The defeat of the impeachment complaint against Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo highlights and validates the essential role of the mass movement, otherwise known as the Parliament of the Streets, and the imperative of another people power uprising to remove the current regime from power.
When the “Garci tapes” were exposed followed by Mrs. Arroyo’s “I am sorry” speech, the calls for her resignation reverberated and were underscored by the protest rallies in the thousands.
By July 8, the calls for GMA to resign reached a crescendo when the “Hyatt 10” top government officials, Senate President Drilon and the Liberal Party, former President Corazon Aquino, and the Makati Business Club all called for her to step down in a seemingly orchestrated manner.
To top it all, the ambivalent statement of the AFP Chief of Staff about the military remaining neutral (he could have given a more categorical declaration of loyalty to the Commander-in-chief) and the unabashedly admiring comments by the US Embassy charge d’affairs for the Hyatt 10 further indicated a significant crack in the President’s pillars of support.
It looked like the beginning of the end for Mrs. Arroyo. It seemed that it would not need another “messy” people power exercise after all to effect regime change.
Those who wished for a smooth transfer of power from Mrs. Arroyo to Vice President Noli de Castro and who peddled the seemingly erudite view that mass protests are a thing of the past, unnecessary and even counter-productive, appeared to be vindicated.
But GMA weathered this serious challenge to her rule with the rescue by former President Fidel V. Ramos and his Lakas-NUCD horde of politicians in Congress and in the local government units (LGUs). They circled the wagons around the beleaguered President and waived “charter change” as the magic formula for resolving the political crisis.
The neither here nor there position of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – Malacanang crowed about how it vindicated Mrs. Arroyo’s decision not to resign while those calling for her resignation pointed to the bishops call for truth and accountability – objectively served to bolster GMA’s hang tough position.
Still the protest marches and rallies grew progressively bigger both by the conscious effort of the militant mass organizations, the Opposition in the legislature and LGUs and the still formidable forces of former President Joseph Estrada as well as the spontaneous participation of the unorganized, proof of the widespread and growing loss of trust and confidence by many Filipinos.
The opening of Congress saw the biggest State-of-the-Nation protest rally after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship with crowds estimated at 60,000 or more. It marked a high point in the mass movement calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster from power.
At the same time, three impeachment complaints were lodged against GMA, only one of which was substantive enough and had the support of an initial 42 congresspersons, 37 short of the 79 needed to impeach her. For the Opposition, it was a risky but bold move to accept the challenge of Mrs. Arroyo to bring calls for her resignation to the test of an impeachment proceeding.
The pro-impeachment solons had hoped that a further worsening of the already volatile political situation would convince more congresspersons to sign the amended impeachment complaint.
At the least, they had hoped that the process would allow the ventilation of the grounds for the impeachment and help draw public attention to the crimes of the Arroyo administration including its suppression of evidence and attempts at a systematic cover-up.
Thus while the impeachment process remained alive and the Opposition appeared to have an outside chance of getting the required 79 signatures, mass actions in the streets entered a period of relative quiescence. Less dramatic forms of protest and education efforts to explain the why, what and how of an impeachment proceeding occupied the time and efforts of various anti-GMA groups including the more militant ones.
It did not take long to prove that Mrs. Arroyo’s challenge to the Opposition to impeach her was, from the beginning, a calculated move to douse cold water on street protests and draw the public, especially the wavering middle forces, to an arena of battle that it dominated if not controlled.
It was also a shrewd move to placate the CBCP, undecided sections of big business, restive groups in the military and police and even Mrs. Arroyo’s own allies who needed convincing that she would survive. It allayed their worst fears that the entire system would come falling down by providing a safe, “constitutional” avenue by which to resolve Arroyo’s worst crisis so far. She would be given a chance to redeem herself or be the sacrificial lamb if she fails in order to preserve the endangered status quo.
The only thing that surprised most everyone is the indecent haste with which the impeachment process was terminated and the undisguised machinations of both Malacanang and the FVR-de Venecia combine to ride roughshod on the so-called constitutional processes of a supposedly independent branch of government.
Thus the birth of the loose alliance called the Bukluran para sa Katotohanan last September 2, upon the initiative of the intrepid de La Salle brothers, which saw the coming together of Ms. Susan Roces and Mrs. Corazon Aquino, the anti-impeachment congressmen and the major anti-GMA organizations and alliances as well as personages, may have been too late to reverse the course of defeat in the uphill struggle to impeach GMA, but it presaged the forging of the broadest alliance so far calling for Mrs. Arroyo to step down.
More ominously for the Arroyo regime, the Bukluran immediately united on a plan to take to the streets in the dying hours of the impeachment proceeding in Congress. For the first time, Mrs. Aquino and Susan Roces marched, braving the dust, heat and inevitable jostling, as the demonstration of varied political hues advanced towards the Batasang Pambansa, providing unequivocal proof that the people’s voice cannot be confined to the arenas of the high and mighty.
Mrs. Arroyo adamantly refuses to heed calls for her resignation and has employed all the dirty, underhanded tricks to defeat the move to impeach her.
Once again, the people’s sovereign will must find expression and cause a regime rejected by the people, to depart unceremoniously -- that is, be ousted – by the power of a people united, gathered at the gates of Malacanang Palace, in overwhelming numbers.
9-10 Sept. 2005