Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 11: Time to Consider Plan B

Whoever advised the President to make the apology did poor intelligence work. Why did these adivsers ever think that the Filipinos would be happy with an apology? That's pure wishful thinking. To have a President saying I'm sorry to everybody does not appeal to people's interest. It would not make their lives any better. It would only make it more fun to lampoon the President. If these advisers thought that this crisis would go away now, they are wrong. This crisis is now about to dominate everyone's life, and the ending is clearly visible.

"What profits a woman if she gains the entire world but loses her soul?"

Ma'am, the time has come for you to consider Plan B.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The politician of God's love

I had a final chance to be around Jaime Cardimal Sin before his retirement a couple of years ago. It was a Sunday Mariapolis event at Rizal Coliseum hosted by the Focolare community. The Sunday Mariapolis is a whole-day affair where members, adherents, volunteers, and friends of the Focolare gather for witnessing the basic tenets of the movement. The program started promptly at around 9:00am. At around 11:00 am, a little skit was being played out on the stage, when the host halted everything to announce the arrival of Jaime Cardinal Sin, then already feeling the weight of old age. There were loud cheers as people gathered to kiss his hand. And as he staggered his way, I asked myself how long has it been since this great man was "fanning the flames" of discontent against the Marcos regime? Many years after, he was still around, this time sharing the faith with his flock. When he made it to the microphone to speak about how happy he was that he made it to the Mariapolis that day, tears fell from my eyes. There was no burning issue of the day. No president to topple. It was just an occasion for an old cardinal to be with his flock, and the struggle was for the strength to make it to the stage. The thought came to explain the tears, this man truly loved his flock. And his politics was not about power for himself or for a dynasty. It was about God's love. And like God's love, his politics was constant and consistent. You can not accuse Jaime Cardinal Sin of ever being on the wrong side. His place in my history book is secured.

I feel blessed to have lived in the time of Jaime Cardinal Sin. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 10: Time to use the "P" word.

Sun Tzu says, "If you are strong, you attack. If you are weak, you defend."

The President can still win the battle for public approval in this controversy about her wiretapped conversations. GMA should show everyone that this controversy is less about cheating in the elections, but more about private conversations being kept private.

It's time to argue the case for the "P" word. It's time to tell the State it went too far. Private time is private time. As in the case of an ordinary individual, whatever the President does on her private time is beyond the public domain. The right to privacy is a fundamental principle of the Filipino's social pact with the Philippine state. Violate the right to privacy, and the social pact is broken.

At first, everyone may disgree with the invocation of this right in this particular case. Yet, imagine for a moment, that Mrs. Arroyo is not the President. Take this case in isolation of the political reality. Is it really proper for the people to feast on her private cellphone conversations? Is it right for the State to meddle with anybody's phone calls without the proper procedures?Do we all have to explain to the Philippine State the meaning of our conversations?

The question of the day is not whether she is one of the voices on the tapes, but whether anyone has any business listening to the tapes. First things first. If the State will uphold the right to privacy of a sitting president, the most public of this country's private citizens, then the State will uphold the right to privacy of the rest. Is anybody arguing that the President has no right to privacy? It's preposterous. It's like saying she cannot close the door when she goes to the bathroom. The privacy she enjoys is the privacy we can all enjoy. How can anyone argue with that?

If people think that the "Hello Garci" ringtones are cool, then they missed the point. The joke is on them. Somebody has spooked the highest official in the land. What makes them think it cannot happen to them? Their darkest secrets will never be safe, and they will never be able to live with it. Senator Serge Osmena has been distributing copies of the wiretapped conversations of the President to challenge the Justice Secretary to sue. But Senator Serge should watch out, for what if he too has been spooked, and the tape is mixed with those he distributes? One of the voices in those tapes might turn out to be his. What dark secrets of the good senator would be revealed? Will we find out what really happened in his Eskapo story with the late Geny Lopez? The right to privacy that he is violating might as well be his.

While I still believe that waiving the benefits of the anti-wireapping law is necessary in order for the people to bring the crisis to the courts instead of the streets, I am also saying that the President should raise the issue of privacy to the bar of public opinion. She should appeal to their sense of decency. Decent people do not listen to private conversations, for at the end of the day, no one is perfect. Each has his dark little secret, and no one has the right to publicize someone else's dark secrets -- most definitely not without consent.

