Desperate Moves of UNA versus Grace Poe. 

Binay is Desperate!

KeenView

Una ang residency nya ang kinukwestyon ng mga taga-UNA. Ngayon naman ang kanyang pagiging “Foundling” o ampon na ‘di kilala ang tunay na Pamilya. In short, hindi daw naturally born Filipino si GracePoe.

Ano pa kayang bala ang papakawalan ng kampo ng Bise Presidente kontra kay Senadora Poe na malapit na ikalawa bilang napupusuang kandidato ng mga Pilipino sa pagkapangulo ayun sa mga survey?

Well, sa tingin ko marami pa. Sa ganito ka-aga, bigtime na na issues yang residency and citizenship. Ni hindi pa nga nakakapagdesisyon si Grace Kung tatakbo ba pagkapangulo o hindi.

Napapailing nalang ako sa mga ginagawa ni TobyTiangco at JVBautista (mga Alagad ng kadiliman, este ni Binay). Sa isip ko, “they are willing to do anything to clear the way of the VP to Presidency”. Even the most desperate ways, they’re willing to take. Dadaanin…

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Grace Poe: A Record of Independence

I

On November 25, 2012, Rappler published an article by Patricia Evangelista entitled  “The Independence of Grace Poe”.[1] The date of publication-November 25, 2012- is significant. It is just one month after the filing of candidacy for the May 2013 elections and several months before Grace Poe would surprisingly top the 2013.  At that point, Grace Poe was hovering around rank 14-18 in the November 2012 Pulse Asia Survey.[2]

Thus, Ms. Evangelista’s article offers us a unique view of a time before “Grace Poe” became a household name among political pundits and spectators. It gives us a retrospective view of a political phenomenon that was yet to unfold, a chance  to see if nearly 3 years in politics has “changed” Grace Poe.

 II

 Independence- specifically Sen. Grace Poe’s independence- is the main theme of Ms. Evangelista’s article.  Ms. Evangelista notes that while Sen. Grace filed as an independent, she was still “tied” to her father and to the two parties at the time, UNA and LP. Ms. Evangelista writes:

“Grace Poe is an independent. She filed independent, she is running independent… And yet Grace Poe is not independent. She runs with the ghost of Fernando Poe Jr. and carries the baggage of two political parties she has allowed to claim her as their own… She is a bright new voice, only that voice seems to be reading from the same old script”[3]

Sen. Grace responded to Ms. Evangelista’s queries regarding her independence. On “run(ning) with the ghost of Fernando Poe Jr.”, Sen. Grace said: “In high school, I realized I don’t want to be like my parents, because I’m going to be forever compared to them. So I didn’t want to be in show business, because they would be such a difficult act to follow.”[4]

On her ties to both UNA and LP, she responded: “I guess my statement, my public commitment is that I will sort of keep my independent stand when it comes to choosing who I feel would be effective for our country is by filing independently. That’s it. I filed independently.”[5]

 III

 Many events occurred between the date of Ms. Evangelista’s article and now. For one, UNA dropped Sen. Grace from its slate. Two, Sen. Grace has been in politics for nearly three years now. What has changed in between? How has Sen. Grace practiced her independence?

On the partisan side of things, Sen. Grace has never let her political ties prevent her from pursuing causes she finds worthy. First, she immediately prioritized the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, a measure which only received “lukewarm” support from the administration. An article dated July 25, 2013- one month after Sen. Grace won as Senator– entitled “Grace Poe to prioritize FOI bill despite lack of Palace support reads: “There is no denying that it is not the priority… Gusto ko talagang dinigin ito. Lagi kong sinasabi na ito ang backbone ng public information.” [6]  Less than a year later, on March 10 2014, the Senate passed the FOI bill.[7]

