Monthly Archives: February 2009

Column: Is there a future for Edsa?

Published on February 24, 2009

I thought the use of former acting award winners to pay personal tribute to the acting nominees at Monday’s Oscar awards — to substitute the tribute for the usual name-and-video-clip nomination routine — was a deft touch. It delivered on what first-time host Hugh Jackman had promised, a depression-era awards rite with more show and less biz. It dramatically welcomed the nominees into an elite fraternity of talent (Anthony Hopkins’ lauding of Brad Pitt’s “magnificent” quality as a “character actor” left Angelina Jolie beaming; Shirley Maclaine’s praise for Anne Hathaway amounted to a benediction). Not least, it reminded a global audience that the movies have a long, storied tradition. And that that tradition must be welcomed, assimilated, transcended, lived — in sum, reckoned with—in every movie worth the name.

* * *

Malacañang’s calculated snub of the Edsa I anniversary is offensive on many levels, but it is on the level of tradition that the offense cuts deepest. EDSA I as a political event defined the democracy that was restored, however haphazardly, in 1986; to slight it, or to leave it out of the narrative altogether, is nothing less than an attempt to redefine the tradition behind our democratic project.
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Column: Acts of conscience and Facebook memes

Published on February 17, 2009

The last column was about probabilities: Which, of the many members of the so-called Moist-Eye Club, have a realistic chance of winning the presidency in 2010? My reading of certain pre-election surveys by the poll group Social Weather Stations may be wrong, but I think (naturally enough) that it makes practical sense.

Assuming that popular will is respected, only six politicians have a real shot at winning the big prize 15 months from now — Vice President Noli de Castro and five incumbent senators: Loren Legarda, Manny Villar, Chiz Escudero, Ping Lacson and Mar Roxas. Assuming further that the global financial crisis will have fully sunk its fangs into the Philippine economy by the last quarter of the year, that list should narrow to maybe three aspirants by the time certificates of candidacy are filed in December. (We can make other assumptions, but the idea that the field will narrow to maybe three strong candidates still sounds reasonable to me.)

But readers have asked the inevitable question: Shouldn’t we vote according to our conscience, not according to what the surveys say?
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Edsa 20: Isang Larawan (2/2)

The second part. (Second installment courtesy of YouTube, that is.)

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Edsa 20: Isang Larawan (1/2)

First part of the 2006 Inquirer documentary I helped with. 

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Newsstand, Mark-ed

Last month, I suggested that the Nationalist People’s Coalition could imagine a viable political future without Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or her two political parties.

But now the NPC has Sen. Loren Legarda, who topped the Senate elections twice; the young Sen. Chiz Escudero, who came in second to Legarda in the 2007 polls and enjoys a rock-star appeal among younger voters; and (on the other side of the political fence) Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Cojuangco’s nephew. Teodoro does not enjoy any significant name recall to speak of, but he does have operational control of one of the few truly nationwide organizations: the military. (Cojuangco controls another one, the far-flung San Miguel Corp., which like the Armed Forces has one of the country’s largest transportation fleets.)

If the NPC is interested in shaping a post-Cojuangco future favorable to itself, it will contest the 2010 race. Given its advantages, the party would be foolish to entrust its future to yet another coalition with the Lakas-CMD and Kampi parties — when the upside to finally going it alone is clear.

Early this month, Rep. Mark Cojuangco, one of the NPC founder’s sons, told reporters the following:

Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco, the son of NPC chair and business mogul Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, said on Monday the NPC was not interested in changing the form of government or in extending the terms of incumbent officials, as it had a winning presidential team in Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda for the 2010 elections.

“My party has very strong presidential candidates for 2010: Chiz-Loren, Loren-Chiz. So, why would we want to upset our chances? We believe we can win,” Cojuangco said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Why would we want to upset our chances to have our party’s candidate sit as President? Why would we want to shoot ourselves in the foot?” he said.

That, I would think, takes us another step closer to May 2010.

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An election lesson plan

My apologies for cross-posting from Inquirer Current, but that blog is taking forever to load today. Besides, the topic — Are Filipinos intelligent voters? — fits in nicely with this blog’s particular obsessions.

In Current, the post is entitled “Learning from Loren.”

