I was horizontal in my hospital bed in Makati Med while the string of events presaging new political directions started to unravel posthaste in the aftermath of the Gloriagate revelations. I checked in Wednesday, July 6. Two days later, on Friday, July 8, the angel of doom seemed to have suddenly descended on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her era. Cory Aquino, the Liberal party, the Makati Business Club and ten top Arroyo cabinet officials called for the president to resign and save the country from further damage.
For one who has given his best to vigilantly trail the crooked and convoluted pathways of Gloria M. Arroyo’s presidency, I found it most frustrating to be a recluse in antiseptic surroundings during the unraveling of history-shaping events. But my 9-day confinement had its upside. Far removed from the key players now stoking up the course of history, it was easier for me to see things from a detached perspective.
Minus the regime’s mythmaking rituals and sporadic bursts of incoherent chutzpah from self-professed prophets and messiahs here and there, one thing has become clear: all this has all but narrowed the options for both the president and those calling for her ouster. The options that now confront the Malacanang tenant and the nation can be summed up as follows:
1. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can no longer finish her term, stolen or otherwise. Even the proposal of former president Fidel V. Ramos is a tacit conclusion that Macapagal-Arroyo can no longer govern and the country needs an immediate transition formula. There is a huge chasm between the ‘business-as-usual’ outcome that Macapagal-Arroyo and her ‘Salamankeros’ Toting Bunye, Mike Defensor and Bobi Tiglao want to project and the likelihood that this scenario will ever happen.
2. Resignation, especially while she still has that option open, remains her best option and promises the clearest possible solution to the problem. The moment Macapagal-Arroyo resigns, she would have eased national tension to a manageable level. Her continued hold of illegitimately-obtained power merely adds fuel to an already explosive political situation. For the most part, the looming specter of the growing vulnerability of the country to unpalatable and unorthodox political scenarios has triggered the call for Arroyo’s resignation by Cory Aquino, the 10 cabinet officials, the Liberal party and the Makati Business Club.
3. Macapagal-Arroyo’s refusal to resign moves the equation towards ouster mode. It is in this where lurks the big danger. In the best case scenario, ouster means impeachment. Yet impeachment will be like killing the economy softly. In the worst-case scenario, ouster can take the form of military revolt and one seen by many as potentially bloody. The military move can easily come from the ranks of the junior officers who were also involved in the Oakwood Siege.
Myths and obfuscations
A lot of those who ask me about my read on the unfolding political events are confused. A lot of their confusion arises from their inadequate appreciation of history and the realities of our largely feudal society where economic and political power is held by very few rich families. They tend to think that a president who wants to stay entrenched is like an immovable object. Philippine reality is farthest from that myth.
Except for Ferdinand Marcos who masterfully consolidated power and ruled from 1965 to 1986, all past Philippine presidents who did not die during their term (i.e., Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay) demonstrated just how vulnerable the presidency is. Presidents Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal all lost their re-election bids. President Cory Aquino suffered six coup attempts during her troubled reign. Fidel V. Ramos’s so-called economic ‘tiger cub’ showcase was decimated by the Asian Currency Crisis of 1997. Joseph Estrada was removed in 2001 by EDSA II just as Marcos was removed in 1986 by EDSA I. From these historical facts, I challenge anyone to establish a case of the ‘strong president’ in our country – one who can be aptly referred to as an ‘immovable object’.
Much of the public confusion can be traced to the squid tactics and obfuscations by the Palace and the tremendous power they exert on media to refocus the issue away from issues that pose a fatal threat to Macapagal-Arroyo’s political status. Macapagal-Arroyo herself is caught using some of these obfuscations.
Before a Phil-Am delegation in Malacanang last Thursday, Arroyo took the opposition to task for not even having a program of government. The statement is an attempt to obfuscate things because the issue is not between an administration program of government versus that of the opposition. The issue is about a president who violated the constitution and betrayed public trust by stealing the 2004 elections. The program of government bit is designed to distract the public from the core issue which is detrimental to the incumbent president.