Let’s move forward to July 08, 2014. The Senate was conducting an inquiry on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program. Once again, it was Sen. Grace Poe, (along with Sen. Nancy Binay), who stood independent from the Liberal Party, and demanded that the DAP funds be held accounted for: “Hindi lang ang Pangulo ang may pananagutan diyan. Lahat ng tumanggap niyan ay may pananagutan sa bayan at kailangan nila maipakita kung saan nila ginastos ‘yan“.[8] An opinion article on the hearing by THE Rigoberto Tiglao of THE Manila Times (who is usually hard to impress) stated: “Except for Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay who asked very revealing questions, all the senators proved to be mouthpieces of Abad and Aquino.”[9]

 IV

 Sen. Grace also established her independence during the MRT and PNP hearings. In the former, she grilled the DOTC Secretary Abaya about the pitiful state of the MRT. In the latter,  However, it was Sen. Grace Poe’s performance during the Mamasapano Incident which established her independence from President Aquino. Malacañang at the time was desperately trying to spare President Aquino of the political fallout from the PNP-Board of Inquiry’s report that he was accountable for the mess in Mamasapano There was speculation that Sen. Grace’s committee report would absolve President Aquino- she was an ally after all, a member of the LP coalition. However, Sen. Grace Poe stood independent and said:  “As President, he is ultimately responsible for the Mamsapano mission.”[10]

V

 Those skeptical of Sen. Grace Poe used to have a favorite weapon: she hasn’t spoken about the allegations about Vice President Jejomar Binay’s corruption. They would speculate that it was because Sen. Grace wouldn’t dare touch Ninong Jojo out of utang na loob for his support of FPJ’s campaign in 2004.  In fact, Sen. Grace Poe’s supposed silence quipped JoeAm, a blogger and erstwhile fan of Sen. Grace Poe, to quip:

“…the attack on Chief Purisima, versus a complete silence on Binay and the plundering senators, is very different. … My thinking is that Grace Poe is very likely not independent. She is a trapo, a traditional politician, dealing in power and favor, debts and personal advantage . . . over her mandate to take care of citizens… Would acting on the public’s behalf threaten her relationship with the Binay clan? Is she coddling a personal relationship? Returning a favor?”[11]

All of that speculation was rendered null and void by a few words:  Para sa akin mapapatunayan lalo ‘yan (honesty) kung magpakita siya at i-esplika niya ang mga paratang laban sa kanya hindi lamang yung mga tagapagsalita niya.”[12]

Sen. Grace would then sign the committee report recommending further investigation by the Ombudsman. “As in the PDAF inquiry, I join my colleagues in seeking further investigation by the Ombudsman of the matter and the consequent filing of the appropriate criminal complaint which in this instance appears to be plunder.”[13]

One may of course speculate on why Sen. Grace only spoke about the issue now. Sen. Grace stated that she wanted to hear Binay’s side in the hearing itself: “Ang hirap din um-attend ng hearing kung ang mismong pinaparatangan, hindi sumasama.” Perhaps this was more a matter of style than of content. After all, Sen. Grace Poe’s style of inquiry- seen during the Mamasapano hearings as well as the MRT, PNP and FOI hearings- is not as brash and confrontational as that of Senators Pimentel, Trillanes and Cayetano.

VI

 In going against President Aquino and Vice President Binay, Sen. Grace Poe emphasized that she was doing it despite her friendship with both of them. On Mamasapano, Sen. Grace said that she found it awkward to go against the President: “The President is a friend, so it was hard for me to say he was ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano incident.”[14] The same was said with regard to the Vice President: “Kahit ako hindi mapapagkaila na may pinagsamahan kami, kaibigan namin siya pero hindi rin namin siya nakakausap tungkol dito. Gusto rin namin malaman.[15]

Those sentences highlight the meaning of independence. Independence, after all, is the opposite of dependence. It implies an end to dependence. Specifically, it implies that Sen. Grace Poe is no longer dependent on PNoy or Binay. The ties that bind no longer bind her.

 VII

 This brings us back to where we started: Grace Poe’s supposed “dependence” on FPJ, her “running the ghost” of FPJ. Her detractors challenge her: “Be your own woman! Drop ‘Poe’ and run instead as ‘Mary Grace Llamanazares’ and we’ll see how you will do!”

