There’s an undercurrent talk in the grapevine that of the presidential aspirants in the 2016 elections, Grace Liamanzares, nee Poe, is the American boy. At once, I am inclined to give credence to these whispers. Here’s somebody, quite unknown in Philippine politics, has not held any political office, and yet suddenly springs into the senatorial race. You don’t do that feat unless you’ve got some big benefactor behind you. And now here she is, after just a little over three years in her learning process at the Senate, aspiring for the highest post of the land. Something must be cooking for this woman. But it is a topic deserving attention much deeper than hearkening to presidential gossip. Machinations by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) take a lot of sleuthing to uncover.
My kumpadre, a colleague in the journalistic craft whose got some substantial connect in Philippine economic and political affairs, insists that a sure clue to determining Grace as the American boy in the 2016 presidential contest is a 90-year-old Filipino entrepreneur who is said to be minding the huge finances in Grace’s presidential drive. In the period covered by the most recent Pulse Asia Survey, Grace spent P220 million in ads, just a little less than the biggest spender Roxas, at P250 million. Wife of a US navy officer and part heiress to the modest estate of Da King, Fernando Poe, Jr., Grace can’t have that much money of her own to sustain the enormous logistical requirements of the presidential campaign; but Washington has.
My kumpadre has got sense in his theory. Now, who is this entrepreneur? What are his connections to the American government, specifically the CIA? How is he in a position to assure that by having Grace elected president, the United States gets its current urgent want in the Philippines?
These are questions I have to check on before attempting to write any definitive piece on this angle.
What is clear even now is that, whether by my own or by my kumpadre’s perception, the United States is playing the role of the game changer in the current presidential fight. And in retrospect, we shudder at realizing that after Marcos, America, except in the case of one, has been consistent in this respect.
Marcos fell, Cory rose, whodunit? The US. Fidel V. Ramos took over, whodunit? The US. While the election of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to the post in 1998 was a non-US handiwork, his downfall was. It came as a consequence of Estrada’s defiance of strong US admonition for him not to attack MILF Camp Abubakar; he crushed the MILF and a few months after, Erap was impeached, aborting his constitutionally-mandated six-year term. So Erap fell, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rose, whodunit? The US. Gloria finished her term, Benigno C. Aquino 3rd got elected. Whodunit? The Cory Magic spawned by the US two scores and four years ago at the time. Still the US.
Now, read US through all these game changes.
In the 1985 presidential snap elections which US arms-twisted Marcos to hold in order to replace him with Cory through a purported legit electoral process, Marcos won just the same. The US resorted to people power, kidnapped Marcos and family and brought them to exile in Hawaii, thereafter installing Cory as president. The US had smooth sailing with the subsequent Ramos administration, particularly getting the Visiting Forces Agreement, which was the best that could be had for purposes of continued US military presence in the Philippines. (US military installations in the country were dismantled by the Senate in 1991.)
President Estrada crushes MILF camps
The US encountered rough winds with the succeeding administration of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who collided head-on with the US design of promoting the MILF takeover in Mindanao, particularly crushing Camp Abubakar. Estrada had to go, thus came his impeachment, leading to EDSA II that forced him out of Malacañang after a military breakaway. The US was back to smooth sailing in the next administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who became a staunch US ally in the global fight against terrorism, committing Filipino troops to fight alongside US and NATO soldiers in the war against Iraq. (But showing where her heart really lies, GMA withdrew from the US “Coalition of the Willing” because Philippine membership caused risks to OFWs in the Middle East.
