Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

UK Options in Brexit Negotiations

Posted by butalidnl on 13 August 2016

In the 23 June 2016 referendum, the people of the United Kingdom (UK) voted for their country to leave the European Union (EU). The UK’s new Prime Minister Theresa May has affirmed her government’s commitment to implement the people’s will. ‘Brexit is Brexit’ she said. She still has not officially started the process of the UK leaving the EU, however. This will only happen when she would formally inform the European Council of the UK’s intention to leave. This will activate Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty; which provides for two years of talks to arrange the separation.

Before activating Article 50, PM May wants the UK to first determine exactly what it means by ‘Brexit’. What exactly will it bargain for? Her government is expected to come up with an answer before the end of the year, so that the UK could start the process of leaving the EU.
The UK generally has a choice between two main options.

The general positions of both sides are known. The UK wants to retain (most of its) access to the EU Single Market while getting the right to regulate EU migration to the UK. The EU has said that access to the Single Market is a package deal (i.e. there can be no Single Market a la Carte), and thus there can be no exception made for the free movement of labor.
At first glance, one may  think that these are mere starting positions for negotiations, and that some kind of compromise somewhere in between should be possible.  But the EU has a much stronger position than the UK’s, so it is much more likely that the UK will have to work within the framework set by the EU, not the other way around.

Lesson from the Greek Crisis
During the recent Greek crisis, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras assumed that the Eurogroup (the group of countries which have the Euro as their common currency) ,and the EU as a whole, could not afford to let Greece leave the Eurozone. This was based on his assumption that a Greek exit of the Eurozone (or a ‘Grexit’) will unleash a chain reaction that will put the whole Eurozone in crisis. The Greeks thus delayed agreement on a rescue package until the absolute last minute, in the belief that the EU will end up giving them the money they needed without extracting reform and austerity concessions from them.

During marathon talks on 12 – 13 July 2015, PM Tsipras. was shocked to realize that a Grexit was not that much of a worry to the EU. In fact, there were a number of countries (especially Malta and Slovakia) who wanted to throw Greece out of the Eurozone; and that other countries were open to the idea. Bailing out Greece was becoming too much of a burden for them. Also, public opinion throughout the Eurozone had turned against the Greeks, with a growing majority of people actually preferring Grexit.

Tsipras realized then that accepting the Eurogroup proposal was not the worst possible scenario. Getting expelled from the Eurogroup (and maybe the EU), and economic chaos, were much worse. Thus, he ended up  accepting most of the Eurogroup’s package.

The mistake the Greeks made was to assume that they had a stronger negotiating position than the EU; and that the EU would act as they wanted. Many of the UK’s ‘Leave’ campaigners make a similar mistake.

UK Position is Weak
The ‘Leave’ campaigners said that the UK has the stronger position when it comes to trade talks because it is a big trading partner of the EU. They even said that the EU needs a good deal more than the UK does.

They correctly point out tha the EU exports more to the UK than it imports from it (44% of UK exports are to the EU, while 53% .of its imports are from the EU). What they don’t fully realize is that the EU economy is about 9 times bigger than the UK’s; and that from the EU’s point of view, trade with the UK is only a small part of its overall trade (exports to the UK make up 6% to 7% of EU exports, and only 4% to 5% of its imports). If trade talks were to fail, it would be catastrophic for the UK, but merely an inconvenience for the EU.

The negotiations will  be done by 27 different EU countries, and this further weakens the UK’s position. All countries will have issues with certain parts of the deal, which all need to be addressed. Then, the fact that 11% of all UK imports is from Germany (bigger that its imports from the US, and a full fifth of its total imports from the EU), actually makes things worse for the UK; since it is only Germany which would be a bit worried if the UK bought less its products – only one country out of 27.

Once negotiations start, the parties have two years to come to an agreement. If there is no deal, the EU will just treat the UK like any other country.. This will be quite bad for the UK economy. So, it will be the UK that will be under pressure to make an agreement within two years.

