Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Veto Holders

I know, I know, the title sounds a lot like "Gary Lewis and the Playboys," whom I saw Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum, upon the gentle insistence of Mrs. Philippine Commentary!. Well, the son of Jerry Lewis apparently still has many fans in the Philippine Archipelago, judging by the full house of geriatric rock-n-rollers present who knew by heart the complex lyrics of "This Diamond Ring" and can still dance the bye-bye--fast!.

Anyway, this is really a continuation of my last post Game Theory and Gloriagate. It is my "game-theoretic model" of the relationship between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the three main forces that saved her from certain doom last July and therefore hold VETOES on her continued stay in power: (1) the US Government, which has stayed perfectly, and properly, neutral on Gloriagate, at least on the surface; (2) the Catholic Church hierarchy, which has defined perfectly and properly the moral perimeters and points of intersection with Gospel teachings of Gloriagate while taking no action; and (3) what I call the Military-Political Complex, headed, but not necessarily dominated by former President Fidel Ramos and House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

I think it is a very useful thing to consider these three forces, together with President Arroyo, as being involved in what the game theorists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Economics, might have designated as an Assymetric Multiplayer Prisoners Dilemma.

The "Prisoners Dilemma" as a tool of game theory for modelling cooperation and strategies in conflict situations was first described in the 1950s by researchers at the Rand Corporation. Here is a modern explanation of the Prisoners Dilemma from Principia Cybernetica. In fact you can play the game interactively yourself at this website!

The useful insight gained by studying the Prisoners Dilemma is into the possible choices that rational players in such a real-life game might make under various circumstances.

In the particular case of Gloriagate, I guess I am saying that all three veto holders, the US, FVR and the Church, "know" that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rigged the 2004 vote ("the crime") but performed an act of "jury nullification" by "vetoing" her downfall. They prevented it both by sending the appropriate signals to all other stakeholders, as in the case of the US and the Church; and by taking direct salvific actions as in the case of FVR-JDV's pre-emptive strike on the pro-impeachment forces in Congress.

Thus in the game terminology of the Prisoners Dilemma, all the players are "cooperating" and none are "defecting" and so all are benefiting from a seeming hiatus in the furious strife that has otherwise characterized Gloriagate.

But the situation may only be at a point of unstable equilibrium--much like a marble on top of a bowling ball. Virtually any disturbance in the delicate balance of forces that the Palace has so carefully managed to establish could send it rolling down into the valley of political destruction.

Now strangely enough, the most likely source of instability in such an arrangement is a "defection" or "act of noncooperation" by the party with the greatest to lose in the long run, in this case the President herself. She may already be changing her mind about indulging the parliamentary fantasies of one, Jose de Venecia, who has been busy describing all sorts of time lines for Charter Change ever since his return from the parliamentary capitals of the world. Among them is one that would see a plebiscite on a new Charter as early as June next year and a peremptory end to the presidency of GMA. Using the ConCom of Jose Abueva, the Palace has been reining in the ebullient Speaker's expectations and acting as if she doesn't need Chacha to keep the people's mind of Garci.

This has angered FVR, who may be the true sponsor and eventual beneficiary of chacha. A week ago he openly called on the President to accept that she must cut her term short in favor of a new parliamentary system of government. This week rumors have been flying around that FVR was involved in plotting a coup against President Arroyo even before Gloriagate.

I think these rumors were probably started by FVR himself! To remind the Palace that he IS a veto holder. I caught him on television returning from a trip abroad Saturday evening. "Tabako" was self-assured in blithely but opaquely denying he had ordered Jose Almonte to plan or mount a coup against the President.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy's "No Comment" on reports that US intelligence had picked up on the alleged coup d'Ramos, way back in February, was prim yet pregnant, since all indications are that the Americans are fed up with Arroyo's fickle ways and sudden turn to China, and only wish the Filipinos would clean up their own internal cesspools. They for one, I am sure, are not paralyzed by the Palace's claim that there is no one that could replace Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I could name a number of people (mostly men but at least one woman) that could take over the Presidency tomorrow and we'd all be better off for it. As long as the Americans "stay neutral" on this one though, I think that the gathering coalition of forces against an illegitimate President can take care of the situation peacefully and effectively. All in good time...

But perhaps the most unstable leg in the President's tightrope act of survival is the Roman Catholic Church. Its leaders and spokesmen steadfastly deny ANY division among its bishops over Gloriagate, yet the gulf in positions between say Archbishop Fernando Capalla (outgoing head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and the anti-jueteng crusader Bishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen (who has a blog) is so wide you could lose Virgilio Garcillano AND JocJoc Bolante in it. Now I do not really castigate the Church for such a denial that disunity exists. This is after all a MORAL DILEMMA primarily for church men, and such men do not want to admit that they would ever be on the wrong side of a moral dilemma. After all they ARE prisoners of conscience!

