Not Just Electoral Fraud (Last of Two Parts)

The crisis is no longer just about electoral fraud. The economic crisis resulting in mass unrest, the lack of business confidence, and the political crisis due to rebellion have come together into a final crisis for the Arroyo government.

By Antonio Tujan Jr.
IBON Research Director

Posted by Bulatlat

IBON Features – By confirming that the Hello Garci tapes were genuine, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not achieve any moral high ground nor quash any speculation since her admission fell short of what the tapes implicated her with. Instead, her admission fueled another level of popular rejection since she did not accept any wrongdoing, preventing closure on the matter and fuelling another level of speculation as to her political fate.

The Hello Garci tapes may be so damning of a President’s ethics and legitimacy that one would think that it is more than enough for a public official to resign in a democratic country. Definitely many have resigned on much less such as the Watergate scandal for Richard Nixon of the United States. But the Philippines is not a Western democracy where ethics of a nation’s leaders are meant to be unassailable. Our leaders do not act that way at all.

Hoping the opposition runs out of steam

President Arroyo has two aces up her sleeve in this crisis. She continues to enjoy direct and indirect support of the status quo – direct support from her coalition that includes links to parts of the powerful Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and big business, and indirect support from pillars of the status quo who consider another People Power too much destabilization for the country. Her second ace as an incumbent is the tremendous advantage of control over the state and its resources.

If Arroyo played her cards right and properly mobilize the resources and support at her disposal, then she could ride out the scandals and protests until they run out of wind. In the end, she is still on top as President of this country.

Such a strategy would work if this crisis were only about jueteng scandals and Hello Garci tapes imputing electoral fraud. But this is no longer the case as the economic crisis resulting in mass unrest and lack of business confidence and the political crisis due to rebellion have come together into a final crisis for the Arroyo government.

It does not follow, however, that Arroyo’s days in Malacañang are numbered, in lower digits.

While the opposition has achieved much in pushing its case of electoral fraud, the matter has not been concluded and will not take its natural course of removing the President from office. Either this must be pursued legally– which will not be likely unless the administration’s stronghold on Congress is broken– or the Supreme Court takes a different track, or politically depending on the course of events. Either way the opposition must sustain its efforts to push its case in the months ahead.

Congressional solution?

The irony is that Arroyo’s presidency started not with the ballot but with Congress whose majority elected her in office through its controversial canvass. The burden now again rests on the same Lakas majority in Congress who, away from the prying eyes of the public, has sustained Arroyo’s control over the state. It will be an uphill climb for the opposition to unseat Arroyo through congressional action, since Congress has always been the hallmark of opportunism in the form of “turncoatism” and recently the “rainbow coalition” politics of accommodation.

The legal issue is also difficult for Congress since it is not only the presidency that is in question, but the presidential elections itself. Disqualifying Arroyo does not necessarily mean that the Vice President will automatically succeed. In the same vein, a successful people power uprising will obviously not unseat Arroyo only to put Noli de Castro in Malacañang. The opposition candidate Loren Legarda may lay claim to the office, but such claim may also be weakened by other arguments.

Calling for snap elections does not necessarily provide the options for stability and would simply be a facile attempt to find a peaceful way out of a crisis that started with the failure of the 2004 elections.

Share This Post