FORMER president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), who I fondly address nowadays as President Eddie, made a critical decision on Feb. 22, 1986, when he broke away from the Ferdinand Marcos regime and joined the rest of the country in seeking to restore democracy. For his sagacious move and derring-do that placed his life and career on the line, FVR was regarded as one of the three heroic icons of the 1986 People Power Revolt, along with Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin. He was eventually elected president in 1992.
These days, I can sense that FVR is a man who is struggling to preserve his role in history. At his age of 76, that would be what should concern him the most. FVR saw how his cousin Ferdinand Marcos tried so hard to achieve a good place in history and ended up the exact opposite -- now regarded as the man who stole our democracy, set back the Philippine economy (we were number two in all of Asia when Marcos became president) and set in motion the decline not just of our currency but also our values.
FVR struggles because his administration was not exactly the paragon of clean governance, with the PEA-Amari and Centennial Park projects as its landmark scandals. FVR has good reasons to be insecure about the verdict that history will give him because he not only supports today the worst president the country ever has had -- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who many even doubt whether she was indeed elected president in 2004 -- but he even rescued her when imminent ouster faced her in July 2005.
Now FVR finds himself criticizing the Arroyo regime one day and supporting it the next. Nothing characterizes a lost soul better than that. FVR appears to be what Luigi Pirandello describes as a character in search of an author.
Last week, FVR sent me his position paper that was strongly against the anti-insurgency policy of the Arroyo regime, which has declared an all-out war and promised to end the communist insurgency in two years.
FVR cited the following reasons for opposing Arroyo’s anti-insurgency policy:
• An all-out war, as tried by Marcos was not the solution. All-out development is the real solution to the insurgency.
• The avowed deadline is placing undue pressure on the military and the police. Marcos could not do it in 14 years of martial law. Arroyo cannot do it in two years, especially considering all the problems hounding her regime.
• The additional P1 billion given the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not enough to wage, much less win, the war. Not even P10 billion that the Arroyo regime cannot afford will win it.
• Arroyo is using the wrong tools to win the war. It is the civilian component -- the political tools of development -- that will win the fight. The military and the police are just components of the overall strategy that works.
FVR went on to warn the Arroyo regime about its foolish knee-jerk, foot-in-mouth gaffs in creating unrealistic expectations (like an end to the insurgency in two years) that do not conform with real conditions and government capability -- just to get the sound bytes on television and headlines on newspapers.
Very good, I must say. I can only agree with everything that FVR stated in his position paper. I myself commented with similar points in a previous column.
But the question that I must now ask FVR is: Why is he still hitching his star to a falling star like arroyo?
FVR knows that it is not just the insurgency policy of Madame Arroyo that is defective. He knows that this country is barely afloat, with hardly a long-term viable solution to the problems of Philippine society, the Philippine economy and the failed Philippine political system. He knows that Charter change under people like Gloria Arroyo is for naught but a mere prolonging of the elite monopoly of economic and political power, which means a further widening of the wealth gap that is pushing us ever closer toward a social explosion.
FVR, I’m sure, realizes that jobs in Spain and other countries for overseas Filipino workers, which Madame Arroyo tries to trumpet, and all the new call centers that are sprouting in the Philippines are not the real solutions to our poverty problem. The poorest of our poor -- those who are classified as Class E in the socioeconomic ladder of society -- do not qualify for overseas or call center jobs. They do not have the skills needed to land a job abroad or in a call center.
It would be untypical of FVR not to realize that he made his place in history by junking a dictatorship in 1986. Go figure how he now feels being stuck with one who has just about mimicked Marcos as an autocrat, 20 years hence, in 2006! What does that do now to FVR’s place in history? Surely that must be giving FVR sleepless nights.
Unfortunately for FVR, the sad and tragic turn of events for the Arroyo regime is placing him in the most difficult position of choosing between being part of a falling regime and losing his very place in history. Removing vested interests from the equation, the choice should be quite easy to make for FVR: There is no point in sticking to a falling, discredited regime that is just waiting for the right confluence of events to cause its demise.
If FVR recognized the imminent fall of the Marcos regime in February 1986, he can only be senile for not recognizing now the imminent eclipse of the Arroyo regime. Gloria Arroyo’s pretension of being a legitimate president cannot avoid collapsing under the weight of her regime’s sins. FVR must sense that there is no real future or net gain for him in propping up a horribly failed regime and a despised one at that.
So what keeps FVR with Madame Arroyo? Is the hero of 1986 so suddenly devoid of all insight and moral courage to make the right move now? Is FVR now plagued with the fat cat syndrome that he can no longer attempt the dashing and the momentous?
Or maybe Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has the goods on FVR, just as Joseph Estrada sounded like he had the goods on his predecessor, to be able to control President Eddie’s behavior? How else can we explain how Madame Arroyo manages to tame FVR like a cuddly home cat a day after he rants and roars against her regime?
The nation is watching and waiting, President Eddie.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org