The last failure of the economic elite–and their surrogates in the media and civil society– was the one involving Mrs. Arroyo. They wanted her out of power right after the 2004 elections through means fair or foul, and preferably via the Nicaraguan version of crippling the capital with massive protest actions. There were constraints, though.
One was protest fatigue. After EDSA Uno and EDSA Dos – and the short-lived EDSA Tres – the middle class and the urban poor were no longer predisposed to mass at EDSA and cripple the main transport route of the metropolis to topple down the Arroyo administration. The middle class just wanted to vent their ire in the 2010 elections and humiliate Mrs. Arroyo’s chosen through their votes. The urban poor had been calmed down by former First Quarter Storm activists then working in Mrs. Arroyo’s camp to rein in their anti-Arroyo angst.
With the middle class bone weary and tired of political protests and the anger of the urban poor reined in, the economic elite and their surrogates fought their war through the major media outlets they controlled and still control. The last few years of Mrs. Arroyo in power saw the explosion of corruption stories that was unparalleled in the country’s political and media history.
The Arroyo administration also saw to it that the other vital institutions of government, the Congress and the judiciary, stayed out of the fray and did not go along with the grand agenda of the elite. The leading lights of the legislative and the judiciary also shared the general view of the tired middle class – the 2010 elections, not the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo, was the preferred option on leadership change. Congress and the LGUs – and the military – were most opposed to the elite’s wish for an extra-constitutional option to oust Mrs. Arroyo.
The glory of Gloria Arroyo came to pass and in the 2010 elections, the elite’s anointed, Mr. Aquino, was unanimously elected president. The demonized image of Mrs. Arroyo was enough to sink her candidate, actually the most qualified candidate in that election cycle. Mr. Aquino, to show his fealty to the elite, truly fulfilled the economic elite’s grandest hope, an “all-business president” who measures his accomplishments on growth rates and credit upgrades, and how much wealth has been transferred to the already-awesome wealth of the economic elite.
Six years of unprecedented upward redistribution. Through six years, not a single one was a down year for the elite. Steve Forbes, the failed US presidential candidate whose family owns the magazine that measures the wealth of the global elite, was so caught up with the elite’s gushing over Mr. Aquino that he wanted a clone of Mr. Aquino to be president of the US. In his country, bridging inequality is primordial in the political debates. Here, we are stuck up in the ‘80s mania for growth, balanced budgets and credit upgrades.
As if this Catholic country has never heard of a pope named Francis who has debunked trickle-down economics and the kind of reckless, unfettered capitalism bannered by Mr. Aquino.
In the current election cycle, the elite is in yet another state of despondency and frustration. The chosen one, Mr. Roxas, has been lagging in the polls and is now in third place – more than 10 percent behind the polling leader, Mr. Duterte. After six years of cruel capitalism that tilted 100 percent into their direction, the elite can’t let go. The problem is they have a weak and near-to-hopeless candidate who has failed to catch up despite the sky-is-the-limit support extended to him by the influential institutions the elite controls or owns.
Mr. Roxas is supported by all sectors with a national megaphone, from Big Business to Big Media. The Aquino administration precisely crafted the BUB in the national budget to help Mr. Roxas’ candidacy and that is throwing money into the LGUs to get votes for Mr. Roxas. Even the cash transfer program has been politicalized. (That sounds more correct than “politicized.”) In the blighted rural areas, the Aquino government campaigns with the threat that the conditional cash transfer will be gone with Mr. Roxas defeat. Despite all these, he has been mocked by Mr. Duterte as a “ loser.”
After Big Media was done sliming Mr. Binay, the early leader in the presidential poll who has slid down to 4th place from his commanding lead, the new target is Digong Duterte. Duterte is now facing questions about a banking history that involved alleged more than P2 billion in recent transactions. It is now the big story, supplanting the Makati City tales of alleged big-time construction-related corruption.
It involves the same narrative, the leading presidential candidate enmeshed in a morass of corruption and unsuccessfully wiggling away from the charges. Only the name has changed. It is now Duterte instead of Binay. The current charge is “ bank accounts” the one that successfully led to the ouster of Erap in 2000.
As the Makati-centric stories on alleged corruption faded from the national discussion, it is Davao City and its arriviste mayor that are now hogging the headlines. The problem is the timeline. It is just a few days from May 9 and the hard-core devotion of many voters to the arriviste mayor is for real.
There is doubt that the elite can deliver a Hail Mary pass for Mr. Roxas.