It is this assumption- that Grace’s dependence on Poe will be her undoing- that remains unquestioned, which remains the unassailable “logic” of the pundits and the political observers. They do not understand a simple distinction: Poe will always be the source of Grace Poe’s political capital. But it is not the source of her political skill. The name Poe is her inheritance (and her burden), yet it is her independence that has allowed her to win political battle after political battle.

In this regard, Sen. Grace is vastly different from President Aquino. President Aquino uses his parents’ names as a crutch. He depends on them- on the ghosts of martial law, on the sacrifice of his father. Sen. Grace, on the other hand, relies on her name only during the campaign and relies on her own skills when the hard work begins. It was not Fernando Poe but Grace Poe that pushed FOI, demanded accountability for DAP, held the President responsible and signed the recommendation of plunder for the Vice President.

It is Grace Poe’s independence, more than her surname which has allowed her to shine. In contrast, P-Noy is far from independent. His reform-mindedness is constantly undermined by his friends- the loudness of Kris Aquino, the indebtedness to Mar Roxas, the political baggage of Secretary Butch Abad and Executive Secretary Ochoa, the incapability of his Cabinet Secretaries.

On November 25, 2011, an article by Patricia Evangelista read: “(Grace Poe) is a bright new voice, only that voice seems to be reading from the same old script”. It now has to be corrected: the script may be old, but the performer is new, filled with a toughness that no one expected, a new, rejuvenating voice in a familiar garb.  In this regard, she has fulfilled her promises from 2012- to remain independent, and to push beyond her parent’s name while still remaining faithful.

[1] Patricia Evangelista. “The independence of Grace Poe” Nov. 11, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/16443-the-independence-of-grace-poe

[2]

[3] “The Independence of Grace Poe”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kimberly Jane Tan. “Grace Poe to prioritize FOI bill despite lack of Palace support” GMA News (July 25, 2013).  More from: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/319075/news/nation/grace-poe-to-prioritize-foi-bill-despite-lack-of-palace-support

[7] Rappler.com (March 11, 2014). “Senate Passes FOI bill on final reading” http://www.rappler.com/nation/52636-senate-foi-bill-third-reading

[8] Rouchelle Dinglasan. “Grace Poe dares Aquino, fellow senators to account for DAP funds”  More from: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/369234/news/nation/grace-poe-dares-aquino-fellow-senators-to-account-for-dap-funds

[9] Rigoberto D. Tiglao. “A shameless Senate licks Abad’s boots” Manila Times July 24. 2014. Retrieved from http://www.manilatimes.net/a-shameless-senate-licks-abads-boots/113943/

[10] Amito. O. Legaspi. “PNoy ultimately responsible for Mamasapano massacre- Senate panel” http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/453777/news/nation/pnoy-ultimately-responsible-for-mamasapano-massacre-senate-panel

[11] JoeAm. “Is Grace Poe Just an Ordinary Trapo?” (October 02, 2014). Retrieved from http://joeam.com/2014/10/02/is-grace-poe-just-an-ordinary-trapo/

[12] Amita O. Legaspi. “Grace Poe to Binay: Face Senate, answer allegations” More from: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/489154/news/nation/grace-poe-to-binay-face-senate-answer-allegations

[13]Rapppler.com (May 29, 2015). “Grace Poe confirms signing plunder report vs. Binays” Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/nation/94679-grace-poe-plunder-binay

[14] Patricia Lourdes Viray. “Poe: Hard for me to say PNoy was ‘ultimately responsible’” Philippine Star (March 19, 2015). Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/03/19/1435298/poe-hard-me-say-pnoy-was-ultimately-responsible

[15] “Grace Poe to Binay: Face Senate, answer allegations”

On Holding Binay Accountable

If Vice President Binay cannot explain his wealth, he must be held accountable.

