July 08, 2005

Exit frame

Mene mene tekel upharsin…” ( You have been weighed and found wanting.) Daniel 5:25-28

The writing is on the wall and only the mighty that are blinded by their desperate desire to cling to power fail to see it. The question on most everyone’s mind, if not lips, nowadays is no longer whether President Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo should stay or not but how she will go.

Less than two weeks ago, the debates centered on whether Mrs. Arroyo’s admission that she spoke with COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcellano was a mere lapse in judgement or constituted an impeachable offense. People were being asked whether or not Mrs. Arroyo deserves a second chance to stay in office after her public apology or whether she should resign.

The militant mass organizations of workers, peasants, urban poor, women and youth as well as the progressive organizations of church people, government employees, teachers and other professionals had long ago made up their minds.

They held the Arroyo government responsible for policies that further worsened the impoverishment of the common tao, devastated the economy and saddled it with a gargantuan debt burden, as well as fuelled armed conflicts and aggravated social unrest.

They denounced her for politically repressive policies and for kowtowing to foreign vested interests. Even before the damaging issues of jueteng and electoral fraud had surfaced and provided triggers for the reinvigorated protest movement, the nationalist and democratic forces allied under the banner of BAYAN were calling for an end to the “US backed-Arroyo regime”.

The anti-GMA groups and personalities identified with former President Estrada and diseased presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr, Mrs. Arroyo’s closest rival in the 2004 elections, as well as others in the Opposition revived their charges that Mrs. Arroyo had resorted to massive cheating and thereby, was illegally installed in office. They unequivocally demanded Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster or forced resignation.

But by and large the “middle forces” or those who constitute the middle classes and whose political stance has historically tended to be apolitical if not conservative, except when sufficiently offended or provoked, had not taken a categorical stand one way or the other.

However, in the last week and a half, an avalanche of organizations of students, faculty and even entire universities as well as the hierarchy of various churches and their faithful have called for Mrs. Arroyo to resign.

Lawyers’ groups have also spoken up pointing to the multiple crimes Mrs. Arroyo committed as revealed in the “Hello Garci” tapes. Influential voices such as the Jose W. Diokno Foundation has not minced words and declared that “the issue is grave wrongdoing of the occupant of the highest office in the land” and concluded that Mrs. Arroyo must step down.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, after weeks of silence, issued a pastoral letter that said “forgiveness does not eliminate the search for justice, nor should it block the search for truth.” While falling short of asking Mrs. Arroyo to resign, the letter clearly showed that the Catholic Church leadership in Metro Manila did not buy the apology hook, line and sinker.

More indicative body language is the report that Bishop Rosales and Arroyo ally, Mrs. Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, are set to meet with Vice President Noli de Castro -- to discuss post-Gloria scenarios perhaps?

These rumblings are especially ominous for her administration considering that EDSA II that catapulted her to power is perceived to have had strong middle class backing.

Worse, indications are rife that the military is restless. More and more retired officials are talking about reasons for and actual moves of several groups of officers to withdraw support from their Commander-in-chief. Military intelligence and counter-intelligence men are busy and jumpy despite repeated assurances from officialdom that the armed forces are “solidly behind” the chain of command.

Thus even an Arroyo apologist such as veteran journalist Amando Doronilla was forced to admit that “crisis options boil down to how GMA will go.”

Exit scenarios for Mrs. Arroyo include impeachment, resignation and ouster with different groups and influential personalities favoring one or the other depending on their ideological and political persuasions and/or vested interests.

Some people, notably Big Business and defenders of the status quo who abhor rocking the boat, are understandably concerned about how regime change can take place with the least disruption of government functions, the least political turmoil and the least uncertainty about the line of succession. Thus, despite the fact that at this point the continued rule of Mrs. Arroyo is proving to be the biggest destabilizing factor of Philippine society, these folks are still betting on “the devil they know”.

Fortunately for our country, there is also a growing sense of frustration and a serious questioning about what regime change can and will mean for the vast majority of our poor and oppressed people and for the future of this nation. Will it usher in meaningful and substantial reforms not just in governance but in the entire political, economic and social system that has been exposed to be rotten to the core? Or will a change in government again dash the hopes and dreams of our people the way they were betrayed by the political elite after EDSA I and II?

More on this in the next column.

July 8-9, 2005


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