Thursday, April 6, 2006

Uh Oh, the New York Times 'Withdraws Support' for GMA

The Philippine Ambassador to the US, Alberto del Rosario, is said to be frantically negotiating for "equal time" with the New York Times today after the following editorial critical of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's turn to authoritarianism was published in yesterday's edition (available on the paper's newly-redesigned website and short enough to quote in full here) --
Dark Days for Philippine Democracy
Filipinos thought they had put an end to electoral chicanery and governmental intimidation when they overthrew the Marcos dictatorship two decades ago. Unfortunately, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has completely lost touch with the ideals that inspired that 1986 "people power" movement.

Mrs. Arroyo is no Ferdinand Marcos, at least not yet. But this onetime reformer is reviving bad memories of crony corruption, presidential vote-rigging and intimidation of critical journalists. Unless the Philippine Congress and courts find ways to rein in her increasingly authoritarian tendencies, democracy itself may be in danger.

This was not the outcome people expected five years ago when Mrs. Arroyo, then the vice president, was swept into power on a wave of popular discontent with her discredited predecessor, Joseph Estrada. In those days, Mrs. Arroyo, a professional economist, was seen as an earnest reformer. She won further credit by pledging not to run for a new six-year term in 2004.

But then she changed her mind, and her style of government as well. Her narrow re-election victory became tainted after a tape revealed her discussing her vote totals with an election commissioner while ballots were still being counted. She survived an impeachment attempt over that incident. But she was forced to send her husband into exile over charges that he took bribes from gambling syndicates.

Earlier this year she briefly declared a state of emergency in response to allegations of a coup threat that others disputed. Since then she has been intensifying pressure on a wide range of political critics and especially on the press. Government officials have warned news outlets that they will be held to restrictive new guidelines, the justice secretary talks darkly about a journalistic watch list, and the staff members of a well-known center for investigative journalism have been threatened with sedition charges. No Philippine government has made such efforts to muzzle the press since the Marcos era.

President Bush has repeatedly hailed Mrs. Arroyo as an important ally against international terrorism. He now needs to warn her that by undermining a hard-won democracy, she is making her country far more vulnerable to terrorist pressures.

The Palace reacted with official nonchalance as Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that Democracy was alive and well in the Philippines. But the Palace will most likely put a lot more attention to its Public Relations in the United States because the Filipino American community could represent a major source of ongoing criticism. As it is, relations with the US Government have not been warm at all since President Arroyo abandoned the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq during the Angelo de la Cruz fiasco. She can ill-afford to lose the support of Filipinos in America, who've been split so far, but could easily represent a major problem for the beleaguered President.

FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM SUFFERS But the New York Times makes the most important point that Washington and the US Government really should take note of: President Bush has repeatedly hailed Mrs. Arroyo as an important ally against international terrorism. He now needs to warn her that by undermining a hard-won democracy, she is making her country far more vulnerable to terrorist pressures.

(I've made this same and related points in the post, America's Interests and the Fate of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and also in America Should Withdraw Support for GMA's Mob Rule.)

Take the Anti-terrorist Bill that is up to the Senate for deliberation. During her birthday celebration speech, the President called on the people to help her fight "not just the terrorists" but also "the political destabilizers" -- both as the enemies of freedom and democracy.

No wonder the Opposition fears the Anti-Terrorism Bill will be used against them, since "destabilizing the government" is apparently one of the proposed terrorist crimes in the proposed measure. Even Rep. Roilo Golez (Independent, Paranaque, PMA and US Naval Academy, former National Security Adviser of Gloria!) told ABSCBN News last night, that he did not support passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill now because he was convinced the President would use it against the Opposition. I thought this was most unfortunate, but the chances of the bill passing the Senate seem small to me, considering that the President and her allies are trying to ABOLISH the Upper House with that Charter Change movement. Politically, the Senate is almost unanimously against President Arroyo, with the Senate President Frank Drilon, the Majority Leader Francisco Pangilinan, and the Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, calling today for the prosecution of police and government officials involved in the warrantless arrests and raids under Proclamation 1017 last February 24. The stepping down of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has also reinvigorated calls for President Arroyo to do the noble thing and sacrifice personal circumstance for the good of the country.

But Dr. Antonio Contreras, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the leading Philippines academic institution, De La Salle University in Manila, also excoriated Bunye's position on ABSCBN News this afternoon, saying that it was because the Media and civil societies are resisting the Palace pressures and fighting back to preserve press freedom and other democratic rights. Dean Contreras is absolutely right and I believe his views are representative of academe throughout the Philippines. DLSU, along with the Christian Brothers that run the De La Salle system of schools all over the archipelago, deserve a lot of credit for being on the front lines of the fight. Dean Contreras is right! Are we supposed to thank the Palace that Democracy is still alive in the Philippines?

