The Nacionalistas and the Liberals, c.2007

I suppose I wanted to write while the wounds were still fresh.

Yet, why is this post titled as such? In one sense, today’s historic events contributed to the eventual selection of the above Header: the Nacionalista Party celebrates a century of existence today (So the NP is a Sagittarius?), technically the oldest of the Philippines’ political parties.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, was supposed to have made history today, in more ways than one, what with the more-or-less assured election of Sen. Mar Roxas as the LP’s President coming into the 2010 National Elections, and the speculations that the Founder’s grandson would be able to unite the “Party of the Future”, rent as it has been by more than two years of internecine conflict of such bitterness its razed entire political forces in several “blue” bailiwicks during the ’07 Midterms.

I suppose, too, that I wanted to frame the results of today’s events in a particular context. Blogging, they say, is sometimes so much personalized writing. Since the media space is the blog owner’s he or she is both Editor-in-Chief and Gatekeeper at the same time. You see the world as seen by the blogger. Unfortunately, some twits forget that and take your posts too personally, posting comments that torpedo the chances for an intelligent, constructive debate on the issue at hand.

Therefore the comparison. Because things get clearer when placed aside a point of reference. Light cannot be Good without a Darkness to contrast its Evil to, some people say.

Sen. Pres. Manny Villar had two press releases to trumpet the increasing ascendancy of the old NP. Left a hollow shell when Marcos betrayed it, too, in 1972, the Nacionalistas were virtually wiped out in the ensuing years as KBL absorbed nearly all of it. The restoration of democracy in 1986 saw little improvement, even when Doy Laurel, its head, was Vice President. Used and abused by Marcos, the NP was left to die by the wayside like some victim of a heinous crime. At least the Liberals could claim to have championed democracy through the dark years of Martial Law, and the romanticism of life as rebels with a gosh-darned cause, with its leaders some of the foremost martyrs of the time leading to the First People Power, would even cement the LP name as one of progressive, principled politics.

Who knew what moved Doy Laurel to bequeath one of the institutions of Philippine politics, not to one of the old names like the Rectos, but to relative newcomer Manny Villar? It was like giving the Heirloom Sword of a Great Family to the Squire. Yet it has been quite the providential turn, don’t you agree? A former fish vendor has managed to re-energize the rotting corpse that was the Nacionalista Party into something that could, given the next three years, be quite the contender.

In one of the press releases, Villar shows what he’s been doing right: in a time of political viciousness – allies poaching each other’s ranks, and even the mighty, familial LP, engaging in the most abhorrent and wasteful fratricide in Philippine political history – he reaches out an olive branch. “To the members of the Nacionalista Party,” he says in Filipino – making no distinction between “old”, “new” and “presumptuous,” – “our party is alive and we hope you can communicate with us.”

Well, the word he used was makipagugnayan. The closest in English would be “call us”, or “give us a call” with a matching “we’re here to welcome you,” because ugnayan has a different emotive effect than usapan, although they technically mean the same in English. Ugnay has a connotation of connection, an image of two old friends coming back together and rekindling a relationship thought long lost, whereas usap is simply speaking to someone.

Given how… acerbic Philippine politics is now, this may sound like the sweetest of coldest waters to politicians lost in the scorching, searing and unforgiving political wilderness of the post-Garci age. The NP has a Man, who has Money and a Plan. Nevermind if the Plan might have been taken from the LP’s own strategy book since main NP ideologue Chuck Crisanto spent a short spell as Chito Gascon’s puppet – este, successor pala – at the National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS).

Even better, the NP has a Name. Check that: the Name. This is no simple invention to act as vehicle for one man’s quest for dominance; this is the the oldest political party in the country. Given that, any political Family or Clan that extends past the ’70s could claim to be a Nacionalista, mostly because anyone prior to Martial Law would most likely be so, or a Liberal. Even Ninoy and some leading lights of the LP were Nacionalistas once.

Prior to Garci, the LP had claim to those; we were Party of the Future, boiboi!!! Name, even Money, and what we lacked in monetary capability was made up for by a large and deep pool of shmucks called KALIPI who were brainwashed by their elders to dedicate time, energy and considerable talent to frontlining and backstopping for a Party whose supposed “principled” leaders would shaft them anyway, either out of aborted ambition or pride or hubris, I don’t really know because they still claim to be in the Right, like good little Goebbels, and the media just laps it up because, man, these guys are Peh-di-gree.

Ok, cool. Mentat mode. Ranting is for other blogs now.

I’ve stated how simple yet effective Villar’s seemingly innocuous invite is. Contrast this now with paragraph 5 of the Updated News Item on the election of Mar Roxas as LP President:

“Asked if he would accede to the reported request of Environment Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza, who leads a splinter faction of the LP, for seats in the party leadership, Roxas said: “My leadership is not subject to hostage taking. I would do what’s best for the country and the party and talk to everyone [including] party members with a different view.” “

Part of you, the one Trained by some of the best PR practitioners of the late 90’s, understands that this is plain rhetoric. Whoever wrote this part was aiming for the media value that always accompanies combative, controversial statements. It’s like the weigh-ins and pre-fight statements of boxers.