Single Market Access
UK politicians keep talking about negotiating for ‘access to the Single Market’, That seems to be clear enough; but actually, it is not. There is a difference between being part of the Single Market and simply having access to it.  In principle, all countries in the world have access to the EU Single Market – in the sense that they can all trade with the EU, invest in companies within the EU, and have their citizens travel to the EU. Being part of the Single Market, however, entails a deeper involvement in it. It gives the EU countries advantages that non-members do not enjoy. These include the following:
1. Goods that cross internal EU borders will not be subject to tariffs, nor to administrative, technical or other non-tariff barriers. In effect, they will be treated in the same way as locally produced goods  .
2. Their companies could operate all throughout the EU, and be treated the same as local companies.
3. Their companies could hire personnel from all over the EU.
4. The EU negotiates trade agreements with other countries on behalf of all its members.
5. Their companies could bid for government contracts in all EU countries. Big companies, big non-profits and government institutions are required to be open to bids from  companies all over the EU.
6. Licenses to operate that are granted in any member country are valid all over the EU.
7. Diplomas and school credits from any member country are valid throughout the EU.
8. All EU citizens are able to participate in, and benefit from, social security, health and other programs that are open to host country citizens. EU students pay the same school fees as local students.

As part of the Single Market, the UK has become a base for many foreign companies that serve the EU market. This has made London a financial center and a center for internet technology. The UK is the manufacturing base for many foreign auto makers. UK-based service companies have a significant part of the EU market. The UK people and companies have benefitted greatly from being part of the EU Single Market.
This is why the UK wants to retain many of the advantages from being in the Single Market, while taking control of migration into the UK.

The Single Market, however, is an integral whole. It will be extremely difficult for the EU to agree to the UK’s desire to leave out the free movement of labor.  The poorer countries of the EU will not agree to this, especially since they don’t gain much from trade with the UK anyway.

A basic aspect of the Single Market is the body of laws that govern it. UK voters were told that Brexit meant that they would not follow EU laws anymore. But it is impossible to be part of the Single Market without following the laws that govern it.

Another important aspect of the Single Market is the financial contribution to maintaining it. EU countries will not agree to give the UK a free ride. If we take what Norway pays (which participates in the Single Market, but is not an EU member) as an indication, the UK would pay about 6 billion euros a year as administration cost for being part of the  Single Market. This is less than the present net UK contribution to the EUof 14 billion euros a year, but it is still something that many Brexit voters will not like.

If the UK wants to be part of the Single Market, it must:
– accept all the laws that govern the Single Market (including the free movement of labor);
– contribute financially to administering the Single Market.
These conditions would likely be politically unacceptable in the UK; so, it will not be possible for the country to remain within the Single Market. This leaves the UK with two main options.

Free Trade Plus
The more likely option is for the UK to negotiate a ‘Free Trade Agreement Plus’.

A Free Trade Agreement (one which provides for tariff-free trade) between the EU and the UK would be ‘relatively easy’ to make. The problem would be in the details (of course). One such detail would be fishing: if UK fishermen are no longer constrained by EU fishing quotas, other countries may push for a maximum import quota for UK fish, or for the exclusion of UK fishermen from EU waters. There are many such details that need to be hammered out.

The EU and UK could also agree on a transition period during which people and companies who currently enjoy Single Market privileges would continue to avail of them. For example, UK residents already in EU countries could continue to be covered by domestic health care and other social security programs during the transition period. EU citizens in the UK would enjoy similar benefits.

There could be additional agreements made on specific matters, such as:
1. Cross recognition of diplomas and school credits.
2. The free movement of labor for specific sectors (e.g. Internet Technology).
3. Agreements on specific product categories (e.g. for wines and spirits).

European Economic Area
Another option for the UK would be for it to immediately leave the EU with a transition period during which it will remain within the Single Market. This will mean that during this period UK laws will have to continue to be in harmony with the EU’s laws, and that the UK will contribute around 6 billion euros a year to the Single Market administration costs.
This arrangement will be similar to what Norway has with the EU; Norway is a member of the European Economic Area.

This arrangement will give the UK time to negotiate a longer-term deal with the EU, and to have trade talks with other countries. An added advantage of this option is that Scotland will not leave the UK, for as long as the UK stays within the Single Market.

The problem with this is that the Brexit advocates will complain that the UK is effectively not leaving the EU, since immigration will continue as before, and the UK can’t make its own laws on a host of economic issues.

The choice is PM May’s. Will she choose  to immediately negotiate for a Free Trade Agreement Plus; or will she choose the more careful route of temporary EEA status?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 2-year Transition to Brexit

Posted by butalidnl on 29 June 2016

On 23 June, the people of the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU).  The UK and the EU will have two years to negotiate the terms of the separation. (The 2-year period will start when the UK officially informs the EU of its intention to leave; this may be sometime in September) During this period, the British will already feel some negative effects of Brexit (British Exit from the EU).
During the 2-year negotiating period, the UK will remain a full member of the EU, with all the privileges and responsibilities this entails.

