November 2008

by Perry Diaz

The recent coup that ousted Sen. Manny Villar from the presidency of the Senate and installed Juan Ponce Enrile — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s top political ally in the Senate — took a sudden turn of events when Gloria’s son, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, made a preemptory move to get the Charter change (Cha-cha) moving again with a House Resolution to convene a Constituent Assembly. But to Gloria’s surprise, her followers in the Senate — including Enrile — balked at the idea of Cha-cha prior to 2010. She should know better that the Philippine Senate — just like Julius Caesar’s Roman Senate two millennia ago — doesn’t pander to dictators.

Emotions have been running high in the days following the Senate coup. Gloria’s son, Congressman Mikey Arroyo, was in flurry getting signatures from members of the House of Representatives to support constitutional amendment through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass) which is authored by Congressman Luis Villafuerte, KAMPI President and a close ally of Gloria. Within a few days, Mikey has gathered the signatures of 163 out of the 238 members of the Lower House. At first Mikey denied leading the signature drive but eventually he admitted it when several congressmen pointed their finger at him.

It is interesting to note that Mikey and his younger brother, Congressman Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, were perceived as their mom’s “enforcers” in the Lower House. They’re known by their colleagues as the real “Speakers” of the House. And who would dare buck the First Sons? Their mom holds the key to the congressmen’s pork barrel funds. She’s the goose that lays the golden eggs. One of the rules in politics is the Golden Rule — he or she who has the gold rules.

To pass a constitutional amendment through Con-Ass, a three-fourth majority vote is required of both chambers of Congress. However, there are conflicting interpretations of what constitutes “three-fourth majority vote.” Is it three-fourths of the combined membership of the House of Representatives (238) and the Senate (24) or three-fourths of each chamber voting separately?

If the Senate succumbed to the “tyranny” of the House, then it’s a done deal: a Con-Ass will move forward, unhindered, to amend the constitution any which way the House leadership wants. However, if the majority of the senators would reject the notion of a combined three-fourth majority vote of both chambers, then the proponents of Con-Ass would have go to the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the constitution.

Given the current make-up of the Supreme Court — with at least nine of the 15 justices perceived to be pro-Gloria — the House Con-Ass resolution would prevail; thus, relegating the Senate to an inutile polyp-like adjunct of the House. However, should the High Court uphold the independence of the Senate making it a co-equal to the House, Gloria could wait until next year when at least seven Supreme Court justices are retiring. At that time, she will have a grand opportunity to stack the High Court with political hacks. And by that time, Gloria would wield near-absolute dictatorial powers — swift and bloodless.

But that scenario is predicated on what the Senate would do today. If the Senate would abdicate its role as ‘fiscalizer” of the Executive Branch, then all is lost — Gloria will reign beyond 2010 and could propagate her family dynasty for many generations to come. Remember, Gloria is already the second president in the Macapagal bloodline.

The question is: will the people accept another dictatorial rule, almost a quarter-century after the Marcos dictatorship was dismantled by the People Power Revolution of 1986? Ironically, the newly installed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile — an ardent loyalist of Gloria — was the one who led the 1986 revolution. Now that Enrile is the Senate President, he is caught between his loyalty to Gloria and his sworn duty to protect the sanctity and independence of the Senate.

Enrile’s initial reaction — broadcasted over DwIZ — to the House Con-Ass resolution was: “I will tell you I will resist any effort on the part of anybody to make the Senate inutile as a junk of the House of Representatives. For me, whether it is term extension or no term extension, it is almost an impossible dream to bring about any constitutional change at this time.” He said that “almost all of the 23 sitting senators were against it.”

However, it is anticipated that Gloria’s henchmen are going to put a lot of pressure on Enrile. Would he be able to resist them? It’s interesting to note that in November 2006, Enrile filed Senate Resolution 580 calling for a Con-Ass in the Senate to counter a House Resolution that would leave the Senate completely out of a Con-Ass. Enrile said at that time that the Senate and the House should vote separately.

It remains to be seen if Enrile would sacrifice his principle for political convenience and… survival. But he is a survivor many times over and at this time — in the golden years of his life — he might just pull one more attempt to challenge a formidable and entrenched political machine. Can he unify and marshal the forces of the Senate to dig in and — in the words of Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. — “man Tirad Pass again”?

