Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why Sen. Kiko will get my vote this May

Given everything that's happened to the LP - and, heck, Philippine politics in general - hearing stuff like Sen. Kiko Pangilinan sticking to his guns is a whiff of fresh air.

It's like I always said: leaders who have the gall to take the moral high ground should not be afraid to also take the hard route usually associated with that choice. And when a leader puts his money where his mouth is, then that person deserves the title. And one's respect.

I remember seeing Sen. Pangilinan being interviewed over his decision to not attend "Genuine Opposition" (side note: so there's an opposition that's not Genuine?) campaign sorties. In essence, what Sen. Kiko was saying was that he cannot, in good conscience, join the ticket led by a man he helped oust in 2001, in the same way that he won't join the lineup formed by the woman whose he asked be resigned or removed from the presidency in 2005.

Now this is what it means to stand for something. This is consistency. In my post-July 8 gestalt, the true measure of a leader can be found in just how consistent he or she is with regard to positions. Basically, a leader says one thing, it has to reflect in all his or her decisions and actions. For example, you can't demand for the ouster of someone based on immorality while having your hands raised by another who was the very embodiment of the same. Well, at least of ammorality, but if Noynoy seeks to use the Moral High Ground as basis for election to higher office, indeed for the legitimacy of his faction of the LP... then standing, all smiles, hand raised, with Erap somehow just doesn't cut a dashing figure of the Hero in my books.

Sen. Kiko, by his decision to tough it out as an independent, has shown his true caliber. Perhaps its a well calculated move. Maybe he isn't as disadvantaged as he appears, since he has a not-so-secret weapon in wife Sharon and daughter KC. It may even be a fit of pique at not being a prime choice for a slot in the so-called GO.

But whatever the reasons, Sen. Kiko told the public of his decision and, IMHO, its the right one. That way, none of his principles are compromised, no excuses need to be made as to why "Mr. Noted" is now with the man whose friend he supposedly helped keep from the presidency.

And that's why he has my vote this May.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Korean Crisis (and why I can never really be a negotiator)

First post in a while and I do this? Why not another one on the LP? Because whenever I think about what Drilon and co. have done to the Party I love I get really close to a heart attack and I really, REALLY want to enjoy life now that I'm turning 30. I'll deal with those bastards some other time.

I was reading through details of the six-party talks on the (latest) North Korea issue, and if there was a better contemporary example to the efficacy of dialogue and diplomacy over knee-jerk options like bombing an offending country to the Stone Age, then this is it.

When the issue of NoKor beginning something like a nuke weapon research program started to filter into the world's attention, it understandably caused quite a concern. This was, after all, the... most unpredictable nation in the world, bar none, with a leader who is probably as unpredictable as his government's image (or more so). Saying North Korea was starting to make nuclear weapons was like handing the Football - the case that activates the American Nuclear Arsenal - to a psychotic pre-pubescent neanderthal on aggressor drugs.

If that was me, my first reaction would probably have been to mobilize an insane amount of troops and weaponry right on NoKor's doorstep as a not-so-subtle and over sized version of the policeman's "drop your weapon" threat. If NoKor answered this with a "bring it on!", then by all means I would not have hesitated to do Korean War Round 2 (or is it three already?). After making sure my back and flanks were well-protected, of course.

But that's me. I was never the negotiator of my generation's Guardians, after all. I was their analyst, their strategist, their protector. The center of the shield, the tip of the spear, the leading edge of the sword. My Training regarding threats was to not just eliminate them but also to prevent their being able to effectively threaten me or the one's I protect. This is premised on the principle that not all parties in a conflict think alike, and that there will be parties who will never see the situation the way you, in your liberal, democratic, republican and civilized upbringing would.

But yes, this is a big victory for the negotiators, for those who were told they were talking with the impossible. Students learning the intricate and delicate art of negotiation and conflict resolution should read up on how this was done.

Its also important to note, amidst all the criticism from the American Left and Right, that the success of this round of the talks hinged mostly on the principle of compromise. I have always maintained that negotiations can never happen, or be fruitful if they do occur, so long as at least one party in the talks is taking a hardline stance. Without sacrificing the basic premise of your side's position, one must allow room for maneuver. There must be concessions from all sides. There must be that general feeling of openness to resolving a conflict through dialogue and negotiation, and this cannot exist so long as one party says, "no: my way or the highway."

