Neither of those presentations will go down as stirring moments of presidential greatness. Political allies initially supportive of the president have since distanced themselves or turned against Mrs. Arroyo. The mildest possible message that's emerging - one which the Palace is trying to cloud by blaming Estrada and the media - is that the President must be hiding something, which strongly suggests she's guilty.
The administration refuses to consider that the wiretap scandal has crippled Mrs. Arroyo so seriously that few people now expect her to last the five more years she has left. Many are betting she can't even last the next few months. The government is spending all of its resources and political capital to hanging on and trying to convince itself it's still in command of the situation.
What's ominous is how far this administration is willing to go before it collapses. Like some desperate Roman emperor, Mrs. Arroyo is handing out largesse to buy the loyalty of local politicians, trying to raise the provinces against Manila. It's a gambit that will not be forgotten.
And while the administration limps, the radicals gather strength. Because the so-called "middle forces" have tuned out of the issue, and the Church has refused to condemn the President, the field has been abandoned to a coalition of Estrada loyalists, radicals and urban poor. It's a dangerous combination. The urban poor have yet to exert the strength they derive from their numbers. An example of what this rabble without a cause can do was shown in May 2001, when (egged on by Estrada leaders) they violently assaulted Malacañang Palace.
With each demonstration they mount calling for Mrs. Arroyo's resignation, their awareness of their power will grow, as will their organizational skills. And the party that will be the most alarmed by this will be the military. In effect, President Arroyo and her street foes are actually cooperating in taking this crisis down dark, unknown directions. If the crisis isn't solved constitutionally then the men in fatigues will step in.
No doubt the paralysis of the middle forces arises not just from exhaustion but also from a refusal to believe they could have so misjudged the person they replaced Joseph Estrada with. If what they got was a lying, cheating Gloria, then what was Edsa II all about?
It's certainly true that the country is cursed with a pack of lying, thieving politicians who probably all cheat. It's also true that forcing Mrs. Arroyo to resign will not solve the country's problems. At the moment though, she is the biggest problem the country faces, a lightning rod for strong and unpredictable forces. Rather than weather the storm, Mrs. Arroyo is sowing the wind. She will reap the whirlwind.