After mourning for Cory, it's sympathies for Gloria
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-08-06

Chair Wrecker readers may have gotten the impression that this writer cannot say anything favorable about Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). But that is because GMA hardly provided good reasons to write something favorable about her governance.

On the contrary, GMA had either committed so many highly questionable acts or had been linked to the commission of highly questionable acts by her subordinates. It would be the height of partiality to write about the few that she did well and be silent on the many that she did badly.

How can we see ourselves praising her work ethic – her tireless energy for working long hours – when there are all these threats to democracy and human rights violations that are happening during her watch? How can we see ourselves mouthing hosannas to all those GDP growth numbers she had been touting before the sub prime crisis affected the world economy – when we see the worsening poverty around us?

How can we see ourselves providing media lineage to the GMA regime propaganda line and manipulation of the truth when the root cause of poverty in our country is the benighted condition of our masses? If a writer is to be true to his commitment, the sorry state of affairs in the country will take top priority in the choice of subject matter.

But despite all that, I cannot help but feel deep sympathies for GMA at this point of her public service career when she faces the end of her term in 2010 and after the passing of our beloved Cory C. Aquino. GMA finds herself in circumstances – albeit most of it is of her making – that can give her the worst marks of a Philippine president.

No right thinking human being would want to be remembered in the way that GMA now stands to be remembered. In the wake of the international recognition that Cory C. Aquino had been accorded in death, GMA’s image problem worsened. Despite the many mistakes that GMA may have done, I am sure that she seeks a respectable place in history and also wants to feel the affection of her people, even if only a fraction of what we all felt for Cory.

Even before Cory passed away, GMA did admit in her last SONA (State of the Nation Address) that as a president she did not seek popularity. That statement is an admission that she does not stand well in the eyes of her people. Of course, the SWS and Pulse Asia polls show this reality with her negative satisfaction ratings.

Now, in the light of the rekindling of the Cory magic and the internalization by the new generation of what the Spirit of EDSA was all about, GMA faces an even bigger obstacle to gaining the appreciation and understanding of her people for the decisions she had to make during the years she held the presidency.

Kris Aquino found it in her heart to acknowledge the sincerity of the Marcos family in their expression of sympathies but felt differently when it came to GMA. This indicates that there is an obstacle of epic proportions for GMA to gain public understanding, not to mention public affection.

Ferdinand Marcos never recovered from being perceived as hero Ninoy Aquino’s biggest oppressor. How can GMA now avoid being perceived as heroine Cory’s biggest oppressor?

How can GMA now fight a towering figure in history that Cory had become? The paid hacks of the regime that went on a vilification campaign against Cory cannot harm her now. On the contrary, any further attempts will only add to GMA’s woes. Filipinos will never tolerate the desecration of the memory of one who had already been elevated to the rank of national hero, almost to the pedestal of a saint.

How can GMA recover even a semblance of a passable positive image when all the major issues against her – democracy, clean elections, sincerity, human rights, truthfulness and loyalty – all happen to be the very strong points that mark Cory’s greatness?

It would certainly appear that it is now GMA who ought to be singing “The Impossible Dream” which is the song associated with Ninoy Aquino’s tenacity to continue fighting during the darkest moments of the Marcos dictatorship.

However, GMA still enjoys a big advantage over Marcos in how she can still salvage a possible passing mark in history. GMA still has nine months in office to be able to rectify many things. Marcos lost that opportunity when he was overtaken by events on February 25, 1986.

I was invited by GMA in January 1996 to help her become president. She valued my expertise and I agreed to advise her. On November 1997, I resigned after having realized that she will be a president I do not want to be associated with.

I may be considered nowadays a critic of GMA but I am not a personal enemy. She had always been gracious to me and my wife Meyang and I cherish the visit she gave me when I had my kidney transplant seven years ago.

I will now offer GMA this advice. Gloria, you must ensure that we will have clean and honest 2010 elections. You must arrange a graceful and peaceful transition of power like Cory.

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