The coming two years will not be uneventful, however.

Devaluation. In response to the Brexit vote, the British Pound fell from a rate of 1.50 to the dollar, to a low of 1.33 on 24 June. It may still go down a bit farther. Devaluation is supposed to decrease imports (as they become more expensive) and increase exports (as they become cheaper); but this effect takes 9 months to happen. Inflation is sticky upwards (i.e. prices tend to rise fast but fall very slowly if at all), so devaluation would mean that inflation will increase as a result of devaluation.

Immigration. The Brexit vote will probably have the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing immigration – at least during the 2-year period. EU nationals seeking to work and live in the UK may rush in before the UK actually leaves the EU. British pensioners would delay deciding whether to move to Spain and elsewhere in the EU until the rules for this (e.g. for health care insurance, residency permits, etc.) are clear.

Short Term Grants Only.  EU funding for research, study, small business support, urban renewal , and other projects will need to finish before the cut-off date. As a result, fewer and fewer projects will be supported as the deadline comes closer.

Freeze on Foreign Investments. While the new agreement between the UK and EU is being negotiated, foreign companies would be extremely hesitant to invest in the UK. Foreign Direct Investment will dry up.

Transfer of Operations. Businesses will start the process of transferring some of their operations to EU countries as early as during the negotiation period. For those whose EU headquarters are in London, these offices will be downsized into UK offices. For foreign companies which had set up manufacturing plants in the UK to access the EU market, they will simply set up new plants elsewhere in the EU and downsize their UK operations gradually.

Separation. Scotland will most probably hold a referendum on leaving the UK, so that it can remain in the EU. During the Brexit vote, 62% of Scots voted to Remain, and Remain won in all of its counties. The Scots are mad at England for dragging them out of the EU.
Northern Ireland, which also voted for Remain,  is considering the option of leaving the UK and joining the Republic of Ireland. This will be more difficult for them than for Scotland because the Ulster Unionists are vehemently against leaving the UK. However, if Northern Ireland is allowed to hold a referendum on whether it wants to leave the UK, a majority will vote to do so.
If Scotland (and maybe Northern Ireland) leave the UK, this will have negative economic and political effects on the rest of the UK.

Economic Uncertainty. Nobody knows what kind of deal the UK will finally forge with the EU, or what kinds of political changes will take place. This means that the British economy will be saddled by uncertainty for the next two years at least. This is bad  for the economy. Credit rating agencies have lowered the UK’s rating; making it more expensive for the UK government to borrow money.

And finally, there is Regrexit – Regret at the British Exit from the EU. The online petition calling for a second referendum will not get more than a debate in Parliament; it will not delay or overturn the referendum results.
The growing movement against Brexit will  influence the negotiations between the UK and the EU, by pushing to keep the UK inside the Single Market (including immigration of EU nationals). There could be quite heated public debate on this during the negotiations.

All the above are a list of bad things that will happen before the UK leaves the EU. When the UK finally leaves the EU,  things will get even worse.

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Why the UK will vote to Leave the EU

Posted by butalidnl on 7 June 2016

On 23 June, the people of the United Kingdom (UK) will vote on whether their country stays in , or leaves, the European Union (EU). While most polls show that the votes for ‘Leave’ and ‘Stay’ are roughly tied; I think that the ‘Leave’ camp will get the majority of the votes.

I am not saying this because I agree with the ‘Leave’ campaign. In fact, I believe that Brexit will be bad for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. I couldn’t do anything about it, since I can’t vote in the referendum.

Let us look at some of the dynamics that will affect the Brexit (‘Bristish Exit from the EU’) vote.

Old versus Young
The overwhelming majority of the UK’s older citizens are inclined to vote to leave the EU. These people perceive the EU as gradually stripping their country of its sovereignty. At the same time, they do not feel or experience the advantages of increased travel possibilities, friendships throughout Europe, EU subsidies and grants, etc that EU membership brings.

On the other hand, the young generation has grown up with the UK in the EU. They travel, have many personal links in Europe, benefit from study grants or other EU programs, etc. They know that the EU could provide them with future jobs and opportunities.

