Thursday, July 9, 2009


All is quiet from Northern California and Virginia, where Ronnie Puno is hibernating after two important events. One is felicitous --- the wedding of his youngest daughter Tami which was held at Napa Valley on the Fourth of July. The other happened, rather, unsuspectingly stabbed through his back while he is away. I have already written in two previous articles about this.

Crame is agog. Beneath the seemingly busy exterior, nerves are taut. Some officials warily read the silence from Ronnie as portent of things to come. The signs are there. Some heads seem to be in Malacanang’s chopping block, to be replaced by new favorites beholden directly and loyal personally to the Dona, misma, and no one else.

Not even to the gran esposo. Loyalty must be solamente y absolutamente.

* * *

Those in Crame who know how to read tree leaves read too much from Ronnie’s silence and his past character record. When Marcos was deposed in 1986, the young assistant minister of MILG left for Washington DC and spent his time with the PR firms and lobby groups there, principally Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.

He quietly slipped back in 1991 and first offered his services to Vice-President Doy Laurel. Eventually, it was Fidel Valdez Ramos who got his professional services. He helped augment the sparse political machinery of FVR, who however had the DILG then under Cesar Sarino cooperative to Tita Cory’s endorsed presidential candidate. Ronnie the Tree made full use of this, and organized what was perhaps unfairly called the Sulo Hotel Operations.

But as luck would have it, another FVR supporter, Teddy Benigno the journalist, went hammer and tongs after Ronnie, then an appointee to Broadcast City. Ronnie did not get into a conflict with Teddy or his backers in the new FVR regime. He just packed up and left again for the comforts of Langley in Virginia. He came back with an assignment for then Speaker Joe de Venecia --- make sure he had the numbers and the other determinants of political strength to ensure that the Speaker would be FVR’s endorsed, rather than Defense Secretary Renato de Villa. Ronnie delivered, but realizing early in the campaign that Joe, even plus Gloria, was no match to Joseph Estrada, he offered his services to the latter. He was supposed to “ensure” that Erap could not be cheated, for Erap’s numbers were already overwhelming. Daya lang ang talo. To this day, I do not know whether Erap’s victory was ever really endangered,

Erap assumed the DILG portfolio when he became president, if only to show his peace and order priorities to the hilt. He appointed Ronnie his undersecretary and chief operating officer, After a while, Ronnie was appointed full-fledged secretary, but was hounded by accusations principally coming from his and FVR’s bete noire, Sen, Miriam Defensor Santiago. Erap, himself hounded by controversies early into his reign, had to let go of Ronnie, who was then given the post of UN Ambassador. But this got snagged at the Commission on Appointments, and unlike Davide, who shamelessly proceeded to New York after he was appointed to the premier diplomatic post by Dona Gloria even without CA confirmation, Ronnie accepted his fate quietly. He stayed with Erap until the last moment.

In 2002, his Ateneo buddy, el gran esposo de la Dona Gloria started seeking his counsel. By 2003, he had been conscripted into the Dona’s electoral bid of 2004. He blocked off the Byron Hotel, the same “swerte” site he used for Erap’s election in 1998, and this time used it to oversee electoral operations. After the “successful” operations which saw Dona Gloria cheating her way with Garci into controversial victory, Ronnie’s star rose and rose. He even gave up a newly-won seat as Antipolo City congressman to become the DILG Secretary. From that vantage point, he made sure that he controlled the PNP, with due deference of course, to the personal choices of Dona Gloria y su esposo, particularly in the jueteng-rich provinces of Luzon.

He engineered the pardon of Erap, which is why the former president still considers him “one of his boys”. Word once floated that he would be Erap’s vice-presidential candidate in a hopeful re-run.

Now the Dona seems to have tired of his services. Or rather, he committed the “crime” of telling her he could not “fix-it” for her over-ambitious desire to rule forever and ever.

Will Ronnie the Tree do a Chavit? Not likely is how observers see it. Maybe he will just fade once more into the lovely woods of his Langley spread. So what happens to “his” boys in Crame?

* * *

Meanwhile, as I was rushing this article yesterday afternoon, word got in from a person very close to former Pres. FVR that the latter would soon make a very important political announcement. It would, I am told, signal the end of his support for Dona Gloria.

Would he announce his support for a candidate not from the Dona’s stable of favorites, I asked. The source would not even give me a clue, except to say, “Senyas na malinaw”, Signs.

* * *

Now let me give you, in unexpurgated Tagalog, my friend Isagani Cruz’ message to us, his fellow FSGO’ers, on the 4th anniversary of the Hyatt Ten’s revolt against a cheating, stealing and lying regime:

“Noong 1970, isa ako sa unang-unang nagsabi (sa aking dulang Tao) na magkakaroon ng martial law sa Filipinas.

”Noong 2000, sa pagkakaalam ko, ako ang unang-unang naglagay sa kolum sa peryodiko ng "Erap, Resign!"

”Noong 2006, sinulat ko na sa kolum ko na iniisip na ni Gloria Arroyo (hindi ko gagamitin ang apelyido ng mabuting ama niyang si Macapagal, dahil sinira niya ang pangalan nito) na magdeklara ng martial law.

”Ngayon ay sigurado na ako. Kahit na ano pa ang gagawing pangalan sa gagawin ni Gloria Arroyo, martial law pa rin ang mangyayari.

”Bakit? Dahil kapit na siya sa patalim. Kahit sinong mahalal na bagong pangulo ay siguradong ibibilanggo siya. Patatawarin din naman siya pagkatapos ng mahabang panahon (tulad ng pagpapatawad niya kay Erap), pero mabibilanggo siya. Ayaw niya iyon (sino ba naman ang may gustong mabilanggo?) , kaya ngayon pa man, naglalakbay na siya kung saan-saan para siguruhing may pera siya, para maghanap ng maaari niyang tirhan kung sakaling makaeskapo siya bago maupo ang bagong pangulo, at para maghanap ng kakampi pagdeklara niya ng martial law.

”Tandaan ninyo, sinabi ko ito bago sabihin ng iba.”

Well Gani, sana mali ka. But really, the signs are there’

* * *

The chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the most powerful nation on earth, Leon Panetta, is calling on Dona Gloria for about half-an-hour on Sunday, the 12th of July. He will fly in and then fly out.