Ma'am this is your strongest argument: "The right to privacy has primacy." Sun Tzu says attack.

See Atty Punzi's accompanying blog lecture on the right to privacy here.

(revised post)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 9: "Ma'am we have a new crisis."

Sun Tzu says, "Just as water shapes itself to the ground an army should manage its victory in accordance with the situation of the enemy. Just as water has no constant shape, so in warfare there are no rules."

GMA is no longer in an immediate danger of being ousted. The people have not taken the streets, and there are no crowds converging in any historic site. Likewise, the opposition failed to find a leader to coordinate the assaults. But the public opinion weighs heavily against the President. This is going to be very nasty.

We can expect the President and the First Family to become the butt of jokes. She is going to be lampooned on the radio, tv, newspapers and the internet. Already the "Hello Garci" ringtones are a hit. Iggy Boy's "walang bagyo-bagyo sa 'kin" statement is now animating conversations everywhere. A lot of creative energy is going to be spent making fun of the First Family in the grand tradition of Plaridel and Dimasalang. How can she possibly live with it? Her people would address her as her Excellency when she's talking to them , and they would be calling her a cheater when she turns her back. Can she trust that her bodyguards would not have the "Hello Garci" ringtones on their cellphones? Trouble is, how long are the jokes going to last? She still has a full five years in her term. It is going to be an emotional hell.

The DOJ and the NBI have apparently been instructed to run after people distributing the wiretapped tapes. But with the current technology that allows anyone with a computer to download copies on the internet, it would be impossible to capture all those copies. Further, the legal disputes that the effort will create is going to be another potential source of embarassment. If they reach the Supreme Court, these cases would serve as written history for future generations to remember a President who ordered a Comelec commissioner around during her reelection. This reminds me of Richard Nixon. What do we remember about him but only the freshman law school staple, US vs. Nixon ? All that Nixon did as President of the US are just footnotes to this case, or mere embellishments in the movies that the Watergate Scandal spawned.

This brings me back to Marcos and his own Comelec back in the 1986 snap elections. The Filipino people knew Marcos controlled the Comelec, but no direct evidence against Marcos was ever produced. GMA has three hours of telephone conversations with Garci. It makes Marcos look like an amateur. History will not be kind.

Perhaps, GMA will manage to stay as President. But the people will remember her unkindly. Ma'am we have a new crisis.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Sun Tzu Advice No. 8: "Seize the Sun Tzu Moment"

Sun Tzu says, "Those who cannot win must defend, those who can win must attack. Defend when one's forces are inadequate, attack when one's forces are abundant."

The initial battles are over, but the war has not been won. While Sammy Boy has been temporarily neutralized -- thanks to his own folly, he was sent out of by his hosts in San Carlos Seminary -- the endgame scenario has not been drawn. GMA should take a look again at her political screenshot. Has there been any shift in loyalties among her people? The public sentiments appear to be clearly red or white, but very few are willing to take the streets again unlike in EDSA I and II.

Thus, the timing is perfect for her to make the strong pitch for the constitutional process. She and her allies should start barraging media with appeals for sobriety and the need to uphold the rule of law. She should start challenging people to take her to court, instead of protesting in the streets. As stated in the previous posts, the sooner that this crisis is brought to the courts, the sooner that it will be resolved. With her renewed strength, thanks to Sammy Boy's disappearance from the public's eye, she should focus now on convincing the public to trust the system. Trust Congress that it will consider the impeachment raps. Trust the Ombudsman to consider the curious case of Mikey and Uncle Iggy. She should stop those speeches that tend to brag about her accomplishments in office. It's easier to convince people not to take the streets, because there are laws to be followed, than to tell them not to take the streets, because she is a good president.

