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Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter - Snapshots of Filipinos

Manuel L. Quezon III
Manuel L. Quezon III
My column this week looked at the emerging image-making of the incoming administration, and the President-elect’s now having to make his mark as president and not heir apparent.
Two noteworthy articles, two podcasts, and a book review round up this week’s newsletter.
Thank you to my Patreons, old and new, your support counts for a lot.

The Principalia
The Principalia
This week's The Long View
Picture perfect | Inquirer Opinion
With Razib Khan
By now you are quite familiar with an essay that Razib Khan wrote, which I think brings up a remarkably relevant phenomenon taking place in India. He recently invited me to an online conversation and the podcast that resulted is linked to, below.
Manuel L. Quezon III: Explaining the Philippines
#ProyektoPilipino ep. :
The youth has started to reawaken. As we have seen in the last elections, 52% of registered voters were young voters and many youth volunteers began to mobilize to not just support a candidate, but also extend education and aid to the more vulnerable sectors of the society.
In retrospect, we can actually trace back the youth movement in our history. The youth has always been a critical force in enacting positive change when it came to freedom, democracy, and politics. This is why in this episode, Fr. Tito Caluag, Manolo Quezon, and Carlo Santiago will take us back through the critical youth movements in history and how they shaped our country. And from this, reflect on what we should be doing today to continue supporting, mentoring, and guiding our youth, who—as Dr. Jose Rizal says—is the future of our nation.
Batang-bata ka pa: The youth movement | Episode 18 | Proyekto Pilipino
Batang-bata ka pa: The youth movement | Episode 18 | Proyekto Pilipino
Two contrasting reads
A blog post by a young Filipino diplomat. An interesting read! So do read it, and then check out my thoughts.
Two very interesting ideas here: that by his victory Marcos tacitly if not overtly accepts the EDSA institutions made possible by the fall of the dictatorship, and the identification of the current era being in favor of “disciplinary democracy” but not outright authoritarianism with that “disciplinary democracy” being a public unwilling to fully give up the rights established in the now-defunct EDSA consensus.
He dates the turning of the tide to 2001 which I partially do too, with one added thought I used to mention then and feel deserves refocusing on: 2001 destroyed an unwritten understanding among political players dating to at least the early postwar years, which was any administration’s fall from power drew the line at repercussions: to lose power was punishment enough despite pre martial law elections often hinging on the issue of graft snd corruption. The arrest of Estrada after he had not only fallen from power, but in essence accepted it, scrapped this unwritten understanding which even to a certain extent the Marcoses had enioyed. This added to things becoming an increasingly ultimate high stakes fight because no longer power but life and liberty itself were now at stake and increasingly put the major political players in the crosshairs of reform.
Arroyo tried to reset things through a pardon but was herself entrapped in the reform dynamic. There’s that going back even further we have to perhaps revisit our arbitrary definition of regimes since if defined by constitutions as we do, the Commonwealth and 3rd Republic are only one regime and make more sense if viewed as such. What confuses is the wartime interruption which on one hand revealed where the Commonwealth might have headed if the war hadn’t interrupted: a one party state led by the independence party which remained the evolutionary mode for nearly all the rest of our neighbors and including India. The war interrupted this and artificially divided the political class, ironically because Filipinos were farther ahead on the road to independence; the independence movement was divided on the question of collaboration when other similar ones didn’t suffer such a fracture because much more behind on the independence path: they did not have to choose between the old colonial power or the Japanese.
So the postwar Third Republic was built on the foundations of a typical Asian post independence one party state but with an artificial because dictated by weakness, two party system. The urge to coalesce however kept being thwarted by accident: at least twice, under Roxas and Magsaysay it seemed about to happen but their deaths meant weaker successors had to make due with existing divisions. This in turn was supported by a growing middle class that came to view as part of the democratic way of life, a party system the political class itself only partially accepted. When Marcos came along he managed to reassemble a monolithic party which proved acceptable to many in the public and political class and its echoes remains even if not consciously understood or appreciated by the political players. A further thought: a long view and an institutional awareness time and again the surveys tell us, is not part of the electorate’s approach to elections. So it seems to me more of a matter of projection on the part of observers when electoral outcomes are determined to be specific kinds of verdicts. In the first place the horizon in the minds of voters may be far narrower (shorter?) than commentators assume, the issues much more parochial; fundamentally it is a reaction to the immediate past and the concerns of the present. If that is the case then it is a stretch to read things as a verdict on events rapidly receding into the distant past for an ever-younger population.