The other day, I was asked yet another question about intelligent electorates. Do Filipinos vote for the most popular, even if the most popular are not necessarily the most qualified? Or (to use the terms the interviewers used): Is the Filipino “audience” intelligent? How about the Filipino “electorate”?

I gave a qualified answer, of course, making a distinction between the way we vote for the presidency and the way we vote for the Senate. I use that same distinction in my column of February 10, where I propose that our next president, come May 2010, can only be either of the following: Kabayan, Loren, Manny Villar, Chiz, Ping, and Mar. (Is the fact that Manny Villar does not have a ready one-word handle boon or bane?)

But it is possible, even when we only have a single vote to cast rather than the 12 we can use for the Senate, to send clear signals to the candidates, a point I raised in passing in my column of February 3.

Consider the case of Loren Legarda. The 1998 Senate topnotcher, she did not do well in the voters’ preferences surveys conducted by SWS in the run-up to the 2004 vote.

In the December 2002 survey, for example, Raul Roco and FPJ topped the list, with Kabayan and GMA in striking distance. Loren, however, had a measly dieter’s slice of the pie.


In that same survey, however, Legarda did quite well in the vice-presidential list. She placed second to Kabayan (who had just topped the Senate race a year and a half before, in 2001).


As it turns out (here is an SWS news release for its November 2003 survey, about a year after the first poll), Legarda’s vice-presidential qualities (to coin a phrase) impressed more and more Filipinos. By November 2003, the race between De Castro and Legarda had become a real contest.


My point: In 2004, voters were discriminating enough to make a distinction between Legarda as president and Legarda as vice-president. (In contrast, voters were equally happy to say they would vote for Noli de Castro either as president or as vice-president — at least until FPJ threw his hat into the ring.) I see that distinction-making as a sign that, in fact, and by and large, voters in the aggregate know what they want.

Here, then, is intelligence, of a sort, at work.


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Column: The 2010 race is set

Published on February 10, 2010

To the discussion of political first principles and the debates over policy details, engaged citizens must add one more task to their permanent to-do list: get down and dirty about the practice, the reality, of politics.

And the reality is: We already know who our next president will be. Or more precisely, who among a select five or six Filipinos will win the 2010 elections.

A look back at four pre-election surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations (December 1996, December 2002 and December 2008, plus a summary of its July 1991 poll) suggests to me that while the set of prospective presidential candidates for 2010 is still relatively loose, the subset of possible winners is very tight indeed.

I am of course wary of placing more weight on the survey results than they can (or were designed to) bear. But having followed previous campaigns closely, I would like to suggest the following reading that makes intuitive, practical, sense.
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A couple of charts

Tables, actually, lifted from the Social Weather Stations site.

Kabayan, Loren, and Manny Villar lead the list of voters’ presidential preferences in the December 2008 survey (note, though, that respondents in this poll could “vote” thrice).


In the December 2002 survey, Roco and FPJ shared top honors, with Kabayan and GMA running not too far behind.


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Column: Legal ‘barok’

Published on February 3, 2009

Of the many basketball teams I have rooted for, perhaps my sentimental favorite is the Magnolia team of the 1985 Open Conference. Carrying the colors of the San Miguel franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (at that time, there was only one), the team was probably the weakest ever on paper. Aside from playing coach and import Norman Black and Marte Saldana, once a Rookie of the Year, there were no other top-tier players (or at least none that I can remember). Oh, there was the hard-working Gerry Samlani, who flustered history one unforgettable night when he converted a rebound into two points—-in the opposing team’s goal.

And yet the team ended up dueling with the impossibly talented Great Taste team (coached by Baby Dalupan, led by sweet-shooting MVP Ricky Brown, backstopped by All-Defensive stalwart Abe King) for the conference championship. Great Taste, with its superior firepower, won in six games; Magnolia finally surrendered after Dalupan launched yet another new weapon: Jimmy Manansala’s three-pointers from nowhere. But what a ride for a team with no prospects. As a team, Black’s warriors weren’t destined for anything; they created their own fate.

I was (improbably) reminded of the team after watching the great Roger Federer lose to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open finals the other night. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps something to do with the difference between destiny and fate. Continue reading

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