Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the most mistrusted president that Filipinos have had to bear with for the last nine years, is set to reap the whirlwind. Facing the end of her disputed term of office and just retribution for all sorts of malfeasance and crimes against the people, she is scheming and maneuvering to maintain her strategic advantage over her enemies (and they are legion) by holding on to power. She is on a collision course with the people’s wrath.
The Machiavellian lesson that Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal of power grabbers has learned is this: so long as she has the generals as her praetorian guards, Congress as her rubber stamp, the Supreme Court to declare her illegal acts legal, the Catholic church hierarchy to give her its blessings or look the other way, and the United States government to certify her regime as friendly and an ally in the fight against “terrorism” thereby assuring her of continuing support – she can get away with almost anything.
The US-backed Arroyo regime and its warlord allies have actually gotten away with murder, mayhem and the surrender of national sovereignty in the name of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. The thieving Arroyo clan members, their cronies and favored foreign entities have gotten away with plundering the nation’s coffers, the economy and the national patrimony leaving a legacy of deepening poverty, maldevelopment and environmental destruction. The overstaying Mrs. Arroyo rode out her worst crisis of legitimacy resulting from her being caught utilizing the Commission on Elections to cheat massively in the 2004 presidential polls.
In the Arroyo clique’s calculations, popularity surveys can go hang; the media can rant all they like. What passes for the political opposition can pose as the country’s saviors as they please; it’s an election year anyway. The people can grumble and swear as long as they don’t march to Malacañang in droves. The New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front constitute the only formidable threat but the military, the police and US military aid will keep them at bay.
Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts have all bases covered or so they think.
What these scoundrels don’t realize is that they are rapidly and surely pushing a broad range of our people to the edge. The overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship and the Estrada presidency happened when people had had enough and saw no other way to end these intolerable regimes except to take direct action. A series of protest demonstrations and mammoth rallies took place non stop culminating in a mass uprising that did not stop short of storming the presidential palace. “People power” was unleashed.
This time around the specter of a failure of elections in the May polls leading to the holdover of Mrs. Arroyo as president looms not just as some political analyst’s conspiracy theory but as a real threat. More and more prominent groups and personalities have stepped forward to declare they are prepared to call for or support people power should the Arroyo regime engineer a failure of elections.
The motives have long been established: impunity, greed, the lust for power. Apart from seeking to protect Mrs. Arroyo from criminal and civil liability for her crimes, the Arroyo clique simply refuses to relinquish the unsurpassed economic and political advantage for her faction of the ruling elite that nine fortuitous years have made possible.
Mrs. Arroyo has an unbroken track record of deceitfulness. Most notably, she promised that she would no longer run for president in 2004 to obviate political divisiveness but she ran anyway and cheated her way to victory to boot. She also has unceasingly tried but failed so far to have her stay in office extended by changing the Philippine Charter through various schemes.
So no one believes her and in fact automatically thinks the opposite when Mrs. Arroyo’s spokespersons and even the First Gentleman (sic) swear that she is stepping down in June and is preparing the way for a peaceful transfer of power.
More than her words, it is her actions that reveal her true intentions. She runs for a congressional position in her home province (recipient of overly generous government largesse) where she is expected to be a shoo-in winner. The ruling party is observed to be spending more freely for their candidates for Congress (including 6 former Cabinet officials, an assortment of local government officials, and pro-Arroyo pseudo-party list nominees) rather than their presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial slate which is not even complete and consists of survey bottom dwellers. Surely this shows that she is eyeing the House Speakership as her next political platform.
She appoints a known lapdog general to be the head of the armed forces and two others from the same loyalist military academy class of 1978 to key positions, in the process bypassing more senior officers and triggering demoralization in the entire officer corps. Alarm bells are ringing that Mrs. Arroyo is tightening her grip on the military including key branches and units.
She gets a Supreme Court ruling that allows her to choose the next Chief Justice despite a categorical Constitutional prohibition against midnight appointments and overturning well established jurisprudence. Considering her overwhelming hold on the majority of the 15 sitting justices (by this time all are her appointees), her insistence on choosing the next chief justice by May 17 when Chief Justice Puno bows out, reveals a desire to further consolidate her clout over the highest court in the land.
She allows a Comelec that from all indications is in over its head implementing the first-ever automation of national elections to bungle along. Comelec relinquishes to the foreign company Smartmatic the determination of crucial technical, logistical and organizational aspects of the work. Meanwhile Comelec hides its incompetence and possibly its sabotage of the elections by dismissing all calls for remedial measures to prevent massive electoral fraud through voter disenfranchisement, automated cheating and failure of elections.
There is no doubt that a failure of elections or any other nefarious scheme to use the electoral exercise to perpetuate Mrs. Arroyo in power will be met by massive people's protest and resistance. Exactly what form it will take, how it will shape up and how long it will take will depend in large measure to the people's preparedness and determination.
To a large extent, the massive protest actions calling for the resignation, if not ouster of the Arroyo regime since 2005 will have helped prepare the people for this. For one thing, it will prove beyond doubt that the elections are not, as many had believed, the best way to boot the Arroyo regime out of power and make it accountable for its crimes.
People power constitutes a convulsion of revulsion. It is a people’s revolt. It may not be enough to usher in sweeping changes as only a social revolution can do, but it is enough to sweep away a despised regime such as that of Mrs. Arroyo. #
*Published in Business World
26-27 March 2010