The inherent weakness of the opposition is its lack of organization. This means she can reach out to them one by one, win them over, and ruin their spotty alliance. She should start reaching out to the opposition senators. Perhaps, it's time for her to apologize to Senator Pimentel for her abrupt decision to ditch the Salonga-Pimentel senatorial slate in 1992 in favor of Lakas? Perhaps Mike Defensor can now apologize to Sen. Madrigal for his harsh statements about her family and plead to her to stop calling for the President to resign? Whatever it takes, she should crush the opposition by winning over their most respected men. Now is the perfect time to do so.

This is what I call the Sun Tzu moment -- the exact moment when the falcon should strike and break the body of its prey. GMA should seize that moment now.

Sun Tzu Advice No. 7: "Let Sammy Boy Go".

How do you solve a problem like Samuel Ong? - Rodgers and Hammerstein

Free. Free. Set him free. - Sting

MLQ3 reports on the rumor that there was a grand debate in the palace on the right approach to Samuel Ong. The military wants to have him arrested to silence him forever. But the civilians, namely Sec. of Defense Nonong Cruz and Sec. of Environment and Natural Resources Mike Defensor, think such move will backfire. Who is thinking Sun Tzu here? The civilians, of course.

As stated in advice nos. 3 and 5, this crisis should be fought in the courts and not in the streets. If Sammy Boy is arrested, that leaves the enemies no option but to take the streets. And the streets are where the President is sure to loose this crisis. While Sammy Boy cannot be allowed to roam around carrying those tapes, putting him behind bars would create a negative impact that may be hard to contain.

Thus, the best way to deal with Sammy Boy is to give him a clean way out. Another country may offer him asylum - Swizerland, Canada, USA, Timboktu perhaps? If you let Sammy take an asylum in another country that would take care of his concern for his safety, and that would also take him away from the reach of the street parliamentarians. And please, the legal objections on those tapes have to go, otherwise. the government would have to arrest everybody who has posted copies of the tapes all over the web. Bad move. The people will surely take the streets if that is done. The legal objections have to go, so people would take the matter to court instead.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 6: "Watch your back."

Journalist Ricky Carandang has published today in what appears to be the proposal from the left of center political forces. The scenario he painted is for the respected members of the cabinet to threaten the President to resign, unless she does the honorable thing of resigning in the face of the scandal. In Mr. Carandang's words,

"If a critical mass of Cabinet officials, especially those known as reformists and not associated with her husband, Mike Arroyo, threaten to resign unless she steps down. The specter of the most respected Cabinet members resigning would eventually be the deathblow that would lead to the collapse of her government. Even if she were to replace them, it would only delay the inevitable. The damage to her of mass resignations would just be too great for her to survive. In other words the only choice President Arroyo would have in this scenario would be to step down in an orderly fashion or have her government eventually toppled in a messy coup or revolution."

In the light of this proposal, GMA should now check her political screenshot. Who among her cabinet secretaries are the targets here? Immediately, we can point to Cesar Purisima, Secretary of Finance, and Butch Abad, Secretary of Education, who are among the most respected names in her cabinet. She should have these two scouted -- Butch Abad in particular, because Butch has the social democrats and the Liberal Party with him. What should she do if these guys' icons, which I presume to be green, turn white, and then eventually turn red? She should move heaven and earth to convince these guys to stay. But would they be able to carry the pressure from the left of center and from their constituents to make the move? This is where GMA can truly test her political skills. Can she keep her most respected people in the fold?

What did Vito Corleone say? "Keep your friends close to yourself. And your enemies closer."

Interesting times we live in.

Sun Tzu Advice No. 5:"Ma'am the lawyers have to go."

Sun Tzu says, "When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. This does not mean that the enemy is to be allowed to escape. The object is to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair. For you should not press a desperate foe too hard."

GMA has to waive the protection afforded to her by the anti-wiretapping act. Pounding the wiretapped tapes with all legal might will only make her enemies desperate and take the streets. I stated earlier that if this battle is fought in th streets, GMA is sure to lose it. But if this battle is fought on the courts, she has a fair chance of winning and surviving her term. If she waives the legal objections to the wiretapped tapes, then this will pave the way for the sensible people in the opposition to take the legal route of this crisis. Of course, the reds will stick to the streets, but that's expected of them. What is important is that the masses could be dissuaded from taking the streets because there is a democratic and legal way to resolve the conflict created by the wiretapped tapes.

