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Grin and bear it?


I find the “Balay” and “Samar” factions in the Aquino government peculiar only because of their strange-sounding names and the fact that they’re engaged in open, crude warfare that lacks the sophistication of the old.

Otherwise, factions are nothing new. Not in governments, not in companies, not even in rebel movements. Some succeeded in reining in these groups while others, like Joseph Estrada, let them loose to dictate on state affairs.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo somehow thrived in factions. This was not principally her choice; after all, she was first brought to power in 2001 by a hodgepodge of groups and personalities that filled the entire political spectrum. We saw how she deftly managed them in her first years in office and how, pushed to a corner after the 2005 “Hello, Garci” scandal, she began to rely on a group of hardcore loyalists.

Even the Arroyo family was divided into factions during Mrs. Arroyo’s term—members associated with her younger brother Buboy Macapagal on one side, and those aligned with First Gentleman Mike Arroyo on the other.

As a newly elected president in 1992, Fidel V. Ramos had to contend with the various power blocs that emerged after his victory—the Jose de Venecia-led Pangasinan/House of Representatives group and the Joe Almonte/Carpio-Villaraza bloc, just to name a few. Oh but they waged their fights in the shadows, using satellites that challenged reporters’ skills and instincts. Their battles were not the in-your–face type that we now see today. And in the end, the boss showed who was boss when he needed to.

And who could forget the Palace infighting under President Joseph Estrada between the “Dragon Lady,” Presidential Management Staff chief Leonora de Jesus and Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora? In the end, the “Dragon Lady” was moved to another department, but not before shedding tears in public.

Outside government, one remembers the recently amnestied Magdalo and its factions. A faction flirted with the Arroyo government shortly after the botched 2003 Oakwood mutiny, leading to the reinstatement of key officers. The intransigent Sonny Trillanes chose to fight it out in jail and was amply rewarded years later with a come-from-behind victory in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Steeped in a culture of personalistic and patronage politics, we have not seen the last of factional infighting in and out of government.

That’s not to say we citizens will just have to grin and bear it. We expect public officials to stop their dirty little wars when they already get in the way of public service. And we expect their boss to manage them, not the other way around.

(Ms. Gloria writes this blog in her capacity as member of the board of Public Trust Media Group, which runs Newsbreak.)

CATEGORY: Blogs, Glenda M. Gloria
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  1. Ms. G. I hope you get a newspaper column soon. More people should read you. Best, Janryll

  2. haha. thanks for reading, janryll!

  3. Great article. I miss the days of Bobby Ongpin versus Joker Arroyo. That one ended with all of them being fired by President Cory.

  4. You must be in a hurry writing your column. I was hoping I could learn more about the developing factions in the Aquino administration. How "crude" is the conflict?

  5. erwin,

    thanks. that could be the subject of a longer story…sooner rather than later :)


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