AS though on cue, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s national act of contrition last June 27 was immediately followed by administration allies chanting the old anthem “Let’s move on.” The recent sorry turn of events comes down as one of the darkest moments of the Filipino soul.
For all the obvious coaching she must have undergone to make her look aggrieved and repentant, Macapagal-Arroyo’s confession accomplished only one thing: it merely affirmed what everyone already knew – that she was the female voice in the Gloria-Garci tape. But it did not change most people’s doubts about the legitimacy of her presidency, counting at least the 55 percent in the SWS survey who believed she stole the elections. More than just owning up to being the voice in the tape, she took the opportunity to try to save her presidency by delivering a cocktail of half-truths and spins intended to preserve herself from imminent ouster.
In developed countries and more mature democracies such a flagrant and unmistakable demonstration of deceit and subterfuge by a head of state would have resulted in a massive exodus of allies who will not want to sink with her as people begin to express their outrage. In a first world country, an exit mechanism would immediately have been set in place simultaneous with the formation of a prosecution panel. In the first place, there is no forum for snow jobs in first world democracies where people are well anchored on a sense of nationhood and moral values.
The president’s address is obviously an attempt at performing damage control. Her multi-sectoral unpopularity is developing into a groundswell of people seeking her ouster in whatever way. By making her public confession, she wanted to:
1. Ease the national tension and try to patch up the gaping cracks of her shaky regime. There is strong evidence to conclude that her regime is on the edge: even before the jueteng and Gloriagate controversies, she recorded a –33 percent satisfaction rating; 57 percent of people see themselves as poor and 55 percent of voters think Arroyo stole the 2004 elections.
2. Shift blame away from her culpability for connivance with a Commission on Election (Comelec) official to steal the elections by pleading guilty only to a ‘lapse in judgment’. By doing this, she wanted to minimize the gravity of her offense while drawing sympathy to her human foibles. She thought that owning up would end the impatience of people to hear her affirm something they already knew and thus, restore her credibility and deflect the damning issues.
3. Appeal to the Filipino’s propensity to forgive and forget. Some call this the devil’s ultimate tactic because it seeks to inflict evil by preying on people’s good nature.
4. Lure the nation to take the path of least resistance in seeking relief from poverty and misery. The pathetic state of our opposition and leadership alternatives certainly makes it easier to stick to the ‘devil we know’ than risk the unknown.
The entire production focused on creating maximum non-verbal emotional impact amid verbal excuses and rationalizations. The camera zooms in at the most critical point in her “act of contrition” – catching eyes forlorn and misty, head tilted slightly as though in humble supplication. It was carefully crafted to project Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the woman and less of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the president.
When I was the featured guest on his ON LINE show over ANC last Wednesday, Gene Orejana told me that there were 42 takes to that Monday production. I would believe that because that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo we saw was so unlike the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo we know. No wonder it was not performed before a live audience, not even before the Malacanang Press Corps who also saw it as video just like the rest of the nation.
The non-verbal aspects of the address bore the substance of her key messages. And all this happens only because of our third world status where the exploited is much too handicapped to even be aware of the state of their own condition, much less what is causing it.
The latest of her bag of tricks came as no surprise to me but it did have more melodrama than her 2002 Rizal Day whopper when she promised: “I will not run in the 2004 elections.” The opposition, who suffers from a similar problem, did not create the credibility problem of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Macapagal-Arroyo, with able support from her own kin, did.
It was not surprising to me that right after Macapagal-Arroyo’s address, Donald Dee was on the GMA Network news to promote their national anthem – “Let’s move on.” Many of our big businessmen are the pin-stripped counterparts of our traditional politicians. They, too, have been very much involved in the long history of exploitation in this country. For as long as their businesses are preserved, they are willing to overlook plunder and bloody murder. They acquiesced compliantly to the imposition of Martial Law in 1972 until their own survival was threatened when Marcos played his crony capitalism card.
It was not surprising to me that the second installment in Macapagal-Arroyo’s “Save my job” PR blitz was that speech before a business forum at the Manila Polo Club last Wednesday, the highlight of which was her announced “voluntary exile” of husband Mike Arroyo. A business forum is a very predictable audience that borders on what is called a controlled environment. Businessmen will not rock the boat and will not ask questions that disturb the political equation. They will only look after their own interests while posturing with their overplayed imagined role as the economic provider. Didn’t Jesus Christ tell us that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God?”
So why was I not surprised when pro-administration political analysts and political allies like Rep. Prospero Pichay so easily ended up as chorus boys to the “Let’s move on” administration anthem. Predictably, the same media outfits and personalities identified with the administration had also quickly picked up the tune. All these make up a production extravaganza that would put Cecil B. de Mille and Steven Spielberg to shame.
What I found surprising was that former president Cory Aquino had also unwittingly joined the “Let’s move on” chorus. INQ7 quoted the former president as saying: “Tonight, the President has made a strong beginning and I hope she will continue in the direction of better and more responsive governance.” How can anyone take that to mean anything else but “Let’s move on” and an endorsement for continued Macapagal-Arroyo governance despite the seriousness of the Gloriagate issue and the moral bankruptcy of the regime?
I give President Cory the benefit of the doubt that she was not in the same chorus with Dee, Pichay and company knowingly. When she echoed “Let’s move on” and asked for prayers for Macapagal-Arroyo, I believe that President Cory’s move was unilateral and was not coordinated with the Palace Spinmeisters. But by saying that, President Cory endorsed the administration line of “Let’s move on” and this I find very disturbing.
As an EDSA participant who organized and headed her 1985-86 campaign media bureau, I cannot reconcile this position of our former president with the very events that made EDSA I and her own ascension to the presidency possible. This reeks of double standard, and to her critics – outright hypocrisy.
In 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and his minions sang the same “Let’s move on” tune after stealing the Snap Elections. Now we hear the very victim of that Snap Elections electoral fraud enjoining people to “Let’s move on” in the face of mounting evidence of fraud in the 2004 elections. Her refusal to let Marcos get away with electoral fraud sparked her call for a national boycott that culminated in People Power. Why is she now singing “Let’s move on” for Macapagal-Arroyo in the face of overwhelming signs that she too, stole the elections?
Does Cory Aquino think that this election fraud issue will go away the way the administration is hoping it would? Marcos enjoyed better numbers than this incumbent president and that did not save him. Marcos never had a –33 percent satisfaction rating nor did 57 percent of Filipinos consider themselves as poor during the time of Marcos.
There is repression of the freedom of assembly, the people’s right to rally and demonstrate, and why have we not heard Cory Aquino denounce these? Come to think of it, Marcos exercised more restraint after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino and did not disperse rallies and demonstrations the way the PNP does under this regime. Does Cory Aquino find no problem when a constitutional right of assembly is sidetracked by mere local government “no permit, no rally” ordinances? Just what did EDSA I fight to restore?
Under the conditions that she now reigns, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo opens the country to out-of-the-box political repercussions that are easily promoted by a regime that has lost credibility and an opposition that lacks it too. The status quo will bring us back to a military regime and does this not concern Cory Aquino?
Let’s move on – they want us to do. The problem is – where to and with whom? There is no future with the present regime. There are all the indicators that point to a regression to a past where nobody wants to return.
You may email William M. Esposo at: email@example.com