Everyody knows at this point that the tapes are being brandished as the smoking gun of how she cheated in the elections. At present, her crisis team has received orders to prosecute all found to have possession of the same, including those who posted copies on their web pages. I don't know where GMA got this advice, but that person has no understanding of political strategy whatsoever. The adverse energy created by the tapes could be compared to water, it will seek its level. It will push where there is low gravity, and GMA will need a basin strong enough to contain its enormous power. Does she have this basin on hand? Will it last long enough for her to make it through? The answer is, of course, no. Nobody could possibly handle that, not for a long time. Remember Erap and his envelope no. 2? That legal ploy to defeat the motion to open envelope no. 2 sparked EDSA II. What's the lesson to be learned? Stonewalling the truth using legal tricks does not sit well with the Filipino psyche. It has led to the ouster of a President, and it is still as potent as ever. Thus, there is no use capturing all copies of those tapes. She has to waive all her legal objections to it, so the people will go to court and not the streets. Otherwise, she is going to have a desperate foe. And Sun Tzu says beware the courage of a desperate foe.

Ma'am, the legal objection has to go. If your lawyers do not approve, then your lawyers have to go.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 4: "Act fast"

Sun Tzu says, "Speed is the essence of war. Capitalize on the unpreparedeness of the enemy; travel by the unexpected routes; and attack those places where he does not take precautions.

If there is one thing going for the President in this hour of crisis, it's the fact that her enemies appear to be running around like headless chickens. The volleys are uncoordinated, sporadic, aimless, and at best amateurish. In other words, they don't know what they are doing. And Sammy Boy -- the guy simply wants to save himself from sure death. The question is how come it isn't over yet? It's been three days.

If the President allows this situation to be in this state beyond the Independence Day long weekend, her enemies will have enough time to sit, plan, and coordinate their moves. Sure, the movie fans, thanks to their political naivette, are unlikely to merge forces with the left. But for how long? Sooner or later, they will learn. Even lab rats learn from mistakes. Who knows?

High in the agenda is to take out Sammy Baby. By now, we all know his motivations. He thinks he is trapped and his only salvation is on those tapes. How come GMA hasn't struck a deal with him for his clean way out? Give the poor man an exit, a UN appointment, a political sanctuary, get him on an asylum to Switzerland -- whereever in the world where he can shout to his heart's content that GMA cheated in the elections. It doesn't matter. What matters is that he is out EDSA and out of reach from the street parliamentarians.

Ma'am read my lips: Act fast.

Sun Tzu's Advice No. 3, "Let's bring the battle to the courts"

Sun Tzu says, "Those who are skilled in warfare will always bring the enemy where they want to fight, and are not brought there by the enemy."

This crisis can be won only in the courts. GMA cannot allow it to be fought in the parliament of the streets. The sooner it is brought to the courts and moved out of the streets, the sooner that this crisis will be diffused.

On one hand, the parliament of the streets is clearly the battlegorund of GMA's enemies.This country and these people have a very strong tradition of protest that dates all the way back to the Spanish era. Like sharks in the water, 100 people protesting on the streets can be lethal. Didn't EDSA 1 start only with less than a hundred that were brought over by Butz Aquino to support the frantic Juan Ponce Enrile back in 1986? The streets are dangerous these days. GMA should make sure the enemies are swept away from them.

On the other hand, the courts are clearly the battleground for GMA. She has the best lawyers working for her. She controls the justice department, and has the pwoer to compel it's secretary to act like he were the First Family's consiglieri. After all, it is a matter of national security. Moreover, the Philippine judicial system is tailor-made for the defense. Whoever is beseiged in the court has more than an even chance to win with a bevy of good lawyers and the power of the presidency being weilded by the defense every now and then. And by the time these cases are heard, the street parliamentarians would have dozed off.

What GMA has to do now is to convince everybody to take the action to court. It's the constitutional and legal way. Ask the people to stay calm and let the legal system do its work. Find a way to make Sammy Boy bring his evidence to the courts instead of he brandishing them on primetime television with the Erap mobs. Now is the time to convince everybody that people power has reached the end of the line. In the words of Atty. Alan Paguia, the rule of law should prevail over the rule of force.

