Sta. Ana is Coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms. Published in two parts, Part II of this piece was published in the July 28, 2009 edition of BusinessWorld, pages  S1/5. Read Part I here .

Without saying so, Buencamino (that’s how pals call each other—by their surname), is presenting a prisoner’s dilemma that everyone faces.

The prisoner’s dilemma game is illustrated in this manner.  Assume a situation that happens in real life:  The police arrest two suspects—let’s name them Benjamin and Garci—for stealing.  The police have to get solid evidence to convict them.  The police investigators isolate Benjamin and Garci to grill them and pit them against each other. The investigators present the two a choice: If say Garci finks on Benjamin but Benjamin remains silent (the case of a one-sided defection), Garci is freed from prison and Benjamin becomes the sucker, as the information against him leads to a full punishment of ten years in prison. Of course it could also be only Benjamin who talks, so Garci would be the sucker. If they betray each other (both of them are meanies), they get punished for a term of three years, mitigated by their willingness to collaborate with the police. If neither one informs on each other, (that is Benjamin and Garci do not betray each other, they both get a punishment of one year in prison.

In this kind of dilemma, the rational choice for both Benjamin and Garci is to defect—to fink on the other.  It pays for Benjamin to defect whether his mate’s decision is to cooperate or defect.  If Benjamin defects and Garci protects Benjamin, Benjamin is freed from prison, but his mate has to suffer ten years in prison. On the other hand, if Benjamin does not defect, but Garci finks on him, Benjamin loses heavily.

The preference ranking in this game is thus, from best to worst: the temptation to defect (one-sided defection) , mutual cooperation (remaining silent), being punished for mutual defection

The incentive then is for the rational Benjamin and Garci to defect or betray each other.  But in doing so the defection of both leads to a worse outcome for them.  They would have been better off if they cooperated with each other,

This kind of prisoner’s dilemma applies to GMA’s situation.  Let’s go back to GMA’s options.  The most tempting option for her is to declare martial law.  Swift and short. Nasty and brutish. But this course will likewise be risky for her in a tit-for-tat game.  She can end up being guillotined. The democratic forces, those opposed to GMA, surely want to avoid this situation, either.  Democracy will win in the long run, but the fight will be bloody.

So a better option is to explore “cooperation” with the enemy.  The opposition, for example, can send a message to GMA that it is to her interest to have clean elections in 2010 and for her to leave the country soon.  That means continuing the fight against GMA but de-escalating it.

In turn, GMA can wish that even if the opposition files cases upon cases against her, she could still evade imprisonment. Just look at what happened to the cases against Marcos.  And besides, the Filipino people are a forgiving people.  It is not going to be a zero-sum game.

But the problem is this:  can there be cooperation with the enemy when we all know that GMA is a meanie—that she is a proven liar?