How GMA can provide for her graceful exit
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-06-07
Last week, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) finally acknowledged that the Opposition had won the national elections. She even offered an assurance that the Opposition’s victory will not derail recent economic gains.

As if on cue, Executive Secretary Eddie Ermita also encouraged all sectors to respect the will of the people. Perhaps, Eddie Ermita should advise this to his own son so that the duly elected vice-governor of Batangas can finally be proclaimed.

As if also on cue, Comelec (Commission on Elections) Chairman Ben Abalos suddenly became very impartial and reasonable. He dismissed the vote canvassing in Maguindanao for producing statistically improbable zero votes for all senatorial candidates of the Opposition.

All these gestures of accommodation followed news that more witnesses to flagrant cheating in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sulu and Maguindanao wanted to speak out. In the past, no one had dared disclose any irregularities in these ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) provinces for fear of deadly reprisals.

My ever-reliable informer from the Palace told me that these witnesses willingly came forward only because they received credible assurance that they will be protected.

Needless to say, these witnesses know fully well that the likes of the Opposition’s Ping Lacson, Antonio Trillanes IV or Joseph Estrada cannot provide a guarantee against deadly reprisals. Lacson no longer commands the PNP (Philippine National Police) while Trillanes and Estrada are both under detention.

I am led to believe that knowing who this protector is — influenced the sudden turnaround of the Arroyo regime, prodding it to acknowledge the Opposition senate victory. The regime must have realized that this protector also has the capability to engineer bigger and “more uncomfortable” things.

It’s been two years since the revelation of the Garci Tapes. Undoubtedly, these must have been two very tense and agonizing years for GMA. Having lived through the trauma of suffering for sins committed in the name of survival, GMA must now focus on how to engineer a graceful exit. She must formulate a turnover mechanism sans dangerous repercussions for her and her family.

By now, GMA must have realized just how strong the anti-administration sentiment is. Lacking in money and organization, even Genuine Opposition (GO) campaign manager Serge Osmeña doubted if they could win more than six senate seats. The senate vote was more of a vote against GMA rather than a vote for the Opposition.

The election of Trillanes is the best measure of what the people are willing to do in order to attain change. An astute politician like GMA will recognize that the current national ferment is very fertile ground for inciting to a more harsh and severe mode of change. That is something she would want to prevent and all right thinking Filipinos would certainly want to also avoid such recourses that are pregnant with unforeseeable perilous consequences.

GMA should now focus on providing a framework for a peaceful transition in 2010, one that eliminates threats to herself and her family. I’ve already suggested this in my April 24 column — “Gloria must now consider her egress scenario” — but, somehow, this is better appreciated in the light of the Opposition’s senate victory.

GMA should consider doing the following:

1. Stop all attempts at initiating Charter change (Chacha). Chacha has proved to be incendiary and very unpopular. It will only be seen as a means to remain in power and its parliamentary feature will be perceived as an attempt to steal the right of Filipinos to choose their country’s chief executive in 2010.

2. Replace all cabinet members who have been identified with the enforcement of unlawful, highhanded and outright partisan acts that mocked our democracy. These include Raul Gonzalez, Norberto Gonzales, Hermogenes Ebdane, and Ronnie Puno. She should also ask the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, to opt for retirement.

3. Being all her appointees, convince the current crop of Comelec Commissioners to resign as a gesture of providing the framework for electoral reform. Then in consultation with multi-sectoral groups, appoint a credible crop of Comelec Commissioners whose first tasks will be to computerize elections and remove all rascals in the poll body.

If GMA succeeds in enacting these three measures, she will be able to convince her political enemies that she is intent on leaving Malacañang Palace in 2010. Presidential contenders like Mar Roxas, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda and Dick Gordon will be inclined to allow her a graceful exit as this also ensures that they will have a good Comelec and a secured democratic space in 2010 on which to launch their respective bids for the presidency.

This way, GMA can get cooperation to reinforce the economic gains on which she can then anchor her last days in power. Revamping the Comelec will also help dissipate the dark clouds that Garci had cast over her tenure.

A smooth turnover of power allows GMA to salvage her image and maybe even win a favorable verdict of history.

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