Thursday, June 17, 2004, 3:55 PM
Musings on the Canvassing of Votes
Considering how the Canvass of Votes at the Batasan has been going, you’d think people would refuse to give it a damn. Yet, there ARE lots of people in that gallery who were not bussed in by any of the camps involved, and many still tune in either for the live coverage or the news updates. Heck, I even saw the piece CNN did on the Canvass, or rather the delay in the Canvass.
Perhaps, after so many political upheavals, the Filipino has developed a… rapt fascination for political absurdity. As a Communications graduate (who wants to do an MA thesis on political communications), I guess I can appreciate the fundamental aspects of this fascination: it’s not something the general public sees everyday (and they should be thanking God for it believe me…), which makes it a novelty – no matter how absurd – and therefore merits the attention it’s getting.
While watching Part N of the Digs Dilangalen Show, I actually entertained thoughts of how that loud, LOUD person could be made to shut up; wasn’t there a sanction or some such that can be thrown his way, I asked our political operations officer. Looking at it in another way, such… antics from the “Honorables” of Congress is perhaps part of the appeal of the damned spectacle to the general public. Especially “Shut Up Evening”, the whole Canvass could neatly fall in the “Hwow” category of Things You Watch to Forget Your Problems. It’s like the mental equivalent of an enema: hurts like hell (hello, you get something shoved up your butt), but you get relief from whatever your hurting from. Well, kinda relief. More like catharsis.
Because I’m coming off from an as-yet unknown-sourced depression, I’ve refused using my analytical protocols to getting down to analyzing the whole thing and its effects on the national psyche. I know, I know: what I’m doing, this refusing to act the Mentat that I am, is tantamount to gross negligence. But… the whole thing is stressful than an episode of your most inane telenovela!
Of course, since I’m a Mentat and I DO check most of my information sources nightly, some analyses can’t be avoided. I guess I should start with the bad ones:
Analysis One: The Opposition. In more mature democracies, Oppositions play an important role as the natural fiscalizers of the Administration. They are and SHOULD be the Incumbent’s worst critics simply because an Opposition’s role is to provide alternatives. Options, and the freedom to choose from a, b, c, ad infinitum, is the essence of democracy.
To use a literary term, Oppositions are the FOIL of the Administration, which for purposes of literary analogy we are calling the “Protagonists” (certainly they see themselves that way). Foils are not necessarily Antagonists by definition: they are simply the obverse of the protagonists. I think a good example most Filipinos could relate to are the Noli Me Tangere characters Crisostimo Ibarra and Elias: one was a pacifist reformist, the other a revolutionary who didn’t mind getting his hands wet with blood. But both wanted a free Philippines, or at least one that wasn’t too oppressed.
The Opposition right now, led by such characters as Ed Angara, Tito Sotto, Digs Dilangalen and – horror of horrors – Nene Pimentel are acting more like the antagonists of the Filipino people than foils to the sitting government. I hope nobody believes their drivel that what they’re doing is in the interests of a fair, clean elections. Even those ten they paraded in Cebu… we have reliable information that backs up the driver’s story about the 10 being plants of the Opposition. How reliable? We know who the guy is, the one who “found” the 10.
Its one thing I have great difficulty in accepting: that there ARE people who would literally endanger the life of the Republic and its people for personal gain and survival. For make no mistake, the Elections of 2004 was about survival, political and literal. I can accept the right of any individual to see to his betterment and continued existence, but the minute that person would be willing to sacrifice the lives of 70 million or so people is the minute that person loses that right.
Which leads me to Analysis Two: The Pimentel Phenomenon. I think this can be best summed in two phrases: “Why?” and “What the Hell?” I voted for the man last May 10, considered him a Statesman for his conduct during the RIO. He just won, on the strength of being just that, a statesman in an opposition largely bereft of such. Yet… I remember watching that filibuster evening. First there was confusion. Then shock, as Pimentel began what would be the start of a four hour filibuster. Finally, anger and indignation. I read Manuel Quezon III’s piece on the filibuster and generally agree with his points, that the filibuster serves a purpose in democracies and parliamentary systems of governance.
But what Pimentel did was utterly… horrible. It wasn’t just about your tax pesos going down the drain (Goodness, but that was some very expensive saliva), but about political maturity. MLQ3 used as an example that episode in The West Wing where the filibuster was used. But there WAS a valid reason for that filibuster. I can’t seem to find one in Pimentel’s. Is he perfectly willing to subject the nation to a constitutional crisis just to salve his wounded ego? There are far more effective ways to redress alleged cheating in the elections other than delaying the canvass with full intentions.