FILIPINO AMERICANS, especially their upwardly mobile social and political leaders, have always come in for special love and care from the President on her official and unofficial trips to the United States. Many of them will be reconsidering their positions though as a result of this editorial.

UPDATE:Wow, despite a studious nonchalance from Ignacio Bunye about the Times editorial, the Palace acted quickly enough on damage control. I just heard Philippine Ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja tell Ces Drilon they've submitted a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times saying the editorial was "looking through a glass darkly" in describing the situation in the Philipines.

UPDATE:Newly appointed US Ambassador to the Philippines, Kirstie Kenney, has reportedly told Senate President Franklin Drilon only that the New York Times is private media and that President George W. Bush does read the NYT editorial. (Well we know all THAT Ma'm, but what do YOU think? Okay, settle down and scope it out for a couple of months. You'll see what everyone's talking about...)

Related recent posts at the New York Times (requires registration but it was painless.)
Bloggers: Check out that redesigned NYTimes Website -- six or seven liquid columns -- and blogger friendly. The lines between the Main Stream Media and Bloggerdom's scattered, chattering armies have been blurring in the US blogosphere for some time. Even the Archipelago will feel the effects of that historic merging, as paper and ink become insufficient to the human enterprise, to the needs of global civil societies for conversations that matter to ALL citizens of this archipelago of human beings, called the Earth.

UPDATE: The Letter to the Editor from Philippines UN Ambassador Lauro Baja is covered by PDI: Yup, a brave and sunny forecast and steadfast denial of storm clouds gathering. I can see we're in for a season of duelling METAPHORS now.




About time Americans realize that Bush's partner in the Philippines is not worth their farthing time.

Hah! Gloria must be terribly peeved. She'll be releasing more dollars for damage control and bet, will be hiring more lobby groups.

Reactive BS.

Rizalist said...

Hi HB!
Well we have to be thankful for small blessings. Impact on Fil Ams is a key concern. But bloggers can drive a truckful of information into the US media now about what is going on. I'm happy though I wish the Post or WSJ had made this first crack. The White House is gonna be a cold shoulder for the Palace to cry on too. So boo hoo.

Marcus Aurelius said...

Well despite the fact of Jayson Blair and a plethora of other examples of journalistic misconduct the New York Times is important, but I don't think it that important.


Maarcus Aurelius,

The bottom line is Gloria is Gloria hates it to destruction when a 'major' US publishing outfit writes about her in an unflattering fashion.

She knows she's half surviving today because Dubya is behind her. So, she can't very well ignore when she becomes a target of an editorial by a newspaper as 'influential' on the Hill as the NY Times.

Hah! I say, may she cook in her own fat...

LCsiao said...

Whatever's gonna give Gloria more sleepless nights, bigger eye bags, & a much more bloated carcass, I'm 100% for it!

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, that's one more DESTABILIZER! The NEW YORK TIMES, imagine. Wow!

But why did not Malacanang say "That's what destabilizers say?" Don't answer, I know.

But imagine if say that was a Tribune Editorial. Ninez will be maligned by Bunye and another raid on the Tribune will be done. But the New York Times, how can Gloria touch them? Gloria needs this editorial like a hole in the head.

How can Malacanang now deal with a foreign press that is reading our country the same way that 80 percent of CPRed and 1017ed Filipinos do? Dissenting rallies and demonstrations are suppressed by not giving them permits inspite of constitutional guarantees of peaceful assembly. It took the New York Times to ventilate what we feel. Thenk you Lord for little blessings.

But Bunye, Defensor, Gonzales & Ermita, how do you suppress dissenting opinions from outside the country? YOU CAN'T, because, thank God, they are beyond your filthy reach. Bullshit to your collective, coniving and misplaced HEARTS.

Rizalist said...

What this editorial does is justify every single blog that has ever lifted a key against the ongoing suppression of freedom in the Philippines, against the corruption and injustices of the Arroyo govt. By giving them the AFFIRMATION of the main stream.

The global spider web has received a signal at all its NODES from one of the major HUBS, saying to all who DO believe in democracy, beyond any particular regime or personality, that this one may be an enemy of that democracy and a danger to all regimes!

Now pro-democracy, anti-Arroyo blogs and writers will gain credibility as the Philippine Stars, the Bhel Cunanans, the Sassy Lawyers, and the Bong Austeros are seen to be BEHIND the times, the New York Times, that is!