At the very least, this should be a hats-off to Christopher Hill, Washington's envoy to the North Koreans. I like that little anecdote attributed to him that may have provided the important breakthrough: a Korean proverb about filling a cup with too much liquid that it drains out, leaving nothing. I wonder where I can find the exact wording of that one? It seemed to have doused cold water - haha, pun not intended - on Pyongyang's greed, trying to act more like a hostage-taker demanding terms than a sovereign state dealing with its peers.

I have to hand it to the almost inhuman - it IS Pyongyang we're talking about here, after all - patience and perseverance of Hill and US SecState Condi Rice. In my new gestalt, the first thing I determine is whether or not a course of action will be effective in the persecution of a goal. If in my analysis it shows up that further action will lead nowhere but to an escalation that drains resources for no justifiable gain, then its time to cut one's losses and regroup. Or abandon the field entirely. That Hill and Rice persevered so far, despite the known preferences of their boss in the White House, should at least reap praises.

Let's just hope this goes on to a happy ending. For although a warrior's best tool is always himself as a weapon, a real warrior, a Guardian, knows that the drawing of the blade is in itself a failure because you were forced to take the final recourse. In its most ancient traditions, a drawn blade was never sheathed without shedding blood, for to draw it on another was a clear sign of serious and deadly intent.

This way, warriors need not draw the blade once again. The Sheath still holds steel, and blood does not needlessly stain the ground again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Carnival Begins

One thing any observer will have to admit about Philippine politics, especially during election season, is that it really, truly never has dull moments.

I mean, look at the so-called United Opposition. Even before filing for candidacy begins, the group was plagued by defections of some very high ranking members. As in, "inner circle" kind of members. I'm talking about the very public exits of Tito Sotto, Tessie Aquino and Kit Tatad.

In the Tatad's case, not only was it very public, but very vocal as well: the man practically paid for two full pages in the Philippine Daily Inquirer so his letter to Erap would be printed in its full, unedited glory.

Talk about your "Oh-M-Gee" situations...

My paranoia (Mentat Training can sometimes take the fun out of relishing little victories like this) is telling me its quite possible we're all being taken for a ride here; I mean, look at this: Sotto, Tessie and Tatad? Enrile bolting the Opposition camp is something that totally went by everybody - I mean, duh, right? - but Tatad?

Well, that's my paranoia talking. I still remember the battles we fought against those three, and the way Aquino-Oreta danced after the Second Envelope incident in 2001. I know that politics, especially here in the Philippines is more concerned with "permanent interests" than standing one's grounds on the basis of principles and ideals, but, really, there are just some things you do not do. How can anyone who fought on the side of Truth and all that's decent in 2001 even think about standing besides the likes of Dancing Queen herself?

Apparently, the damage Gloriagate has done to the already-damaged political culture of the country is far, far, greater than even my worst nightmares. Musical chairs is a common factor of Philippine politics, but the realignments happening on the eve of the 2007 elections just... boogles the mind. It also makes whatever is left of my idealism want to drink itself to death.

UNO has always been more an alliance of political interests rather than a union of ideals and alternative programs. Anybody who still thinks UNO was about the poor and all that should have his or her head examined. The 2007 version of UNO is no different than the one we defeated in 2004, although I'd have to say, Chiz Escudero aside, it really has dredged the bottom of crassness and personal political agendas this time.

Oh, yes, I'm voting for Chiz; if that expensive and worthless institution that's the Senate should continue, then perhaps we should elect there someone with sense. And sensibility. Escudero might be an oppositionist, but at least he's decent about it. And consistent. Which is more than I can say about the Drilon cabal of the LP.

I mean, just look at it: NOYNOY AQUINO IN THE UNO?! What the hell, right?

I'd have understood if Drilon's cabal decided to go it on their own; they had this big production a couple of days ago where they announced their so-called lineup for the Senatorial elections. That's ok, even better, if truth be told. They've been harping for some time now about some so-called "Third Force" and it would seem they're quite ready to put their money where their mouth is. Heck, who knows, since a good portion of the public still thinks they're "good guys" (ah, my misguided public... if only I could show you the Truth about your so-called heroes, how they lie, how they suppress and twist the Truth for their own personal agendas and the Republic be damned...)
, then perhaps some of them could have made a good showing at the polls this May.