There are times when the public’s opinion does lead to a changing of the guard: as was the case after WW2 and the death of so many political careers after EDSA Dos. But otherwise it is a verdict on the incumbent and a desire for a new direction as determined by the issues of the day and not the past. Which isn’t to say the political players know this. They have their own beliefs and so in this most recent case, the first real landslide in living memory, it would be easy for the Marcoses to think it is more of a vindication than it is (though it is, indeed, that by the measures of our political culture) when it was as much the product of hard-nosed political Math: North +South (plus each bringing in a chunk of the middle) = national majority when every election from 1992-2016 had taken place under different assumptions on math (forget a majority: you needed a minority only bigger than the next biggest minority: a very different game!
What the current admin enjoyed was an absence of any real scrutiny because of its infrastructure for communications and its policy of effective intimidation and unbridled patronage, both went together. Political observers noted the pandemic also strengthened incumbents. In that sense a unique situation that combined with the revival of the old electoral dynamics from before martial law with two uniquely endowed factions (Marcos and Duterte) to recreate what was last seen in 1965: a first term majority in a regular election. That creates its own dynamics but its been so long even the political players are likely unaware of those dynamics. But they will persist: in the wariness of the two factions and the question of succession after the midterms which they have to remain united to face. But if the electorate voted with very specific short term concerns then the long term plans or ambitions of those elected may clash with public opinion down the line —including assuming the public voted for things they didn’t. That will be interesting.
Rey Ileto stated “Voters are passing judgment on competing narratives over the country’s political history.”
One would have to inquire if this was consciously a factor; on one hand the Marcos Restoration scheme precisely aimed to make the past a non-issue; second, it has to be asked how long the public’s frame of reference actually is.
These are slides I ask people to reflect on in my presentations. The first is why supporters supported each candidates: only FM Jr has the peer acceptance factor; suggests bandwagon effect. Otherslide is actual issues that mattered to voters. See which went up which went down.
Why supporters supported each candidate
Why supporters supported each candidate
The actual concerns of voters over time
The actual concerns of voters over time
I am increasingly wary of attributing historical judgments to the electors and the outcome of elections. Judgments on individuals, yes; but the electorate as a whole has a short attention-span and framework when voting. Ileto makes other assumptions that are difficult to accept: such as the assertion, “There is overwhelming evidence that his removal was directed from Washington.” From George Bush attending the 1981 Marcos inaugural to the manner Reagan had to be maneuvered to grudgingly shift support away from Marcos, as in most things the Americans were catching up with events the way everyone else was. As an American observer recently reminded me, this was the era of Iran-Contra and foreign policy thinking was best expressed by Jean Kirkpatrick’s dictum that America ought to support dictators who opposed Communism.
The Philippines Presidential Elections: a story of duelling legacies
To read...
Got this splendid book through the good folks at Fully Booked bookstore, who have copies available. I find if a fair and insightful. Check out the review below to see why it should be on your shelf.
“The Making of the Modern Philippines: Pieces of a Jigsaw State” by Philip Bowring
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Manuel L. Quezon III
Manuel L. Quezon III @mlq3

I'm a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer; an Editor at large at; I write on history, politics and culture; and I write speeches and have worked in political communications; and I used to broadcast (which is where The Explainer comes from); I also set up and maintain the Philippine Diary Project; this is a newsletter to keep readers abreast of what I've written, am writing, and think about what's going on as well as a way to expand topics and conversations on all sorts of issues. Ideally, this will come thrice weekly:
1. Every Monday: Electoral-Merry-Go Round, on the Road to the 2022 Presidential Elections
2. Every Wednesday or Thurday: My column, "The Long View" along with additional material/thoughts on the topic.
3. Passion Project Weekends: reviews and recommendations books, movies, and other things; updates on The Philippine Diary Project and other things I find interesting. If my podcast comes out, this is when I'd promote it.

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