Now, those blogs and those journalists have an OPEN MIKE on the world stage (wherever they can actually get any attention) and what they say will have some AUTHORITY bestowed upon it by that NYT affirmation.

This works mainly with Fil-Ams, the key demographic still untouched by the pro-democracy movement::::which i claim is the 100+ year old process that began in 19th century!

DEMOCRACY is a thing we are still getting acquainted with.

Lord Dracula said...

I suggest that all Pinoy bloggers who believe in the editorial to copy-paste the editorial and link it to their blogs. Maybe NYT will notice, and read Pinoy blogs for sources of information. Then the other big US newspapers might take notice.

ricelander said...

yeah BFR, destabilizer, that NYT. What GMA should do is call Bush pronto and ask him to censure NYT with a warning that if he does not she will integrate the Abu Sayyafs with the PNP and AFP he he he.

oops baka totohanin!

baycas said...

how will this affect venable ver. 2.0?


Dean, BFR,

The reaction of Gloria to tap FOREIGN SECRETARY ROMULO to knock on the doors of NY Times is sooooooo embarassing and soooooo telling, so kaaaapppppal (thick-faced).

We have an ambassador to the US who can and should do the job of making the Palace dissatisfaction known. That Gloria is thinking of sending the country’s FOREIGN SECRETARY is so disproportionate. Gloria is really NANGINGINIG (shaking with fear) as Jove Francisco highlighted in his blog Hahah! Buti nga sa kanya (serves her right)… Imagine sending a major member of the cabinet to say “arf, arf, arf” or “meow, meow, meow”…

The Americans who are still Gloria’s ultimate ‘lord and master’do NOT appreciate Gloria’s dismal performance. (NYTimes is basically Republican leaning…)

I’ve always been convinced that when the US blinks, Gloria will be a goner. For the moment, she’s ok but when the going gets tough and the tough doesn’t get going - hah, she’s dead!

Notice too that new US ambassador to the Philippines went and paid a courtesy call on the Senate President for an hour. Because the meeting was held in closed doors, we can only imagine what Drilon may have complained about to the lady envoy… something like “Gloria is being thoroughly beastly” or something akin….Heheheh!

US Embassy memos will contain the minutes of that meeting and I am pretty sure that the US envoy’s report will contain not very flattering remarks about Gloria, couple that with the public reaction to the NY Times editorial on Gloria bordering on elation and you get the gist.

Gloria knows that things will be coming to a head with her American friend/s. She will be very busy, busy as a bee to try “to counter” US Embassy reports and other US intel gathered reports in order to please Dubya. She knows she is treading on very shaky grounds today. Her cha-cha, PI initiatiatives won’t save her in the end.

The US ambassador is a PRO, a Republican and is a WOMAN; it will also be harder for Gloria to sell to a woman with a conservative background. Gloria ain’t fooling the lady envoy with her Philhealth cards, her alms to the poor, her photo-ops with children in an orphanage, her revolving door policy for her generals, her pics on her birthday surrounded by retired generals Ebdane, Calimlim, her speeches to the graduating batches in PNP and PMA, etc.

I suggest we all write as well to Democrat Sen Hillary Clinton of NY who is a proponent of human rights… if she picks up what’s really going on in PI, she may just put in her ‘influence’ to tip in the balance…



I just read in a Philstar report that Miriam went ballistic over the NY Times editorial to defend her beloved president and bosom pal.

I thought she's on leave cos she's suffering from hypertension. At the rate she's going she's gonna find herself in an ICU.

She should realize that Gloria is not worth getting all excited about to the point she has a stroke. Oh well...

When Miriam goes ballistic like this over what Americans (well, NY Times for that matter) about her beloved Philippines screaming at them saying they ain't got right to say this and say that or something similar to gibberish, she gotta have her head examined; doesn't she realize that EVERYTHING, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING that the Philippines or Gloria does is subject to the imprimatur of Dubya or the US State Dept's tacit approval before it becomes FINAL?

She is lying to herself if she says it ain't true.

Rizalist said...


yeah, i was struck by the pointedness of her meeting with the Senate President AND allowing the press to interview them together. FMD's cool as cuke now.

As for miriam, well, i don't think she really wants to be GMA's toady in the senate, especially with santiago vs. comelec in grave danger.

She took the lead on the VFA, but her options are really very limited now. i really don't think she can be a factor with the senate in defense mode. they don't wanna go extinct.



I am sure the US Embassy is also waiting for the Mayuga report to be released which, when they finally get their hands on a copy will be sent straight to US State Dept for further scrutiny.

The Inquirer just reported that the burden of realesing it falls now on Vice-Admiral Mayuga.

