How GMA walk disputes GMA talk
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-12-23
The Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime has the classic symptoms of split personality disorder — GMA talk is dissociated with her walk.

When the November 29 standoff at the Peninsula Hotel ended, there was much bravado about being ‘firmly in charge’ and ‘enjoying the loyalty of the military chain of command’ by GMA. Most people already recognized this as nothing but another of those predetermined and well-rehearsed sound bites meant to appease her very own fears.

Tell me if these recent acts of the Arroyo regime are acts typical of those who feel secure in power or acts made by those who feel very threatened:

1. Media have been barred from covering the trial of Oakwood officers and those involved in the February 24, 2006 planned withdrawal of support allegedly led by General Danilo Lim. Media have also been barred from interviewing Muntinlupa prisoners without prior clearance from the Justice Department. I don’t recall the Marcos dictatorship imposing such regulations, especially that one covering access to Muntinlupa prisoners.

2. After the Peninsula standoff, GMA had been hyperactive — driven to a frenzy that approximates an electoral fight. They pooh-poohed the Pulse Asia survey on the “Perceived Most Corrupt President” and the latest SWS public dissatisfaction survey findings which gave her a minus 16. Now, GMA’s activities seem directed towards reversing the adverse survey results, as though projecting GMA as ‘closer to the people’ has become the national priority.

3. Even films which depicted strictly political opinions have been banned from cinema exhibition by the lapdog MTRCB despite the fact that these films did not contain seditious elements. Affected were three short films — “A day in the life of Gloria,” “Mendiola” and “Rights.”

4. GMA made a 360-degree turn when she suddenly went against the interest of a very powerful regime ally, San Miguel Corporation Chairman and coalition partner NPC top boss Danding Cojuangco, in order to curry public favor over the disputed Sumilao lands. Currying favor with traditional politicians has been the hallmark of the GMA regime.

5. The Arroyo regime backtracked on the release of convicted child rapist, former Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Romeo Jalosjos. GMA has always displayed a soft spot for Jalosjos, whose political base has been delivering votes for GMA. The Peninsula standoff and disastrous results of the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys made that fondness inexpedient.

6. GMA’s erstwhile reliance on the military under AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has shifted to the Herr Ronnie Puno-led PNP. Doesn’t this coincide with the unusual absence of ‘loyal AFP generals’ during the Peninsula standoff? When under threat by a military action, the GMA regime liked to exhibit their loyal generals like clean shirts in a Tide detergent commercial.

I’ve often wondered just how serious a threat the Peninsula standoff was. The regime’s messy handling of the incident reflects the seriousness of the threat, contrary to the simple-minded assessment of those who dismiss it as just a wild move of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to which the regime had overreacted.

The subsequent actions of the regime indicated a serious rift within the AFP, one that was perhaps manifested a good five weeks before the Peninsula standoff by no less than Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino.

In mid-October, Gen. Dolorfino warned of the danger of a civil war when a new coup is launched — a statement that he could only make if he had personal knowledge of a serious division in the AFP. Otherwise, Gen. Dolorfino would not have dared utter something that directly challenges the Commander-in-Chief’s incessant claims of enjoying the loyalty of the AFP chain of command.

It is quite significant that the Marines are at the center of the 2004 elections Lanao del Sur cheating controversy. They were also involved in the February 24, 2006 planned withdrawal of support as well as the subsequent standoff at Fort Bonifacio. In the December 1989 coup attempt against President Cory Aquino, the Marines sided with the rebel forces that almost toppled the Aquino government.

If choice of the Praetorian Guards have shifted from the AFP to Herr Ronnie Puno’s PNP (as what recent events suggest), that could altogether provide the source for the further deepening of the supposed rifts between the uniformed and armed elements of the GMA regime. Even before these developments, I have heard of an existing rift between the AFP generals and the PNP generals in the GMA cabinet.

Former PNP top officers in the cabinet and sub-cabinet positions are Larry Mendoza, Hermogenes Ebdane, Bobby Lastimoso and Rey Berroya. Their AFP counterparts are Angie Reyes, Thelmo Cunanan, Eddie Ermita, Taghoy Santiago, Benjamin Defensor, Jaime de los Santos and Rey Cimatu. The much talked about but equally denied turf war between Herr Ronnie Puno and Eddie Ermita would seem to be a manifestation of the PNP-AFP intramurals.

During the Cory Aquino years, the threat also came from the ranks of the AFP and this prodded President Aquino to rely more on the PNP. This was the reason why Manila Mayor Fred Lim (then a PNP general) became very close to President Aquino — so much so that Fred became her chosen presidential candidate in 1998.

The tension in the AFP puts GMA in a very awkward position. There is the inclination to extend the term of AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon — a move necessitated by her need to have a trusted man at the helm of a divided AFP. On the other hand, Gen. Esperon is what can be considered damaged goods and is a major part of the problem of the AFP.

To extend Gen. Esperon’s term is to court more problems, add fuel to the fire and strengthen animosities.

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