The votes of these two groups should balance out. However, the older people are much more likely to vote, and are quite motivated to do so. The youth, in contrast, are less likely to vote. This is made worse by the referendum day falling in a time of college exams and the beginning of the summer vacation.

Feeling the Effects
Whichever way the UK votes, most of the effects will not be felt for some time. At least two years, in fact. This is because the UK will have at least two years to negotiate its exit from the European Union. Things will remain generally the same in this period.
One possible immediate effect would be the weakening of the British Pound if ‘Leave’ wins. This may lead to an increase in exports; as well as to more expensive imports.

When the UK finally leaves the EU (perhaps in 2019), the government will most likely restrict immigration. Fewer EU nationals will be allowed to move in and work in the UK; while fewer UK nationals will move in and work in other EU countries. What will be felt by more people is the lower level of immigration. For them, this will mean less congestion when availing of government services, and maybe lead to more jobs for UK nationals.
The decreased chance to live and  work in the EU will be felt by far less people..

On the longer term, Brexit will lead to a gradual transfer of companies to countries within the EU. Foreign companies which had built manufacturing plants or service hubs in the UK in order to serve the EU market will gradually shift operations to countries inside the EU. Big British companies will need to set up their Europe headquarters elsewhere; they may also shift some of their operations to within the EU. London’s role as a global financial center will diminish.

Scotland may decide to leave the UK because of the Brexit vote. There would be less trade, and increased cost of trade. There could be many other, mostly negative, effects.

UK citizens will anticipate the more immediate positive effects of Brexit; while discounting the possibility or the extent of the negative effects.  People are more likely to choose immediate gain over (bigger) future problems.

Managing Images
A big problem of the ‘Stay’ camp is that it does not promise anything – only a continuation of the present. The ‘Leave’ camp, on the other hand, promises a return of their country’s independence, less strain on the job market and social services due to immigration, and even a vision of a more powerful and prosperous country.

Efforts by the ‘Stay’ camp to show that a Brexit will cause an economic disaster have been met with accusations that they do not have confidence in the strength and vitality of their country and people. They then shifted tack to saying that Britain will still prosper outside the EU, but that it will prosper more within it. The result is that many people have gotten the idea that Brexit will not have long-term negative economic consequences.

The issue of sovereignty is a favorite of the ‘Leave’ campaign. They argue that the country has surrendered a big part of its sovereignty to the EU.  This is because the British parliament has had to pass a lot of laws to align with decisions made by the EU. The fact that the UK participates in making those decisions is discounted by saying that it has only one voice out of 28.  They create an image of the UK fighting against 27 others and losing; where in fact it is quite often in agreement with the majority.Also, when decisions are made in the European Parliament or even the European Council, the UK has a very big voice..
The ‘Leave’ campaign’s claim that Brexit will reduce immigration is brilliant. Most people have some (mostly minor) irritation due to recent immigrants (both from the EU, and elsewhere) – be it  longer queues for health services, scarcity of cheap housing, miscommunication with foreigners, etc.  And since cutting immigration is one promise a Brexit vote would most likely deliver; a lot of people will be more inclined to choose ‘Leave’.

The only way the ‘Stay’ campaign can win is if it manages to convince people that Brexit will lead to big economic problems and uncertainty. If enough uncertainty is generated, people will have a natural tendency to choose the status quo. Scare tactics worked to keep Scotland in the UK; it might be the only way to keep the UK in the EU.

 

 

 

 

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On the Offer of Four Cabinet Posts

Posted by butalidnl on 25 May 2016

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has offered four cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). They are that of : DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment),  DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), DSWD (Department of Social Work and Development) and DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources). During the election campaign Duterte had promised to make peace with the CPP and bring them into government.

The Departments
Duterte chose four departments which the CPP could offer to the CPP. While these departments are important, they are not essential politicial, economic or security tasks of the government.

DAR. This department fits best with both the interests and the skill set of the CPP. The Philippines has already had two DAR secretaries from the Left: Ernesto Garilao (1992 – 1996) and Horacio Morales (1998 – 2001).  There are already several lower-level DAR officials who used to be leftist activists.

DOLE. The KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno, May First Movement) and the rest of the progressive labor  movement.may probably be able to provide suitable candidates for labor Secretary. The most left-leaning labor secretary so far was Augusto Sanchex, who was a prominent human rights lawyer before serving as Labor Secretary in 1986 -1987.