Mikey tell Mommy, the magic word is the "courts".

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sun Tzu's Advice No. 2: "Ma'am, we need detailed plans"

Sun Tzu says, "With careful and detailed planning, you can win; with careless and less detailed planning, you cannot win. How much more certain is defeat if one does not plan at all! From the way planning is done beforehand, we can predict victory or defeat."

With the intelligence network firmly in place, the next priority for the Gloriagate Crisis Team is to come up with detailed plans. Sun Tzu says to win is to be able to subject the enemy to your will. GMA should be able to dictate the endgame of this affair. But to be able to do that, she has to know where to take it.

Erap's other mistake when he lost EDSA II was he didn't know where to take the crisis. As people converged in EDSA, he thought that it was best to let them be, for after all, he had the military with him. I remember Ernie Maceda, then ambassador to the US, predicting on primetime tv that the EDSA II crowd would get tired and soon go home. He also predicted a reconciliation with Erap. Of course, the EDSA II leaders had better foresight. They knew that Angie Reyes and Orly Mercado were the swing votes, and the best argument to win over the two was the swelling crowd in EDSA. That is why it was a blunder for Erap to have allowed the EDSA crowd to grow. Today, the GMA police is doing its job right by sweeping the crowd gathering in front of San Carlos Seminary and making sure it doesn't grow. They say it is necessary to prevent traffic build up, but of course, it clearly has a double purpose.

Yet, this crisis is not going to be won only by keeping the Edsa crowd in San Carlos in check. The plan has to be detailed enough to follow on a minute by minute basis. Clearly, Samuel Ong has to be smoked out of his cave. For as long as he is able broadcast from it, he is a serious threat to GMA. Plan A should be how to neutralize him from there, and diffuse this crisis altogether. Perhaps, they can do a check on Sammy Boy. Is he a nut case? Does he have a history of hallucination? What would it take for him to shut up? Money? A position in the UN? A simple sorry? What did it take for Udong Mahusay to recant? Will it work with Sammy Baby? Whatever it is, Sammy Boy has to be contained.

Plan B is the exit plan. This is the more important plan that Erap should have done before he stepped down. Somebody should at least draft the text of the presidential pardon for the next president to sign in the remote event that GMA has to go. Nixon had one when he resigned at the end of the Watergate Scandal. And if Erap had one before he left Malacanang, instead of languishing in jail like a common criminal today, he should be enjoying his Petrus wines in his Boracay Mansion with Laarni and kids.

Two words, Ma'am: detailed plans.

Sun Tzu tells Gloria, "Intelligence is the key."

The situation after former NBI deputy director Samuel Ong came out yesterday is about to turn ugly. The EDSA tables are about to be turned against President Arroyo. She would be the center of attention for the next few days, and she better handle this crisis well or else she, husband Mike, son Mikey, and brother in law Iggy, might end up as Erap's cellmates. As Samuel Ong holes himself up in San Carlos Seminary and the FPJ and Erap crowds pounce on this catalyctic event, what would it be like to be in the Gloria crisis team? Let's imagine that Sun Tzu is alive, and he is in the head of the Gloriagate crisis team. What would he be saying? Of course, I am not a member of this team, and my purpose for this blog entry or series of blog entries is completely academic. Blog away Master Sun.

Sun Tzu says, "Know your enemy, know yourself and your victory will not be threatened. Know the terrain, know the weather and your victory will be complete."

What was Erap's worst mistake during EDSA II? He didn't check on the loyalties of his men constantly. He thought he had their loyalities all the time, especially Angie Reyes, then the AFP Chief of Staff and Orly Mercado, Erap's defense chief. He didn't know that his people were already in talks with the EDSA II leaders, and that their morale was low. It was just a matter of time then that Erap's favorite general and equally-trusted secretary of defense would turn against him in his hour of crisis. How can GMA avoid making the same mistake?

