In October 2016, Justice Secretary Aguirre was a guest on our radio/Facebook show INQ&A. (We got tired and stopped after some 40 episodes.)
Some readers were puzzled by my seeming sympathy for a justice secretary actively weaponizing the rule of law. But I saw in his descent into the depths the story of many other Filipinos who had lost their way. Today’s scandal over the proposed dismissal of charges against confessed drug lords shows the new lows he and his men have plumbed. Published on September 19, 2017.
At some level, I knew writing this installment in my occasional series on unfortunate appointments was inevitable, but I resisted because I’ve interviewed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and I thought I glimpsed the essential decency in the man. (Teddy Locsin once wrote about this occupational hazard, of encountering the difference between disagreeable policy and agreeable personality.) Aguirre told me, to my face, that he would not file a case against Sen. Leila de Lima without obtaining the necessary bank documentation, what he called a paper trail. He said he knew from 40 years in litigation that he needed that kind of evidence, and he did not want to lose. That he proceeded to file the case anyway — based on what we can call a finding of improbable cause — proved to me that he was under severe pressure from President Duterte to put De Lima behind bars, even if only temporarily. Continue reading
Remarks at the Akbayan party-list group’s 16th anniversary program, held on January 30, 2014.
Thank you. I am honored by your invitation. At the same time, I must confess to an inconvenient concern: a journalist in a political assembly should be on the sidelines, not at the podium. So if you will allow me, I will rationalize my presence here today, in my capacity as a writer of columns and editorials, as an act of truth-telling. Incomplete, certainly; maybe even incoherent; but independent truth-telling.
It must be a time of mixed emotions for Akbayan. Your political base remains robust enough to regularly send representatives to Congress, major legislation that you support such as the Reproductive Health bill have become law, some of your leaders are serving in high government offices, and you have the President’s ear. But Risa’s second run for the Senate ended up just short again, and the prospect of a national consensus behind either party leader or political program looks less bright than a year ago.
But in fact, Akbayan did better in 2013 than it did in 2010; Risa [Hontiveros] gained over a million more votes than the first time, and her vote total in 2013 was twice that of Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna. But the rules of political arithmetic are unforgiving. Population growth, electoral cycles, and (not least) campaign funds are as much a determinant of success at the polls as candidate character or party platform.
Where does Akbayan go from here?
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.)
I missed my deadline for April 2, just as the campaigns for the 2013 midterm elections were heating up; I tried to make up for it with seven election-related columns in the next several weeks. This one, published on April 9, 2013, was the first.
Supporters of Risa Hontiveros were the first to point this out to me. She was doing worse at this stage of the campaign in 2010, they said, and yet she still came tantalizingly close to winning then.
Let’s take a look at the SWS surveys from three years ago. In the January 2010 poll, she came in at 22-23, well outside the prospective winners’ circle. In February 2010, she improved to 18-20, but then lost ground in March 2010, falling to 22-24. (She would come back strongly in the succeeding months, improving to 16-18 in April and to 14-15 in the May 2010 survey, before finally landing, after the votes were counted, in 13th place.)
Her numbers in 2013 are healthier. In the January 2013 poll, she came in at 18-19. She consolidated her position in both the February and March surveys, claiming solo 18th place. This is, of course, still six steps removed from a seat in the Senate. But the campaign implications are clear: She is starting from a higher base, and if she can muster the same momentum she put to good use in 2010, especially in the second half of a 90-day campaign, she just might break into the circle of 12.
Published on May 11, 2010.
For accountability’s sake, allow me to explain my vote, starting with the would-haves and wouldn’ts.
I would have wanted to vote for Gibo Teodoro as president; he was the most brilliant candidate, and he ran the only positive campaign. He stuck to the high road, and could rightfully claim, in his miting de avance, that he had not made any unreasonable campaign promises. But he was, he is, on the wrong side of history. He represents the Arroyo administration, which has done more than any post-Marcos government to undermine the institutions of democracy. Indeed, in a twist worthy of Greek tragedy, Gibo’s personal values (delicadeza, old-fashioned chivalry, a sense of responsibility, qualities that recommend him as a person) are the very things that prevent him from taking a harder line against President Arroyo and her excesses—thus proving that, no matter how much he tried to distance himself from her shadow, it continues to loom over him. Lesson: Personal qualities alone are (sadly) not enough. Continue reading
Published on May 4, 2010.
When the history of the 2010 campaign is written, a chapter will be reserved for the pivotal role played by two of my fellow columnists: Conrad de Quiros for articulating the case for a Noynoy Aquino presidency back in August, and Solita Monsod for launching the first legitimate critique of (that is to say, the first non-partisan attack on) the Manny Villar life story. By and large, I think they have called it right.
Conrad’s analysis of Jojo Binay’s ratings surge Monday, however, I found to be a stretch. Continue reading