Feeding itself with illusions, the administration thinks one way to help solve the crisis is to make over the President's image, trying to project a softer, gentler Gloria who walks along Manila Bay in a frothy cloud of goodwill. Just recently, the Palace finally organized a press conference for Mrs. Arroyo - the first in months - but under strict control: reporters were asked to submit their questions beforehand and only softball questions were actually asked.
It's a grotesque caricature and a transparently insincere attempt. Mrs. Arroyo's default personality, established over the last four years, is that of a no-nonsense impatient executive who, when angry, reportedly throws things at subordinates and hammers her laptop. The kind of manager who's so obsessed with being hands-on, she just had to go and call up a shady election commissioner to (in a manner of speaking) "protect" her votes. It has to be added that Mrs. Arroyo appointed the commissioner despite objections about his integrity.
There are also huge blind spots in Mrs. Arroyo's character. In a press The President's remaining time isn't measurable in years, but in the number of favorable deals she can cut before she exitsconference with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, the Cabinet secretaries who resigned revealed how, when they were still working for Mrs. Arroyo, they would go to the provinces and the main issues that would be raised would be about the corruption of the President's relatives. When they tried to tell her this she turned a deaf ear.
The President's unpopularity isn't a blemish that can be removed with PR cream, it's a sickness unto itself that has crippled her administration. The only reason Mrs. Arroyo has been allowed to stay in Malacañang so far is simply that there's no suitable replacement. Vice-president Noli de Castro is seen as having minimal depth and ability, while the opposition lineup (the names Ping Lacson or Miriam Santiago ring any bells? ) sends shudders down the public's collective spine.
However, the time will soon come when the parties concerned won't care anymore. If an individual can't be found, a committee might do. Whether it comes to power peacefully is the dark question. The floodwaters are rising. If Mrs. Arroyo doesn't accept that she's finished and should be focussing on a way out as well as a transition, those waters could wash the Philippines into unknown directions.
There are a few historical analogies that Mrs. Arroyo's defiant stand recalls. One is Adolf Hitler, trapped in his bunker in April 1945 and with Russian armies closing in, still dreaming of ultimate victory. Another is Napoleon after his disastrous Russian campaign, spurning several generous peace offers from his foes, only coming around when it's too late and the offers are withdrawn. It seems, though, that Mrs. Arroyo is looking at a biblical, not historical consolation -- Lazarus, rising from the dead.
The President's remaining time isn't measurable in years, but in the number of favorable deals she can cut before she exits. She is by no means the worst president this country has ever had. That grisly honor belongs far and away to the monstrous Ferdinand Marcos. However, given how she's behaving Mrs. Arroyo is likely to get honorable mention in any record of infamy.
She has a beautiful view of the future. She will sweep into it majestically, serving in office until her term expires on 2010 at which point she'll step down, happy to be known as someone who fought poverty.
Now if only she could get reality to agree with her.