The kiss of death to Villar’s presidential ambition
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-06-19
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s minions were obviously elated over Senator Manny Villar’s rise to the Senate Presidency. You can imagine what relief Villar’s takeover must be to the Palace squatters after their experience with Frank Drilon who had effectively stood his ground in preserving and upholding the Senate’s independence and its role as check and balance in a democracy.

The Palace squatters can of course sing their hallelujahs as they relish the thought of having a more compliant Villar. But whether Villar actually turns into the puppet they want him to be is another matter altogether. In their haste to rejoice, they only expose a presumptuous smugness that comes from their having won over a great number of allies in the House of Representatives too easily.

They forget that Villar was the House Speaker who made the daring, creative and unprecedented maneuver that elevated the Estrada impeachment case to the Senate in 2000. Before Estrada’s congressional allies could derail the ominous move, Manny Villar utilized the invocation led by the Speaker at the start of the session to proclaim the impeachment case as forwarded to the senate. The rest, as they say, is history.
That bold maneuver speaks volumes about Manny Villar. It shows a man who can rise to the occasion to demonstrate heroism and statesmanship. All that gives us a sense that Villar will be a Senate President who is not afraid to tilt with the windmills.

Villar may choose a different approach from that of his predecessor but that does not mean there will be a change of position in the same Senate that has been consistently resisting Arroyo’s attempts to monopolize power. Unlike the executive branch where the marching orders and directions are set by one person, a Senate President can only embody the collective will of the majority in the Senate or risk being ousted.

Unless the majority in the Senate decides to shift its allegiance to Madame Arroyo, I don’t see how Manny Villar can oppose that position and still remain as Senate President. Do you see the likes of Senators Pong Biazon, Frank Drilon, Jun Magsaysay, Serge Osmena, Nene Pimentel, Ping Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Fred Lim and so forth changing their positions?

Notice how pro-Arroyo Senators are very sparing in defending her these days. Instead, they would prefer to take positions that only happen to reflect her side on a given issue. But they will be careful not to be perceived as defending her. Senator Ralph Recto will promote the EVAT but he will avoid defending Arroyo’s failed fiscal policies.

Miriam D. Santiago is untypical of any of the other Senators yet even Miriam minimizes her defense of the Palace occupant these days. Miriam even announced last Thursday that she will file a bill to free media from government influence and interference which to me is an indirect broadside against Arroyo’s assault on press freedom. I don’t think that Miriam has altogether given up on her presidential ambition.

Manny Villar is not impervious to the call of the times, what with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s incessant attempts to dominate all the institutions in order to preserve her power. Villar’s bold maneuver in the Lower House in 2000 certainly belies Palace thinking that they have a man in him who they can use.

If Manny Villar was astute enough to recognize that Estrada’s ouster was just a matter of time, then the prospects of the Arroyo regime should also be just as clear to him.

Only the naïve and uninformed harbor thoughts that this regime of lies and violence will last until 2010. Villar is nobody’s fool and he can see that between June 2005 and June 2006, Macapagal-Arroyo has lost a lot of political ground and just like Estrada in 2000—Madame Arroyo is an ouster seeking time and circumstance for it to happen.

One year after the Garci tapes were exposed—ironically by Arroyo’s own mouthpiece, Toting Bunye—Arroyo has lost a lot of the forces that worked to make her president in 2001. The inventory of losses includes:

1. Some of the best people in her cabinet, the Hyatt 10.
2. One of the most credible forces in her political coalition, the Liberal Party.
3. A breach in her chain of command in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The aborted withdrawal of support last February proved that a serious division exists in the AFP, rendering hollow all Palace claims of a “loyal” chain of command.
4. Even the Firm is now a doubtful Arroyo supporter. The Firm’s original founder, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, voted against all of Arroyo’s cases on EO 464, PP 1017 and CPR.
5. Cory Aquino, to whom Arroyo owes her ascendancy in 2001 together with the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. Had Cory joined the RESIGN ALL clamor of most of the EDSA II players, Arroyo could never have assumed the presidency.
6. The Catholic Bishops who have been taking adverse positions against Arroyo—calling for the determination of the truth regarding the 2004 elections, a stop to the repression of human rights and apprehensions and convictions of the killers of journalists and Leftists.
7. US support as the State Department has continually issued uncomplimentary statements against the Arroyo regime. It was reported that Philippine Ambassador to the US Albert del Rosario was fired because he failed to neutralize these negative developments. The lifting of PP 1017 was in compliance with US “suggestions” to immediately recall the tyrannical proclamation.

Of course, Manny Villar knows all these and he will not make the mistake of hitching his presidential ambition to a falling star that was sucked into the black hole of traditional politics. To any politician who can read the public mood and temperament, there is no mistaking that there is everything to gain from going against Arroyo and everything to lose by going along with her.

It is not surprising that many who are known presidential wannabes are now actively fighting Arroyo—Mar Roxas, Kiko Pangilinan, Jun Magsaysay, Dick Gordon, to name a few. A year ago, they were all supporting her. These senators know that Arroyo is a millstone hung around the neck of anyone who is associated with her. They also know that association with Arroyo threatens to eventually put them on the wrong side of history—the wrong side of history being the mother of all political blunders.

Considering the failures of this regime and its grievous offenses against the people’s rights, association with Macapagal-Arroyo is like being associated with Idi Amin, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Arroyo is precisely the kind of political stigma that will end a political career the way association with Ferdinand Marcos ended many political careers (sadly, only to be taken over by new politicians who failed to be any better).

Wait until we get to the 2007 elections and you will see how many of those 158 congressmen who killed the 2005 impeachment case will declare themselves anti-Arroyo just to survive the anti-Arroyo backlash. Why do you think there is so much fear from these people and the Palace squatters of the 2007 elections being held?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sunk so low in the public esteem—registering the worst ratings of a Malacanang resident—that being associated with her is like getting the kiss of death.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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