The year 2008 – when Barack Obama was first elected US President and his now famous Asia Pacific pivot was implemented – still fell under the administration of Gloria, and she again proved equal to US wishes specifically by initiating peace negotiations with the MILF, which negotiations led to the conclusion of the MOA-AD. This agreement provided for the establishment in Muslim Mindanao of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), a virtually independent substate with which the US hoped to easily negotiate the re-establishment of its military bases in the country. Strong opposition from Cotabato and Palawan and the certainty of a Supreme Court rejection prompted Gloria to instruct the government negotiating panel not to sign the MOA-AD. In the subsequent presidency of Benigno C. Aquino, he and his people at once confidently announced and took the necessary steps to make the birth of the Bangsamoro substate concept the centerpiece the BSA administration. Aquino even had the gall to gift MILF Chief Al Haj Murad Ibrahim with P5 million in a meeting in Tokyo while the Mindanao peace negotiations were resuming smoothly in the sponsoring country, Malaysia. But the original draft of the final Framework of Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) reached between Dean Marvic Leonen, head of the government negotiating panel who eventually got appointed as Supreme Court Associate Justice, and Mohagher Iqbal, his counterpart in the MILF, somehow got bungled along the way, with the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), supposed to be passed by the BJE that would be immediately established in Mindanao affected areas, thrown instead to the lap of the Philippine Senate for its disposal. There appears to be no more chance for the BBL, even in its much-watered down version, to pass within the remaining months of Aquino’s presidency.
The US dilemma
With Grace up against a number of disqualification cases at the Comelec and an expected reversal by the Supreme Court of the SET verdict finding her qualified for the Senate and therefore the presidency. Now with Aquino’s protégée, hence the US, too, Manuel Roxas 2nd expected to lose in a fair electoral contest, the US is faced with the dilemma of having to contend with a hostile next president without keeping Aquino in power if only to get the BBL created.
The US has done it a number of times before, there’s no reason it won’t do it again this time. The one single reason is compelling. China’s increasing assertiveness over the South China (West Philippine) Sea is pushing the US to, paraphrasing the words of a China Daily editorial, “a corner where there is no other way but the use of arms.”
The joint press conference conducted by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping at the welcome ceremony during the latter’s recent visit to the United States depicted, albeit in terms couched in diplomatic decorum, two sets of single-mindedness on the South China Sea question that at any given time are bound to collide.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We did have candid discussions on the East and South China Seas, and I reiterated the right of all countries to freedom of navigation and overflight and to unimpeded commerce. As such, I indicated that the United States will continue to sail, fly and operate anywhere that international law allows. I conveyed to President Xi our significant concerns over land reclamation, construction and the militarization of disputed areas, which makes it harder for countries in the region to resolve disagreements peacefully. And I encouraged a resolution between claimants in these areas. We are not a claimant; we just want to make sure that the rules of the road are upheld.
PRESIDENT JINPING: Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are China’s territory. We have the right to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime rights and interests.
Who is most likely to win?
The most likely to win in a, to use that worn out cliché, clean and honest election is Vice President Jejomar C. Binay – even granting that Grace stays in the game. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is expected to draw Mindanao votes, yes, but that will practically be limited to just his bailwick Davao and immediate environs, and is cited here only to demonstrate the minimal impact it will make on the Binay core support, which includes most of Mindanao. With all due respect, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is a mile off the race, going by patterns in presidential contests. No second-time runner has emerged a winner in Philippine presidential races. Santiago already lost not once but twice.
In any case, who – in the event of a Grace final disqualification and an assured Roxas loss– of the three remaining presidential contenders have the balls to put up with the US maneuver to keep Aquino in power by which to get its agenda in its conflict with China done?
Santiago is an instant goner. She is a woman.
Duterte, well, his fearsomeness and fearlessness have been proven on no other elements but small fry lawbreakers. Against bigtime crime lords, he still has got to prove his mettle – all the more against the world’s biggest criminal, US imperialism.
So that leaves Binay alone, thank God.
No one in the ilk of presidential wannabes can match VP Binay’s credentials as a human rights advocate, defender of the oppressed, and strong oppositor to the world villain called US imperialism. He was with workers in militant strikes, with youth and students in mass protests out in the streets, and in the lead up to martial law, he was at the frontlines of multitudes shouting “Down with US imperialism!” For which reason, when martial law was declared, he found himself among the countless detained and made to taste the fangs of fascism. No one who had gone through all these travails and got a good dose of revolutionary glory would balk at the task of contending with US machinations to prostitute the Constitution and cause the extension of Aquino’s term.
In an interview by a big panel over DZMM last Wednesday, the following questions were texted for Vice President Binay to answer:
1) I see a scenario of Aquino extended term. How would you take it. I personally would take it as the last straw and would combat it with a call for people power. Are you with me?
2) What occasions would justify the declaration of martial law? Do you see any of these occasions happening between now and May 2016?
Just our luck, the interview ran out of time.