Thursday, July 31, 2008

GMA lost her luster but is she a spent force?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) might have been swept to power by radical means but she has proven since day one to be a dyed-in-the-wool incrementalist unwilling to be a transformation agent. And quite unmistakably, if her last State of the Nation Address (SONA) is any indication, she has clung to her brand through the difficult endgame of her political career.

There were, of course, moments of Marcosian delusions as in the SONA 2005 when she painted a picture of a Philippine economy "poised for take off" or delivered the royal punch line of SONA 2007: "From where I sit, I can tell you, a President is always as strong as she wants to be." Today, imagine a diminutive Arroyo brandishing VAT in SONA 2008 as her giant accomplishment, or badge of victory, and still got 104 times of applause while a great mass of the Filipino people is either going hungry or raring to jump the ship of state at the slightest prospect.

But, the true state of the nation based on official government data, according to Dr. Ceilito Habito, former Socio-Economic Planning secretary, shows "declining school enrollment rates, more school dropouts, rising hunger, worsening health, declining peace and order, diminishing hope for the future, and more."

Backtracking momentarily will remind us that within days of the triumphant EDSA II rebellion, GMA did not equivocate to temper the mode of the time by putting everyone on notice that her "administration will resist the temptation to take adventurist initiatives and directions for the sake of appearing to be innovative."

During the formative period of the Arroyo presidency, then still ardently contested by Joseph "Erap" Estrada, the rogue kingpin ousted from Malacañang by EDSA II, she's stuck to her billing quite openly although rather coyly: "I have no grandiose ambition of being great," she pleaded. "I just want to do my work well. I don't want magic. I just want to be 100 percent right - morally right."

The convent-bred reluctant rebel has however lost her La Aunor luster and the "progressives" of the EDSA II coalition, whom she co-opted, when they realized she could neither have, indeed, the audacity to aspire as a charismatic political magician (who could bring about a sea change and make the big and tough decisions to whisk away the long-standing malaise facing the Filipino people) nor the plain moral ascendancy to govern. She naively mislaid the first one by intentional default; the other, by some buried character flaw she preferred to characterize as "lapse in judgment."

If we draw a boxing analogy, the Filipino people, while seemingly magnanimous, if not simply oblivious, of the no-magic rope-a-dope of GMA, have seen for the most part the "Hello, Garci" scandal as a mortal blow sending her flat to the canvas up to the eighth count and, because only of a biased referee obdurately adhering to sheer technicality, she was saved by the bell. Since then, she's been on the survival mode in the remaining few rounds. And as the dramatics of SONA 2008 indicates, she seems tiring but comfortably backpedaling and dancing around although no one is really actively pursuing her in the ring.

The probing questions then are:
Why has Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gone the distance delivering her eighth SONA and not her defense (while in the dock for various misconducts in office and breaches of public trust that make Erap, her convicted predecessor, look like a petty plunderer)?

Is Arroyo really a spent force or in fact the force to be reckoned with, the sought-after "golden girl" in yet another mega bout?

She may not be a magician, but what is the secret formula of her staying power?


Blogger tiburshock said...

how can "GMA lost her luster" when did not have any to begin with.

i was told by some of my friends who decided to stay in edsa shrine while most of us marched in to malacañang that when she was taking her oath, people were heckling here. in fact people booed here even when she first went to the shrine.

everybody knew then what she was all about, its just that many people gave her the benefit of the doubt because they thought she was a lesser evil.

in retrospect, it would seem to me that sanlakas was right. it should have been a resign all movement.

August 01, 2008 6:58 AM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

tibur, thanks for dropping by.

Interestingly, I’ve kind of struggled giving this piece the right title (I changed it more than once) but I was hoping what I’ve finally settled on (which I wanted to be catchy) would be explained in the body which obviously qualified it, i.e., that GMA “lost her La Aunor luster,” not any luster, if any. Remember now that she was also packaged as a Nora Aunor look-alike to give her some mass appeal, which I supposed had worked well during her early political campaigns.

August 01, 2008 1:53 PM  
Blogger PatricioMangubat said...

Very perceptive and highly entertaining blog, Abe. Tiburshock was right. I was also there at EDSA shrine and people were booing her. I think this taught us a lesson--never settle for the lesser evil. If we do, we're bound to get the same or even worst level of evil. I'll post an entry at and discuss this one.

August 01, 2008 9:35 PM  
Anonymous anonymo us said...

in mlq3's site, someone said "... silent majority" as answer to the question :
She may not be a magician, but what is the secret formula of her staying power?

August 02, 2008 8:44 PM  
Anonymous anonymo us said...

Scary, isn't it? Because if majority supports her, then same majority may make happen GMA-in-Malacanang past 2010.

In my opinion, though, this (GMA-post-2010) is not going to happen. Reason : the silent majority 's respect for the constitution and rule of law. We must not forget that the majority kept ignoring Satur Ocampo and the black&white's calling for storming of the Malacanang gates, so it is unlikely the majority will "twist" the constitution where GMA remains in Malacanang in 2011.

August 02, 2008 8:48 PM  
Blogger tiburshock said...

i remember her posters when she ran for the senate she was more photogenic back then. sumasayaw pa ng ballroom.

they really tried to project her as similar to nora aunor. its a good thing i was too young to vote kun diri baka ibinoto ko man iya.

"silent majority supports the constitution" i don't know about that. the fact is, majority just really don't care who is now in power. they are voting with thier feet and are trying to leave the country by all means necessary.

they dont see anyhope. not only in the near future but forever. that is why they all want a migrant status. wala na silang intention na bumalik pa kung mapepwede lang. that is why most would prefer to go to eurupe , canada, us.

interestingly, i am sharing a boarding house with one local governemtn accountant, an assistant to a vice mayor, an accountant from COA, and a municipal kagawad. they all complain but at the same time bilib na bilib sila kay gloria.

bulgaran na pag nag uusapusap tunkol sa corruption

one time when we were eating dinner together. kagawad was shared to us that people in mindanao were already gearing up for the next election and then she asked us point blank kung magkano daw ang bentahan ng boto sa amin sa bikol. sabi naman 200 para sa mayor - mura daw sa amin..

August 03, 2008 4:43 AM  
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