7 DECEMBER 2006
(This essay was solicited by i Report, the online magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, for its current series on political predictions. The views expressed in the essays included in this series do not necessarily reflect those of the PCIJ or any of its staff members.)
UNDER ORDINARY times, 2010 is the year
we elect a successor to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the Garci scandal changed
all that. Since then — or because of it — the Arroyo administration quickly
abandoned its reform agenda in favor of short-term survival.
At the start, all Arroyo really wanted was to finish her term up to 2010,
at whatever cost. But along the way, in the course of the usual wheeling
and dealing with allies, adversaries, and power blocks, she discovered
the enormous power of her office, and how it can be used to quell any
attempt to unseat her.
Arroyo employed a whole arsenal of tricks to survive. But there are two
that stand out:
At the start, all Arroyo really wanted was to finish her term up to 2010, at whatever cost. But along the way, in the course of the usual wheeling and dealing with allies, adversaries, and power blocks, she discovered the enormous power of her office, and how it can be used to quell any attempt to unseat her.
Arroyo employed a whole arsenal of tricks to survive. But there are two that stand out:
How can the administration get away with such blatant and willful distortion of the law?
The answer is quite simple: lack of indignation from a citizenry that has grown cynical of government. Even veterans of the two Edsa revolutions are skeptical that another people-power revolt would do the country any good, or that it is even possible.
Many people have simply given up on this country and are too busy securing a nursing degree and a work visa. They could not care less who the president is or will be, or what he or she does or will do — good or bad.
There are many factors contributing to this malaise of national apathy,
but it will require another essay to analyze them. Suffice it to say that
an acquiescent citizenry invites more repressive and punitive measures
from a regime with dictatorial bent. No wonder that it has added in its
arsenal of survival tools the intimidation and terrorizing of its critics.
The unabated killings of journalists and militant leaders under the Arroyo
watch in such short a time puts to shame the Marcos track record. And
whoever is behind these seems to have begun to believe that he or she
can get away with murder.
STILL, SURVEYS show that anti-Arroyo sentiments remain high. This might just translate into an opposition-dominated Congress after the May elections, with enough numbers to impeach her. Thus, the rush to shift to a parliamentary form of government. Because even though Arroyo has survived two impeachment attempts, there's a very real threat that she might not survive a third one in 2007.
Under the guise of pushing for much needed structural reforms, the real motivation is to preempt any future impeachment attempts by: a) not holding local elections to retain the present pro-Arroyo configuration of Congress; b) altering the structure of the legislature; and c) changing the rules on impeachment.
While at it, the administration's supporters realized they might as well lift term limits and pave the way for Arroyo to stay on beyond 2010. If Arroyo succeeds in completing her term until 2010 in spite of the lack of true mandate from the people, she will definitely find a way to perpetuate herself in power beyond 2010.
The bogus People's Initiative is dead, thanks to the ruling with finality by the Supreme Court. The indecent haste and brazenness of the whole exercise shows the extent this administration will go through to advance its agenda. Already, its supporters have unashamedly declared that they will make one final push to alter the constitution through an even more obscene process: Con-Ass, or a Constituent Assembly.
But time is running out on them. And it will soon come to a head in the May 2007 elections. Arroyo will pull out all the stops to prevent the opposition from securing enough seats in Congress to impeach her. Garci-like operations with Bolante-type of funding similar, if not bigger, in magnitude to the 2004 elections will be the game plan.
Civil society has to do no less. First, it must fight tooth and nail against Con-Ass. Second, it must actively participate in the May 2007 elections — campaigning for or against candidates to win enough opposition seats in Congress, as well as guarding the ballot to ensure every vote is counted correctly.
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