DENR. The CPP has a mixed record when it comes to environmental issues. While it sometimes condemns mining companies and loggers for their various violations of environmental laws; the CPP often allows them to operate in their areas as long as they pay ‘revolutionary taxes’. At the same time, the government has a terrible record in appointing Environment Secretaries. Having a CPP nominee in the position may be a welcome change.

DSWD. Corazon Soliman, who served as Welfare Secretary from 2001 to 2005 and again from 2010 to 2016, was a moderate-left activist before becoming Secretary. She has been credited with the successful implementation of the landmark Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program – which gives a modest subsidy to poor families on the condition that their children attend school and avail of medical services. About 4.4 million people benefit from the CCT Program.

Possible Problems
CPP leader Jose Maria Sison has declared that they would accept the offer, and will come up with names of ‘left’ personalities as nominees for the Secretary positions.

The process of actually coming up with nominees could prove difficult, though. In the past years, the CPP had been busy ejecting people from the party who could qualify for such positions;  condemning them for being ‘reformist’ or something similar. Now, the CPP would have to pick candidates from the few cadres it has left who  would qualify for these positions.
If the CPP cannot source nominees from among its ranks, they may be forced to nominate people from outside its immediate circles – maybe even people whom it had previously condemned as reformist.

An even bigger hurdle to the CPP coming up with nominees the  matter of fitting the appointing of four cabinet secretaries into its overall strategy.  It may be too easy to say  that this  is a matter of temporary tactics. However, it would mean a major adjustment in how the CPP does things. Specifically, it has to do with the role of the armed struggle to achieve its goals. While Duterte has not spelled it out explicitly, he expects a quid pro quo for the cabinet positions – that of having a ceasefire and peace talks. A six-year ceasefire would wreck havoc within the New Peoples Army; if it does not have anything to do, its ranks will fade away.

Then there is the matter of the CPP strategy for finally achieving power. Will the CPP accept a negotiated route to achieving its goals? or would it be just a temporary detour from the armed struggle? And what is the use of armed struggle if they could gain a governmental role simply by a political route? Their rationale for engaging in armed struggle is that the ruling classes would violently oppose efforts to change the political and economic system. Questions of strategy are a point of tension within the CPP. The balance between ‘legal’ struggle and armed struggle, and their relationship, has been a topic of internal debate and even splits for decades. The question of the cabinet positions will surely increase these tensions within the party.

Duterte’s policies could also be a sticking point. Bayan (a CPP-influenced mass organization) has already denounced Duterte’s economic policies. A more problematic issue is Duterte’s plan to have the dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Burial Place for Heroes). This would also mean some kind of rehabilitation for him. The CPP may not want to be part of a government that rehabilitates Marcos.

Then comes the problems with security. If the DSWD includes peasants from the CPP mass base in the CCT program, the government will know who they are. After the 6-year period, they may be attacked for being communist sympathizers. Also, having a DAR Secretary may mean that the government military entering CPP-controlled areas to implement DAR orders.And what about the security of the Secretaries themselves and their staffers? They may all need to go underground after Duterte’s term.

Choosing a Response
Sison may have declared acceptance of the four cabinet posts; but this does not necessarily mean that the CPP really accepts the offer. It is the actual leaders of the CPP in the country who really call the shots. Sison was only given authority to hold peace talks with the government; actual concessions would need to be made by the leaders in the Philippines.

The CPP’s Central Committee, or more specifically the Secretariat of its Executive Committee, would be the one to make the final decision. Before doing so, they would need to consult some of the lower party organs e.g. the United Front Commission, which will probably be tasked to produce the nominees,  as well as the New People’s Army’s high command. I suspect the NPA will balk at the prospect of having a 6-year ceasefire.
After careful consideration the Secretariat will issue its decision on this matter.

The decision could be within the following range:
Full acceptance of Duterte’s offer. Four nominees will be chosen from among the ranks of its ‘influenced’ organizations.  Peace talks with the government will be started. A ceasefire of limited duration will be declared, as a possible prelude to an extended ceasefire.
or
The CPP will decline the offer. Disagreement on ssues e.g the proposed burial of Marcos and/or other portions of Duterte’s policies will be deemed incompatible with participation in his government.
or
Something in between.

I suspect that the CPP leadership will neither fully accept nor fully reject Duterte’s offer. Perhaps it could nominate someone for DAR or DOLE from within its ranks,  but nominate outside progressives for DENR and DSWD. It could agree on a partial ceasefire – i.e. that no large-scale military operations will be undertaken, but that ‘police actions’ by both sides would be allowed (this may be done to appease the NPA leadership). Also, the peace talks could be held both in the Philippines and with Sison’s team abroad.

