Monday, June 12, 2006

The silent conspiracy

Here and also here, the thesis advanced in this site points out why People Power has been intently, patiently and wisely on a stakeout over what would become of the government of Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo. It’s been an attempt to explain away the other proposition that People Power has simply worn out (or “fatigued”) itself, thereby losing the potency to inspire.

It may be well to note however that the legitimacy of the Arroyo government morphed into a “regime” status not during the ousting of Estrada by the exercise of people power in 2001, but at the constitutionally mandated canvass in Congress of the votes cast in the presidential election of May 2004. Many Filipinos still believe the canvass was crudely handled by Arroyo’s allies which command overwhelming majority in Congress to proclaim her the elected president.

No sooner than the outing of the “Garci tapes” the embryonic phantom of illicitness quickly turned into a fuller life form; ever since, Arroyo has been on a survival mode. But the outcome of her impeachment, haphazardly utilized by her fragmented political adversaries, has afforded her instead some essential gasping respite as she manages quite skillfully to stay afloat in a sea of political uncertainty.

The question remains thus: Is People Power just being watchful over the way the political lifeboat of Arroyo is behaving or is it actively contemplating ways to “rock the boat”?

To be sure, there exits institutional resistance even to a “regime change,” not to speak of some larger or systemic transformation. The mindset of the middle class is one such source of resistance. What amounts for example as the naivete “let’s move on” call of Bong Austero, exploited in many ways by the status quo defenders, has been seen by some quarters to be a pushback or a copout from any meaningful change in Philippine society, the perception being that it was more in keeping with the let’s-sweep-the-dirt-under-the-rug mentality.

In hindsight, maybe it should be recalled that Cory Aquino and her largely middle class adherents have not been so expected to act as genuine transformational, much less revolutionary, agents. While People Power I was beyond doubt successful in its bid for a regime change - the termination of Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of pre-martial law democracy - Cory also served as a “stabilizing” agent, the right persona at the time to preserve the status quo, instituting only perimetric changes in the process. Be that as it may, her lasting legacy to the Filipinos is the 1987 Charter which has laid the constitutional groundwork for People Power.

If Cory Aquino had been an unwilling housewife shoved into the larger-than-life shoes of her martyred spouse, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was an accidental rebel whose uncomplimentary branding as such was graciously sugar-coated by a calculating Supreme Court upon conveniently invoking the constitutional provisions on succession. The Court has decided to interpret the confluence of events surrounding People Power II as leading to Estrada’s “constructive resignation” in the constitutional sense. But People Power II attaining no more than “personnel change” was certainly of lesser substantive dimension than the first uprising. To the status quo beneficiaries, as well as defenders like Austero and others of his kind, Arroyo notwithstanding her “flaws” is still a safer bet for stability.

Arroyo’s staying power is comparable in reverse to the surge to victory of erstwhile president Alan Garcia during the recently held presidential runoff election in Peru. The former Peruvian leader overcame a sizeable lead of nationalist and populist Ollanta Humala by his better reading of the middle class mindset. Garcia, who had already let down Peru by disastrously governing the country between 1985 and 1990, portrayed the presidential contest as a choice between American imperialism and Venezuelan interventionism (Humala having allied his political and economic agendas with the “Bolivarian revolution” of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez). Peruvians voted for stability by keeping the status quo and returned Garcia to power, his notorious record of failure notwithstanding.

A very noteworthy commenter in Pinoy political blogosphere (he posts by his initials cvj) has seen similar writing on the wall. He is one serious commenter who has fervently differed from the stance articulated by Austero that has caught the fancy of the “silenced” middle. The Filipino middle class was once at the center of the two uprisings, but cvj believes that “by foolishly casting its lot with Arroyo, (it) becomes complicit with her failings.” The indictment sounds more like conspiracy by silence.

3 Comments:

Blogger Isabella said...

Faded Glory

"Democracy Put To The Ultimate Test" was the article carried by the editorial in “The Nation”—a Thai newspaper—last 21 March 2006. It was at the height of the political crisis in Thailand that involved Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The editorial opined that “Thaksin has brought the country to the brink of a crisis that cannot be defused with a compromise. Nothing short of his departure—forced or voluntary—can prevent society from sliding into what many fear will be anarchy.”

It is difficult not to make a comparison with the on-going political crisis in the Philippines involving President Gloria Arroyo. After the “Hello Garci” scandal a year ago, she has shifted all her energies in fighting for her political survival. In the process, Arroyo managed to pull down the Philippines to such low levels. The country of almost 90 million is pretty much in a precarious situation. Although Arroyo’s survival methods are keeping her afloat, it is costing her. Since the scandal broke out last 05 June 2006, Arroyo’s popularity ratings have plunged; in its March 2006 survey, the Social Weather Station (SWS) revealed that 54% are not satisfied with Arroyo’s performance—the lowest rating ever for any sitting Philippine president. For the moment, it seems that governing is “on hold” until Arroyo is able to get her balance. It is unlikely to happen in the near future, though.

The eerie silence coming from most Filipinos is interestingly dangerous. No critical mass in the streets—unlike EDSA 1, or even EDSA 2 and EDSA 3. Neither the opposition nor the pro-administration politicians can say with certainty what majority of the people want to do, or will do for that matter. Then again based on the SWS survey, 48% subscribe to “the idea that removing” Arroyo “by people power would be good for the country.” On the other hand, Arroyo and her minions have mentioned on many occasions that “the people are tired of going to the streets. They want to forget about politics and just move on.” What makes sense, however, is that majority of the people do “…want to forget about politics and move on”, but not with Arroyo at the helm.

Arroyo has not been able to resolve the political turmoil and take her people to the “Strong Republic” she had once promised in her 2005 State of the Nation address. The petite Philippine president has not accepted the option of one reality, though. Arroyo is the problem—which many see her to be. Until Arroyo, and even the Filipino people, comes to term with the truth, the Philippines will continue to sail in unchartered waters. Yet, one can almost picture how things will turn out to be, just by listening closely to the whispers.

June 13, 2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger cvj said...

Thanks for the kind words. Currently, the Filipino 'middle' seems to have appointed itself vanguard to all sorts of self-serving, ill-thought and ultimately counterproductive ideas as encapsulated in the buzzwords "let's move on", "making government irrelevant", "revolution of the silent" and the like. It also seems stuck in a time warp as far as the Red Scare is concerned. How did it allow itself to fall into such a sorry intellectual state?

June 13, 2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger manuelbuencamino said...

The thing that the Bong Austero types refuse to see is that Arroyo herself is the cause of instability because the issue against her is legitimacy. Unless that is resolved there will be no stability.

You cannot build a solid structure on a shaky foundation.

Stability will come with legitimacy and not by simply moving on.

June 17, 2006 5:56 AM  

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