Is Gloria M. Arroyo still in charge?
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-06-05
Something is terribly wrong with our present political landscape. We know that the poor performance of government will eventually, and only rightly so, fall on Madame Gloria M. Arroyo’s doorstep. But far too many developments seem to be sending signals that she may no longer be in full control and that she may now be at the mercy of those who can manage her greatest fears.
Our spy agency, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) has recently detained five pro-Estrada followers without arrest warrants. Later, they were accused of plotting to overthrow the government and assassinate four cabinet members. Such illegal arrests manifest the utter disregard our law enforcers in the military and the police have on the highest court of law of the land—the Supreme Court, who had ruled that warrant-less arrests are illegal and relevant only in a dictatorship.

Not only are political opponents being detained without warrants of arrest but the killing rampage against journalists and political opponents continue unabated.

The question that I ask myself a lot these days is whether these are acts that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo willfully orders or are they independent acts made by the brutes in the police and military? Is Gloria still in charge? If not, then who is or who are?

Now before any of you draw the wrong conclusions, let me be clear that I have not decided to join Rick Abcede and those who have dedicated themselves to the task of making Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo feel good. I do not write this to rationalize or justify the bad governance and offenses against the people’s rights by the Arroyo regime. I write this to get a correct fix on the real situation prevailing in the country and to determine just who are really in command.

Madame Arroyo cannot escape accountability—not for her direct actions and most certainly not for the actions of people whose wrongdoing she sanctions as a way of keeping herself in power. However, if we want to fix the problem, we have to know who is behind all these. Who is or are really in command and who is or are issuing the bad orders?

I have good reasons to believe that what many people think as stink coming from the Palace resident may in fact be foul matter coming from the handiwork of a cabal who have been allowed a certain degree of presidential clout to commit unscrupulous deeds under the cloak of anonymity. Nothing can be more sadistically thrilling for baddies than to be allowed to be bad and get to run away from it in blessed anonymity.

Not that I’m saying that Madame Arroyo is incapable of arrogance and villainy. Her EO 464 is an edict that reeks of supreme arrogance. EO 464 violates a co-equal branch of government—the Senate—and prevents it from fulfilling its critical check and balance function that safeguards against anomalies of the executive. Her Pre-emptive Calibrated Response policy further reflects the mind of an arrogant and deluded ruler who thinks that she is beyond reproach and over and above the people’s right to protest, demonstrate and express disgust over vile governance.

Who can be more arrogant and villainous than one who can steal an election and then behave like the aggrieved party when the people want to know the truth?

Traumatic experience

The May 1, 2001 assault on Malacanang Palace by the pro-Estrada masses was a traumatic experience for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I have friends who were there, inside and outside of Malacanang, who narrated to me the gravity of that attempt to duplicate the Fall of the Bastille which started the French Revolution. Many of us who watched that rampage live on television were stunned at the unexpected preview of what a revolt of the masses could be like.

So, you can just imagine how a woman like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must have felt while all that was happening a few meters from where she lived. Until that point in her life, Gloria has never experienced such hatred and violence directed towards her. How that mob was roughing up innocent bystanders and destroying private property in Mendiola would have conjured images in Gloria’s mind of how that could be done to her and her family should they fall into the hands of the enraged masses.

After that traumatic episode, the reality must have dawned on Gloria’s mind that her survival can only be secured by the men in uniform—the military and the police. And so from that time on, we all saw how those men in uniform became more powerful in Madame Arroyo’s inner circle.

You may attack any other cabinet secretary or high ranking agency head and if the attack was severe enough and sustained by media, Arroyo would react and remove the controversial official. Former Social Security System (SSS) boss Vitaliano Naniagas experienced that. He attempted to implement reforms in the SSS and drew the ire of those who would be affected by the reform program. Instead of supporting the reformer, despite the EDSA II mandate of justice and reform, Gloria pandered to the mob and sacked Naniagas.

But when you threw all the dirt including the toilet water closet at then Defense Secretary Angie Reyes or then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Leandro Mendoza—fat chance that you’ll even get to disturb their sleep, much less get them fired from their posts. Such sacred cows were they that when they were removed from their post or retired, they were quickly compensated with assignments to other posts that to other people seemed even juicier than the posts that they had vacated.

Angie Reyes was removed from the Defense Department ONLY because he was at the core of the issues that were raised by the Magdalo mutineers of the Oakwood siege. Only a more urgent military issue would have caused a military asset like Angie Reyes to be removed at Defense. In fact, Gloria’s initial reaction to the clamor for the removal of Angie Reyes was met by a ‘reassuring’ retort: “Over my dead body.”

Angie was eventually rehabilitated in the NAKTAF (National Anti Kidnapping Task Force) and later appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) after successfully reducing kidnapping incidents. Angie now heads the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources after Ronnie Puno was appointed to the DILG, allegedly to promote the bogus people’s initiative for Charter change.

The Arroyo regime has a pattern of giving new assignments to her favorite military and police officers and men who had retired. The more threatened and besieged Arroyo feels, the more dominant the presence of military and police officers in her government.

Even a long time Arroyo supporter like Bert Romulo had to give way to former general Eddie Ermita who took over as Executive Secretary, the little president as the post is called, right after the controversial 2004 elections. I’m told that the threat of flashpoints resulting from the questioned election of Madame Arroyo necessitated a “war time” executive secretary, which the gentle and respectable Bert Romulo was not perceived to be.

With the Mendozas, Ermitas, Ebdanes and Reyeses running the important agencies of government, are we surprised that we have been transformed into a military and police state?

It is cause for worry when there is a predominance of military types in cabinet positions. These are positions that are normally assigned to civilians and this manifests the principle that civilian rule is supreme. What we may have already is a virtual military junta running the show—unknown, unidentified and unaccountable.

Gloria may not even be aware that she could already be inside the belly of the tiger that she thinks she still rides and commands.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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