Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Burp2: Crunching Numbers

The election aftermath in the Philippines seemed designed to strip the population – voting or otherwise – of its last fig leaf of dignity. Gone were the images of millions lined up for four-five hours under the cruel talons of a summer sun just to vote, a testament to a people’s hunger for a moment, just a split-second, of being able to wield control over their nation. In their place were now images of vociferous mouths shrieking “cheating,” of masked men with plastic noses rumbling “cheating,” of foreigners intoning “cheating,” of suddenly self-righteous men shrieking about offers of “cheating” for amounts from 50 million to one billion pesos.

Makes one wonder whether any of these screamers even briefly considered the impact of this on the said millions: peeling off the last veneer of possibilities from their awareness to re-affirm the mantra that they were stupid, ignorant and therefore must depend on the ruling oligarchy, and to revive their sense of the futility of life itself… No wonder practically everybody’s looking for a plane ticket out.

I’m reading all these news reports and wondering WTF they want: re-do the entire elections? Oboy.

Which is why I wasn’t too fired up over collecting my second winning bet, though the dinner revolved around fruits of the sea, paid for by this cadre-turned-actuarial who ruined my planned scenario by blurting out, immediately: “I read your blog. I want you to crunch the numbers now.” Oich! I pretended momentary deafness and concentrated on finding out how many sturgeon’s eggs one could balance on the tip of one’s tongue.

Okay, here goes: yes, Virginia, there is a women’s vote. Few post-election analysis will state that outright, as women are considered a minor species, but it explained the discrepancy between GWP and BM votes, and the discrepancy between LM and SO votes, as well as the wave that carried Ms. Hontiveros to number 13, following her decimation of Kit Tatad on the issue of reproductive health and safety, said wave having carried GWP consistently through past elections. Expect a scramble now among patriarchs for the women’s allegiance, without calling attention to the pivotal nature of women’s political participation, building what may be referred to as the sisterhood under the old-boys-network.

Yes, Virginia, the state of alienation of overseas workers from Philippine politics increases with time and distance and neglect, explaining the low voter turn-out – excuses and justifications notwithstanding. Material conditions of daily existence exert their primacy inevitably.

Yes, Virginia, if the spectrum of Lefts got together, they can bring a full senatorial slate to victory and probably elect a president; but it’s far easier to ally with class enemies than with ideologues quarreling over interpretations of passages from writings done 50 to a hundred years ago. It’s kind of like the priesthood where there can only be one pope. See Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, etc. In other words, check out histories of self-referent systems of beliefs and schisms.

And finally, yes Virginia, Philippine political power is becoming more and more balkanized among family dynasties, which are and will be major obstacles to the development of progressive democracy and justice in the Philippines. Family dynasties are totally without compunction, as we saw during the Marcos dictatorship, with regards to human, civil and women’s rights.

And finally, too, my losing bettor friend came out with the numbers he was interested in: “What was the price of the alliance? Any money trade-offs?”
Oich. “That I do not know,” I told him straight up. “If at all, that would only be known to a handful.”

“But if you were the one negotiating, how much would you ask for?”

“A senatorial candidate’s campaign costs about 125 million pesos. For two candidates, I would ask for 300 million pesos minimum, 500 million pesos max to cover this-that expense and brokerage fees. But that is only my thinking and again, I say I do not know.”

Footnote1: A great disservice was done in the tacit sanitizing of the Marcos clan. Unforgiveable. Don’t look now, but some people are bent on auctioning off Imelda’s jewels before the Arroyo admin ends. Cash and carry: they turn it to cash and carry it away.

Footnote2: If I knew how to cry, I would cry with Ms. Grace Padaca, who wept for the people of Isabela province when she lost to the Dy dynasty and its logger-allies once again – ironically, during the hottest summer of the decade in the archipelago. I’ve never been to Isabela but recall a gift of two foot-long sweet-fleshed lobsters from its then-pristine waters, a long, long time ago.

Cut the trees, boil your brain. -- #

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Last Fire Sale

To the last drop, it seems, the Arroyo government is bent on wringing the last cent out of the archipelago. Two items are pending: the sale of the power component of the Angat Dam, whose completion had been a source of pride for the country many years ago, and the country's 10% stake at the Malampaya oil fields. The haste leads one to wonder whose commissions are at risk here, should the government change hands before the sales are completed, and how this constant churning out of election protests feeds into a delay of the electeds' proclamation, so that the Arroyo administration and its flock of vultures will have as much time as possible to sop up whatever's left of the country's patrimony.