But, no... they had to insist - assuming Kit Tatad's open letter is true - that Noynoy be included in the UNO lineup.

UNO. Erap's group. The group we fought from 2000 - 2001. The group Abad and Pangilinan stymied during the canvassing of votes back in 2004. Odd though, when you think about it: a year after the canvassing, the same people that defended Gloria's votes were the ones who tried to oust her. If they were so sure one year later that she cheated, why were they so... ardent in keeping the opposition from doing a thorough check of the votes?

Is their hate for Gloria so great that ideals truly mean nothing to them anymore?

And who was it that convinced Gloria to admit to making a call to Garci, despite her adviser's recommendations? "Do a Clinton", I think the selling point was to poor little Glo. And she did because, at the end of it all, she trusted the people who were egging her on to say "I'm sorry" for something virtually all politicians did anyway. She thought they were telling her the right thing to do to defuse the crisis, that these people, the "civil society" contingent of her Cabinet, being morally upright members of society (or so it seems at the time), were telling her its okay to do this. Instead, she got more flak, and I didn't see any of her CivSoc Cabinet members try to back her up after. Which was why she angrily told the "civil society" contingent of her Cabinet that she did what they wanted and she got more flak for it. You have to understand the little girl's context at that moment. Information sources tell us that, political shark that she is, Glo seemed to genuinely trust her CivSoc ministers. Which was why decades of political instinct was thrown out of the window by her, on their say-so, because she thought they could do no wrong by her.

And then... they tried to oust her.

Remember that these people plunged the country - not once, but twice! - nearly into civil war on the basis of morality and decency. These people said they were the paragons; you couldn't claim otherwise, and demand that your boss, the President, resign her office. I mean, they were her alter egos, and they practically were the vanguard of her campaign team in 2004. They resigned on the basis of what was still essentially heresay and some weird thing about their boss being more concerned with survival than serving the country. Duh. Of course Gloria was trying to survive; this country does not have a nice track record with how it deals with ousted presidents. The little girl was facing the very real possibility of getting lynched, and they weren't helping provide the security she needed to, as they wanted, do her work.

They were essentially her shitteno, her inner circle of advisers. If massive cheating did happen in 2004, then they were in on it. At the very least, they never asked the hard questions; heck, they even stymied attempts at this, if the canvassing of 2004 was any indication.

And now they join UNO. Amazing.

About a week or two ago, Billy Esposo came out with a column in the Philippine Star that was essentially praising the Drilon Wing. The "true" LP, he called them. Of course Mr. Esposo either got his facts wrong or deliberately didn't even check on what happened. He's a demagogue, a PR man. A true journalist would have couched attacks against his true target - the President - with facts.

What was truly amazing was his assertion that this Drilon Wing of the LP - along with poor, I-wonder-where-his-common-sense-went Manny Villar's Nacionalistas - represented the so-called (now officially dead) Third Force that would one-up Gloria and Erap. This was the true alternative to evil, dictatorial little Glo and corrupt lord-of-all-gambling-lords Erap.

I wonder how Esposo felt when the news came out that Noynoy Aquino was in the UNO slate?

Oh yes, the carnival has begun. And our side has yet to show its set of actors in this sordid little drama. So far, all we know is Mike (Defensor) is the only sure runner for the Senate. A contact even told me that he has a pol-ad out already and that it sucked. I haven't seen it, so I can't judge it.

I wish his media handlers would focus on the more worthwhile aspects of Sec. Mike. I' ve interviewed the guy and he's charming, witty, warm and smart. He's the perfect foil to Chiz, for God's sake. They should play up those qualities of him, rather than do a, uh, cheesy packaging of him designed to supposedly wow the masses.

Newsflash, publicists: the Masses are different now.

Still, its a carnival. And the days have been rather boring of late. Filipinos love elections, after all, if for no other reason that its certainly good entertainment. Never a dull moment during elections. And I bet this one will be anything but dull.