But it is the ominous words of rookie Senator Francis Pangilinan that have drawn the attention of many people: “If they think the people will eat any garbage they offer, they are wrong. This will spark an uprising against the Arroyo government.” And he warned, “they should never underestimate the awesome power of the disenchanted people, who have had enough of bankrupt leadership and governance.” Indeed, the biggest threat to Gloria is when her “Enchanted Kingdom” turns into a “Disenchanted Kingdom.”

It is sad that amidst the economic turbulence that is besieging the country today, Gloria’s unquenchable thirst for power and wealth continues to take its toll on the people. And if there is one lesson Gloria has to learn: history tends to repeat itself when certain conditions begin to happen. Déjà vu.


Perry Diaz

Once again, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is in the hot seat. No president in Philippine history — or perhaps the world — has experienced the ignominy of impeachment four times. But to Gloria, that is just another occupational hazard. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

As in the first three impeachment petitions, she is expected to survive this fourth and, perhaps, last attempt to remove her before her term ends in 2010. With only six — including former Speaker Jose de Venecia — of the 29 opposition congressmen endorsing the impeachment petition filed by De Venecia’s son, Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, there is not an iota of chance — or luck — that the House of Representatives would impeach Gloria. With her deep pockets and political patronage, there is just no way Congress would impeach her. That is like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

So, what the hell is Congress trying to do? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going to happen next, which is: vindication of Gloria. And once vindicated, she could then boldly make her next move which is to stay in power beyond 2010. And if you look at what’s going on right now, the parameters to prolong her kleptocratic reign are pretty much in place. Her political machine is ready to go rolling… and roll over anyone who stands in her way.

The only thing that would stop Gloria is world public opinion which could cause the international financial cartel to react convulsively and tighten — or stop — credit to Gloria’s government. And without international credit, Gloria’s “Enchanted Kingdom” would crumble like a sand castle.

One of the Philippines’ biggest creditors is Japan. With Japan officially in recession last week, it will predictably tighten the flow of money to a drip. With China going through financial crisis of its own and the United States already in deep shit, the Philippines’ economic outlook is dim. And with the peso plummeting against the US dollar, Gloria’s ambitious economic programs — which is predicated on the continuous flow of OFW remittances — are in big trouble.

In July 2008, the unemployment rate was 7.4% and underemployment rate was 21%. With the global economy melting down, the increasing number of unemployed OFWs are going home.

What is strange is that a lot of Philippine economic “experts” were saying that the Philippines will not go into recession despite the global economic meltdown. These experts should remember that what fueled the “economic boom” in the past few years were three factors: 1) Increased OFW remittances; 2) Weakened US dollar; and 3) Increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Now, let’s look at each of these factors today. With OFW losing their jobs and going home, remittances will decrease. The US dollar vis-à-vis the Philippine peso is no longer weakening; it’s the peso that is now weakening. At the beginning of the year, the peso was very robust at P41 to US$1. Today, it is P51 to US$1… and continues to weaken. In regard to FDIs, during the first five months of 2008, FDIs totaled a net inflow of US$725 million. A year ago, the net inflow was US$2.3 billion — a 25% drop in FDIs. That’s triple whammy!

Last November 17, 2008, in a blitzkrieg-like assault in the Upper Chamber, Senate President Manuel Villar was ousted and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile — a close ally of Gloria — was swiftly installed. But what is odd is that the coup was supported by several opposition senators including Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, and Francis Escudero. What made them do it? Well, they can all say, “The Devil made me do it.” Interestingly, Lacson, Roxas, and Legarda are presidential wannabes. And with Villar, who is the front-runner in the presidential derby, their move appears to be motivated by their personal ambition. And by removing Villar as the Senate head honcho, it would enhance their chances in the presidential race. That’s wishful thinking. What they didn’t realize is that the ouster of Villar will only consolidate the powers of Gloria in the three branches of government. For the first time the country has now an undivided government. Next year, Gloria’s grip on the Supreme Court will further tighten when nine justices will retire and, of course, Gloria will replace them with her loyalists.