Don't look now -- but the last of the country's assets are on the auction block. Oil, power and water privatized weakens government exceedinlgy and dispossesses the people of control over the most basic of their needs. Next thing you know the tourist brochures will just simply say "Everything on sale." Don't look now. #

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Post Election Burp

Like Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” I find daily food a bore, so when three friends offered a bet of dinner each at restaurants of my choice on whether Manny Villar, Philippine presidential candidate, would win, I immediately accepted, having in mind three places with top chefs I could never afford. They thought he was going to win; I thought NOT. This was the month Villar was neck-to-neck with the eventual winner, Noynoy Aquino, and for a while there, I wondered if I would have to sell Guapo, the house ewok, to cover my bets – or maybe hand him over to the chefs.

Well. Burp. What an absolutely fab first dinner, paid by friend with the black visa card, while he ranted against his stupidity and I nodded in sympathy, so he wouldn’t notice I was eating his dinner, too. And to make up for the damage to his bank account – ice wine, fab!, with this unimaginable dessert of honey, filo dough, chocolate, strawberries and green tea ice cream, (if you ate as erratically as I do, you’d understand the bliss) – I gave him a comforting spiel about how I knew he and his candidate were going to lose. I plan to use the same spiel for the two forthcoming fab dinners as well:

“First, Villar’s slogan sipag at tiyaga, which presented him as having made billions from hard work and patience, which to 99.9% of Filipinos is hogwash, as they’re all on sipag and tiyaga on a dollar a day. The subtext of the message is if you’re poor, you’re lazy and impatient or if not, must be stupid, which the 99.9% will reject and cause them to think eh, balderdash, you did something nasty; nobody becomes a billionaire overnight in the Philippines without effing up the next guy… The other subtext is that you, the voter, is such a moron I can say anything and you’d believe it – quite an insult.

“A jeepney driver could’ve told him that and for half the money he likely paid an advertising agency, I could’ve given him a better slogan like negosyo’t trabaho which would’ve made sense, with his image as a successful businessman and be clear as well to the unemployed, underemployed and low-income masses… Filipinos are very good at teasing out subtexts so one’s message has to be clean of possible (mis)interpretations.

“Second, when he added Bongbong Marcos to his senatorial slate, which already included Left-wingers, he showed he was willing to discomfit even his allies for his own interests – i.e., selfish, no core values and no loyalty. Then he had those half-naked girls gyrating on stage, though he knew he had women candidates. Villar might have been from the poor but his actions showed he was so insensitive as not to see he was losing women’s votes in the process of titillating men.

“Third, the constant harping on his being rich, like he’s entitled to anything he wants or can buy… We hate that, don’t we? A rich person should be circumspect, tumabi-tabi diyan, as in line up for four hours to vote just like us... otherwise the impulse would be to take him down a notch or two.

"Class is not the sole criterion by which we judge an individual; to Filipinos, that’s leavened by character and record. Note that the people not only gave Noynoy millions of votes in advantage; they also backed Estrada over Villar. That’s not only being a fan but a backlash of anger against Villar's campaign callousness.”

Friend chewed that over instead of the white asparagus on duck – ummm good – and then rather crudely said: “Well your friends went down with him,” which warned me he’d noticed I was eating everything. "How do you think they'll spin that? What do you think they should do?"

Mull that over for a minute. I had wished and still wish Liza M had run as an independent; it had been painful watching her try to deal with the gross impositions of the Villar campaign, from Marcos to the Kembot Girls and the self-back-slapping of that lurid guy Willie whats-his-name. As painful as watching guerrillas try to give substance to the “failure-of-elections” hysteria – a Plan B, I suppose, in case the Villar alliance crashed and burned, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy…

Myriads of phone calls had reached me hyperventilating about “failure-of-elections,” the main ingredient being fear of Gloria staying in power – which left me quite non-plussed as it was clear she already had an exit strategy in place. I’m not sure whether her record of outmaneuvering the Left, or at least one of the Lefts, was due to her smarts or other’s denseness… in any case, there were days when I sort of walked around wondering if I was the only one in the whole universe unable to see this “failure of the elections” scenario, barking out to whomever on the cellphone, “the US won’t allow it, haven’t you heard of imperialism?”

But what do I say to my dinner partner, who’s found something to twit me with? Looked him straight in the eye and declared: “Focus on partylist gains instead of denouncing and kicking out whoever crafted the Villar alliance. Cover-up in lieu of criticism-self-criticism. It's nothing new."

I speared the last strawberry and ate it. -- #