Why is the GMA regime talking about destabilization?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-01-08
What makes top DZXL radio commentator Ely Saludar call the STAR Chair Wrecker at the un-godly hour of 6:15 a.m. just to exchange political analysis live on-air?

I sleep at 2 o’clock in the morning and wake up at 8. Getting roused two hours earlier than my routine can be unsettling. It is even worse when one is awoken at those moments when sleep is deepest, only to be asked to comment on raging political issues before radio listeners of a program broadcast nationally.

But that is exactly what happened last Saturday when my friend and media colleague Ely Saludar asked my views about the STAR front-page banner headline that day (‘Destabilization persists’). The STAR front-page story was the result of separate interviews with AFP Chief General Hermogenes Esperon, DND Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and a speech delivered by DILG Secretary Herr Ronnie Puno before the heads of his department.

Herr Puno warned that the usual suspects are actively promoting another attempt at overthrowing the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime. “The people who seek to divide the country, to destabilize the nation, are not sleeping. They are meeting, they are talking, they are planning a new year full of fireworks beyond Jan. 1.” Herr Puno said.

Echoing Herr Puno, Gen. Esperon further boasts that government will quash any of these so-called coup attempts even swifter than what had been done in previous attempts. “But if they should do it again, I must tell you that the resolution will even be quicker.” He said.

Sec. Teodoro was more circumspect, saying that there is no specific threat at the moment, certainly not in the manner Gen. Esperon and Herr Puno make it sound.

What puzzled Ely Saludar is why all these talks about destabilization are being floated by Puno and Esperon when all that the political players are interested in these days is the 2010 Presidential Elections. A veteran political watcher like Ely rightly spots the odd-man-out in all this and hence sought my insights.

There are threats and there are threats

For sure, there are threats to the GMA regime and these threats will be there for as long as the reasons why they are there are not addressed.

The Garci Tapes issue never found closure and to this day, majority of Filipinos still doubt that GMA was the duly elected president in 2004. It is therefore no surprise that militant Rightist and Leftist groups persist in trying to oust her.

Then there are the poor satisfaction ratings of GMA — the worst among Palace residents since the time of Marcos. Add to this boiling brew such explosive ingredients like the ZTE scandal, the bribery mess and Charter change, if they still foolishly try to railroad it, and you’ll find a regime that does not even need outside help to destabilize itself.

Of course, the rift in the AFP between the senior and junior officers is in itself a big destabilizing factor. This rift first surfaced during the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and has never healed.

Lately, with crude oil prices breaching the dreaded US$100 per barrel, there emerges the big external source of destabilization — the new rounds of upward price spiral of commodities that will add to the already overstretched household budgets of easily 10 million Filipino families.

Then there are those who thrive from threats

But Ely is right — who would be interested to stage a coup at this time, after that failed Peninsula Hotel standoff, and with the 2010 Presidential Election fever heating up?

Ah, now that gets interesting because two of the doomsday prophets of destabilization are also deemed the beneficiaries of the very threat scenarios they warn about — Herr Puno and Gen. Esperon. To be more specific, the more threatened GMA is, the more important Herr Puno and Gen. Esperon become to her.

My favorite Palace Insider and other reliable sources have long been telling me that the generals have mastered the art of making GMA overly reliant on them for her political survival. In fact, they play this calculated game of heightening the perceived threat to her in order to have a better hold on her. Why do you think there are so many retired police and military generals in her cabinet?

Our experience with GMA clearly shows that she is driven by the fear of being ousted and the obsession to stay in power. Knowing how to prey on weaknesses, the smart generals as well as those indulgent secretaries like Raul Gonzalez and Norberto Gonzales have become her valued protectors, much like the Praetorian Guards of the Caesars.

The other angle to consider is the persistent talk about the regime staging a friendly coup in order to stay on beyond 2010. A friendly coup, otherwise known as a counter coup, can only happen if people are made to perceive there is serious threat.

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