When the 10 top cabinet officials resigned last July 8 and called for Arroyo’s resignation, PMS chief Bobi Tiglao was immediately all over the Television Networks to launch a series of personal attacks on the 10 officials. Again, this was nothing but a cheap attempt by Bobi to negate the impact of the collective acts of the 10 whose integrity and credibility far exceed those of the other cabinet officials who had remained. Until July 8, these 10 cabinet officials were the ‘crown jewels’ of the regime. After July 8, they were all categorized with the likes of Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd as ‘Public Enemy Number 1’. Bobi must think that Filipinos are stupid not to notice this sudden change of the regime’s appreciation for the 10.
The administration pattern of personal attacks on its enemies also manifested in the manner Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales savaged Cory Aquino – suggesting that the former president attend to the amorous adventures of her daughter Kris instead of pressing for Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation. For that remark, Gonzales reaped the whirlwind from people not just close to Cory Aquino but from Women’s groups as well. It puzzles me no end why Malacanang has not stopped Gonzales from speaking to media. Every time Gonzales opens his foul mouth, the administration goes down several points in public esteem and this administration does not possess a lot of that to squander!
Much of the administration’s damage control plan reeks of the same method and style of the old damage control plan harnessed by Marcos to try to contain the massive outrage that ensued after August 21, 1983, the day that former Sen. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated at the Manila International Airport. Not surprising considering that operators of the late dictator, like Ronnie Puno, are now in the inner councils of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime. Easily recognizable of these same tactics once used by the Marcos regime and are now being reinvented are the following:
1. The ‘Business as Usual’ projection. All the sound and picture bytes of the president showing her looking busy and attending to her normal chores are obviously a smokescreen that hides the depth and seriousness of the problem. Yet her official schedule – she hardly leaves the Palace – refutes all the PR hype. Quite obvious, the escalation of issues has impacted heavily on Macapagal-Arroyo and has imprinted telltale signs of stress on her general countenance. The eyes are the usual giveaways of these stress signs.
2. The ‘Full support of the AFP’ line is used. Toting Bunye, declared as the best stand-up comedian by SMS or text messaging accolade, deserves the Grand Cup for entertainment bravado whenever he proclaims the solid backing of the AFP chain of command for President Arroyo. What Toting does not say is how far behind the AFP would be in a situation when the bayonets are poised against the president’s spine. Lo and behold, a commander here and there, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, an administration ally, start warning junior officers – confirmed problem of the regime – from intervening in the political theatre.
3. There is nobody who can replace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Marcos and his PR team said “Now more than ever” in 1985-86. To me, this is the shallowest of mental positions that the regime can peddle. This line of thinking only serves to highlight the utter failure of the Arroyo regime. It is certainly revolting to a thinking mind. Arroyo has brought us to our worst ever economic and political crises and she is irreplaceable? It is bad enough if one’s propaganda is not bought. It is counter productive when it triggers antipathy and resolute action.
4. The attempt to project a so-called ‘silent majority’ as supportive of the president. This is better known as the photo ops blitz – when the beleaguered ruler goes all over media with photo releases of groups supporting the threatened regime. The ‘silent majority’ never surfaced for Marcos. There are more reasons to doubt if it exists for Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Macapagal-Arroyo regime is plagued with an aversion to the truth. A good portion of presidential power is utilized for hiding the truth in the Arroyo era, an act that can border on kidnapping of key witnesses to damaging scandals like the one of Jose Pidal. A regime that is deep into lying can understandably be averse to the truth or any attempt to expose it. For the Godly, the truth shall set them free. For the vile liar, truth is like the sun’s rays to a vampire – it will pulverize to bits.
When the moment of truth came upon the Marcos regime, the nation was liberated from the shackles of a dictatorship. The moment of truth is now upon Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The only problem is that she refuses to recognize it.
You may email William M. Esposo at: email@example.com