Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, November 9, 2012

US “jaggedly split down the middle on the presidency and torn over much else.” Now comes the reality check as Obama's second administration tackles the 'fiscal cliff.' After the victory champagne, US companies begin lay-offs. Recalling Dick Gordon’s moves to blueprint Subic Freeport---long before the Senate vote on non-renewal of the bases treaty.

The US presidential elections are over and Barack Obama was given a second mandate by the American people, amid a truly startling fact: that no US president has been reelected since Ronald Reagan with the national unemployment rate above 7%. In the week of the recent elections, official statistics point to a 7.9% unemployment rate, and yet the American people ignored this and voted Obama. But lest the Democrats gloat over this fact, political pundits in America and elsewhere are also falling all over in stressing that the 2012 elections saw the tightest-ever popular vote (50.2% for Obama vs. 48.6% for Romney)--- less than two percent margin between them.  

As an AP story put it, “The election laid bare a dual---and dueling nation, politically speaking, jaggedly split down the middle on the presidency and torn over much else.  It seems you can please only half of the people nearly all of the time.” In fact, the AP story cited that “Half of the country is thrilled that (President) Obama won, but the other half is in a very sour mood.” It cited a Cincinnati lawyer who noted how his co-workers “feel like the vast majority wanted Romney, and the East and the West coasts wanted Obama.”


Nowhere is this jagged split more reflected than in the battleground states.  Florida finally went for Obama at 49.9%, vs. Mitt Romney’s 49.24%, or a margin of only 55, 825 votes!  Note too how close was the margin was in other battleground states that  Obama swept, such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and others in America’s industrial heartland.

In fact, even in California, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, I noted that the difference was closer than in other elections.


But after all the celebration comes the reality check for America---and the world. The major issue is how to heal the wounds of this badly split-up nation, amid the frightening problems it faces---principally the skyrocketing fiscal deficit on the one hand (over $16 trillion public debt that Obama hopes to drive down by taxing even small businesses, but which the Republicans who control the 435-member House of Representatives strongly object to) and the imperative on the administration to cut down on public spending, on the other hand.


Because the two chambers of the US Congress remain, as before the elections, in separate hands (the 100-member Senate is controlled by the Democrats), the congressional impasse that triggered a near-crisis two years ago could continue. Thus, there is the fear that the nation may be staring at the worst recession since the Great Depression of the late 20s. Already this nervousness was indicated by the fall of stock market prices in the US the day after the elections. After the victory champagne the lay-offs began in some US companies.

A recession would affect the whole world, especially given the distressed state of the European economy, as seen in the massive public outcry against a new round of austerity measures in Greece.
Indeed, Obama needs prayers.


But as I wrote in my FB, one thing so marvelous about the American system is how their leaders close ranks after it’s all over, how the defeated call on all their followers to support the choice of the people in view of the country’s huge problems. In his concession speech Mitt Romney asked his weeping supporters to pray for the President and he returned the gesture by saying he’d seek ways to confer with his erstwhile adversary on solutions.

No matter if the candidates’ post-election pronouncements are viewed by cynics as insincere; the fact is that this is a beautiful practice in America. And how different from what we have here, where our President continues to rile away at his predecessor GMA, attacking her even in his forums with overseas Filipinos---despite the fact that the courts have already taken jurisdiction over cases against her. P-Noy should just leave GMA’s cases to the courts and attend to our equally numerous problems.

Bayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casino
Speaking of cases vs. GMA, Bayan Muna candidate Teddy Casiño has openly acknowledged that his case against her in the ZTE corruption issue was based on mere hearsay evidence. I’m suddenly reminded of what a former high-ranking SC magistrate who retired a few years back told me. In his opinion the cases against GMA would not be able to stand in court because of lack of solid evidence. It’s already coming to pass.


Pollster Ed Malay reports that UNA senatorial candidate Dick Gordon is topping the on-line polls, followed by Migs Zubiri and Mitos Magsaysay. This reminds me of what lawyer Rodolfo "Inky" Orlina Reyes, who had worked with Dick on the Subic concept recalled to me recently about Dick. It also shows the kind of foresight and action Dick is associated with---which we need in the Senate.

Former SBMA Chair Dick Gordon, now UNA senatorial candidate

Recalled Inky Reyes:
“Dick first came out with the concept of a Freeport in Subic Naval Base when he saw the Americans leave Sangley Point. Just like any other military base or mining operation that closes, especially in the U.S., the town it leaves behind "dies" a natural death because its economic umbilical cord is severed. Such was the case of Sangley Point in Cavite where many Filipinos found themselves out of a job when it closed. Many even flocked to Subic and Clark.

“Back in 1971 or 1972, already anticipating the prospect of the Americans leaving or the RP-US Bases Treaty not being renewed, he presented the Freeport blueprint to President Marcos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Initially, he conceived of it being named the Autonomous Region of Greater Olongapo, or ARGO (which he joked also stood for Atty. Richard Gordon of Olongapo).

“When the Senate rejected the Treaty’s renewal in 1991, Dick pushed for the Freeport.  He roused me from sleep at 1:30 am. on January 3, 1992 and said "Brod, my people need your help." (Dick and I are fraternity brothers in the U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi).  He asked to meet me that morning at Annabel's Restaurant in QC, and he was with former Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor, now DPWH Secretary Rogelio "Babes" Singson and former BCDA Director Francis Elum.

“After hearing Melchor's plan for Subic, he gave them his idea. Realizing that the Cory Administration may not push for the Freeport concept he presented, Dick invited me to go to Olongapo that very afternoon where we drafted what is now Section 12 of the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992 (R.A. 7227). It essentially created the Subic Bay Special Economic Zone and Freeport and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

“We called Atty. Luis "Chito" Vera Cruz of the ACCRA Law Offices (where Dick and I started our legal careers) for some advice. We also called my father, the late Ambassador Vicente G. Reyes who served as Consul General to Hong Kong from 1986-1989, because Dick wanted to make Subic the next HK.

“After coming up with the Subic Freeport provisions that he wanted to introduce into the bill, he instructed me to attend the next hearing of the Technical Committee headed by the BCDA bill’s sponsor, Sen. Leticia Shahani. After some cajoling, Sen. Shahani agreed to help Dick and introduced his proposed amendments to the bill.

“Then Dick asked for volunteers from Olongapo to accompany him to the Senate to lobby for the bill. Victory Liner owners offered their buses and hundreds of people from Olongapo came---vendors, jeepney drivers, barangay tanods, etc. ---the common tao---to lobby for the bill. He invited the senators to come outside to dialogue with them, among them Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Leticia Shahani, Teofisto Guingona, Sotero Laurel, Neptali Gonzales, Ernesto Maceda, and they gave their support to the bill.

“In the House Rep. Kate Gordon, Dick’s wife led her colleagues to approve the SBMA counterpart bill. Both houses of Congress approved the bill before they adjourned sine die in February 1992.  President Cory Aquino signed the bill into law on March 13, 1992. The rest is history.”

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