In 2012, the nation watched as then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, was convicted by the Senate (sitting as an impeachment court) of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution. The reason? He did not fully disclose all of his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

The decision was an interesting one. It meant that misdeclaration of SALN would from that point be considered an impeachable offense- a culpable violation of the Constitution. In that one decision, the Senate raised the standards of conduct for public officers.

The senator judges who voted for conviction were unanimous in sentiment. Senator Escudero said: “…mula ngayon, pwedeng nang tanggalin sa pwesto ang punong mahistrado pati na rin ang pangulo at ikalawang pangulo at iba pang impeachable officers kapag meron silang di dineklara sa kanilang SALN.” Senator Pia Cayetano: As a lawyer, to me, minor inaccuracies in the SALN, such as parking lots or a unit whose ownership is under contention, would not amount to betrayal of public trust… But, the failure to declare 2.4 million dollars and some 80 Million pesos is not minor.”

The Vice President is now hounded by the implication that he has billions in undeclared wealth: “Considerable amounts of US dollars were transferred from Philippine to Canadian banks in the years of 2008 to 2014.” The AMLC further noted that the transactions “were not commensurate to the income declared by VP Binay in his SALN for said years.”

It would be the highest form of double standard if Vice President Binay were not held to the same standards applied to the Chief Justice. The Vice President must explain his wealth. If he cannot, he must be held accountable.

2016: The Meaning of “Continuity”

“Continuity” is the Aquino government’s key word heading into 2016.  “Let’s pick a leader,” says President Aquino, “who will continue and further improve on the reforms we’ve made.”[1]

But what exactly does “continuity” mean? Does it mean that the next President should be a robot who governs only according to PNoy’s command?  Of course not. This is continuity in appearance, conformity in reality. This is what I call “conformative continuity”, a blind kind of continuity. This is the kind of “continuity” that Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay expected from his Vice Mayor, Ernesto Mercado:

“Sometime in September 2009, just when Mercado thought he was already the presumptive bet of the Binays… (Gerry) Limlingan allegedly relayed the Binays’ conditions before (Mercado) could be anointed as their mayoral bet.The conditions, according to Mercado were three-fold:

  • That he would not remove any personnel in City Hall
  • That the SOPs (bribes) would continue
  • That he would do whatever they please

Mercado found the 3rd condition difficult and impossible to accede to. Weeks later, Junjun Binay was annointed to succeed his father.” [2]

What we need in 2016 is not “conformative continuity” but “innovative continuity”. Innovative continuity means continuing the Aquino administration’s reforms, while  avoiding its mistakes, missteps and mismanagement. After all, the Aquino administration has implemented reforms, but it has been saddled by missteps (Yolanda, Mamasapano, Zamboanga) and political baggage (the DAP affair). Innonative continuity is not templated, cookie cutter governance, but innovative, independent governance.

For “innovative continuity” to work, the next President be receptive yet independent. She (or he) should not only be receptive of PNoy’s guidance but also be able to learn from his mistakes, avoid his missteps and improve upon his lapses.

[1] Guiterrez, N. “Aquino: Next president should continue reforms” Rappler (05/01/14). http://www.rappler.com/nation/56908-aquino-next-president-continue-reforms

[2] Rufo, A. “The Jojo Binay that Mercado knew” Rappler (11/03/14) http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/investigative/73766-jejomar-binay-ernesto-mercado

3 Decades: 2016 is Philippines’ Tipping Point

SETTING THE MOOD

Few days ago I heard over a radio program a commentary from a woman regarding the bicameral meeting on PNoy’s emergency powers. She says, “Kung meron mang dapat ibigay kay Noynoy Aquino, hindi emergency power kundi emergency exit.”

I am not a fan of PNoy. I make no secrets of my disdain about how he handled national concerns. In 2010, soon after he sits in Malacañang, he blamed the media for the failure of the rescue operations during the Manila hostage crisis. His promise of justice for the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre  is still unapparent.  The 2013 Pork Barrel Scam remains vague and unresolved. And recently, he opted to attend a car plant inauguration in Laguna over the Heroes’ Welcome for the victims of the Mamasapano clash.

