The wait­ing game

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - MANUEL L. QUE­ZON III

The wait­ing now be­gins to see if Pres­i­dent Duterte and his peo­ple will re­sume their cam­paign to pro­claim a rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment. My col­league, John Nery, has made a con­vinc­ing case that the Pres­i­dent has wanted to do so all along, even prior to as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency. An additional case has to be made: There are far too many peo­ple up and down the line who need the as­sur­ance of the present regime’s con­ti­nu­ity, but who lack con­fi­dence that a vi­able suc­ces­sor—who can con­tinue to pro­vide them the pro­tec­tion they cur­rently en­joy—ex­ists.

Not ev­ery po­lice sta­tion, for ex­am­ple, can go the way of the most con­tro­ver­sial one in the coun­try (Caloocan) that went up in flames the other day. You can­not, at this point, sud­denly have Camp Crame go up in smoke, de­stroy­ing all records. Since there is an ex­pi­ra­tion date for the Pres­i­dent’s pledge to mo­bi­lize his pow­ers to pro­tect co­op­er­a­tive po­lice­men, which is sooner rather than later given that trial bal­loons to ex­tend his term as part of Char­ter change have not sparked pop­u­lar en­thu­si­asm, some­thing has to give: a na­tion­ally-elected lead­er­ship.

But what can the Pres­i­dent give in return? The thing that makes the world go round.

When En­rique Ra­zon told Asean busi­ness­men that dic­ta­tor­ships were bet­ter for in­fra­struc­ture, he was speak­ing not only with the power of his bil­lions but the bloc he main­tained in the House of Rep­re­senta- tives. His National Unity Party (20 seats) is the sec­ond-largest among the cor­po­rate blocs in the House, the oth­ers be­ing Co­juangco-Ang’s Na­tion­al­ist Peo­ple’s Coali­tion (33 seats), it­self a break­away from the Vil­lars’ Na­cional­ista Party (19 seats).

The com­bined 72-seat House cor­po­rate bloc (with four seats in the Se­nate), can­not, in and of it­self, achieve things such as im­peach­ment, which re­quires 97 votes at the cur­rent mem­ber­ship. But it can make it much eas­ier—or dif­fi­cult, if it comes to that—to en­act leg­is­la­tion to the ex­tent that the cor­po­rate bloc bosses can­not be ig­nored. When a bloc boss says dic­ta­tor­ship is a good idea, he does so as the spokesman of 72 dis­tricts: Pre­sum­ably, the 123 dis­tricts un­der Par­tido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan will like­wise fall in line.

Not least be­cause qui­etly, but sig­nifi- cantly, Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo some weeks back took her oath as a mem­ber of that party. Un­like An­to­nio Floirendo Jr., or more re­cently, Dion­i­sio San­ti­ago, she knows—hav­ing been pres­i­dent—that you could have been a pow­er­ful pa­tron of a fu­ture pres­i­dent yes­ter­day, but the mo­ment your pro­tege be­comes chief ex­ec­u­tive, the re­la­tion­ship changes and you had bet­ter never for­get it. As Floirendo and San­ti­ago found out, the mo­ment you start be­ing up­pity, the in­stinct of all pres­i­dents is to pun­ish the fool who thinks they can treat the pres­i­dent the way they treated him or her be­fore they as­sumed of­fice. So she has done what is al­lowed, and which mat­ters: boost the party line, and be help­ful in main­tain­ing the coali­tion. Her re­ward has been to be not only taken into the fold in a sub­or­di­nate po­si­tion to the cur­rent Speaker she once fired from her Cab­i­net, but also to be trot­ted out in Asean events, over­shad­ow­ing ev­ery po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor to the Pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing the Speaker and the cur­rent sec­re­tary of for­eign af­fairs. The sig­nal to any­one who cares to no­tice is we have a fu­ture prime min­is­ter-in-wait­ing.

Ev­ery­one who is any­one in the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion can live with that. The sig­nal of the business blocs is that they can live with that. It is a sure thing com­pared to tak­ing a gam­ble on ei­ther Fer­di­nand Mar­cos Jr. or Alan Peter Cayetano, nei­ther of whom are cer­tain to win a national elec­tion, or can fully be trusted to have both the skill and the re­solve to pro­tect ev­ery­one. Ar­royo would be the first to point out that a re­peat of 2010 in 2022 must be avoided at all costs.

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