Well, it seems, we all have to wait for a long time…In line with time-honored tradition that the buck must stop somewhere, Gloria’s government has proven once more that hers is a government where the buck doesn’t stop anywhere.

There’s really no use expecting anything substantial of the Mayuga report. I have long contended that report will have been sanitized to concur with Gloria generals line of defence that they did not participate in the election manipulations in the south in favor of Gloria; the report morevover, will have “cleared” Garci of the Gloriagate fame of any wrongdoing. (Mark my word!)

The commanding general who re-called “whistleblowing” BrigGen Gudani back to Manila from his Mindanao assignment after COMELEC official Garci complained of Gudani’s “non-cooperation” is already out of harm’s way. He is now ambassador to Australia and cannot be expected to reveal what Gudani told him during their one-on-one meeting at PN Hqs following Gudani’s recall.

Why do you think Vice-Admiral Mayuga's predecessor was asked to "RETIRE" earlier than scheduled and was himself rewarded with the post of ambassador to Australia? Well, Mayuga had to be given a reward too presumably for “sanitizing” his report. Even if Mayuga stays in his current Flag Officer in Command, PN for less than a year, the position is infinitely better than that of AFP Inspector General's - he is finally king of his own kingdom (just as former CSAFP, SND Angie Reyes had promised him in 1999)!

I have no doubt US envoy's comments or report to US State Dept will contain the above observations too... I have it from A1 sources that the new US envoy is a straight shooter behind that affable smile of hers. And I say, well and good... I think she will be an asset for Filipinos!

Anyway, the US or us for that matter mustn't expect anything of Vice-Admiral Mayuga's report - it will be synonymous to a whitewash.

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, Hillblogger,
It is quite hard to see a problem if it is you who is the very problem. THE PROBLEM is GLORIA but she blames the "destabilizers" for that NEW YORK TIMES Editorial. But the NYT editorialized on THE THINGS THAT SHE HAS DONE and not on what the opposition are doing.

An editorial is something done with a lot of thinking, research, and yes perception. It is a deliberate action. This is what they believe and stand on. And in this case NYT has ventilated what the CPRed, 464ed, and 1017ed Filipinos believe but are unable to expose before an international audience. THANK YOU NYT.

Rizalist said...

Mike Defensor acknowledged the blunder in the treatment of the press under 1017, especially the Tribune raid, which he pointed to as the reason for the NYT editorial. He's right in part. And there is a lesson in that: the Palace is sensitive to, because it is vulnerable to American opinion (especially FilAm opinion). That will shift now because Filams do follow the big papers (many are too busy to do their own thinking and researching about the Philippines.)

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, once I asked you "where are the youth of today?" And you answered "in the USA, making it big."

Are these the Fil-Ams whose opinions will shift? Are they really too busy to "to do their own thinking and researching about the Philippines? Or are you referring to the youth of yesteryears (our generation)? Perhaps, all of them, since most of them are holding two to three jobs at a time to even care about what's happening in our country today?

Rizalist said...

BFR--It's a lil more complicated than that. Both are required, and with the NY Times editorial a third factor appears -- the general American public itself. You see FilAms exist in a context. That context is the wider society. But imagine any Filipino professional who works at any ordinary company or business in the US. All this time since Gloriagate started or even before, way back to Edsa Dos, they've known the score back home (they know!). But they've largely kept quiet at work and among neighbors, preferring not to cast their homeland in a bad lite. But all of a sudden, all their friends read in the NY Times or hear about it in the subsequent reportage, that the Philippines is actually in the dark days of its democracy because of its President! Now all of a sudden our lone FilAm in the millieu of nosey, concerned Americans will be pressed for what or she knows, what or she believes and thinks is happenning and should. Voila! They are forced to THINK about what the NY Times has spread around to everyone. Guess what? This is GOOD THINK!

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB, Yes, this is GOOD THINK! Thank you for explaining the appearance of the third factor - the general American public - which is, as you said, a vital context where FilAms exist.

This brings a deeper meaning to what NYT has done. It is not a mere editorial now, but something that urges (pressures?) the FilAms to speak out, to perhaps make this third factor to understand what is really happening back home by ending their silence. They no longer have to worry about "casting their homeland in a bad lite" because the New York Times beat them to it.

My UP-bred nationalism is squirming but letting go with a smile.

Rizalist said...

BFR--I doubt that the New York Times was speaking only to the Fil Ams. The effect I mentioned, of legitimizing opposition to Mrs. Arroyo, is a consequence of their main point, which is really addressed to the American people generally-- that she is a danger to US interests in that the war on terror cannot be led and fought by illegitimate leaders who cannot command the respect and loyalty of her people. Much less to be left alone by many of the best among them, present company included.

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