It's all about credibility, stupid!
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-11-20
Bill Clinton scored the critical sound byte during the 1992 US presidential race when he told off the senior George Bush that "It's the economy, stupid."

Now this former American president will be doing his old diminutive classmate in Georgetown University, Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), a big favor if he advised her in a similar tack that "it's all about credibility, stupid!"

Ignoring public doubts about her legitimacy, GMA's political survival is now hanging by a thread. She cannot even draw on any instance when something she’s said was believed as plain and simple truth, the kind that was not manipulated or had been intended to manipulate.

In politics, credibility is everything. The might of an armed force may help for a short while, but eventually, a ruler bereft of credibility loses control.

When Dictator Ferdinand Marcos lost his credibility in 1986, he also lost his grip on his comparatively more pampered men in uniform when the people demanded change. There was only one coup attempt that was launched against Marcos in all the 14 years of martial law and it triggered People Power and led to his ouster.

In contrast, Cory Aquino survived six serious coup attempts, with the coups of 1987 and 1989 being quite violent and bloody, but she survived all these. Throughout her troubled six years in Malacañang, Cory Aquino never lost her credibility.

Public cynicism over the official explanations for the recent explosions in Glorietta 2 and Batasan reveals the seriousness of the Arroyo regime's credibility crisis.

The most popular suspect for the Glorietta 2 explosion was the Arroyo regime itself. Only a few bought the official explanation that pointed to a massive methane gas leak as the likely culprit.

In the Batasan bombing, even evidence supporting police findings failed to convince a lot of people who still believed that all these were but attempts to cover up the real story.

A bad ruler who doesn't have credibility invites ouster. A serious credibility problem is like a boxer who opens his chin to a hard hitting opponent.

Recent events and GMA’s latest Pulse Asia survey ratings may have tempted Joseph "Erap" Estrada to reconsider his pledge to no longer run for public office (the presidency for all intents and purposes). Last Saturday, Estrada announced before a Laguna crowd that he may just consider running again.

Less than a month ago, on the day he was released, Estrada vowed that his political career has ended, as stated in his pardon. Now, Estrada has been moving around as though on the campaign trail.

A nebulous provision on the ban on re-election can open the way for Estrada to run again. The Constitution bans a president from seeking re-election and that implies a prohibition on an incumbent from succeeding himself. However, the law is unclear about whether a former president can run again after another president has served.

GMA pardoned Estrada thinking that this will buy her peace and remove the one threat who could muster a mammoth crowd and remove her with People Power. Estrada commands the underserved loyalty of easily 30% of the voters.

I say underserved because Estrada never fulfilled his pledge to make a positive difference for the poor who relied on him for their economic redemption. This is a classic case of what I mention time and again in this space about the information and education gaps that conspire to make the poor helpless against exploitation.

Instead of neutralizing Estrada, GMA has allowed him to move around freely, and in the process, end up campaigning against her. An Estrada serving his sentence would have drawn sympathy but would be less threatening than an Estrada ubiquitously perpetrating his myth, one that draws further strength from GMA's hollow credibility.

Estrada does not even have to deliver anything. He is not in power and nobody expects him to deliver goodies the way GMA delivers patronage, including those early Christmas shopping bags. All Estrada has to do is maintain visibility and community presence. That way he becomes the logical rallying point of his adoring masses.

Sadly for the Arroyo regime, they do not have any political personality to counter Estrada. Even the leading lights of the not-so-united Opposition pale in comparison to Estrada's command of masa reverence.

It is foolish and unpatriotic to promote an Estrada part II when his part I had been a disgraced presidency. But one can’t blame Estrada should he decide to gun for the 2010 presidency given that all the wannabes in the political horizon are weak and vulnerable.

This is the price that Senators Manny Villar and Mar Roxas now pay for not separating the NP and the LP from the Estrada myth during the last elections. They paid homage to Estrada as their political kingpin and now they are seen as mere Estrada lackeys.

For GMA, pardoning Estrada is her ultimate karma.

  Previous Columns:

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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