May 06, 2005

Destabilization, anyone?

The excruciating heat of this summer may have addled the brains of Malacaňang’s bright boys who can’t seem to get their act together in order to dissipate the political heat that threatens to burst into flames and engulf their commander-in-chief as well as torch their privileged asses to a crisp.

For starters, can they please make up their minds whether the threat of “destabilization” is real or imagined? On the one hand there is the PNP and the National Security Adviser pooh-poohing the capacity of any anti-GMA group to topple Mrs. Arroyo from power. Yet last May 1, Labor Day, the layers of container vans, barbed wire and the 16,000-strong police and who knows how many back-up military units barricading Malacaňang said the exact opposite.

Militant workers and their supporters across the country brought home the message that government’s callousness to the plight of working people – no jobs and no alternative sources of income, fixed wages and salaries for the few employed, skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services, high taxes and other impositions, fascist suppression of trade union and other workers’ rights – would spark a rebellion that would shake the government even more. But no one fell for agitation to storm Malacaňang and other government centers in conjunction with supposed coup attempts. The hype about “destabilization” was suspicious both as to the sources and the motives.

Former Defense Secretary, General Fortunato Abat, and his group of retired military and police generals, launched the “Coalition for National Salvation” a day before the Mayday protest rallies calling for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo. Abat vowed to bring about a “revolutionary transition government” through “people power” without saying exactly how the change from the current regime to the new one that they envision would come about.

Abat hinted at a civilian-military junta to replace the Arroyo government when he said the movement "will require the cooperation and coordination of civil society groups, together with military and police establishments." Subsequently, the DOJ secretary flip flopped from sternly warning Abat “not to cross the line” or else face sedition charges to saying he didn’t want to dignify the ranting of an old man.

Apparently Mrs.Arroyo was not so bemused when former ambassador and National Labor Relations Commission chief, Roy Seňeres, was reported to have sought US help to oust her. On two occasions Mrs. Arroyo herself branded Mr. Seňeres a “destabilizer”. He acknowledged meeting with US Ambassador Ricciardone and other high-ranking embassy officials and talked “facts” over coffee such as the “5 million unemployed Filipinos here and the millions of Filipinos who work abroad.” To Mr. Seňeres dumbfounded question “Is that destabilization?” the answer appears to be -- it’s not what you’re talking about but who you’re talking to -- that is unsettling the beleaguered Malacaňang occupant.

Come now three Catholic bishops known both for their advocacy of people’s issues as well as sobriety, together with some patriotic businessmen under the banner of the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, condemning the Arroyo administration for “maintaining an economic system whose topmost priority is to serve foreign interests and completely disregard the welfare of the people”. Bishops Labayen, Iňiguez, and Tobias said in a press conference that “(i)nstead of heeding (the) call for change, the GMA administration is now embarking on a terrorist policy against her own people” and called on the people “to fight for economic and political freedom”.

Again, Malacaňang’s reaction is carrot and stick, including the DOJ secretary’s threat to also file sedition charges against the clergymen, but newspaper reports hint at a growing number of disaffected bishops. Perhaps to mitigate the impact of this development, the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, a known GMA ally, was compelled to issue a disclaimer that the three church leaders were not speaking in behalf of the institution, something none of them had claimed.

What the Arroyo administration has achieved so far is to expose further its growing insecurity and utter lack of capacity nor even a modicum of political will to address the reasons underlying the people’s continuing restiveness, the growing strength of the protest movement in the cities, the vitality of the armed revolution in the countryside as well as the widening clamor for serious reforms in government from even traditionally conservative members of society.

The Arroyo regime’s silence and inaction on, amounting to tacit approval of the wave of murders of leaders and activists of progressive organizations shows its intolerance of criticism and clamor for genuine social change. Its double-standard lenient handling of the Abat challenge and the bishops’ call betrays, on the other hand, its morbid fear of the progressive mass movement swelling into another people power uprising that could entice the civilian and military bureaucracy to shift allegiance and dislodge it from power.

In truth the real causes of the Arroyo regime’s instability and vulnerability to being unceremoniously booted out from Malacaňang lie within -- its own anti-people policies and programs, its reputation for greed and corruption, questions about its legitimacy, its blind obedience to neoliberal economic policy dictates by imperialist multilateral agencies like the IMF-World Bank and WTO, and its campaign of state terror and political repression against its perceived political enemies invoking the so-called US-led “war on terror” and so on.

It is predictable that the political heat on all fronts will soon cause the rotten Arroyo regime to collapse by its own undoing.

May 6-7, 2005


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