Gloria had been trying very hard to impress the international community with untruthful and hyperbolic pronouncements. She tried very hard — and failed — to connect with US President-elect Barack Obama before and after his election. The word “snubbed” has been used in the media to describe her failed attempt to contact Obama right after the election. She then went to Chicago on her way to the United Nations in New York to meet with the local Fil-Ams. The Fil-Am community, however, was abuzz with words that Gloria’s real purpose in going to Chicago was to seek a meeting with Obama. But it seemed that Obama’s cordon sanitaire was impenetrable and Gloria high-tailed it to New York without seeing him. However, on November 17, Obama returned Gloria’s November 4th call and two others. A generic statement from Obama’s office said that he “expressed his appreciation for their congratulations on his election.”

While Gloria tried very hard to gain international recognition with her globetrotting junkets, her satisfactory rating back home is 6.6% and her unsatisfactory rating is 82.2%. Her net satisfaction rating is -75.6, the lowest since 2004. Unfazed by these negative polls, Gloria is taking off again for Peru to attend the APEC meeting. It was reported that 42 congressmen will be joining her. The last time Congress tried to impeach her, she took off on a European junket with more than 70 congressmen and their spouses in her entourage. When they returned, Congress rejected the impeachment petition.

Amidst the economic turmoil that is besieging the country, the Filipino people continue to suffer in hunger and unemployment. But to those in power, it’s business as usual — to hell with public opinion!


by Perry Diaz

On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. evoked the name of Lincoln in his “I Have a Dream” speech. “I have a dream,” he said, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Almost half a century later on November 3, 2008, his dream came true with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Obama was catapulted to the presidency with the vote of a new generation of Americans: idealistic, young people of diverse colors — white, black, brown, yellow, red — who judged Obama not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. This is the color-blind generation that Dr. King dreamed about and they’re the vanguard of a movement that changed politics in America.

The road America took towards a color-blind society — we’re not there yet but getting closer to it — was pock-marked with violence and hatred. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln led his Republican Party to stop the expansion of slavery beyond the borders of the 11 pro-slavery southern states. Lincoln’s ascension to the presidency sparked the American Civil War in 1861 that took 620,000 lives — the bloodiest in the nation’s history. In 1862, in the midst of the civil war, Lincoln made a bold step and issued his Emancipation Proclamation with the goal of ending slavery. The victory of Lincoln’s Union Army in 1865 ended the civil war.

Although freed from slavery, the African-Americans had to fight for equality for the next 100 years. Racial segregation was the rule rather than the exception. African-Americans were systematically disenfranchised particularly in the Deep South where Jim Crow laws relegated African-Americans to second class citizens.

With the landmark legislation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which outlawed discriminatory voting practices against African-Americans, African-Americans and other minorities made inroads in politics. However, gerrymandering still lived — electoral districts were arbitrarily redistributed to the advantage of the majority whites.

Forty-three years after the Voting Rights Act was enacted, a black man finally shattered the racial barriers in politics. The key to Obama’s success was his ability to register and mobilize millions of young voters… and get them out to vote on election day.

Polls showed that Obama got at least two-thirds of the young — and first-time — voters. But what became apparent during the campaign was that these young voters were ethnically diverse. They looked upon Obama as a leader whose blackness was irrelevant to their cause. To them he is the visionary that they believe would lead America in a new direction and change the way the government works.

Obama saw the strength of the Internet-savvy youths. He used state-of-the-art technology to gather and compile the email addresses of 70 million Americans that he could reach at the click of a laptop keyboard. Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet and American Life Project said, “They have millions of e-mail addresses, phone numbers and whole communities of supporters – both geographic and online – and it will be very interesting to see how they use them in government.”

Obama’s Internet-based networking website attracted millions of young voters. He used “viral networking” to spread his message by email and text messaging. And he raised a record-setting $158 million in September alone, 75% of which came online.

Obama has changed the way of reaching out to voters. Indeed, it was his consistent message of “Change” that attracted this color-blind generation of young idealistic Americans who are restless for change. Finally, America is beginning to outgrow its race-conscious ways of doing business.

