New Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel III is all smiles after he was elected with a 20-3 vote on Monday at the Senate. INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ
Published on July 26, 2016.
AS SOON as it became clear, on election night, that Rodrigo Roa Duterte would win the presidency by a landslide, I followed the contest for the Senate presidency with keen interest. In part this was because Sen. Koko Pimentel, the president of the winning party, is a childhood friend and a high school classmate; in greater part, I was interested because I believe that the Senate in a Duterte administration would have to walk the fine line between support for a popular President and resistance against that President’s strongman impulses.
Since May 9, I have followed the contest closely, and have spoken to six senators, several congressmen, and a few political operatives. What follows is what I have managed to piece together; it is possible that I have only in fact described different parts of the proverbial elephant, and not the elephant itself. But it still may be worth a read.
Like many, I was stunned by the speed of capitulation in the House of Representatives. Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez’s capture of the speakership was a political blitzkrieg; about a week and a half after the election, he had already sealed the deal. In contrast, the contest for leadership in the Senate promised to be the most closely fought in decades.
Some readers misunderstood this column as a concatenation of endorsements, less than a week before the election. My purpose, however, was to do as I did the week before the 2010 vote, and come clean with my choices. Published on May 7, 2013.
That line is from “The American President,” a political romance starring Michael Douglas which the incumbent American president recently described (for comedic effect, but not inaccurately) as “Aaron Sorkin’s liberal fantasy.”
The quote comes from a climactic speech, which to my mind best expresses the view that it is personal character—not platform or policy or ideology—that matters most in politics. (I’m tempted to rank this speech right up there with Charlie Chaplin’s, at the end of “The Great Dictator,” if only because it is less abstract, more grounded.)
The last column I wrote in 2011, before I left for a year-long fellowship with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. The feedback–to the subject of the column, not to my departure (or so I think!)–was overwhelming. Published on August 9, 2011.
The scene was surreal: the old cheat was visibly moved by the resignation of the young cheat, and praised the young man’s moral courage and sense of dignity. Apparently, there really is honor among election thieves.
For those of us with a long memory, Juan Ponce Enrile is the unlikely but altogether fitting benchmark for Juan Miguel Zubiri’s act of resignation. Even though Enrile did not lose the first dagdag-bawas case filed against him by Koko Pimentel’s father, involving allegations of cheating in the 1995 elections, Enrile did own up to massive election fraud—in 1986, during the heady four days of the Edsa revolution, when circumstance and strategic candor made him admit that he had cheated for Ferdinand Marcos in the snap election.
That made his reluctance to accept Zubiri’s resignation both an acute reflection of Philippine realpolitik, and an apt reminder of the many times our country has lost its way. Continue reading
The third part of the Zubiri trilogy, published on February 1, 2011. I must say that, on at least one crucial aspect, the ex-senator was telling the truth: He had kept a gentlemanly silence, and was provoked to complain about me only after I had taken another senator to task.
EITHER CONFLICTED or callously cynical. Or both. But whichever way we read Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri’s letter of complaint against me (which I ran in this space last week in full and unedited), I think the reasonable reader can reach only one conclusion: It is incoherent.
In language shriveled by nine years in the House and three years in the Senate, Zubiri first sought to stake a claim to higher ground. “This Representation strongly respect [sic] all opinions and criticisms as one of my advocacies is to uphold the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.” And then he turned around and attacked his own supposed advocacy: “It [he means both freedoms] should not be utilized to malign a person’s reputation much more mislead the public by presenting twisted facts and biased opinions.” Continue reading
It may be best to think of this piece as the middle part of a trilogy of columns; it responds to the previous column, and it is followed by a detailed counter-response. Published on January 25, 2011.
IN THE last few months and until last week, I had been more or less incommunicado, completing a book project. But I was never completely out of the loop, and when I found out that Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri had written our publisher a lengthy letter in reply to my column on Sen. Loren Legarda and Zubiri’s case at the Senate Electoral Tribunal last week, I asked for a copy. His letter, it turns out, is too long for our Letters page (we cannot accommodate anything more than 3,000 characters long). Instead of sending it back to him to cut it down to the right size, however, I thought of running it here instead. I have done exactly that in previous instances, and I am only too glad to do the same thing for him. Continue reading
Published on January 18, 2011.
A SIMPLE but stirring sight—I thought the photographic record of Sen. Loren Legarda’s recent courtesy call on Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (Myanmar) was definitely newsworthy, and could have elicited more supportive commentary. The fate of the Burmese democratic icon should be of the greatest concern to Filipino democrats, for reasons both personal (we see in her another Cory Aquino, a reluctant symbol of the democratic struggle) and collective (her fate reflects the fate of the long-suffering Burmese people).
But I suppose Legarda’s celebrity, and the nature of her fame, got in the way. Continue reading
Published on July 27, 2010.
By the last of the Arroyos, I do not mean Mikey Arroyo, who returned to Congress Monday as the “prince of security guards”; or his brother Dato, for whom a gerrymandered duchy was carved out of Camarines Sur; or indeed for their mother, the queen herself, the new representative of the second district of Pampanga. The last Arroyo in national office is the dauphin Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Do I protest too much? Zubiri is not even related to the Arroyos (at least as far as I know). And I am certainly biased in favor of the senatorial candidate he cheated, who is a friend from childhood. But if there is a national politician who follows the Arroyo political template, who can be considered Arroyo’s true political heir, then it is Zubiri. (I am happy to say that I am not alone in thinking of Zubiri as Arroyo redux. Manuel Buencamino, to cite just one example, has written a strongly argued case for it.) Continue reading
Another gratifying inbox-filler, published on July 20, 2010.
In Surabaya, Indonesia, where I did some research over the weekend, we can find one answer to what, for lack of a better term, we can call the “Fall of Bataan Complex.” Someone afflicted with that complex tends to ask: Why do we celebrate our defeats? And tends to add, indignantly: We must be the only country in the world that does that!
Actually, no. In Indonesia, Heroes Day is marked on Nov. 10, the date hallowed by tradition as the start, in 1945, of the Battle of Surabaya. In fact, clashes between the pemuda (youth) and some of the remaining Japanese soldiers, and between the pemuda and the British forces perceived as preparing the way for the return of the Dutch, the former colonial rulers, had been taking place since September. But it was on Nov. 10 that a predominantly British allied force launched a major offensive against the Indonesians. The ensuing battle lasted almost an entire month, with superior Allied resources and discipline proving decisive. But the famous “arek-arek Suroboyo,” the under-equipped, under-trained youth volunteers of Surabaya, fought so fiercely, so valiantly, that no one could any longer doubt, not even the Dutch, that the Indonesians were ready to die for “merdeka.” Surabaya proved to be the beginning of the end. Continue reading
Published on December 8, 2009.
Something I read in an earlier column written by Neal Cruz continues to rankle. On Nov. 30, he discussed a conspiracy theory two distinguished Muslim leaders had raised to help explain the Ampatuan massacre. Amina Rasul and Nasser Marohomsalic had told him, he said, that they did not believe Andal Ampatuan Jr. was the true mastermind behind the massacre.
The key quote: “These two Muslim leaders think that the implications of the carnage may be deeper than it looks. For in the Muslim culture, women, children, the elders, the weak and the sickly, are accorded the highest respect. And yet they were among those machine-gunned and buried in the mass graves beside the roadside in Maguindanao. That is ‘un-Islamic,’ the two said. So it is possible that the real masterminds are not Muslims.” Continue reading