The Enemy Within

The call for a snap election is a sure sign of desperation, not among the opposition but among Mrs. Arroyo’s own allies, many of whom are beginning to realize how incorrigibly focused she is on staying in power, even if it be to the entire nation’s detriment.

By the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
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It would be too costly and too time-consuming. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo won’t consent to it. The Constitution doesn’t sanction it. And it probably won’t settle anything.

The call for a snap election is a sure sign of desperation, not among the opposition but among Mrs. Arroyo’s own allies, many of whom are beginning to realize how incorrigibly focused she is on staying in power, even if it be to the entire nation’s detriment.

Two of Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the religious sector—one is tempted to describe them as among her “staunchest”—Cebu’s Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and the El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, are said to favor an amendment to the Constitution that would allow snap elections which, depending on how fast Congress can convene into a Constituent Assembly and do its work, could presumably be done within a few months.

When confronted by the media, Cardinal Vidal displayed the kind of moral agnosticism for which some bishops of the Catholic Church are now well-known by refusing to say if he thought Mrs. Arroyo should step down. But he did say when asked what he thought of holding a snap election that an amendment was necessary for it to take place—which of course doesn’t answer the question but evades it.

El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde was not as evasive. Velarde, who expressed his distress a week ago over the unprovoked water-hosing of a group of participants in the October 14 prayer rally that tried to march to Mendiola, did not deny Senator Senator Sergio Osmena III’s claim that he and Vidal favor a snap election to resolve the political crisis.

Velarde’s, and probably Vidal’s, favoring a snap election is in the same category of desperation as former President Fidel Ramos’ advice to Mrs. Arroyo last week that she should cut her term short.

A snap election –if honest and fair– would very likely confirm the results of several surveys which uniformly show Mrs. Arroyo’s approval rating to have hit subterranean levels. (An Ibon Foundation poll covering September and the first week of October this year, for example, found that her approval rating had fallen to negative 74.7 percent)

Such a result – assuming the election is honest and fair – would lead to the exact same thing Ramos wants: Mrs. Arroyo will have to cut her term short.

The only difference between the Velarde-Vidal proposal and Ramos’ is that Ramos is asking that Mrs. Arroyo voluntarily cut her term short. The Velarde-Vidal proposal would force Mrs. Arroyo, once the results of an honest snap election are in, to step down. The first would be a form of resignation; the second an ouster via an electoral process.

As expected, Malacañang has rejected both proposals and has instead proposed a plebiscite, in the apparent belief that a plebiscite would be easier for Mrs. Arroyo to win.

A plebiscite, in the first place, would have to convince the citizenry to go to the polls merely to answer a question with either a “yes” or a “no.” A snap election would be far more I interesting for them in that they could vote for the candidate of their choice—for either Mrs. Arroyo, or the alternative to her that Ramos said last week was not available.

The question in a plebiscite could be something like “Are you in favor of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s serving the rest of her term until 2010?” but it could very well also be phrased in such a way as to make a “no” practically impossible.

For example, the Commission on Elections that Mrs. Arroyo has in her pocket could frame the question into something like “Are you in favor of (Mrs. Arroyo’s) serving the rest of her term until 2010 as legally mandated by the results of the May 2004 elections and the Constitution?”

Beyond these possibilities, there is also the fact that any “solution” to the crisis that would involve the Comelec would be suspect, that body being in the first place central to the probability that Mrs. Arroyo and company manipulated the May 2004 elections.

In the end, a plebiscite or a snap election, unless the Comelec membership is radically changed and Malacañang is somehow forced not to intervene, would be no solution at all, and can even result in Mrs. Arroyo’s getting one more dubious mandate to add to her 2004 one.

The Ramos proposal Malacañang knows for what it has always been: a disguised call for Mrs. Arroyo to resign. But Mrs. Arroyo did say last July 8 that the package of which resignation later is an important part—Ramos’ declaration of support on the condition that she initiate Constitutional amendments—was acceptable.

It could not have been lost on her that what Ramos was actually saying was that she should resign—though at a later date rather than last July, specifically in the middle of 2006 once a new Constitution is in place and parliamentary elections are held.

That these proposals—all in effect saying that Mrs. Arroyo should step down, if not now, then later—are being made by some of her most important allies suggests that in their heart of hearts even these allies doubt Mrs. Arroyo’s mandate, and worse, that they doubt even more her capacity to surmount this crisis through, among other ruthless but eventually self destructive means, the suppression of free expression and assembly.

Of particular interest is the fact that the Commission on Human Rights itself has stated that it saw no legal basis for the CPR policy and the declaration of Mendiola as a no-rally zone, and that both are violative of human rights. This effectively undermines the regime’s claims that it is on solid legal grounds—in the context of a gathering “second wind” of the Oust Arroyo Movement.

And yet what other alternative does the Arroyo regime have except to withdraw into Fortress Malacañang, given its fear that the whole truth about what actually happened last May 2004 may finally come to light? Unfortunately, it is besieged not only from outside. There are mounting indications that its own allies are beginning to realize that the regime is simply incapable of rationally and effectively defending itself, quite simply because it is in the wrong. The enemy is now within. (

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