Two political analysts say that considering her administration’s unpopularity, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may not last through 2005. Disgruntled military elements and Fernando Poe, Jr.’s supporters may conspire to bring her down from power.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo might not last in office through 2005.
This was the observation made by Luis Teodoro, a political analyst for the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), in a Dec. 31 interview with Bulatlat. Another political analyst, Benito Lim, made a similar observation in a subsequent interview.
“There is a lot of opposition to the Macapagal-Arroyo government – from left to right,” said Teodoro, who is also former Dean of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) College of Mass Communication and a columnist of Today.
The observations of Professors Teodoro and Lim are significant in the light of the results of a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) for the fourth quarter of 2004, which reveals a high prevalence of pessimism among Filipinos for the said period.
Half of the respondents surveyed by SWS nationwide said their quality of life worsened from 2003, while only 19 percent said it improved. Of these, only 25 percent expect their quality of life to improve in 2005, while 30 percent expect it to worsen.
Lim, a former political science professor at UP who now teaches Chinese Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, said that Macapagal-Arroyo may be unseated “if she is not able to turn the economy around…and if she doesn’t check graft and corruption.”
The Philippine economy fared badly in 2004, with a fiscal deficit hitting the government and unemployment reaching record highs. Meanwhile, the Philippines, as in 2003, found itself among the world’s most corrupt countries based on a report by the London-based think tank Transparency International.
The SWS survey results further reveal a net optimism of –5 for the same period compared to +6 in August 2004.
“Dominance of pessimism is rare,” noted Iremae D. Labucay of the SWS in an article explaining the survey results, “and previously occurred only in March 2003 (the Iraq war), September/October 2000 (Juetenggate), and in 1984 (post-Aquino assassination).”
March 2003 marked the launching of war against Iraq by the United States; the Sept.-Oct. 2000 “juetenggate” exposed then President Joseph Estrada’s link to illegal gambling and other charges that led to his ouster in January 2001. 1984 was the heightening of the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement that ended in the dictator’s fall in February 1986.
Teodoro attributes Macapagal-Arroyo’s having been able to last in office longer than Estrada to U.S. support.
“On (the issue) of the war on ‘terror,’ Macapagal-Arroyo jumped (into the U.S. camp) at a time when Bush needed to…provide it with a semblance of legitimacy,” Teodoro noted. Macapagal-Arroyo was the first Asian leader to support the U.S.-led anti-“terror” war.
Estrada, Teodoro explained, did not have as much U.S. support. The U.S. perceived him as “just another minor leader of a small country,” Teodoro said.
Estrada signed into law the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges to U.S. military personnel visiting the country for military “exercises.” The agreement was widely opposed by activist groups and nationalists, who viewed it as an impingement on Philippine sovereignty.
However, Estrada never registered clear commitments of support to the U.S. military offensives in the Balkans and Africa under the administration of Bill Clinton.
But Teodoro said Macapagal-Arroyo cannot be complacent even as she enjoys U.S. support. “There is great skepticism in the U.S. about her capacity to survive and protect U.S. interests,” Teodoro noted.
This, he said, is due to her administration’s growing unpopularity. “The U.S. will not go with you if you cannot last,” he pointed out. “If you cannot last, they might as well help you go under.”
Teodoro noted that last July, mass protests had forced Macapagal-Arropyo to pull out Filipino troops deployed to Iraq as part of the U.S.-led international “peace-keeping forces” to save the life of overseas worker Angelo de la Cruz. De la Cruz had been captured by Iraqi resistance fighters who threatened to behead him unless the Philippine government withdrew its troops from Iraq immediately.
The political analyst cited a report by the rightist U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation, which among other things criticized Macapagal-Arroyo for her inability to protect U.S. interests. The report came out after the pull-out of Filipino troops from Iraq.
Prospects for ouster
Asked whether the country may see another Edsa-type mobilization similar to those that ousted Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001, Teodoro said such a scenario appears to be unlikely given present circumstances.
Political groups associated with the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr., Macapagal-Arroyo’s closest rival in the May 2004 election which is widely believed to have been fraud-ridden, have been warning of Edsa-type mobilizations to oust the incumbent president, especially after the outpour of mass grief and outrage spawned by his death Dec. 14 – the day the first hearing of his electoral protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) was to be held.
One of the critical factors for the success of Edsa-type mobilizations, Teodoro said, is the broadest support from the middle class. “Whatever may be said that there was fraud in the last election – and even the middle class appears to know that – Poe is derided by the middle class,” Teodoro observed.
Lim also does not yet see an Edsa-type mobilization as possible, citing the present lack of a figure who could unify the opposition. But Lim does not dismiss the possibility that there may emerge an opposition leader who could challenge the incumbent administration.
Teodoro said that if Macapagal-Arroyo is booted out of office, it could be through a conspiracy.
He sees as possible players in such a plot disgruntled military officers and personnel, as well as sections of “civil society” known to be opposed to the Macapagal-Arroyo presidency but which “have over time been supportive of Poe.” They might explore links with the U.S., Teodoro said. Bulatlat.com