Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 16 "Deception does not work in politics."

Sun Tzu says. "All warfare is deception."

Whoever advised the President to take the charter change to the top of the agenda has employed a clever ploy. It's obviously a diversionary tactic, a way to skirt the issue by bringing out a new one in the hope that the second one will be more controversial and bury the old one. It's also a litttle carrot for Speaker Joe De Venecia, an ally of the President, to ensure that he does not move over to the other side and sign the impeachment complaint. And the President chose the State of the Nation Address as her stage to bring out the charter change card to employ the pomp and glamor that goes with this state ritual in highlighting the charter change agenda.

But here is the problem: deception works in war, but not in politics. Again, I attribute this mistake to poor intelligence work. All she has to do is look at the list of people out to get her to resign and she would know that the charter change plan will not work. Did her advisers think that they can divert Cory Aquino's attention away from the real issue of the day? Did they think Senate President Drilon will buy that? And the Makati Business Club -- I can almost hear them say, "Geez, thanks, more instability to ruin business."

What about her allies in the Senate? Senator Joker Arroyo's voice has not been heard lately. Do her advisers think Senator Joker Arroyo will continue to stay silent now that deception is about to be employed. Senator Manny Villar's quest for the Senate Presidency and the Presidency of the Republic is about to be smothered by charter change, do they expect him to be quiet too?

Ma'am, history has been unkind to liars. Deception can get you nowhere. Ditch the plan.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blogs of the Round Table: Can we handle an impeachment verdict?

I might not have internet connection to join the Blogs ofthe Round Table this morning as I need to be in Tarlac by 11:00 am. So I'm posting my thoughts ahead and hopefully people will find it a worthy read.

If we are looking at the impeachment as a peaceful way out of this crisis, all we need to do is find the answer to one question: Can both parties accept defeat?

The question is relevant, because naturally the impeachment will come to a conclusion. At the end of the process, there will be a verdict. Will this verdict be accepted? Are the parties open to a scenario of losing? Can Gloria accept a verdict of guilty without the Villaraza lawyers hauling off the controversy to the Supreme Court for a TRO or some other legal maneuver that their lawyer wizards can think of? Can the people accept a not guilty verdict without staging another walkout and another stakeout at EDSA?

If the answer is yes, then impeachment might work. If the answer is no, then impeachment might bring about more dissension than consensus, and even the dismemberment of the Republic!

Heaven forbid. Heaven forbid.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 15: Don’t Make Mistake No. 3

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."

Mistake No. 1: The Apology
Mistake No. 2: Micro-managing the Crisis
Mistake No. 3: Truth Commission

The Truth Commission is not her battleground. She would be under extreme pressure to appoint men and women of integrity to make the idea work. She would have to give that commission broad powers to investigate. They should be able to issue subpoenas, examine witnesses, cite people in contempt, and hold public hearings. It is going to be another spectacle for her enemies to feast on. Worse, she will not be able to control it. Any person of integrity who would accept appointment on the Truth Commission will not be susceptible to political pressure. They would not be beholden to anybody but the truth. And as everyone knows by now, the truth is going to hurt.

Ma’am, don’t make Mistake No. 3.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 14: "Whack those Phones"

This crisis started, because somebody tapped Garcellano's cellphone.To muddle the issue, the pro-GMA camp also brought out Erap's tapped conversations with former general Joselyn Nazareno.

Last night, somebody told me another cellphone story. It's not another wiretapped cellphone conversation, but a cellphone call simply etched in memory that pointed to another compromised institution.

Allegedly, after the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the VAT law, SOMEBODY called Mr. Cesar Purisima. The voice on the the other end confirmed that the TRO has been issued. "Yung hinihingi niyo sa Supreme Court binigay na." This phonecall convinced Mr. Purisima it was time to go, and it was time to go with a bang. Is this story true? Who made that call to former Sec. Purisima? Why did it convince him to leave? What did Mr. Purisima mean when he said that he cannot give further details on the TRO or the VAT, because it would get him into trouble? In the Philippine Star headline today, Mr. Purisima denies having a hand in the publication of the story, which came out in Boo Chanco's column from the same newspaper, "This has no basis". Mr.Purisima is further quoted, "I wish to make it clear that I never gave Mr. Chanco an interview on these matters, and that I never made any such statement or opinion in any foum or to anyone else. In fact, I wasted no time in calling Mr. Chanco to personally ask him to reveal his sources, because I did not have any participation in the publication of his article or in the utterrance of any statement or opinion therein contained."

Those cellphones, tapped or untapped, pose a danger to national security.

