Pack your bags, Gloria

Sat, 06/18/2005 - 00:00
page 1

Perhaps President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can't take a hint. The most respected and credible members of her cabinet have abandoned her and want her to resign; the Makati Business Club has asked that she step down; Cory Aquino twice called on her to relinquish her post. Demonstrations against her are increasing and show no signs of abating, opinion polls show her credibility in the negatives and political allies are turning against her. There's even a website that's been set up called gmaresignnow.com

Might there be something about the word "quit" that Mrs. Arroyo doesn't understand?

She maintains that if there's a case against her, it should be done Arroyo strategists might want to consult recent history in Central America and Eastern Europe, which shows that besieged governments that stubbornly cling to power tend to fall the same way, firing off defiant, blustering broadsides just before they suddenly capsize.constitutionally, through impeachment. Here's a quote for her: "Snap elections are unconstitutional, while impeachment is a long process." Who dared say this? Why, it was somebody named Gloria Arroyo - back in 2000 when she was vice-president and demanding that Joseph Estrada resign.

In the purely expedient world the President and her advisers apparently inhabit, nothing matters now except appearances. A pro-Arroyo rally that musters 120,000 people - most of them members of the El Shaddai cult, clients and employees of the loyalist Manila mayor or bussed-in province mates of Mrs. Arroyo -- is seen as proof of her popularity. The refusal of the Catholic hierarchy to call for her resignation is seen as a tremendous victory. A storm is building and the administration's reading tea leaves to check the weather.

To confuse the public, Arroyo allies last week released an alleged wiretap of Joseph Estrada plotting against the government. A shabby, amateurish production , the second wiretap doesn't invalidate the first, which strongly indicates President Arroyo cheating in last year's elections. Also, Estrada is already safely under custody. The persons in the "Garci" tape are not.

Mrs. Arroyo's spinmeisters have been so busy conjuring the basest , darkest motives for her opponents (the resigned Cabinet secretaries are "traitors", Cory Aquino wants to protect Hacienda Luisita) that they haven't bothered to check how ridiculous their messages play. The smears are only causing irritation among people who are beginning to suspect their President is both a cheat and a liar, and her spouse could be seriously into graft.

Arroyo strategists might want to consult recent history in Central America and Eastern Europe, which shows that besieged governments that stubbornly cling to power tend to fall the same way, firing off defiant, blustering broadsides just before they suddenly capsize. The record also shows all the presidents ousted the last five years were driven to resign rather than impeached.

If for nothing else, Mrs. Arroyo should resign for an amazing display of crisis mismanagement. A chief executive can't even handle a deadly threat to her political career has no business handling the affairs of millions.

The whole wiretap scandal has been bungled from the get-go. In an alternate Universe in another dimension - one where the Philippines has ethical politicians - this is what an alternate Gloria Arroyo might do: if she were innocent, she would immediately and ferociously deny it, demand an investigation to clear her name, sue her accusers and order election commissioner Virgilio Garcilliano interrogated.

If she were guilty she would immediately apologize and resign, possibly making sure her husband is turned over to investigators.

In this Universe, she has done neither. Instead her lackeys stalled, oozed and contorted themselves into fascinating positions in a poorly coordinated and shameful cover-up. It was only after three weeks, when she was driven to a corner, that Mrs. Arroyo offered a televised public apology where she picked nits and offered to "punish" herself by working twice as hard. Her insincerity was so visible in her face that the next time she spoke on TV - a panic reaction to forestall her deserting cabinet secretaries -- she declined to show herself. All that a mystified public heard was her voice, which probably allowed a few of them the opportunity to compare it with that on the "Garci" tape.

Add new comment