Intelligence is the key. As the crisis unfolds, the President should have all relevant information about this crisis at a touch of a button. And she should make sure that every information fed to her is reliable. In addition, remember what Tom Hagan, Vito Corleone's consiglieri in the Godfather said about bad news? The Godfather wants to hear bad news immediately. Thus, the President should tell her staff to seek adverse information and bring it up to her as soon as possible. Favorable information is okay, but it is adverse information that germinates into serious trouble. What would have happened if Erap got a tip about that meeting and was able to stop Angelo Reyes from meeting his fellow generals in that Corinthian Gardens house before Angelo Reyes and the rest of the cavalry broke away from Erap? If you're the President and you can't do a simple thing such as that, you deserve to be ousted. As in Mario Puzo's Godfather, so shall it be in this crisis. Bad news should be brought to the President's attention immediately.

Ideally, the President should have a map of the social forces in play during this crisis: the military, the church, the civil society, mass media, the local governments, the judiciary, and the legislature. Imagine a big screen with the an icon representing each social force. All those in green are hers. All those in red are enemies, and all those in white are shaky. If she has this information, every moment, then all she has to do is make sure that the screen is dominated by green. She should check their loyalties constantly. The green ones should remain green. The whites should be completely won over and turned green. And the reds, should be guarded constantly. She should make sure they don't win over the greens and the whites.

If GMA has this information on hand right now, only then can she truly claim that the situation is under control. Thus, before this whole thing elevates to a higher and more complicated level, the intelligence network of GMA should be firmly in place for her to be able know all these things all at once at any time while the crisis is ensuing. A failure of intelligence can lead to a bad decision. And bad decisions will bring defeat. Intelligence is the foundation of victory. Intelligence is the key.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Mr. Prosecutor is a Person in Your Neighborhood

He comes to court, late as usual, with two bags of folders -- the cases for the day. You wonder if he has only one barong tagalog, because you never see him wear anything else but the dark blue linen he dons day in and day out. The calendar has forty cases, and you can tell, unless he is Superman, that he is ready only for less than half of them. The rest will be reset to another day when they will be reset again until somebody complains.

The first five cases are called, Mr. Prosecutor stands, enters his appearance -"respectfully", he claims-- and asks for a resetting. You hear the gamut of excuses, why this and that witness is coming late, or is not sure of coming at all -- loose bowel movement, training in a camp far away, grandmother died. It can be amusing sometimes. Since the court has forty cases in the calendar, it might as well reset the cases. The public attorney sitting beside Mr. Prosecutor nods, and looks at the judge, "No objection, your honor" Same story, different day.

My case is called. And Mr. Prosecutor is prepared to reset. His police witness is not in court. He knows, unlike the public attorney, who understands the situation of Mr. Prosecutor, with the forty case load for the day, and the hundreds more back in his office, I will object to another resetting. The week before, I recited the provisions of the Constitution on the rights of the accused to speedy trial. Mr. Prosecutor knows I will pull the same trick again, and probably do more. What is the poor judge to do now? "The inefficiency of the State is the problem of the People. The accused should not be made to wait in jail while the State is figuring out what to do. Set him free," I argued. And today, can the poor judge take some more? Mr. Prosecutor is on the brink of defeat.

But Mr. Prosecutor is prepared to postpone. He stands up, directs the sheriff to look for the policeman outside the courtroom, and the sheriff comes back after a few minutes to say what everyone knew all along, the policeman is not there. And before I can stand and say, "I move to dismiss," he tells the court, "Your honor, I move that a warrant of arrest be issued against the policeman." And silence envelopes the court. Mr. Prosecutor has given the judge Sun Tzu's way out. Mr. Prosecutor throws me a look, smiling and knowing he will get his postponement again today. Mr. Prosecutor is the master of postponements. No use making that speech. The judge is sure to take the path of least resistance.

"Your Honor, what do we care about the policeman getting arrested? My client's been in jail for years", that's all I could say, more like a prayer really.

"Everyone on trial here has been in jail for years." Mr. Prosecutor says, like Mephistopheles speaking.

"Next week, your honor" Mr. Prosecutor asks.

"Next week?" I ask.

"Next week. Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the policeman. So ordered." The judge declares as he bangs the gavel, and the sound is drowned by the whispers of the people in the room.

And Mr. Prosecutor takes his seat, moves one folder to another pile, as if telling himself, "Six down, thirty four to go."