Sunday, January 1, 2012

Predictions in 2012: the Battle of the Extremes

The first half of this new year will be exciting, that is politically. Remnants of the old regime will continue to get it. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions will be subjected to extreme hardships due to the numerous cases filed against excesses they committed while in power. This group will try to resist, but as they do, they will spend monies. However, without a legitimate people's organisation backing them up, these efforts will be for naught.

Arroyo will spend the rest of her political life behind bars. Her only option is a military one, something very risky to her and her backers. In exchange, Arroyo will try to launch a media-oriented campaign to at least neutralize the government's attacks, but she will eventually fail.

A coup remains an option especially if Arroyo and her backers feel that they are being pushed against a wall. Success however, remains unknown. The AFP continues to solidly back the administration of Aquino.

Palparan remains one of the biggest security threats against this administration, because of three factors: one, Palparan enjoys the support of several big players in the mining and construction business in Northern, Central Luzon and Mindanao. Second, several groups within the AFP who are staunchly anti-Communist remain supportive, albeit, in secret. Third, Palparan has a wide grassroots based organisation which is scattered throughout the archipelago.

Two issues will hug headlines come the first half of this year---the impeachment of Corona and the Palparan manhunt. The first will hurt the legal profession while the second will hurt the sensitivities of several military men who remain staunchly anti-Communist.

Pro-Arroyo groups are counting on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona to change things. Things will change if these groups launch a non-traditional campaign, something alien to those who handle the media campaign of these groups. A traditional PR campaign will fail against a very strongly supported government.

Corona’s impeachment trial is a political one, something which requires a campaign that is expected to generate tremendous people’s support. Analysing their current positions, Corona might be able to break the elite groups, but will find it extremely hard to shift the masses’ perception towards his side.

Corona might be able to sway the opinions of those in the legal profession, but if the trial goes public, and pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution side be aired and published, and a formidable public impression is created, expect Corona to lose heavy. A Corona loss will lead to the further isolation and diminution of Arroyo's remaining influence and power. Arroyo's loss in the political game will be Aquino's gain come 2013. It is expected that a Liberal party initiated coalition will eventually replace Lakas-NUCD as the most dominant and most formidable political aggrupation in this country come 2013.

If you analyze the situation quite closely, you will find that the political futures of the pro-Arroyo groups and even those groups opposing Aquino due to ideological differences depend on the rise and fall of Aquino's trust and popularity ratings. Even if these surveys do not necessarily reflect the true state of affairs on the ground, the power shakers and brokers believe in them. With this firm belief and the fact that Aquino pushes a strong yet simple ideological agenda that these groups believe, resonates to the masses, it would be extremely difficult for any group to successfully launch an attack against Aquino.

The Corona issue is the not the issue effective enough to counter or even dent Aquino's image and popularity. The image created by the impeachment of Corona has been unassailable since it was first created---an image where the "good guys" in government ae trying to punish the "bad guys"--that is represented by Arroyo and Corona. Pro-Arroyo groups will have to do more in the PR arena to actually change this perception.

Palparan's case however is different. The ex-general has stumbled upon a psy-war issue that resonates to the masses---injustice. Palparan's claim that he is being denied due process is strong. If he continues to play with it, there is a possibility that a military move initiated by him, could succeed. However, it remains to be seen if Palparan's move will eventually result to a coup that will oust this administration from office. Several factors:

  • one, is the counter-elite strong enough to face a middle class constituency which makes the majority of Aquino supporters?
  • two, is Big Business supportive of a move to oust Aquino?
  • three, who in the military establishment right now enjoys the leadership charisma of a Honasan or a Trillianes who is brave enough to get out of their barracks and move against a legitimately elected administration?

If, and when, a coup arises, it will be perceived as a purely political move, inspired by "bad guys" and something like what Arturo Tolentino did a year after the fall of Marcos.

If a move is launched against Aquino, the church is expected to support it. However, the church will be hard put mobilising its forces because most of the big groups within the church are supportive of the Aquino administration. The bishops will probably be very vocal and critical, but in terms of real strength and power, these bishops will actually find it extremely hard to flex their muscles.

The traditional power centers have been effectively neutralised. New ones have sprouted. For a move to be successful, one of at least several of these new power centers would have to split from the ideological coalition forged in the palace and side with anti-Aquino groups, something of a suicide, if i may say so. For example, if the CPP-NPA-NDF suddenly change tack and transforms into an attack dog, the group will eventually be marginalized and left behind. It is best for these groups to continue their critiques while doing political work.

So, expect a political move effected by traditional power centers which have lost considerable territory and voice upon the assumption of this administration. The Church will find it extremely difficult to regain its once formidable political influence.

2012 will continue to be a struggle between traditional forces within Philippine society which have benefitted from years of misrule and newer power blocks formed from the learnings of the past, members of a generation which have realised its enormous political power and more ideologically inclined than those of previous generations. If this conflict becomes public, it will surely be a fight between extremes—from the traditional power blocks and new power centers.