A year ago, many people were saying that America was not ready to elect an African-American President. Even African-Americans were cynical of Obama’s quixotic quest for the presidency. Before the Iowa caucuses, many African-Americans opted to support Hillary Clinton whom many believed was in a better position to clinch the Democratic nomination. Many believed that Obama did not have a chance to win the Iowa Democratic caucuses. The conventional wisdom at that time was that Iowa was too lily white — and very Republican — for Obama to snatch. But snatch he did… with the support of young white voters who flocked to the caucuses that gave Obama his first primary victory. By the time South Carolina held its primary, the African-Americans had detoured from the Clinton trail and gave Obama his first southern state victory.

With his African-American base and the newly empowered color-blind generation of young voters, Obama clinched the presidency on November 4th. Now, the question is: will the color-blind generation continue to expand and flex its political muscle in electing our national leaders without regard to race? And finally, would other people of color be able to follow Obama’s footsteps to the White House?


by Perry Diaz

At 11:00 PM Eastern Time on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama made history when he was elected President of the United States, a feat that no African-American has achieved before. After enduring a negative campaign by his opponent, Obama convinced the American people that he is the man whom they can trust in changing the way the government works. With a vision of hope, Obama’s victory ushers in a new era.

Obama’s election amidst some of the sleaziest campaign tactics against him proved once again that the American people will not fall prey to negativism. But it was Obama’s positive outlook and determination to stay on course that finally convinced the electorate that he could bring real change to America.

In his victory speech in Chicago attended by 125,000 enthusiastic supporters, Obama gave a stirring call to all Americans to come together and help him bring change to the nation. He set the tone of his administration when he prefaced his speech by saying, “The greatest of a lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” He told them, “This is our moment, this is our time” and declared: “Change has come to America.” But he reminded the people that he alone cannot make that change. “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder,” he said. The response was spontaneous and brought many to tears of joy. In the crowd was the fiery Rev. Jesse Jackson — who once ran for President — with tears falling from his eyes.

The diversity of the crowd was a testament to the wide support for Obama’s message, “Yes, we can,” which the crowd chanted as Obama outlined the tasks that lie ahead: ending the Iraq War, fix the economy, health care, education…

It is not going to be easy. It would take a man of great courage to achieve the change he wanted. But he is not a man lacking in courage. His courage to seek the presidency without a precedence was like charting the unknown seas. He didn’t have the stars to go by, only the instinct and determination of a person whose only fear is fear itself.

Looking back at the 21 months of his steep climb to the pinnacle of political power in America, Obama’s success may have been attributed to “Mandela Effect,” to wit: “When you can create enduring success not because you are perfect or lucky but because you have the courage to do what matters to you.” Indeed, he proclaimed oftentimes during his campaign that he was not perfect. And lucky? Well, as someone once said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” And work harder he did to achieve what he courageously sought: the presidency of the United States of America.

Obama had broken the racial barrier to the presidency. The trail that he blazed to the White House will be studied and charted by political scientists for others to use. Henceforth, it would be easier for people of color to pursue the highest position in the land. And no longer do they have to fear the “Bradley Effect.” In 1982, Tom Bradley, an African-American, lost the California gubernatorial contest although he was ahead in the polls prior to the election. The theory suggests that white voters would tell pollsters that they are undecided or would vote for a black candidate; however, on election day they would vote for the white candidate.

Because of the “Bradley Effect,” political pollsters and pundits would not dare predict the victory of Obama prior to the November 4 elections. It has never happened in a presidential election before; thus, making “Bradley Effect” a huge variable in the polls. Some say that for Obama to win, he had to have at least a 10-percent lead over McCain in the polls. In most polls, Obama led by 5 to 6 percent — not enough to offset the “Bradley Effect.” The initial results of the popular vote were 52% for Obama to 47% for McCain with 84% of all precincts reported. Most of the polls were pretty close to these figures. In other words, “Bradley Effect” did not materialize in the 2008 elections.

The first task of Obama is to start the unification of the American people who were polarized by the negative campaign tactics. McCain, in his concession speech in Phoenix, Arizona, congratulated and complimented Obama. He urged his followers to “come together and bridge the separations and put aside differences.” And he promised that he “will get behind his president, President Obama.”

Thus started the healing process. If the two erstwhile rivals could work together — McCain is still a senator — it would certainly bode well for the Obama administration. And as Obama promised, he will reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship.

As the Bush presidency comes to an end, let’s give President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden best wishes as they usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. God bless both of them. God bless America.