The way the CPP handles this offer could determine its prospects of building peace with the govenment, including for the period after Duterte’s presidency.

 

 

 

 

 

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Responding to Marcos’ Near-Victory

Posted by butalidnl on 17 May 2016

Ferdinand Marcos Jr nearly got elected as Vice President in the recent Philippine elections. He lost by only a couple of hundred thousand votes.  A full third of the electorate voted for him, believing that (pick one or more of the following):
– Martial Law was not that bad, or even that it was good;
– Martial Law was bad, but was only the fault of his father;
– the VP position isn’t that important anyway;
– Marcos was the most experienced, and most competent among the VP candidates;
– it was important to vote against the LP, even if it meant voting for Marcos

Let us go into these points more deeply.

Teaching Martial Law at School
The first point – the belief that Martial Law was not that bad – is the fault of successive post-Martial Law politicians and of Filipinos in general.  After we overthrew Marcos in 1986, we felt that everyone knew about Martial Law. We didn’t do enough to ensure that this general knowledge was passed on to future generations.

Every year, there would be an EDSA anniversary celebration on 25 February; but there was no effort to include the experience of Martial Law in school history textbooks. In those textbooks, Marcos was portrayed as just one in the series of presidents. Students were taught that all presidents had good and bad points. The students took it to mean that Martial Law was not that bad – just something similar to the failed Estrada presidency.
What should have been done was to have a specific chapter on Martial Law: on how Marcos grabbed power, on the various economic, political and human rights crimes the Marcosses committed, and the brave resistance of many people, and finally the 1986 uprising.

Instead of merely remembering the EDSA uprising every 25 February, we should also mark 21 September as the anniversary of the Martial Law declaration. 21 September would then be some kind of ‘Memorial Day’ and 25 February ‘Freedom Day’.  The Aquinos’ role in both should be reduced; more emphasis should be given to how many people who suffered under Martial Law, and how they fought back.

Merely the Son of…
Ferdinand Marcos Jr is trying to pass himself of as ‘merely the son of’ FM Sr. the dictator. That he was innocent of the wrongdoings of his father and mother. But this is a lie.
FM Jr became 18 years old in 1975, a mere 3 years into Martial Law. He was an adult who fully participated in the ‘family business’ of looting the wealth of the Philippines. He used dummy corporations to siphon money from legitimate businesses.
And then there are the various secret bank accounts of the Marcos family. FM opened secret bank accounts for all his children, to which they alone would have the access codes.While the Philippine government has gotten hold of the assets from many Marcos accounts (especially those in Swiss banks), there are many accounts elsewhere, which are harder to trace. FM Sr’s remaining personal accounts, which are presently controlled by Imelda Marcos, will also surely be passed on to her children upon her death.

So, FM Jr is not merely the son of FM Sr, the dictator. He is his heir; he was a co-conspirator to his father; he has inherited a big part of the loot his parents had stolen; he is complicit in many of FM Sr’s crimes..

“The Vice President Position is not that Important”
Some people say that the they could vote for FM Jr, because it is ‘only’ for Vice President, which is after all not an important position.
While it is true that the position of Vice President is not as powerful as that of the President, VPs yield more power than senators or cabinet secretaries. First of all, a Vice President is often given a cabinet post. She/he will attend cabinet meetings. And since she/he is the only one whom the president cannot dismiss, she/he will be one of the cabinet heavyweights, regardless of whatever portfolio she/he has.

Second, a VP is literally only a heartbeat away from being president. If the president dies or is deposed, the vice president will take over. This has happened three times in Philippine history: in 1944 when Osmena became president-in-exile after Quezon’s death; in 1957 when Garcia took over after Magsaysay died in a plane crash; and in 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replaced president Estrada after he was deposed.
For this reason, we should only elect a vice president who would make a good president.

Then, the vice presidency is a perfect launching pad for an eventual presidential campaign. Marcos was the VP of Macapagal before he first ran for president in 1965. Erap Estrada skillfully used his VP position for this purpose. Binay  used it for the same purpose.

If FM Jr became vice president, he would also have used the position to gradually change people’s perception of FM Sr and Martial Law.

