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The Laws of Power: For Political Survival Under Arroyo Regime

February 8, 2008

Never outshine the master.”

This is the first law of power, according to the book of Robert Greene, “The 48 Laws of Power.”

“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.” If you go too far in showing off your talents you might accomplish the opposite– and you might inspire fear and insecurity.

This is probably the reason why the Arroyo family chose Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles as Jose De Venecia’s replacement over Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia. Perhaps Nograles is easier to control than the Cebu politician whose family had deeply established a formidable political kingdom in the vote-rich city.

And De Venecia? Perhaps the representative from Pangasinan appeared too ambitious before her Queen Gloria, plus the fact that he wasn’t able to control his son Joey.

JDV might have thought that he still enjoyed the support of his fellow congressmen and that under his term as house speaker, he would be able to achieve charter change, but things changed when he stirred up insecurity by showing much of his “perceived” potential.

Law # 2: “Never put too much trust in friends; learn how to use enemies.” Pres. Gloria Arroyo must have learned something from the tragic experience of her predecessor Joseph Estrada, who was betrayed by his closest political pal from Ilocos Sur– Luis Chavit Singson. “Friends will betray you quickly,” Greene’s book says. However, Erap probably knows Greene’s Law # 25– “Learn how to re-create yourself.”

Now Erap successfully made new friends out of his former enemies who became more loyal to him. His former foes, those who wanted to impeach him when he was facing his greatest ordeal as president– Senators Villar and Legarda, are now among his ever loyal allies in the senate. On the other hand, Gloria got the services of her former critics, Senators Miriam Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile. Both have become Gloria’s warriors in the senate.

Law # 6: “Court attention at all cost.” Everybody hates DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzales for his mostly “uneducated”, unprofessional”, uncalled for and unethical comments. But people sometimes fail to know the intention why the DOJ Secretary usually goes out of sync whenever his boss is in big trouble. One of Gloria’s best assets in the cabinet is Sec. Gonzales. That’s why despite his age and state of health, La Gloria is very determined to “recycle” him, because in her mind, nobody could do the extraordinary job of his ever loyal and effective “muchacho”.

Gonzales is very good at his job because he’s able to divert the attention of the unsuspecting people whenever the Arroyo administration is faced with political maelstrom. So is Miriam Santiago with her usual out-of-this-world remarks like the one that put the entire Chinese race in bad light when she mentioned in her privilege speech that it is the Chinese who invented corruption. The duo would make a good combination.

Law # 11: “Learn how to keep people dependent on you.” This is politician’s best credo in maintaining their grip on power. So long as the people depend on them, they will be able to perpetuate their stay in power. This must be complemented by Laws numbers 12 (the use of selective honesty and generousity), 27 (to play on people’s need), 32 (to play to people’s fantasies), and 43 (to work on the hearts and minds of others.)

But it is not enough to make the electorate dependent on the politicians, it is also important to fool them by being generous with them, and by playing on their needs as well as to their fantasies. If you master this, you will be able to control power and those revolving around you. This strategy had catapulted so many politicians to power in history like Marcos, Erap and Gloria. In the case of Gloria, she is trying to make the people believe that she is the only option and that her government is the only solution to our economic problems.

Law # 13: “When asking for an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and deeds.” Former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos should chide JDV for taking for granted this rule. Well, some people claimed that the 48 Laws of Power is one of the favorite books of FVR.

In his last speech as speaker, JDV enumerated those “past deeds and assistance” he had done to Gloria. Too bad such a tactic never worked because JDV must have forgotten that a greedy person only seeks to advance his self-interest. This is a good lesson for others like Nograles.

Law 15: “Crush you enemy totally.” Gloria failed to follow this rule when she pardoned Erap. Now the ousted leader had grown tremendously in terms of influence and is trying to re-invent himself.

This is something that the people shouldn’t do, that if ever Gloria is ousted through whatever means or her term expired in 2010, they should crush her, her allies, including some members of the first family who benefited from her administration, totally, so that they will have no means to ressurect. The next president should prosecute Gloria, including the people who worked with her during her incumbency, and never to pardon her once she’s convicted.

“Have no mercy. Do not take hatred personally. Crush your enemies as totally as they would crush you.” The only security is their perpetual absence in the circle of power.

But the best law of power, as practiced by the current regime, is somewhat missed by Greene.

“Always be wise. Choose allies according to self-interest and survival.” Gloria does it very well. She only chose those who fawn over her and those:

1. who share the same interest;

2. who fear her;

3. who are incompetent

4. who she can control and manipulate.

Most of her cabinet members possess these seemingly indespensable requirements. In order to remain strong at all time, you must learn to establish a network of alliances and a web of interdependent alliances, so that when an ally begins to show his ambitious tendencies, it will be easy to silence or replace him.

It is also important to create a formidable outside force, which will serve as smokescreen and additional reinforcement whenever needed. This outside force may be composed of wealthy and influential businessmen, media groups, pressure groups and members of the civil society. They become useful whenever there’s internal strife.

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