By the Center for Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG)
THE current political crisis demands a solution. But it would be absurd if the solution were to replicate the “solution” to the crisis of 2000-2001. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then Vice President, was the supposed solution then, but turned out to be nothing of the sort. Mrs. Arroyo has in fact turned out to be part of the same Philippine problem specifically that of this country’s flawed elite leadership.
Filipinos had hoped then that despite their doubts over Mrs. Arroyo’s capacities and principles, she would govern not only competently and transparently, but also with the country’s interests rather than the usual familial, class and foreign interests in mind. Mrs. Arroyo, it was also hoped, would abandon traditional politics and nurture the new.
Her failure to address the most pressing Philippine problems, the runaway corruption that has characterized her watch, as well as her singular focus on the elections of 2004, were the key and interconnected issues that created a situation of constant crisis, and which has led to the present one. The twin allegations that her husband and son have been taking jueteng pay-offs in the manner of former President Joseph Estrada, and that Mrs. Arroyo cheated in the last elections as supposedly proven by the infamous “Garci tapes” are in truth merely the most recent expressions of the same crisis.
From the very first months of 2001 Mrs. Arroyo’s policies divided the country and dismayed those who had helped put her in power. Only mass resistance, for example, prevented her from blocking the plunder charge against Joseph Estrada that year so she could curry favor with the Estrada camp for the sake of 2004. Her unconditional support for the so-called “US War on Terror” in the latter part of the same year was equally premised on improving her chances of being elected in 2004.
From 2002 to 2003 Mrs. Arroyo worked less at governance and more on assuring her victory in 2004 through, among other means, total subservience to US strategic and economic interests, and the usual political wheeling and dealing. Declaring in 2002 that she would not run in 2004, she reversed herself in 2003. She then cobbled together alliances based on nothing more than self-interest. Using her supposed dedication to governance for cover, she proceeded to use government funds to further her candidacy. Before this, however, she appointed the likes of Virgilio Garcillano to the Commission on Elections in early 2004 to help assure her victory.
The so-called canvassing of the votes for Presidential elections, in which millions were disenfranchised, even as there were widespread allegations of fraud, voter coercion and military partiality, was a blatant display of majority tyranny in which questions were merely noted and protests ignored.
The Filipino people were not blind to these events. Fifty-five (55) percent of them thus believe that Mrs. Arroyo stole the elections of 2004, even as her obvious incapacity to address such problems as poverty and unemployment, and inflation and hunger, drove her approval ratings to an unprecedented -33 percent.
The present crisis is thus only a continuation, albeit a high point, of a crisis that Mrs. Arroyo’s brand of governance and politics has made inevitable. What is obvious is that the crisis, though created and fed by the corruption and incompetence of the Arroyo government and the fraudulent elections over which it presided in 2004, is the result of a system as bankrupt and as flawed as its beneficiaries and protectors. The corruption of the political and electoral system, for example, has made Philippine elections no more than a farce, even as the centers of power in this country have been exposed as nothing more than centers of greed and incompetence.