I get it. We all get it. We don’t have an efficient president. But does it mean we need to…

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Grace under Pressure? : Crisis Management and 2016

I. Introduction

I outline the issue the implications of crisis management in Philippine politics. As I will show, crisis management has taken on a a greater role in today’s media-centric politics. I call this “Political Nudity”. The next president should be scrutinized on how they will handle crisis- their “grace under pressure”.

II. Six Shots that Rocked a Nation

March 30, 1981 was a chaotic day in American politics. At around 2:27 pm (EST) of that day, a man named John Hinckley Jr. aimed and fired six shots on the President of the United States.[1]

Then-President Ronald Reagan was immediately rushed to George Washington University Hospital following the attempt on his life. Accounts differ on how badly he was injured. His son, Michael Reagan, said that “It was the difference from the car making a left turn, to the White House, or a right turn, to the hospital.”[2]

However, the President managed to inject humor into the grim situation. He reportedly old his wife Nancy “Honey, I forgot to duck.” He also told his doctors “I hope you’re all Republicans.” And after surgery, he scribbled a note that said: “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

President Reagan eventually recovered from his injuries. In addition, his good nature despite his critical condition revealed something about modern politics.

III. “Naked Moments” or Political Nudity and Modern Politics

In his book Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen stated that President Reagan’s warmth despite adversity was a “naked moment” in politics.[3] A “naked moment”- or political nudity– is “(an) instance when people can see through the core of a public figure.”[4] Gergen cites Jackie Kennedy wearing a coat splattered with her husband’s blood, distressed yet poised; Richard Nixon insisting “I am not a crook”; and Bill Clinton lying about not having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky as examples of political nudity.

Political nudity reveals two things about contemporary politics. First, it demonstrates the importance of crises.  Crises are moments of political vulnerability. They can ruin, restore or maintain a politician’s image. Furthermore, political nudity also reveals the enormous role of the media. A public figure’s composure- or lack thereof- during crises will be broadcasted for all to see. For instance, President Reagan’s bonhomie during his assassination attempt strengthened his reputation as Good Ol’ Relatable Reagan, optimistic and always smiling his “Aw shucks” smile.

IV. Political Nudity During the Aquino Administration

There have been two prominent examples of political nudity during the Aquino administration. Both have been politically disastrous. The first was DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ response to Yolanda. Sec. Roxas appeared prickly and blind to conditions on the ground during his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper- balat sibuyas and bulag in Filipino parlance. He also appeared to be more concerned with bureaucratic niceties and political considerations in his argument with Tacloban Mayor Romualdez.

Another, more recent and more fatal example is President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the tragic events Mamasapano, Maguindanao. In his two televised speeches, President Aquino appeared stiff and lacking in empathy. This impression was reinforced in his audience with the widows of the 44 fallen PNP-SAF agents and in his impromptu forum with the rest of the PNP-SAF agents. He also appeared to be

V.  Implications for 2016 and Beyond

First of all, political nudity implies that crisis management is a crucial part of contemporary politics. Crises can be a pitfall or an opportunity, depending on how they are handled.  Second, it implies that no amount of spin or image making will save a politician from a bungled crisis. With this in mind, I believe that Presidential candidates should worry about how they will present themselves as capable crisis managers in 2016. They must learn to have Grace under Pressure

[1] The Learning Network. “March 30, 1981- President Reagan is Shot” New York Times (March 20, 2012). Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/march-30-1981-president-reagan-is-shot/?_r=0

[2] Strober, D.H and Strober, G.S. The Reagan Presidency: An Oral History of the Era (Virginia: Houghton Muffin, 1981)

[3] Gergen, D.Eyewitness to Power: the Essence of Leadership from Nixon to Clinton (Simon and Schuster, 2000).

[4] Ibid.