What we are witnessing today is a huge internal struggle within the Catholic Church, an examination of its institutional conscience so to speak, for being a veto-holder that has not cast its veto. Judging from the discussion on Crossroads with Ricky Carandang and four bishops and priests on ANC TV last Friday night, the anti-Arroyo camp within the Church is fast gaining rhetorical ground, rising to the heights of Biblical passion for the truth and outrage at public immorality. Whoever that Father Felix was, a Spirit of righteous anger has gotten a hold of him and many others in the Church that has got to be keeping the Palace spooks up late at night praying futile Rosaries.

Next week, the Catholic Bishops Conference will announce the compostion of the new Permanent Council of the CBCP, including a new leader, Archbishop of Jaro, Angel Lagdameo. Two weeks ago, after a violent dispersal of a prayer march and rally in Manila, Archbishop Lagdameo published the following written statement about that incident:

The prayer assembly and rosary procession that was held in Manila was part of a crusade by civil society for truth, honesty, credibility and integrity in government. It was a crusade for good governance which is sadly lacking and very much needed for economic progress. If the people do not believe in their leaders, how much can they govern and bring about genuine progress in economy?

The presence of three bishops, of some sisters and priests there was for the prayer assembly and for peaceful procession to San SebastianChurch. It was a patriotic manifestation of concern for our country. Because it was a prayer assembly and peaceful procession, the violent dispersal of the participants was uncalled for and objectionable. The legality of the Calibrated Preemptive Response must be questioned before the appropriate court.

Most Rev. Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
October 15, 2005

The marble is slipping, sliding...

This is the part I missed during the TV coverage of former President Fidel Ramos' arrival presscon Saturday night. A "visibly irked" Ramos is quoted as saying,
If the US Embassy here in Manila refuses to make any clarification of that nasty report, nasty to me personally but even nastier to the people of the Philippines, I challenge the person in charge of intelligence in Washington DC, and that is former Ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte to override all of these subordinates of his in the US Embassy to come out with the truth of the matter”

Talk about Sabong! Here's what those "electrifying" newspaper stories got FVR to do:
He challenged embassy officials, led by Charge d’Affaires Paul Jones, as well as the US government itself, to explain the alleged embassy report for the sake of the strong alliance of the Philippines and the United States.

“Since even the US Embassy refuses to clarify anything about that report, which I have not seen at all except in your newspapers, I now challenge the US Embassy, beginning with the acting ambassador, to come out with his embassy’s explanation.”

Ramos added: “It is only fair to the Philippine government and to our people that a good ally, such as the US, should not put at risk our good, our solid bilateral relations.”

Well that's what Philippine Daily Inquirer has always done best, shake the tree, get someone's goat, mak'em show you their sweat! Sa Pula! Sa Puti! For a while I thought the paper had totally lost its way. So keep proving me wrong y'all!

Now the Players are really in a tizzy. Each is asking who's gonna blink first and side with the Right in what is such a Black and White Case of a failed leader that's just gotta go, or everyone will suffer in the Game of Politics and Nations.


john marzan said...

Wow. Nice post, Dean.

Abe N. Margallo said...

"... I think that the gathering coalition of forces against an illegitimate President can take care of the situation peacefully and effectively. All in good time..." --- the wild card veto, don't you think so?

Rizalist said...

Abe, The "People" have no VETO, except the Elections themselves. It was the stealing of that veto that was the ultimate act of noncooperation of which GMA is guilty. There will be no peace until that "veto", which we call democracy, is restored.

john marzan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
john marzan said...

I think it would be a good idea for those people who want to see Arroyo resign to reassure the Americans na

a) RP cooperation with the US on anti-terrorism will be even better once Arroyo is out.

b) the new administration will still vigorously pursue a real peace plan with the MILF.

Rizalist said...

Right you are John! By the way have you seen what John Nery just posted at Newsstand, apropos to your concerns? Mike Defensor asset yata yung nahuling terorista head of Rajah Solaiman Movement.

john marzan said...

Wow, does this mean na terrorist coddlers rin ang administration? tee hee.


Rizalist said...

No! I doubt that there are any terrorist coddlers in the admin, really. But it's all about a general failure to call the people to war on terror, to lead in securing THIS homeland.

Abe N. Margallo said...


You’re absolutely right that elections are exercises in the form of veto, but that is PROSPECTIVELY speaking. I guess I'm also hinting at “un-election” such as indirectly through impeachment or directly through People Power, which can be veto in the RETROSPECTIVE sense.

john marzan said...

thai king = US gov't, DJB?