Ma'am, whack those phones.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sun Tzu Advice No. 13:"Watch out for the Renegades"

Sun Tzu says, "If the enemy is strong, take something important from him and he will do as you please."

The opposition might not have intended it, but the resignation of the eight cabinet members and two senior finance officials took away a lot from GMA. The renegades, as it were, lent a lot of credibility to the GMA administration.They helped managed the economy through the hard times, although the hard times are still around. Without them, GMA's government is left mostly with operators who will take GMA's warrior agenda to the top of the list of every government office in this country. Of course, GMA is still strong, but the renegades were important to her. And if the opposition consolidates and use the renegades against her, she will have to do as they please.

What do the renegades have? They have answers -- answers to questions that GMA has since managed to sweep under the rug, as it were. How much did the government spend in the last few months leading to election for projects that were intended to boost the President's candidacy? How much of these expenditures would have been recouped by the VAT Law? How could they have thought of spending all that money for the President's re-election bid and taking it back in the form of taxes right after? Was that the reason why former Finance Secretary Camacho resigned in the months before the election?

Did the President really suggest that the implementation of the VAT law be suspended because of the current political crisis? Did her nonchalant reaction to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) mean that she got what she wanted? How could she have wanted to have the TRO against her own centerpiece finance program?

Who recommended Garcellano to the Comelec? Why was he appointed to the Comelec in spite of his reputation in the past elections? Why was the President calling Garcellano during the peak of the canvassing of votes from Mindanao? What other sins of the President were discussed in their cabinet meetings for which the Filipino people deserve an apology?

The order of the day is to woo the renegades back into the fold. It would not help to call them traitors and ostracize them further by maligning their integrity. Instead, they should be convinced and persuaded that it is their best interest to go back to the side of the President or at the very least stay away from the opposition. If the President is unable to win them back, it would spell her doom.

Ma'am, they have the goods on you. Watch out for the renegades.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

SUN TZU ADVICE NO. 12: ”Ma’am, leave this war to the Pros”

Sun Tzu says the king – or queen for that matter – should not meddle in the war.

Thus we may know that there are five essentials
for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when
not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior
and inferior forces.
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same
spirit throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take
the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is
not interfered with by the sovereign.

If you read between the lines of the statement of the ten cabinet officials who resigned en masse yesterday, you will find that the President is committing one basic mistake in the management of the Gloriagate Crisis. The statement of the ten cabinet officials is implying that the President was making decisions with the paramount concern for her political survival rather than the national interest. What does this mean? GMA appears to be managing the political war herself.

In Ricky Carandang’s interview this evening, former finance secretary Cesar Purisima said that the President herself told Purisima that the implementation of the VAT law should be delayed. The VAT Law would have caused an increase in the prices of commodities, including gasoline, had its implementation not been restrained. A political manager at war would have seen this as another source of discontent that would propel more people to the streets. But economic managers have maintained that the VAT Law was urgent and necessary for the country to get out of the economic mess. Well, it seems GMA, the political war manager, prevailed over GMA, the PhD in economics, on this issue. I don’t know if this confirms the rumor that the President herself maneuvered to have the VAT Law restrained by the Supreme Court, for which reason Purisima decided to leave. But before Purisima made that statement about GMA’s decision to delay the implementation of the VAT Law this evening, he did not confirm that it was a factor in his decision to resign, saying that there are things he couldn’t say lest he would get into trouble. Go figure.

In her statement the other night, GMA also said that she decided to make the apology a couple of days ago against the advice of counsel. Well, I thought making the apology was GMA’s biggest blunder in this crisis. Now, it appears her biggest blunder is actually the fact that she is running this political war herself. “Hands on leadership” is how they call her style. But that goes against the basic principle of war that the sovereign should leave the war to the generals. This management style already got her into trouble when she ran her own election and post-election operations -- that’s why they got her on tape with Garcellano remember? This hands on style will only get her into more trouble.

Why should the queen not run the political war? The political generals know better. The skills required for governance are radically different from the skills required for running the war. More importantly, only the objective detachment of a professional can figure out an emotionally wrenching experience such as Gloriagate. Look at all the mistakes that she has made. The apology is a blunder, because it woke up the already pacified Susan Roces. Delaying the VAT Law implementation is another blunder, because that caused her to lose ten key cabinet officials, who not only resigned, but also went on air to call for her resignation, disgruntled that her warrior agenda has ruined her governance agenda.

A lawyer who has himself as a client has a fool for a client. Atty. Punzi puts it better. A barber goes to another barber for a haircut. Have you ever seen a barber who cuts his own hair? As it is in the legal profession and the barbershop, so shall it be in this political war.

