There is a confluence of events that is building up into a social volcano. The people are grumbling about rising prices and food shortages. Grumbling coming from the pit of the stomach is the hardest to ignore because one can say it is really a gut issue. Consumers are blaming the government’s TRAIN law, specifically the heavy excise tax on fuel, for the ripple effect on electricity rates and just about everything else. The cartels are in control because the administration is more focused on mindless politics.
These are statements of fact but the government does not take kindly to criticism. Quite often, this would be taken as insidious remarks from the Liberal Party and the Communist Party of the Philippines. The LP and the CPP, in case the administration does not know it yet, are both already discredited and irrelevant in the scheme of things on how Filipinos are struggling to survive.
Sensing a gathering storm (not the super typhoon heading towards the country’s northern part) President Rodrigo Duterte said he would address the nation Tuesday afternoon but canceled at the last minute. Instead he had a one-on-one interview with chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo.
It is interesting to note that earlier on the same day, two legal issues were decided favoring Malacañang. The Supreme Court ruled to deny Senator Antonio Trillanes’ bid for a restraining order on Presidential Proclamation 572 revoking the amnesty granted him by former President Benigno Aquino III. The House judiciary panel on the other hand voted to reject the impeachment case filed against seven SC justices who voted to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via quo warranto proceedings.
Another columnist in this newspaper warned the situation might have reached a tipping point. He cited facts and figures on the inflation, the pesos-dollar rate, etc. to support his contention that the country’s instability might have reached a tipping point.
A tipping point or when a boiling pot of water overturns, however, needs the political factor to the economic hardship to complete the heady mix for a social upheaval. The people around the President—his economic advisers and legal panel—do NOT seem to have a sense of history.
We are not fomenting an upheaval against the government. That’s the last thing we need in a volatile global economy. But then the people in charge of providing basic food and services for the people must read up on history. The French people stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789 when King Louis XVI’s wife Marie Antoinette uttered her now famous and insensitive statement of “let them eat cake” in response to poor people protesting the lack of bread in stores and on their table. This sounds eerily familiar to Filipinos complaining about the scarcity and high price of rice.
Cake, of course, in the time of King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette, was only available at Versailles Palace. Flour for bread and the everyman’s baguette could not be found in stores.
The present rice crisis reminds me of a subtle line of editor-poet G. Burce Bunao. With the closure of the Roces-owned Manila Times, Fred (for Godofredo) lost his job. He put up a bakery shop selling mostly pan de sal. On the front window pane of his store he pasted a sign which read: “Para magkaroon ng tinapay sa mesa, ang masa ay kailangang umalsa.” Translated in english, Fred Bunao’s words cannot be as much meaningful as they are in Tagalog.
For his double entendre message, Fred landed in a military camp where he was detained a week for purportedly inciting the masses to rise against the martial law regime.
But what is laughable is the ludicrous statement of Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol that “there is no rice shortage.”Another joker, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said prices of prime commodities, are exaggerated. Workers told Roque to go out and check market prices.
The present economic condition accompanied by political turmoil seen in the government’s handling of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s case could be compared to the torrential flow of two rivers converging at some point which could result in a people storm surge. I would suggest the government head off this converging river torrent lest it becomes too late to manage. This confluence of events was what stoked People Power into Edsa One and Two.
There is apparently a feeling of hubris inside the Palace after the administration’s success in arresting and detaining Senator Leila de Lima and then ousting Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via quo warranto proceedings. The draconian action against Trillanes is seen as part of that steamroller momentum to silence the President’s critics.
But the legal team of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Solicitor General Jose Calida and Harry Roque who’s also a lawyer, might have overreached itself. What they are doing against the senator is making Trillanes a symbol of persecution and a hero which he really is not. This is a big political blunder the Palace coterie did not seem to realize.
The problem that arose in the Sereno and Trillanes cases is the making of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino. He appointed Sereno who had no seniority nor court appearance experience which laid the ground for Calida and company to claim her appointment was ab initio or flawed from the start.
This is the same basis for the presidential proclamation that the grant of amnesty to Trillanes was also flawed from the start since he allegedly did not apply for the amnesty. Trillanes though showed reporters documents that he did apply and was granted amnesty together with fellow coup plotters.
Malacanang officials are smug that Trillanes will not be able to whip up a storm among the people nor from certain officers in the military and police establishments. But the two People Power uprising showed us that the military need not do anything like harness their force against the people or the powers that be. They don’t have to do anything except withdraw support from the government and then watch how events unfold.
A former Armed Forces chief, senator and congressman Rodolfo Biazon expressed his view that the withdrawal of the amnesty given to Senator Trillanes is without legal basis.
“If the amnesty granted to Trillanes is void, then so the amnesty would be for former military rebels Danny Lim, Nicanor Faeldon, Gary Alejano, and the others.”