November 11, 2007

Lame-duck president

The bogus President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a lame duck president in more ways than one.
Time is running out since she is ineligible to run for another term and is merely left to complete her remaining years in office.

More ominously, there is a real chance she may not last till 2010 as popular discontent with her regime continuously rises; one scandal after another triggers renewed calls for her resignation or ouster from respected quarters; erstwhile allies begin distancing themselves from her failed policies and programs; her ruling coalition breaks up over how her relatives and front men monopolize the opportunities for plunder; and restiveness roils the military and police ranks while the communist-led and the Moro armed revolutionary movements prove themselves resilient and intractable.

Mrs. Arroyo appears to be tough and strong despite the political crises that have battered her regime from the time she took over from ousted President Estrada. In reality, all she is reduced to doing at this point is damage control.

Political fires are breaking out everywhere. Mrs. Arroyo may be able to douse some but not all and not permanently. Before long new conflagrations are set off by seemingly innocuous incidents. Sometimes Malacanang provokes even bigger fires with its damage control measures. Witness the fallout from NBN-ZTE scam followed by the exposure of the bribery that took place, right in Malacanang Palace, of Congressmen and local government officials with hundreds of thousand in cash stuffed into gift bags.

The fake President’s standard line is that she will ignore the “political noise” generated by her enemies, an assortment of ne’er-do-wells, and concentrate on governing, most especially, on improving the economy.

But a vast majority of people are not buying this line because times are getting much harder and for the very poor, getting much more desperate. Two days ago, an 11-year-old girl was reported to have committed suicide by hanging; she was despondent over her family’s extreme poverty. Mrs. Arroyo adds insult to injury whenever she talks of economic gains that are not at all felt by the people who see instead the profligacy, the corruption, and the looting of the national treasury.

Reading between the lines, “governing” means favoring relatives and cronies with juicy contracts; siphoning off presidential intelligence and social amelioration funds to electoral campaigns and for political patronage; agreeing to lopsided agreements like the JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement) that are bound to destroy jobs, cheapen wages, deepen economic backwardness and allow the plunder of the national patrimony and economy by foreign carpetbaggers.

“Governing” means allowing the police to botch the investigation of a highly destructive explosion in the central business district of Makati, by single-mindedly pursuing an “industrial accident” as the cause of the carnage even after compelling evidence, like the presence of trace components of C4 (an explosive exclusively used by the military), had been discovered. Was this unsubstantiated theory by the police a way to divert attention from the possible involvement of military personnel in the blast? The police appear bent on looking for scapegoats like Mrs. Arroyo’s arch enemy, Makati Mayor Binay, and its thorn on the side, the Ayala business interests which fund the Black and White Movement, and ignoring the serious consequences of a cover-up or a perceived cover-up of the Glorietta bombing.

“Governing” means prioritizing debt servicing over social services and turning a blind eye to the continuing decline of the health care and educational systems. “Governing” also means to tax the people to death while promising non-existent “safety nets”.

“Governing” includes entering into morally unconscionable, politically opportunistic and legally untenable deals with the anti-GMA factions of the ruling elite e.g. the Erap pardon. It is buying the loyalty of one’s allies and potential allies with bribe money and perks; cynically flouting constitutional provisions on public officials’ accountability by using the tyranny of numbers to quash impeachment complaints; and undermining the purported system of check and balances of the three branches of government by abusing “executive privilege”.

Reading between the lines, “governing” means pursuing a failed militarist counter-insurgency policy against the revolutionary armed movements, scuttling peace talks and turning a blind eye to widespread human rights violations spawned by Oplan Bantay Laya (Oplan Freedom Watch) against legal activists and their supporters as well as the rural civilian populace.

It also has to do with following the US blindly on its war of terror thereby exacerbating internal armed conflicts and encouraging US military intervention and further political interference in exchange for military aid and political backing.

“Governing”, according to the administration’s doublespeak, is the utter lack of transparency so as to be able to commit wrongdoing with impunity, in order to get away with more wrongdoing.

In truth the Arroyo regime will find it more and more difficult to “govern” this country. For the remaining years of Mrs. Arroyo’s term up to 2010, there will be increasing instability and turmoil. The socio-economic as well as political crisis will worsen. The opposing and basically reactionary political forces will sharpen their knives against each other. The armed revolutionary struggles and the mass protest movements will continue to generate the bases for their validity and the people’s support from the anti-people and anti-national policies of this rotten and indisputably lame duck regime.###

*Published in Business World
9-10 November 2007


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