Same old story
IS ANYONE still peddling “Plan B” these days? In the wake of the national elections in which the votes for the vice presidency appeared to swing first in Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s favor before being overtaken by Rep. Leni Robredo’s numbers, the Marcos camp’s immediate accusation of fraud in the counting hinged on a conspiracy theory: that Robredo’s victory was being engineered by the ruling Liberal Party as part of a grand plan to eventually unseat the incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte, through impeachment, and thereby reclaim power.
Never mind that the so-called “Plan B” was first broached in a satirical site on social media; Marcos himself lent credence to the charge by conscripting it into his protest game plan. Allowing Robredo to win, he said, was dangerous because the Liberals would always have a card with which to threaten Duterte; he was the far better alternative, he said, because the people pushing for Robredo would never countenance the specter of a Marcos back in the presidential seat, hence assuring Duterte an undisturbed stint in Malacañang.
The scenario had a certain twisted appeal to it—a throwback to the era in which, “Hello, Garci,” NBN-ZTE and many other gross controversies notwithstanding, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo managed to hold on to power by the skin of her teeth simply because, it was said, the public had more to fear with a presidency under her lightweight second in command, Noli de Castro.
Another crucial plank of any “Plan B,” of course, is whether the Liberal Party would have the actual numbers to foist impeachment on the eventual president. As it is, a couple of weeks after the elections, even the Marcos camp has gone silent on its conspiracy theory, and for good reason: The reality of Philippine politics has taken over, and the imagined scenario of the Liberal Party remaining a powerhouse in the new administration has gone kaput.
Yesterday’s headline in this paper spoke of 80 Liberal Party members joining the “coalition” in Congress that has swiftly formed in support of Duterte. The representatives are not shedding their party affiliation, according to the report, but they are declaring themselves with the majority to be able to partake of the benefits of such an affiliation—and party and platform be damned. And there’s the reason “Plan B” sounded ridiculous from the start: It feigned ignorance of the feckless, grasping world of Philippine politics, in which politicians of whatever stripe stand ready to abandon their party in half a heartbeat to join the horde of favor-seekers lining up at the troughs of the new dispensation. The early LP turncoats are but the advance vanguard; many more are sure to follow. And at the rate the migration is going, by the time Duterte takes his oath of office on June 30 he’d be assured of a supermajority in Congress, and the LP, once the ruling party, would now be a shell of itself.
It’s the same old story: On June 29, 2010, a day before President Aquino’s inauguration, this paper reported on Arroyo’s allies jumping ship from her then-ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD to the ascendant LP. Further back, in the 2004 presidential election when it looked like Arroyo was facing the very real possibility of getting booted out of Malacañang by opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr.—a danger she audaciously dealt with, as shown later by the tale of the “Hello, Garci” tape—many Arroyo allies didn’t even wait for the election outcome: In the middle of the campaign, as this paper reported, “about 90 local officials consisting of congressmen, governors and mayors from the administration coalition” defected to FPJ’s camp.
The sheer cravenness of Filipino politics—the porousness of parties and platforms and the persistent dominance of personalities in their stead—also accounts for why the idea of shifting to a parliamentary form of government, with stable political parties at its center, has never taken hold here. How can it, when no local political parties ever get defined for more than one administration? After that, it’s open season again for the swarm of political butterflies desperately fluttering about in search of new options for continuing relevance and viability—as it is now.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.