Ma’am, with very little time left to salvage your cause, you have to leave it to the pros.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Neither here nor there

Ateneo Law School has recently released a statement on the Gloriagate Scandal. The Inquirer quotes Ateneo Law School Dean Cesar L. Villanueva as follows:

"We do not demand that the President resign, but we do ask of her, as the duly proclaimed Chief Executive of our Republic, to determine what is best for the country, and that her decision be made with the best interest of the nation in mind," the Ateneo Law School said in a statement issued by Dean Cesar L. Villanueva."As our President, we must rely on Ms Arroyo to make the proper decision, and once having made it, to then follow what would be in accordance with the terms provided for in our Constitution," he said.

"As our President, we must rely on Ms. Arroyo to make the proper decision, and once having made it, to then follow what would be in accordance with the terms provided for in our Constitution," he said.

This is a safe position to take. It's what old lawyers say as "neither here nor there" argument. And you might be wondering why this is how they stand. I have a theory. The Ateneo Law faculty is composed mostly of law practitioners in the big law firms in Makati who are counselling big time business supporters of the President. These lawyers are beholden to their clients who do not like their lawyers to be nosing around politics, especially when it threatens business. Now, as big business has thrown its support to GMA, can we expect their lawyers to take a diffferent position?

Compare the Ateneo's position with that of UP, and you wonder why these law schools have different takes on Gloriagate. Well, UP Law School is dominated by law academicians. Their roster is full of LLM's from Ivy League schools, and many of them write good and competent legal papers that affect social policy. JJ Disini and Sassy Lawyer can correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression is the UP law professors are not beholden to big business. Thus, UP Law's stand on the matter is clear, idealistic and principled.

Is there something about being an academic that makes you throw all caution to the wind, so to speak, when you find something condemnable and you condemn it? And is there something about being a lawyer, that makes you hesitate -- and perhaps, even cower in fear -- in the same situation?

How come UP and Ateneo do not have the same position on Gloriagate? UP Law is run by academics, and Ateneo, by lawyers.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Where have you been all my life?

My curiosity was sparked when Atty. Alfredo Tadiar once made a quip in one of those arbitration hearings I had with him a few years back. He was struggling with the laptop where he was typing the terms of reference of the case. He said we should pardon him, because he "was used to a mac." The techies among us in that hearing made a wry smile. While it was indeed an apology for the delay in the proceedings, it was also a snide remark to the others in the room who think that pcs are all there is to it in computing. For many years, I've been using the pc -- think 5 and 1/2 inch floppy disks and 640 kb ram. And while I've heard of macs before, I never gave them serious attention, because of the "incompatibility issue" with pc users who dominate the environment. Besides, there were very few times in my professional life that I could walk into a computer store, armed with serious mullah to take everything in sight. And even then, my serious mullah was not enough for the price of a mac. But Atty. Tadiar's quip made me think, " one of these days, I'd find out what's with this mac folks that make them proud."

Yesterday was one of those days. I was prepared to buy a mac mini just to give the mac format a try. If it didn't work out, I thought the kids could use it for their own needs. But blame it on the wife and the friends who talked to me before I walked into the Power Mac Center in Megamall, for when I walked out of it, I had with me instead an IMAC G5 17 inch, 2 ghz, 512 mb with 160 gigs of memory.

I tinkered with it for less than an hour, after which I told myself, I think I already know how it works. It's very much like windows without the hang times, the long boot, and the spyware. To deal with the compatibility issue, I also bought a Microsoft Office for mac. When I plugged in my USB drive (in the keyboard!), my docs were all accessed by the mac. So I can say now for sure that the compatibility issue is not an issue. It's a myth. I have not spent more than 24 hours with this beauty, and I'm already wondering where has it been all my life.

My kids love the nanosaur game that came bundled with the mac. The 17 inch screen has solid realistic and detailed rendering of images that could even be better than those in the latest playstation. The dinosaur animation is incomparable to anything I have seen. And in spite of stunning graphics, the mac doesn't slow down or hang. Pardon me, but I really feel liberated.

The best thing about this mac is -- it is a work of art. Everything is in the monitor. The display is the computer, as the Apple website says. "The iMac G5 hangs suspended from a graceful anodized aluminum stand and its widescreen display lets you retouch photos and surf the web while you chat with friends or scan email wirelessly, thanks to built-in AirPort technology, and see everything at the same time." This is not a sales pitch; it's the amazing truth. Computers can be like this.

One of these days, if I chance upon Atty. Tadiar, I'd tell him, shifting from a mac to a pc is indeed difficult, but shifting from pc to a mac is like discovering you can breathe.