January 13, 2006

Games of the elite

“But the empress has no new clothes!” would be the wide-eyed declaration of an innocent child who sees things as they are and would simply say so as well. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, aka Philippine President, but to a majority of Filipinos, a usurper who refuses to step down from power, is our own petulant version of the Empress. (Our apologies to Hans Christian Andersen for taking liberties with the gender of his fairy tale’s male protagonist.)

People are tired of Mrs. Arroyo and the old, unresolved issues and scandals that continue to swirl around her. No one really believes the pretense of a new beginning -- a “reformed” political system through charter change highlighted by grateful, overstaying politicians; a reshuffled Cabinet of uninspiring and, to some, disgusting loyalists; more promises of an economic take-off when it is not at all clear how this can happen; a 35 billion-peso worth of new year’s dole out to the poor who NEDA officials cannot seem to find, ad nauseam.

What’s new, or at least is newly entertaining, is the game called “chacha” that former President Fidel V. Ramos and Mrs. Arroyo are playing against each other when before they seemed to be on the same side. Problem is, the two have each their own versions. GMA’s version sees her staying on till 2010 and beyond while FVR’s bright idea was a “graceful exit” by 2007.

The GMA-handpicked constitutional commission finally gave prima facie evidence of what the GMA clique intends when the recommendation for scrapping the 2007 national elections surfaced. Nothing like a good, old fashioned bribe of extended terms to get the honorable ladies and gentlemen of Congress to back Mrs. Arroyo’s version of “chacha”.

Too bad for Mrs. Arroyo, FVR has been there and back. He’s been playing the “chacha” game since 1997 for the same opportunist reasons of wanting to stay in power longer than he ought or far longer than the people would tolerate. FVR can see right through Mrs. Arroyo’s moves that she is hell bent on staying on in Malacañang despite their little modus vivendi that saved the day for her last July 8.

So is he or isn’t he – still on GMA’s side, that is. Considering that FVR has managed to foist himself in the public’s mind as the purported tipping point who can make or break Mrs. Arroyo’s tenuous hold on the presidency, his moves and feints and her reactions can hog the headlines and op-ed pages for some time to come.

But Mr. Ramos, ever the psywar expert, is playing coy. Yes, he is and yet, he isn’t.

And Malacañang, replete with FVR men crowding each other in the GMA inner circle, are saying they believe him but they are watching Mrs. Arroyo’s back.

What is clear is that neither side trusts each other anymore (maybe they never did) and are surely making their moves for the anticipated break up in their alliance of convenience.

The anti-GMA Opposition is in the game too, whether they like it or not. Senate President Franklin Drilon (and likely Mrs. Corazon Aquino) would just love to have FVR on the same side all over again. After all, with Cardinal Sin gone and FVR officially a GMA supporter, the elite formula for high jacking “people power” from the people for the ends of the defenders of the status quo, has been lacking in crucial elements.

The Cory-Drilon-Black and White scenario: the President and Vice-President out of the way (How? Maybe FVR and shadowy figures will see to that.); Mr. Drilon takes over as constitutional successor then presides over special elections; the political elite are back to the old game of jockeying for the topmost position in the land and the bureaucratic largesse that goes with it.

Apparently this takes care of the messy post “people power” uprising scenario that raises undue expectations from the masses (and is problematic legally too if we go by convoluted Supreme Court decisions pertaining to the Cory and GMA take-overs) and neatly sidelines the pesky Leftists, their followers and allies and their radical reform agenda.

After seeming to bite, the Erap camp appears to have gotten hold of its senses, jarred by the condescending words coming from FVR himself, their supposed prospective ally. Mr. Estrada must grasp the point that the FVR-Cory-Erap triumvirate being dangled at him isn’t premised on equal standing and common interests but merely on using his remaining influence over the masa and his resources to get Mrs. Arroyo out of the way so that their elite alliance can take over.

And where do the masses and the real middle forces (that is, the middle class and not the anti-Arroyo rich pretending to be poor) fit in all this? The anniversary of EDSA 2 is fast approaching. Is there still a meaningful way of marking the day that “people power” was roused a second time to oust a regime deemed oppressive and unworthy of the people’s mandate?

Firstly, let January 20 be the opening salvo of the people’s movement rejecting “chacha”, both the GMA and FVR versions, but most especially Mrs. Arroyo’s ill-disguised scheme to tiresomely go on and on.

Secondly, let us make it clear that the deadly games being played by the different factions of the political elite, in and out of power, can no longer be the deciding factor in a regime change that the people will support through massive protests and the moral imprimatur that are both indispensable for success.

This time around, the people cannot and will not allow themselves to be used.

13-14 January 2006


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