Most Experienced, Competent
Then, it is said that FM Jr was the most experienced and competent candidate.  In response to this, we could recall how Cory Aquino responded to a similar argument by Marcos Sr (paraphrasing): “I am not as experienced as Marcos in cheating, stealing and trampling on people’s human rights”.  One’s length of stay in office is not an automatic sign of competence, but of the strength of one’s political dynastic power.

Leni Robredo had served only 3 years in the House of Representatives; but she had performed exceptionally well as Representative, with many good bills introduced and advocated, including the Freedom of Information Bill and the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill. Before becoming Representative, she had worked for the Naga City Public Attorney’s Office, and then as coordinator of SALIGAN – an alternative legal support group. Her work brought her in contact with people from many communities, including many outlying ones. She has had a lot of experience.
FM Jr became Vice-Governor of Ilocos Norte in 1980 (after finishing college), and proceeded to take positions alternately as governor, congressman and senator, all based on his local dynastic politicial base in Ilocos Norte (with an interlude between 1986 and 1991 because he was with his father in exile). Having been always in public office, FMJr does not have any experience with what ordinary people feel and want.

What FM Jr seems to have done during his years in public office is to steer clear of petty political controversies and corruption scandals. With literally billions of dollars in bank accounts, and the Marcos unchallenged political dominance in Ilocos Norte, he did not need to. Compared to other political wheeler-dealers who ran for vice president e.g. Chiz Escudero or Gregorio Honasan, FM Jr would indeed seem like a decent choice.

Marcos vs Aquino
One narrative that seems to be quite strong is that Martial Law was mainly about the rivalry between Marcos and Aquino. Under this logic, the administration of PNoy is just the counterpoint of Martial Law (and implicitly was made to be equivalent to it). Thus, those who disliked PNoy and the Liberal Party should vote for FM Jr .

I come from Cebu; and I know that Marcos’ main rival when he declared Martial Law was Sergio Osmena Jr (Serging), who had run against him in the 1969 elections. When Marcos declared Martial Law, the first target was the power base of vice president Fernando Lopez – Marcos grabbed their properties (incl. ABS-CBN and Meralco) – because the Lopez family was the biggest threat to his power.  The outspoken Senators who opposed Marcos were Salonga, Diokno, Aquino and Tanada. Among them, Salonga was the most respected leader. Salonga, however, suffered from ill-health due to the injuries he incurred during the Plaza Miranda Bombing of 1971. It was Salonga who headed a broad coalition of the opposition in its boycott of the 1981 elections.

During the darkest years of the dictatorship, Ninoy Aquino was in exile in the USA. After the 1981 election boycott, Ninoy Aquino realized that if he remained outside for long, he would lapse into political irrelevance. In order to get back into the scene, Aquino decided to return in August 1983. His death on Marcos’ orders (many people now believe that it was Imelda Marcos who ordered it, not Ferdinand) transformed him into a martyr for the Filipino people. He became a rallying point for a wave of protests that pushed Marcos to declare snap elections in February 1986.
When Marcos called for snap elections, it was Salvador Laurel who was the most likely candidate of the opposition. But many of those who were active in the protest movement didn’t want Laurel to lead them. Eventually, the united opposition chose Cory Aquino to run as president. Laurel had to very reluctantly agree to run as vice president.
Thus, the Marcos – Aquino was a small part of the contradiction during Martial Law.

Post EDSA governments chose to emphasize the role of the Aquinos in overthrowing Marcos. Cory Aquino needed to: she was faced with numerous coup attempts against her, and she wanted to honor the memory of her assasinated husband. Fidel Ramos, who succeeded Cory Aquino, emphasized the last years of Martial Law; because in the first part, he was Martial Law’s enforcer.

‘Never Again’
It is of utmost importance that our people are properly educated about the evils of Martial Law. We need to reach out to the young people and inform them about what Martial Law was all about – and not what they learned in school.  We need to revise the history textbooks to give an accurate accout of Martial Law; and that problems with subsequent presidents pale in comparison.

The Marcos-Aquino myth needs to be broken. The story of a whole era of resistance needs to be told. .Ninoy and Cory Aquino should be brought down to earth; their role should be acknowledged, but no longer inflated.

And it is very important to expose FMJr’s personal participation in FM Sr’s crimes. ‘Never Again’ should not only refer to never again having Martial Law. It should also mean that the Filipinos would ‘Never Again’ support the Marcoses bid to return to power.

 

 

 

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