MY good friend Teddy Benigno thinks that National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales is an intellectual lightweight. Still, Gonzales' recent revelation that there is a new destabilization plot to discredit the elections and its winner must be taken seriously.
Whether there is basis for this revelation or not and while we know that Gonzales is praying that the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys on the leading presidential bets will prove correct come election day, this piece of information must be processed from all the possible angles it presents. Gonzales had provided details on how the plot will unfold, eventually to culminate in another 'EDSA III" and a power grab.
We must really have a sick culture that elections here become the trigger for more turmoil. In most countries, elections resolve squabbles and controversy, thus easing social and political tensions. But here, in the Philippines, elections deepen social fissures and divide people.
Gonzales' revelation sorely lacked proof. How many times have we heard this government cry wolf about all sorts of destabilization plots, presenting their known adversaries in the cast of plotters in the process, only to fail in providing any proof for their claims? The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime has elevated trial by publicity into a formidable implement. Compared to Marcos, the dictator had at least the imagination to stage a mock trial for Ninoy Aquino. But under this regime, people are charged, tried and convicted only in media.
What makes things even more worrisome is the fact that the likely big loser in the elections - the Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) camp to my view - so easily presents itself as a credible line-up of your usual suspects. Then whisk in a generous dose of discontent of the masses, people's loss of faith in public institutions, a restless military and you have the perfect ingredients for mayhem, disorder and possibly anarchy. Even for Filipinos who have such short memories of their history, the May 1, 2001 assault on Malacanang was too recent to forget. Personalities who primed that mob have been cut and pasted to the KNP national lineup.
Other quarters have also commented that the Gonzales allegation may even be a deliberate Palace scheme meant to justify the use of emergency powers that would eventually contain or even eliminate political opposition. Even this thinking has some credence, considering that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a very controversial president who only just last December rated a negative 5%. Collective fear of having FPJ as president alone proved to be the single biggest push to Macapagal-Arroyo's candidacy.
When elections have come to pass and with the specter of an FPJ presidential term hopefully relegated to the cesspool of our history, the administration will have to reckon anew with the old raging issues and the more unsettling fact that Macapagal-Arroyo won mainly on account of the "fear FPJ factor" rather than from people's direct choice of an icon that would effect their yearning for earnest change. Under this scenario, Gonzales' plot will have assumed a pre-emptive purpose.
While I am no big fan of Macapagal-Arroyo - a gross understatement - and while I do not place too much credence on the National Security Adviser, I am inclined to believe the government line in this new development.
It defies all logic and reason that this administration, with all the resources at its disposal and already enjoying the lead in credible surveys, will resort to underhanded methods. Unless the surveys were rigged or unless there is some other such thing we don't know, it is to the administration's interest to ensure a credible election that could ease their entry into a new mandate of leadership.
The latest surveys and political intelligence reports all point to a loss for FPJ. In the last three weeks, the trend had indicated a steady loss of numbers for FPJ. Not only that, there is a shifting of FPJ's local support to the administration. Having fewer votes to count and no local delivery system to ensure that those votes are cast and counted, FPJ has lost this election even before the close of voting precincts today.
I am inclined to give FPJ the benefit of the doubt that he is not involved in the plot one way or another. But if his supporters are indeed planning to use foul means to reverse their imminent defeat, they will be in for big surprise.
If fear of FPJ benefited Macapagal-Arroyo in this election, expect the people to reject a power grab as naked and as brazen as this. The people that the plotters are hoping will go to the streets will be those that will want to hang the destabilization plotters who are prolonging their agony and economic depravations. The nation wants to buckle down to business and not engage in any of these power trip games.
The KNP gang altogether misread the mind and the mood of the electorate - including the masses. They thought that the masses would embrace anyone on the basis of popularity regardless of capability to govern as president. They thought that the masses would readily fall for their excuses in avoiding debates and public inquiries on their program of government. They thought that box office acclaim of their presidential bet alone presented the credentials that would absolve the sins of "blood suckers" of the recent past that are associated with him. Well, now it is time for them to pay for their mistakes.
Whatever it is - whether it is another of Malacanang's wild accusations or the opposition's 'PLAN B' in the face of electoral defeat - Gonzales' revelation underscores the fragile state of the current regime. The truth is this election merely diverted the rising political temperature in the country. Elections being the safest avenues for change, people will always opt to give it a chance to effect change.
If the government is indeed hatching a pre-emptive strike, this will not serve its purpose, just as assassinating Ninoy Aquino did not pre-empt the drive to remove the Marcos dictatorship. The issue is with the people and not the opposition. It is the people who are suffering the worst economic slump the country ever experienced since the end of World War II. It is the people who have had enough of Jose Pidal. It is the people who fear for their safety whether inside or outside their homes.
If it is the opposition, now facing defeat under the FPJ banner, who is behind this destabilization plot, perhaps it is best to let this political farce play itself out. We may yet see the total annihilation of those remnants of the unlamented Marcos and Estrada eras. Like cockroaches, neither insecticide nor election defeat could get rid of them. Like that B-movie serial killer Jason, they just seem to keep bouncing back.
Diverted for a while by the elections, we now wake to the gnawing realities of our times - the overwhelming deluge of unresolved issues and problems we all must face as a nation and as a people.