Asia Pacific Report 49
The Philippines: Political Crisis and Possible Scenarios

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    Asia Pacific Report Number 49, 12th January 2003.

    Part A: The Original Report, December 2002
    Political Crisis and Possible Scenarios
    The popularity rating of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (popularly known as GMA) is falling dangerously and will likely continue to fall. The most recent Pulse Asia Survey places any GMA led presidential/vice-presidential team at 4th in the race for the 2004 Presidency. It had a Raul Roco-Senator Loren Legarda combination and a Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ)-Senator Panfilo Lacson team tied at first place. Another possible combination being canvassed is a Lacson-Senator Juan Flavier tandem which could in turn precipitate an FPJ-Senator Edgardo Angara or an FPJ-Raul Roco team. (See Part B, section 2 for details on some of these and other players).
    FragmentedBoth the ruling coalition, which is lead by the Lakas-NUCD (itself a linkage of the Lakas ng Edsa and the National Union of Christian Democrats) and the opposition are internally fragmented. On the government side, four factions are currently fighting for turf in Malacanang Palace: the Villaraza/Carpio Law Group; the Garchitorena/Ayala-based Group; the Lakas-NUCD Group; and the Mike Arroyo/Buboy Macapagal Group. The opposition is polarised between the Angara and Lacson camps, despite the pretensions of presenting a "common" or "unified" opposition slate for the 2004 election. There is also the possibility that Senators Aquilino Pimental and Sergio Osmena, the leaders of the oppositionist PDP-Laban (Philippine Democratic Party (PDP)-Lakas ng Bayan), will join the ruling coalition before the elections, especially if Lacson becomes ascendant. Lacson's Cavite base is heading for a split: either the Remulla group or the Maliksi group in Cavite will bolt the opposition and could join either GMA or former president Fidel Ramos (FVR), whichever of these two becomes ascendant, and that would weaken Lacson's chances for the Presidency. A former general, his base in the military is presently neutralised because the military itself remains fragmented or polarised.
    The MilitaryThe Military is corrupt and fragmented. It can, and will, be bought. Presently, the dominant groups are polarized between the FVR/Jose Almonte/Angelo Reyes group on the one hand and the Lacson and so-called narco-generals on the other. Independent factions can swing either way.
    The ChurchesThe Churches, too, are fragmented. Currently, the dominant groups are polarised between the Catholic hierarchy and the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK). Protestant churches will either remain politically neutral, or in a crunch are likely to side with the Catholic hierarchy. El Shaddai, the Catholic charismatic renewal movement, led by Brother Mike Velarde, remains the swing factor.
    The MuslimsAbu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah persist but a partial victory of the US-led global war on terrorism in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere can weaken the terrorist forces globally and, therefore also in the Philippines. The leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) claims it is addressing the problem of al Qa'ida infiltration while the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will take time to recover from its present marginalized status following internal splits.
    The US-led War on Global Terrorism needs the Philippine government as a strong and stable ally, given that the Philippines is the US lynchpin in Southeast Asia where many terrorist groups are based. This requires US support and encouragement to the Philippines especially in the areas of political and constitutional reform.
    A strong government and "hard" state are needed to fight global terrorism and survive the onslaught of global competition and trade. Economic reforms and recovery require a strong and stable government and a strong state to negotiate its way in the global economic and political arena.
    A presidential form of government and republican type of state for the Philippines have proven to be weak and unstable. Popular elections are much too costly for a fledgling economy to afford; likewise it saps a lot of political energy, which otherwise can be used for more constructive purposes. Furthermore, Muslim integration favours a federal form of state. Therefore, we should shift to federal state and parliamentary or semi-parliamentary form of government as soon as possible through the convening of a Constitutional Convention (Concon).
    This update was written following the publication in late December of the latest Pulse Asia Survey (PAS) and Social Weather Station (SWS) survey.
    The Pulse Asia Survey, conducted from November 6-22 showed that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's performance rating dropped to 45 percent in November from 54 percent in July.
    On the other hand, the Social Weather Station's (SWS) fourth quarter survey, conducted from November 15 to December 2, showed that 44 percent were satisfied with Mrs. Arroyo's performance while 38 percent were dissatisfied, for a "net trust satisfaction rating" of 6 percent, down from moderate 18 percent during the third quarter.
    Pulse Asia Survey cited the economy as the primary reason for the decline, while the SWS cited terrorism and peace and order as the dominant concerns.
    However, both surveys were taken before GMA announced a policy shift on November 30, 2002. In that policy announcement, she replaced Department of Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor with Luisito "Cito" Lorenzo, the former "1 million job" Secretary and CEO of two mega food corporations, Del Monte Philippines and Lapanday Holdings.
    In the same policy speech, she cancelled the PIATCO contract, a plum billion dollar contract, conceived during the Ramos presidency and approved in the time of Estrada to build the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. PIATCO's German partner, FRAPORT, was happy with the result while the four factions in Malacanang are fighting and positioning themselves to take over the contract.
    On the same day, GMA also abolished the Public Estate Authority, as a result of the 600 million pesos scandal involving the construction of Diosdado Macapagal Avenue running along a stretch of reclaimed land in Manila Bay.
    Romulo NeriTwo weeks later, she sacked the secretary of the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA), Secretary Dante Canlas, who expressed a contrary opinion over the voiding of the PIATCO contract, and replaced him with Romulo Neri, an Asian Institute of Management (AIM) professor of finance and head of the Congressional Planning and Budget Office and a known ally of Jose de Venecia, the Secretary General of Lakas-NUCD and current speaker of the House of Representatives.
