The key to securing GMA's place in history
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-09-13

Two weeks ago, your Chair Wrecker received a telephone call from an old friend who was with us in 1996 as member of the original Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) for 1998 President campaign team.

After GMA topped the 1995 Senate race, we thought then that she was the best antidote to a looming 1998 Joseph “Erap” Estrada presidency. Many Filipinos feared that Erap’s ascendancy will initiate a reversal of the gains of People Power.

GMA could have beaten Erap if President Fidel V. Ramos endorsed her instead of Joe de Venecia. Given the backing of the Ramos administration’s party machinery, a popular candidate like GMA (popular then but not now) could have spared us the experience of that disastrous Erap regime.

My friend’s telephone call was connected to what I wrote in my August 6 column (“After mourning for Cory, it’s sympathies for GMA”) where I expressed genuine concern over GMA’s place in history. My friend liked that column and he too felt concern over what history will write about GMA.

He wanted to discuss further my views on how GMA can still secure a better place in history, especially since I have been one of her severest critics. He figured that what I would consider as important acts GMA must undertake would be a good barometer of what will deliver a passing grade in history for her.

Despite her tumultuous reign and all that she did, I felt that in her heart of hearts GMA must be seeking a respectable place in history — especially after she saw the national and international appreciation that was expressed for Cory C. Aquino when our former president died.

It is too late in the day for GMA to now seek a similar esteem level as that of Cory but she must aspire for whatever passing grade she might still be able to secure. How she spends her last few months in office will determine if she secures that passing grade in history.

Crucial to GMA’s place in history would be a good 2010 presidential election and a smooth transition of power on June 30, 2010. One of the high points of Cory’s legacy was the peaceful 1992 turnover of power.

How GMA ends her term contributes more to her place in history than how long she managed to stretch her stay in Malacanang Palace. Cory only had six years as president compared to all of 21 years that Ferdinand Marcos held it. But you cannot compare Cory’s illustrious place in history with that of Marcos. Cory is likened to St. Joan of Arc while Marcos is lumped together with history’s unpopular deposed autocrats.

Sincerity being one of the low points of GMA, I told my friend that GMA needs to undertake confidence building with the Filipino people. She could start by doing the following:

1. Call Speaker Prospero Nograles and important administration Congress allies to Malacanang Palace and then announce that she asked them to stop all efforts to push for Charter change until after the new president has taken over.

2. Announce the formation of a transition team that will ensure that the next president can hit the ground running.

3. Present to the nation and those who are running for president an honest to goodness assessment of national priorities which would include full disclosure of the problems.

4. Ensure that the bureaucracy, military and police will remain neutral during the 2010 campaign and elections.

5. Distance herself from the activities of her own political party during the 2010 campaign and elections in order to be above politics and be able to play the bigger role of providing a smooth transition process.

I also told my friend that it will help GMA a lot if she changed her spokespersons. I even mentioned that she should ask Ricardo Saludo to fill that role for the remainder of her term as I think he did the best job among all those who tried to sell the administration to a largely doubting nation.

Daunting as all those confidence building tasks would appear to be — I told my friend that the single most important hurdle GMA must overcome is removing the damning stigma of her being tagged as the antithesis of Cory C. Aquino. GMA must find ways and means to reconcile with Cory — a major political player who made GMA president in 2001.

GMA should learn from the greatly appreciated gesture of Bongbong and Imee Marcos. They did not only visit Cory’s wake — they even endorsed Noynoy’s vying for a higher office.

GMA has an even greater reason to reconcile with Cory. She owed her presidency in 2001 largely through Cory. Cory prevented the majority behind the Joseph Estrada ouster from turning People Power II into a revolutionary government.

To be perceived as the antithesis of Cory is to be perceived as undemocratic, repressive, untruthful, dishonest, and unpatriotic. That is because Cory is the exact opposite of all those negatives.

The big mistake of the GMA regime was to try to tarnish Cory’s image and erode her credibility when Cory asked GMA to resign after the Garci Tapes scandal broke. They even boasted that the Cory Magic was gone and undertook an insidious vilification campaign against Cory — something Cory called the most vicious she ever suffered.

The events of August 1 to 5 exploded on GMA and her demolition team and there is no way now that they can still attempt to undermine Cory’s place in history. On the contrary, GMA’s place in history has been placed under a very heavy, thick black cloud for her being seen as the antithesis of Cory.

Noynoy Aquino has inherited the Cory mantle. If GMA cannot realistically support Noynoy’s 2010 presidential bid, she can at least not put any impediments to it — especially efforts that would constitute underhanded and unfair tactics.

That would be the bare minimum requirement if GMA is to diffuse the perception that she is the antithesis of Cory C. Aquino. That would be the bare minimum requirement if GMA is to salvage a passing grade in history.

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