, (3) the result of the May 2001 elections should be seen as the better test of People Power II.

Post about post:

To be or not to be a rebel

(This post, which I made in on January 20, 2001, beat Erap’s exit into the Pasig River)

abe: Why can’t the army or the police (that rode on the crest of a successful revolt) just apprehend a forlorn Erap holed up in the Palace and prosecute him for all his supposed crimes instead of negotiating with him? Well, the reason is (are you ready for it?) “legal technicality,” - yes, one of the same variety as “immaterial and irrelevant” [I was referring here to the technicality then raised by Erap’s defense counsels at the impeachment trial.]

The technicality is about the incompatibility of EDSA People Power II revolution with the legal processes of the constitutional system under the status quo ante. A victorious revolution could theoretically mean the collapse of the existing government and the legal structures that underpin it. Hence, if Erap were ousted by a successful revolution and not by his own resignation under the 1987 Constitution, GMA would assume power under a revolutionary government. It is “legal gobbledegook” but that’s how Cory’s government was established following the 1986 “people power” revolt, now better known as People Power I.

What’s wrong with GMA heading a revolutionary government? A lot. It could mean for instance that all the distinguished members of Congress as well as Chief Justice Davide and his robed brethren could loss their job by just a stroke of a pen over one proclamation by the revolutionary authority (read: GMA). All offices of local government units, elective or otherwise, could be declared vacant in a similar fashion. Scary? Well, Cory was once entrusted with all those awesome powers under the same principle. Fortunately, by the same legal gobbledegook, GMA could also as easily issue a proclamation to the effect that by virtue of her revolutionary powers, she would be placing her government under the authority of the 1987 Constitution. As sweet and simple as that.

Now, should GMA use her revolutionary powers to fast-track the fundamental societal, economic and political reforms the country needs to transform itself? Considering how her accelerated path to power has been invested with the high emotions of a popular revolt, then that would certainly be a tough call. But isn’t this instant moment the true crucible of a leader - a defining moment, so to speak? What if the national consensus would support such a course, would she take it against the wishes of “vested interests,” either from the Left or from the Right?


(1) I have argued that if the May 2001 senatorial elections, in which the administration candidates won 8-5, were also a referendum, it ought to be seen as just another legitimation of People Power II rather than a measure of the performance of the four-month old government of GMA at that time.

(2) The question about the rebellious complexion of the act Chief Justice Davide has been answered, clearly but quite unintentionally, by Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Davide’s comrade-in-arms during the uprising. In his book Reforming the Judiciary, Justice Panganiban wrote:
(F)rankly, I am still wondering up to now how I had summoned the courage to propose the oath-taking of Mrs. Arroyo even when she had not yet requested it, and even when President Estrada was still in Malacañang; and why Chief Justice Davide immediately agreed to it, even prior to consultation with the other justices.

The Chief Justice and I both knew that the Supreme Court was a passive institution and that, ordinarily, justices did not take active part in political events. The Court’s extraordinary action to resolve an extraordinary situation can only be explained as the work of the Holy Spirit on both of us and, in fact, on all the key players of EDSA 2. (Italics mine)
In the main, the “rebelling” justices have been, I believe, in some constitutional bind today - but certainly not the GMA government owing to many legitimating factors such as the recognition by various political institutions in the Philippine and by the international community - because of twin faux pas, namely: 1) the timidity of GMA to declare a revolutionary government, and 2) the undue activism of the Supreme Court in passing upon and yet denying the people-powered ascendancy to the presidency of GMA, which is essentially a political question. In strict constitutional sense, the juridical order not having been altered or perturbed by the logic of the Supreme Court’s own rulings, EDSA II notwithstanding, one would be hard put to defend the constitutionality of the acts of Davide, et al. But then again, who has the final say to say so?

(3) Saguisag’s motion for reconsideration was eventually thrown out on April 3, 2001 but in June 2003, Saguisag bounced back with an impeachment complaint charging eight justices of the Supreme Court with conspiring to allow President Macapagal-Arroyo to take away the presidency from Estrada. The Lower House however voted down the impeachment complaint for “insufficiency of substance,” the first of the two impeachments “initiated” against Davide.