    Neri's appointment spells a policy shift from macro-economic, demand-led management to a micro-economic supply-side management. Neri says he intends to focus his attention on reducing the cost of doing business, including building transport systems, addressing the cost of electricity and further liberalising the economy to reduce the cost of raw materials for mid- and downstream, import-dependent small and medium scale industries.
    Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao claims that the monthly internal polls that Malacanang Palace commissions from two reputable pollsters, showed a speedy recovery of Mrs. Arroyo's ratings after the 30th November policy speech.
    Presidential HopefulsPulse Asia Survey
    (Nov. 6-22)
    SWS Survey
    (Nov. 15-Dec 2)
    Former Senator Raul Roco19%30%
    Fernando Poe, Jr.17%31%
    No. 1. Senator Noli de Castro16%
    Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo12%18%
    SC Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr.7%
    Senator Edgardo Angara, Jr.5%
    No. 2 Senator Loren Legarda4%
    No. 8 Senator Panfilo Lacson3%12%
    Senate President Franklin Drilon3%
    MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando3%
    Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.2%
    VP Teofisto Guingona 1%
    Raul RocoRaul Roco is President of his own Aksyon Demokratiko (Democratic Action) party, which is part of the rainbow coalition forged by House Speaker Jose de Venecia, He was elected two time senator, until he ran for the Presidency in 1997 and lost behind Estrada and de Venecia. GMA appointed him as Education Secretary upon her assumption to the presidency but he resigned in July, 2002 over "policy differences" with the President. Recently, he openly declared his intention to seek the Presidency. The polls have it that a Roco for President and Senator Loren Legarda for Vice President is the team to beat in 2002.
    Fernando Poe, Jr. Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) is the low-key, unassuming "King of Philippine Movies", most loved by the Muslims, even better than Estrada. He endorsed, campaigned and helped Estrada win the Presidency in 1997. During Estrada's inauguration, he was the only non-family member standing behind Estrada on the platform. He and Estrada are known to be the closest of friends. While FPJ has not openly declared his candidacy, it is rumoured that he is taking a crash course on public administration tutored by professors from the University of the Philippines. However, he is known to have said that he does not wish to run, a position reiterated by his wife, the popular actress Susan Roces. Others claim he has a citizenship requirement to get over, for while he is a natural born Filipino, it is said that he has taken out US citizenship.
    Noli de Castro Senator Noli de Castro is a TV broadcaster of ABS-CBN anchoring his most popular Saturday newscasting show, Magandang Gabi, Bayan! (Good Evening, Nation!). He was elected Number 1 Senator in 2001, when he ran as an independent.
    Loren LegardaSenator Loren Legarda is also a popular TV broadcaster with her own program, before, during and even after her election as Number 2 Senator in 1998. She is estranged from her former husband and now lives with former Batangas Governor, Antonio Leviste. Loren Legarda run under the ruling coalition party banner in 1998.
    Hilario Davide, Jr.Hilario Davide, Jr., is currently the Supreme Court Chief Justice, appointed during Estrada's time. He became famous for his even-handed chairing of the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada in 1999. He swore in GMA as President at the EDSA Shrine, after getting the Supreme Court to declare that Estrada has resigned. He is now bruited as a "dark horse", "third alternative" to Raul Roco and GMA, that is, if FPJ does not run.
    Edgardo AngaraSenator Edgardo Angara is President of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP or Fight of the Democratic Pilipino), the opposition party. Twice elected to the Senate since 1986, he was once Senate President but was deposed. He then ran and lost to GMA as Vice Presidential candidate to Estrada in the last 1997 election. He ran again and won as Senator in the 2001 election. Sometime in August, he declared his intention to become a Presidential standard-bearer for a coalition of opposition parties that included Panfilo Lacson in the running. Both of them are contesting the standard bearership for the opposition in the 2004 elections.
    Panfilo LacsonSenator Panfilo Lacson, is a former general and graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. Estrada appointed him Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The press paints him as a narco-general turned politician. He is backed by sections of the Chinese community for having reduced the rate of kidnappings of Chinese businessmen during his time with the PNP. When Estrada was about to fall, he resigned as PNP Director General and was replaced by Leandro Mendoza, who was next in command. He ran and finished No. 8 in the last senate election in 2001. He has no party but was enlisted in the Opposition coalition parties during the last election.
    Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., is Chairman of the Philippines Democratic Party (PDP), and is presently coalesced with the Opposition in the Senate. He was Senate President when Estrada was facing his impeachment trial. While he had the nod of Estrada to become Senate President, nonetheless, he openly took the sides of the anti-Estrada senators in the impeachment trial. In the last election, he had his Councilor son run as Mayor in Cagayan de Oro City, his known bailiwick, but despite his endorsement, his son lost to a pro-Estrada re-electionist.
    Juan FlavierSenator Juan Flavier, was formerly the Secretary of the Department of Health when Cory Aquino was President. Now in his last term as Senator, he is being pushed (by the group of Horacio 'Boy' Morales and Ed de la Torre) as a Vice Presidential Candidate. They were all together in the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, with Juan Flavier playing the role of the popular village doctor. He retains popular appeal and is the senate champion on health issues. Among the Senators, he is the most accepted by almost all his colleagues. He is currently President pro tempore of the Senate. However, the catholic hierarchy opposes him on grounds of his outspoken endorsement of population planning and artificial birth control.

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