There are two theories supporting the Pimentel Phenomenon. One states that he’s acting this way because of his passionate denunciation of dagdag-bawas; the man knows how it feels, after all, to be at the receiving end of cheating. The funny things about Theory One is that (a) the persons responsible for HIS being the target of dagdag-bawas ran with him in the KNP ticket, and (b) he never addresses cheating that was instigated by the KNP side. It’s all about the Admin. If he IS against dagdag-bawas, then shouldn’t he just as passionately be admonishing his colleagues in the KNP for their own operations?
Theory Two was also applied to Digs: that Pimentel ACTUALLY believes his own group’s propaganda. This is frightening because Pimentel is still rather credible. If it were Sotto, Oreta or Enrile who was leading the assault on the canvass, would you give it any worth? But if Pimentel is a statesman, and a brilliant one at that, a veteran politician, shouldn’t he recognize party BS from Truth? Jovy Salonga is much older, but try to put a fast one on the Grand Old Man and be prepared to get screwed big time.
Analysis Three is a bit scarier: The Opposition’s Plans to Be in Power. I think we can also call this the, “Screw the Elections, We Won Regardless of What the Ballots Say” scenario. The flag points are all there: psycho-emotional preconditioning for massive cheating through priming statements; allusions to EDSA I, where the popular will was used to invalidate the Dictator-dictated ballots; “special operations” to follow up the priming statements and allusions, like the bombing of Katipunan Ave. and the Cebu 10; Poe going around and saying “I, er, we, er, the people won!”
Sotto, speaking during the rather tense episode of 16 June 2004, of course denied the allegations that they planned a walkout. But even as he did, everybody knows that the threat of such – who’s stopping them from doing so? – is the Sword of Damocles that the opposition has over the majority for dragging the canvassing this long. The chairs of the committee can’t shut the opposition up because they CAN and WILL walk out. In fact, that’s what they’re waiting for, that moment either Kiko Pangilinan or Raul Gonazalez buckles due to sheer exasperation and uses the power of their position and the majority to stop all the debates.
The walk out is the trigger. The opposition, ala-1986, will claim that the admin has railroaded the canvass and will now bring the “battle” to a different field, that of mass actions. Our current analysis shows that the KNP camp lacks the numbers, but I think our analysis failed to account for one factor: the “mainstream” Left. The National Demcorats – Bayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriella, AnakPawis, Migrante, NUSP, CEGP, LFS, SCMP, etc. – whose disdain for GMA and long-term goals of establishing a Communist state in the Philippines made them ally, albeit hush-hush, with FPJ and the KNP.
Those monitoring the opposition currently believe that any such attempt at hijacking the elections results via mass actions will ultimately fail: the general public is tired of it all and the AFP and PNP are largely non-adventurist, post-Oakwood. There is no support from the Catholic Church or the Iglesia for such, and the Catholic Student Councils, under the lead of the UCSC and CEAP, will not side with such an action by the KNP and its allies and will in fact most likely lead actions to defeat it on a civil society level.
But it will do damage. Lots of damage. Remember: the Philippines was well on the way to recovering from Martial Law when Gringo Honasan launched his nearly-successful coup in 1989. It was like a punch to the solar plexus for the Philippines.
But there are bright spots even in this dreary political landscape. For one, all this political activity is raising the political consciousness of the average Filipino. We’ve been tracking gestalts since the Estrada Impeachment up to the Davide Impeachment and it seems like Filipinos now think more on issues than gut-feel emotions when it comes to the political sphere.
And there’s also the junking of People Power as a political tool. Of course, it will be used as such when the proper “ingredients” are there and the moment requires it, but nevermore like with May 1, 2001. Even as we used it in 2000, there was still the apprehension that certain groups could hijack it for their own purposes. People in mass actions are in an agitated state, and could be easily swayed by persons with the right training and skill. Besides, even then, we in KOMPIL II wanted to see the consti process of the Impeachment Court succeed. Mature democracies are founded on the efficacy of their institutional tools. People Power, as used in I and II and abused in May 1 2001, is still an extra-consti measure and therefore lacks the safeguards of democratic institutional processes. People Power is STILL a revolutionary action, albeit one without (much) bloodshed. And with the operators of civil society now in the employ of all sides, the chances of People Power being used for means other than what it should be for is higher than back in 2000.
In the end, no matter what happens in Congress or who gets sworn as President, the future of the Philippines still resides in its people. Sovereignty resides in the People and all government authority emanates from them. If this canvassing will serve to make the Filipino realize this, and use it responsibly to its fullest… then all this heartache and stress will be worth it.