But the other parts of you rail at it. The one screaming thought is, what the farking hell was Mar thinking when he said that?! “Hostage-taking?” If we wanted to take his “leadership” hostage believe me when I say there are much more effective ways to do that. He knows that. For one, who was it that circulated a “manifesto of support” among Liberals from both sides in Congress? Didn’t come from the Atienza Wing, I can assure you of that. In fact the common reaction to it was, “hold on, I’ll make a phonecall first.”

I was privy to much of the post-negotiation discussions leading to this day, as our leaders in the Atienza Wing met to discuss what Mar said (and in some cases, didn’t say) during talks with him. I could already glean a certain lack of a meeting of minds. Mar was demanding carte blanche authority over both sides, essentially telling the Atienza Wing that, under his presidency, the LP would be united again. It was said that his dream was to proclaim a unified LP in the Party’s anniversary in 19 January 200.

Our leaders told him, we want that too. We knew what the infighting would do to us, but like what we keep telling a deaf Media that has made the Public misinformed, we were the ones shafted on that cloudy July 8 morning. Just because Drilon and his motely cabal of destabilizers were anti-Gloria, they were suddenly the Good Guys? I mean, whatever happened to the farking Truth?

We were telling Mar that we just couldn’t accept his demand for carte blanche authority over every single Liberal in the country because there were issues that needed to be resolved first. What assurance would we get that July 8 would not happen again?

To illustrate to you the magnitude of that deception, and the level of trust, idealism and filial ties shattered by the ambition of one man and the hubris of a few last 8 July 2005, the President was said to have called then-Mayor Lito Atienza that day, “Lito, they’re meeting at Club Filipino and calling on me to step down! Why aren’t you there?” See? We were all caught flatfooted. Staff and non-anti-GMA LP alike. When Drilon told Atienza that it the July 8 activity was “nothing important, just a consultation,” like July 6 was, Atienza believed it, despite all the signs to the contrary (like the Chit-led HQ conveniently leaving out several names, including Atienza’s, from the invite list for July 8). Besides, that was the schedule on that day, Day Two of the “consultations” after Drilon and Chit Asis cancelled the NECO meeting that was originally meant to decide the Garci issue for the LP.

Because Liberals who were so in the old days when it was chic to be LP yet politically-threatening because we were small have this idea that the word of a fellow Liberal was its own bond. We were “family”, after all. There was a sense of belonging, not only to the… grandness of the LP name and history but also to the organization because you could go to far off LP bastions like Batanes and know your fellow Liberals would assist you any way they can.

Drilon and that whole cabal who stood and called for GMA’s stepping down on 8 July 2005 shattered that idyllic time, the era of the “Liberal Family,” when the LP was a growing political force because we were on the cutting edge of political reform. Political chic was being backed slowly but steadily with the latest political advocacy tools and a growing mass base.

Mar had that one golden opportunity to grab his farking destiny by the farking horns and master it. “Hostage taking?” Buster, we were simply telling you what our situation is! We thought you understood. Didn’t you castigate one of the LP’s leaders sometime ago for intimating that your moves weren’t planned? If I apply the Sedmak Conundrum to your statement then, are we to assume that we can’t expect from the “Great Unifier” that level of understanding and accommodation of our situation?

I can understand rhetoric; given the crowd at the Club Filipino at the time, the situation demanded nothing but. I mean, look at who was there: Dinky Soliman, Eta Rosales, Carmelo Caluag, among other Civil Society frontliners.

But must Mar be so… exclusive? Take me or leave me.

Dude. We wanted you to lead us, too, remember? But we were in a situation. Certainly the banker and Atenean in you understands context? All this was explained to you.

“My leadership will not be subject to hostage-taking.” Sure, Mar. But you’re happy being a Muppet?

In essence, both the LP and NP statements of today were laced with rhetoric; even in the age of the Internet, politics thrives on demagoguery. But every public speaker, every writer, knows that there words and phrases that project a particular image.

The Nacionalistas, long regarded as too conservative to adapt to the demands of any age after World War II, gave out a statement that allows Manny Villar to open his doors to all political leaders seeking shelter in the increasingly-stormy Philippine landscape while leaving it sufficiently vague that he can later take his pick.

Whereas the supposedly progressive Liberals, antagonized what every political leader – including, I’m sure, Mar himself, unless he believes in the propaganda of the Drilon faction – knows is the larger of its two halves. Every political force out there not in that Ivory Tower of the Blessed Pedigreed knows the enormous windfall the split of the LP had for many of those parties. All those suddenly-orphaned bases and bastions, carefully cultivated during the Liberal Family days and now open to predation from other parties because the Holy Ones said we were Bad People to side with Gloria.

For your sake, Mr. Roxas, I dearly hope Paragraph 5 was a well-thought out move.

But then, who the hell am I, right? Just one of those bloody hostage takers.

Thanks, Senator. I feel so reconciled and inspired now.

As a final word, I leave you this statement from the early days of the GMA presidency:

“we put you there, so we can remove you from there.”

Remember where that came from, Mar? Many of those that said that were in the very room that you gave your valedictory.

Hostage-takers, indeed…

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2 Responses to The Nacionalistas and the Liberals, c.2007

  1. Pingback: The LP Civil War « Phoenix Eyrie, Reloaded

  2. я вот что скажу: шикарно!

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