Fallen EDSA icon
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-02-24
The original EDSA People Power has produced three icons: Cory Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin and Fidel V. Ramos. Jaime Cardinal Sin has joined his Maker while the other two are now former presidents and senior citizens of the post-Marcos era.

It is quite ironic that a beneficiary of another EDSA People Power event — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — would be the unmaking of an EDSA icon and this is none other than Fidel V. Ramos (FVR). While Cory Aquino remains a guiding light of our times, Fidel V. Ramos is now largely seen as irrelevant.

Cory Aquino never trusted Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) but she followed the mandate on Constitutional succession and thus supported Arroyo’s ascendancy to power in January 21, 2001 . Against her personal feelings and reservations, Cory did this out of respect for the 1987 Constitution which was also known as the Cory Constitution.

I was among the first to be recruited by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 1996 when she decided to aspire for the 1998 presidency. Cherry Zapanta, a dear friend who worked in the 1985-86 Cory Media Bureau that I headed, was asked by GMA to arrange the lunch meeting at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati with Doña Eva Macapagal and Mike Arroyo present.

Many of us then feared a Marcos restoration of sorts with the prospect of having Joseph Estrada as president. Having impressively topped the 1995 Senate elections, Gloria was deemed by many as the best option to derail Estrada’s ambitions. Feeling the same way, Teddy Benigno and the rest of the COPA (Council on Philippine Affairs) originals later joined the GMA campaign team.

I then thought of paying Cory a visit to find out how she felt about Gloria’s candidacy. She was very lukewarm. “Don’t you find her too pragmatic?” Cory asked me.

Weeks later, Teddy Benigno, with Pastor “Boy” Saycon and Cory’s brother Peping, went to ask her to endorse Gloria. They had barely warmed their seats when she told them right off the bat (as narrated by the three of them afterwards): “If you came here to ask me to endorse Gloria, I am now telling you that I cannot do that. She is too pragmatic and will do anything to get what she wants.”

This marks the big difference between our two women presidents. Against her personal feelings, Cory Aquino respected the Constitution she fought for and the democratic institutions that she helped restore. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has violated our Constitution and institutions just to serve her personal ends.

If Cory and Cardinal Sin had not pushed for a Constitutional succession during EDSA II, the real movers of that People Power event would have opted for a revolutionary government.

Cory was among the first to move for Gloria’s resignation in the wake of the Garci Tapes expose, citing loss of confidence and moral authority to govern. This was to be the crossroad of history that will establish Cory’s enduring significance against FVR’s waning luster as an EDSA icon.

FVR came to Gloria’s rescue in July 2005 to support her amidst a torrent of calls for her resignation. For some time, we’ve cut FVR some slack and gave him the benefit of the doubt. But after what have happened since July 2005 — we are shocked that FVR still thinks that Gloria is the nation’s best option!

Despite the cheating in the 2004 and again in the 2007 elections, FVR still thinks that Gloria is our best option. Despite the human rights abuses and summary executions that even the UN Representative blames the Gloria regime for, FVR still thinks that Gloria is our best option. Despite the shameless overpricing that dwarfs whatever looting took place under the Marcos dictatorship, FVR still thinks that Gloria is our best option.

Despite the attempts to rule as an autocrat with decrees like PP1017 and other repressive measures, FVR still thinks that Gloria is our best option. Despite the erosion of our democratic institutions, despite the disrespect to him and his ally Joe de Venecia ‑ FVR still thinks that Gloria is our best option.

Has FVR gone mad? Is he senile? Is FVR afraid that skeletons in his closet (other than Baby who has long been out of the closet) will be used against him by the regime that has earned notoriety for ruthlessness and vindictiveness? Is the once cool, brave general of EDSA now cowed in fear by the likes of regime hounds Puno, Gonzalez et al?

Is FVR receiving gift bags like those congressmen seen on television waltzing happily out of the Palace like puppies who have had their juicy steaks plus bones to bring home too?

These are the questions that the people ask — people who were awed by the generalship of Fidel V. Ramos 22 years ago and whose victorious jump in Camp Crame was caught in midair freeze and immortalized as one of the classic images of EDSA.

Has FVR lost sight of the fact that he was an icon of democracy while the woman he still thinks is our best option is the anti-thesis of democracy and the epitome of autocracy?

Has FVR failed to realize that the touted economic boom that Gloria is using to justify her hold to power is hollow, narrow and shallow per his own cabinet Secretary — Cielito Habito? Does FVR not know that the 7.3% GDP is really nothing once you remove OFW remittances?

Gloria cannot claim credit for OFWs who left the country because she could not provide jobs for them at home. She should be faulted, not credited, for the unprecedented high number of migrant workers and its social cost.

Poor FVR — I held him once in high esteem. From his jump of victory 22 years ago, he has sprawled himself on the ground — no longer heroic but pathetic.

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