The alternative is for Macapagal-Arroyo holding on to power for as long as she could, which also means depending on the level of support from her allies and the U.S. government. There is also the Fidel V. Ramos formula: allowing Macapagal-Arroyo to stay as “caretaker president” for a year within which the constitution will be amended to pave the way for a parliamentary government and the election of a new president and prime minister. The other is “constitutional succession” with Vice President Noli de Castro replacing the incumbent president. Political forces loyal to the ousted president, Joseph Estrada, are rooting for the latter to take back his seat or as head of a “transition council.”
The trouble with all these options lies in the fact that these do not address the roots of the crisis engulfing the presidency and the political system as a whole. The crisis is characterized by the fact that the national government has become ungovernable owing to the questionable legitimacy of the incumbent president. Congress, meanwhile, cannot perform its legislative function as it is anticipated to be preoccupied in the next months mainly with either defending or impeaching the president.
If recent opinion surveys are to be believed, eight out of 10 Filipinos want Macapagal-Arroyo to leave although her perceived successors – again based on the surveys – also vary. The widespread political uncertainty ensuing from the non-resolution of the presidential crisis is also expected to induce a financial collapse by the end of this year.
The crisis of the presidency underscores in no uncertain terms the inability of the ruling political elite to govern precisely because for decades they have used the government merely as an instrument for prolonging their political and economic power even if the society has long been pregnant with the need for a comprehensive social transformation. For long, the country’s electoral system has been despoiled in the elite intramurals for power grab. The results of the May 2004 polls show that the electoral process has failed even if only on the matter of legitimizing elite political authority or the “peaceful” transfer of power from one faction of the ruling elite to another. To the electorate, the elections are not a democratic institution even if for just a day while – in-between elections – the people agonize under conditions of misery, oppression and injustice and the country’s rulers wallow in corruption, greed and economic plunder.
In short, these options are intended to recycle the corrupt-ridden presidency that in turn reprocesses the rotten political system. Either way, any of these options will only aggravate the crisis and the entire nation will remain in perpetual agony. These will in fact quicken what may yet become inevitable under the present circumstances – a revolutionary situation.
The proposed people’s democratic council is the first step toward the eventual transfer of political leadership from the elite to the people. From what we gather, however, proponents of the council have no illusion that the reactionary leadership of the country’s political institutions will be transferred fully to the people’s representatives – or that it will materialize without any violent resistance from the traditional elite. Just the same, the new political structure seeks to ensure that the democratic interests of the vast majority of the people will be represented in the new government.
Aside from those already cited, the council’s short-term tasks include investigation into the recent electoral frauds; electoral and other political reforms; rendering of justice and indemnification to human rights victims; solving the fiscal crisis by cancelling or repudiation all odious debts; resumption of peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) through the fulfillment of all existing agreements; and protecting the country from the ravages of free-market globalization and reversing the disastrous structural adjustment programs imposed by the country’s creditors.
Definitely, the people’s council runs smack against the bourgeois doctrine long espoused by the elite that only they are capable of ruling and the unlettered masses as the ruled or mere followers. In repudiating this elitist politics, the council can be the single most significant step in transferring the powers of governance to where it really belongs – the sovereign people. The people are capable of taking over the country’s political leadership because governance will now be based on addressing the broad democratic interests and aspirations of the people. Real people power can now be mobilized for the attainment of real democracy, development and social justice.
It would have signaled the beginning of the end of elite hegemony which in the first place has been causing the country’s perennial crisis. It is the first step in bringing to an end the political and economic crisis that has long hounded the nation. Bulatlat