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Senate coup: Bad for Marcos, bad for country

WHETHER President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. instigated it or merely supported it when it was under way, the coup against Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri as Senate president by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero is bad news for the country and for the President.

Escudero’s arrogance that it wasn’t hard to remove Zubiri, the swiftness in which the coup plot unfolded (five days, the new Senate president revealed), the plotters’ complete silence on the reasons why Zubiri was yanked from the top post, all of these will result in a divided Senate, with bitterness on the part of the six senators who remained loyal to the former Senate president. They will, in effect, expand the opposition from two (Senators Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros) to eight.

Senators Bong Go and Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, who owe their seats 100 percent to former president Rodrigo Duterte, would most probably realize that they made a bad decision supporting Escudero (I can imagine Digong scolding them for their naiveté), and I expect they will later join the growing opposition bloc. Depending on the political winds and the deteriorating economy, this could be a powerful force to block Marcos’ legislative agenda, and the resulting chaos will be bad for the country.

The six who loyally stood by Zubiri can claim to be the principled bloc in the Senate: Senators Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian. Zubiri said this new independent bloc can be called the “Magic 7.” I’d call them the “Magnificent Seven.”

Not aligning with the Senate coup plotters and keeping a principled stance has come with a price. The “Magnificent 7” senators will be deprived of the substantial income and political clout that comes with heading committee chairmanships, as it is widely expected that Escudero will give the prime committees to his allies.

Bloc

But how could the Escudero bloc claim the high moral ground when Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, convicted of bribery in the pork barrel scam, was appointed Senate president pro tempore, a position he would definitely use to lobby the courts to acquit him? Did he get that post for his early support for Escudero, or for getting other senators, such as fellow former actor Bong Revilla, to agree to junk Zubiri?

How can it be a principled group when they cannot even explain why they removed Zubiri in the first place? In just a few days, suddenly they just didn’t like his smiley face anymore? Has Escudero so much gravitas and charisma that he just talked to most of the plotters over the phone, and they agreed to join him. I could just imagine Escudero calling Jinggoy: “Sama ka na? Pro tempore ka.”

The faction that ousted Zubiri were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Bato de la Rosa, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Go, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Bong Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino, Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar and Mark Villar. The 14 signed a resolution supporting Senator Escudero as their new leader. They’ll be called the “Chiz-Jinggoy 14.”

The day after the Senate coup, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos posted on her Facebook page a photo of many of these pro-Escudero senators together with their spouses for what was billed as a “casual dinner” in Malacañang with President Marcos. Missing from the party were Zubiri and those who stood by him. That is certainly bad taste on the part of the first lady, who couldn’t even let a week pass before she hosted a congratulatory dinner for the victorious senators. She probably greeted them all with a hug, and a profuse “Thank you, thank you.”

PDEA

We can expect the cancellation of the hearings by Senator de la Rosa on the “PDEA leaks,” or even if it continues, a sharply diminished inquiry into the allegations that former senator Bongbong Marcos and actress Maricel Soriano were alleged drug users and were the subject of a pre-operation report by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The Senate coup that Marcos either instigated or supported is just the latest in his strategic errors in governance: 1) His belligerent stance vs China over the South China Sea disputes making us the only developing country unnecessarily quarreling with a superpower and depriving the Philippines of crucial investments; 2) the increase by four in US “rotational” military bases in the country, making us a prime target of superpowers in the event of a global or nuclear war; 3) his 15-month hold of the agriculture portfolio that led to increases in the prices of rice, onion, meat products and other basic goods; 4) the establishment of the Maharlika Fund that siphoned P150 billion in funds from the Land Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines that had been earmarked for farmers and small businesses; 5) the people’s initiative plot that would have suddenly changed our presidential system to a single-chamber parliamentary setup and installed his cousin Martin Romualdez as his successor with the garb of prime minister; 6) his break with former president Duterte, who still commands substantial political forces and massive public support; and 7) his giving his wife, First Lady Liza Marcos, a major role in appointments of key officials.

Witch hunt

I find it disgraceful for Senators Risa Hontiveros and Sherwin Gatchalian to be grilling in a hearing of the committee on women Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo as if she were presumed as not a legitimate Filipino and connected to Chinese criminal groups operating the online gambling “POGOs” (Philippine Online Gambling Operators). If they believe, so they should let authorities, e.g., the Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation, to investigate her.

Senators are the worst investigators, as they pretend to be intelligent, when most of them are obviously not, and they preen and investigate “to the gallery,” not to ferret out the truth.

I would not want to go into details on this case but veteran broadcaster Karen Davila’s interview with the mayor was comprehensive enough to belie the allegations against her. Watch it at https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=2J6vo3B0Jsk.

Hontiveros and Gatchalian kept badgering Guo as to why her birth certificate was issued only when she was 17 years old. They should just have read the Philippine Information Agency’s detailed explanation how this could happen in an article, “No birth certificate? No problem: A guide to late registration in the Philippines” at https://pia.gov.ph/features/2024/01/15/no-birth-certificate-no-problem-a-guide-to-late-registration-in-the-philippines.

Women

Hontiveros chairs the committee on women, and her activist history has been focused on women’s problems and issues. She should be ashamed of herself.

I’m shocked that she isn’t aware of the common practice of poor women such as domestic helpers, who get pregnant by their bosses and then who decide to leave the child with their bosses, or in orphanages. They often are unable or unwilling to register the child’s birth, especially if they give birth in a place that’s not a hospital or registered clinics (which by law registers the birth).

I’m aghast that the senator who portrays herself as the champion of oppressed women — the issue that was a major factor for her being voted into that chamber — has not shown any kind of sympathy for a woman who has demonstrated that even an unschooled lady born out of wedlock has surmounted all odds to become a successful businesswoman and town mayor. Since she is rich, I hope the Senate hearings aren’t a shakedown.

Guo has revealed that her mother was her father’s domestic help. The mother left the household after giving birth to Guo (whether she left on her own volition or was driven away wasn’t revealed), and she was raised by her father. Isn’t it obvious that her father didn’t bother to register her birth, and she was able to get a birth certificate only when she was 17?

William

Gatchalian, on the other hand, had been grilling Guo trying to claim that her birth certificate wouldn’t stand as authentic in courts. Gatchalian should have consulted his father, the industrialist William Gatchalian, whom a ranking Cory Aquino official hounded and tried to prove wasn’t a Filipino and therefore had to give up his conglomerate.

That Yellow official deployed several government agencies to prove that William’s documents did not show that he was a Filipino and so he was on the verge of being deported. I remember the case well because I was the only journalist — a correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review — who was on his side, as most of mainstream media were under the Yellow spell then that they swallowed hook, line and sinker the claim that he wasn’t Filipino by a top Cory official. That he looked “Chinese’ and wasn’t fluent in Filipino and English fed the Sinophobic bias against William.

With the country now in the midst of anti-China hysteria, Guo is a victim of the same kind of hysteria that hounded Win Gatchalian’s father. It took William 20 years to legally prove himself a Filipino, when the Supreme Court finally affirmed that he was indeed a Filipino.

I hope Senator Gatchalian consults with his father, for him to be more sympathetic to Guo, and not resort, as he has been doing, to legalistic, technical arguments that Guo isn’t a Filipino. Aghast at the persecution of Guo by Gatchalian and Hontiveros, I hope she becomes, as Gatchalian’s father became, a wealthy magnate whom senators would be begging to contribute to their electoral campaigns.


Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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Website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

This Post Has One Comment

  1. edwin nemeño

    There is indeed a loophole that must be addressed in the policy concerning the guidelines on late registration here in ph.

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