July 16, 2009

What it takes

The political future of this country continues to defy simplistic and worn-out notions especially about how the festering crisis of legitimacy hounding the Arroyo regime can be quickly resolved. Those placing their hopes in the 2010 elections as the definitive way to end Mrs. Arroyo’s shaky and detested reign have been jolted by Malacanang’s brazen maneuverings to maintain hold on power. The run-up to the 2010 elections is hands down already the most chaotic, riddled with controversy and shrouded with doubt and uncertainty.

There is the last-ditch attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution by utilizing Mrs. Arroyo’s hold on the Lower House of Congress to convene a supposed “constituent assembly” sans Senate participation. The plan includes getting judicial stamp of approval for this political jujitsu from a Supreme Court dominated by Mrs. Arroyo’s appointees and who have time and again proven themselves pliant to her wishes.

The Arroyo clique would then move to shift to a parliamentary system that would allow Mrs. Arroyo, by this time representing her hometown district in Pampanga, to run for Prime Minister. Should she win she would enjoy all the power, perks and privileges of the office including immunity from suit for the multiple crimes of plunder, human rights violations, electoral fraud and treasonous ceding of national sovereignty and patrimony to foreign interests. By the way, the post of prime minister, by nature of the parliamentary system, would have no term limits; theoretically, Mrs. Arroyo could go on ruling this god-forsaken country indefinitely.

Efforts to reform the fraud-ridden electoral process by installing an automated system that would cut short the time for counting, transmitting and consolidating the poll results have only added confusion to an already confusing situation. From the simple idea of speeding things up using computers, it has become increasingly clear that what could actually happen -- with a questionable and even flawed bidding process, a cheating mafia still embedded in the Comelec , and technology only a curiously select few control – is large-scale automated cheating OR a pre-determined failure of elections.

The latest twist has the winning bidder for the automated electoral system or AES inexplicably caught up in what appears to be “irreconcilable differences” not unlike a marriage gone sour even before the honeymoon had started. The withdrawal of the local partner TIM from its joint venture with the Dutch company Smartmatic is another explosive ingredient to the extremely volatile election run-up with just a little more than 10 months to go. The belief is rife that TIM's move is part of a scheme to ensure and strengthen the Arroyo regime's control of the election results.

The various conspiracy theories behind the TIM-Smartmatic break-up; the most recent spate of bombings including, according to the police, intentional duds; fresh rumors of a military coup; and the shrouded but no less ominous threat of a Palace coup via the National Security Adviser’s call for a “transition government” preceding the shift to a parliamentary system as the only way to resolve the political crisis -- are testament to the confusing state of affairs the country is currently embroiled in.

The Arroyo regime is always quick to accuse the entire breadth of the legal opposition of politicking, destabilization, sabotage and worse. We suspect it does so not so much to convince anyone except the most ignorant or naïve but to give the Arroyo loyalists something to defend her with, no matter if they sound like a broken record.

For good reason most people suspect government behind every hitch or problem that crops up. This kind of thinking only shows the extent and degree to which the Arroyo regime has lost its credibility. More so it reveals how the regime has mangled its mandate and responsibility to the people beyond redemption and how its overweening ambition and desperation to stay in power pushes it to bring the ruling system perilously to the brink.

There are those who, fed up with accusations and counter-accusations, hold government and the opposition equally responsible for the deteriorating situation, for seeding doubt and cynicism in the political atmosphere to suit their own sinister and self-serving ends. It is a view that the Arroyo regime at times welcomes, and even deliberately nurtures. For it somehow obscures and glosses over the fact that it is government that is vested with the power and resources to promote national interest and the common good.

There are those who stick their heads in the sand ignoring the dangerous developments taking place. For example, some persist in “Get out and vote!” campaigns seemingly oblivious that at the rate things are going, there may be no elections whatsoever or that only a thoroughly corrupted electoral process would actually take place.

Some, especially presidential wannabes and other candidates for the 2010 elections, have not skipped a beat in their single-minded determination to win, going full blast with their campaign advertisements, provincial sorties and machinery building.

Self-proclaimed “alternative” candidates or putative movements for change and good governance come up with all sorts of seemingly novel approaches to choosing deserving candidates in the 2010 elections without facing the reality of a downright rotten and discredited electoral system that would frustrate any attempt to express and uphold the will, if not the true interests, of the electorate.

What is needed at this time is a concerted, unwavering and focused political campaign to thwart the Arroyo clique’s evil scheme to convene the bogus “constituent assembly”, acquire the Supreme Court’s imprimatur for this, and thus gain the legal leeway to shift to a form of government, including the institution of a transition period, whereby Mrs. Arroyo remains in power.

This requires massive and sustained mobilizations or demonstrations (and the widespread information and educational campaigns that are their sine qua non) up to and including the possibility of a popular, unarmed uprising to oust this criminal gang from the Presidential Palace. The rank and file and junior officers of the military and police must be convinced to refrain from being used to violently suppress such a protest movement. Those in the civilian bureaucracy must be convinced to withdraw their support in various creative ways for this outlaw of a regime. The international community must be convinced that the Oust Arroyo Movement is legitimate, popularly and broadly supported and inevitable -- should Mrs. Arroyo push through with its ill-disguised grab for power.

Nothing short of this monumental display of direct people’s action -- of “people power” -- can stop the Arroyo cabal in its tracks. #

*Published in Business World
2-3 July 2009


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