The Specter Haunting the Arroyo Administration

Two issues have put the Macapagal-Arroyo administration on the defensive since 2005.

Vol. VII, No. 17, June 3-9, 2007

Two issues have put the Macapagal-Arroyo administration on the defensive since 2005: electoral fraud and political killings. And on both issues, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has been trying in vain to turn the tables on the opposition and the Left by blaming both for its woes.

The administration has engaged the opposition in a tit-for-tat on the issue of electoral fraud. The lawyers of the administration’s Team Unity (TU) have threatened to file a petition for a recount or a declaration of a failure in elections in opposition bailiwicks in response to the latter’s persistent campaign to expose the massive fraud in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, North Cotabato and South Cotabato.

In line with this, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration produced an information plug that called for “Tama na ang bangayan.” (Stop the nitpicking) and blamed the opposition for allegedly blocking the computerization of the May 2007 elections and then accusing the government of fraud. It also boasted of an improved economy in an effort to portray the opposition as an obstacle to the country’s development by engaging in politicking to destroy or destabilize the government.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and TU candidates also tried to soften the serious charges of fraud by calling these as “clerical errors” while ignoring piles of complaints including the testimonies of four teachers from Maguindanao who said that they were kidnapped and forced to watch helplessly as armed men filled out the ballots to favor the administration’s candidates.

Extra-judicial killings

With regard to political killings, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales claimed in a recent statement that the government has the “sympathy” of governments around the world in its purported efforts to address the issue. Yet he glosses over the fact that the European Parliament, the U.S. Senate, and recently, the Australian and New Zealand governments have expressed serious concerns on the unabated killings and forced disappearances.

The administration has consistently been putting the blame on the Left for the killings, citing a so-called “internal purge” which was debunked by independent investigators including the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings Philip Alston. It also tried to muddle the issue by calling the extra-judicial executions as “unexplained killings.”

The absurdity of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s arguments would not be missed by any Filipino.

First, if the opposition cheated in the provinces where it has won, then the elections would have been fraudulent in almost all regions and provinces except the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cebu and Bohol. But since the opposition also questioned the elections in these regions and provinces, then that would only mean that the Comelec is so incompetent and corrupt that it had been unable to conduct an honest and clean election in even one precinct.

Second, if the opposition prevailed in the senatorial race because it cheated then it must have one hell of a machinery and unlimited resources that it was able to overturn the whole government machinery including the administration’s much-vaunted dominance in local government units, as well as its control over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

If the political killings and enforced disappearances were the handiwork of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as part of an “internal purge,” as the AFP claims, and all those killed and abducted were its members, it could have been decimated by now and there would be no need for Oplan Bantay Laya 2 and the big budget that the AFP and PNP has been getting, not to mention the intelligence fund of the Office of the President. By killing 863 and abducting 196 of its supposed members, the rest could have jumped ship by now. Who would be so stupid as to stick with an organization that is killing its own members knowing that he or she may be next?

Callous attempts

These issues continue to haunt the Macapagal-Arroyo administration not because of what it hypes as the irresponsible acts of the opposition and the Left but because the government has not abated in committing the same in its desperate and callous attempts to stay in power.

The ARMM, Cotabato and Cebu figured prominently in the infamous “Hello Garci” tapes as the provinces where the government cheated to grab the presidency for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. And yet it had no qualms to cheat again in these same areas using the same people and machinery.

Its attention has been repeatedly called regarding the spate of political killings and enforced disappearances, even by its most ardent supporter and benefactor, the U.S. But it continues to commit the same with impunity. The furor over the abduction of Jonas Burgos on April 28 in a mall in Quezon City has not yet subsided. And yet two more activists, Jun Bagasbas and Ronilo Vallevare, both Kabataan Party-list poll watchers, were killed last May 15. Only recently, on May 27, Rev. Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) was abducted in Biñan, Laguna by armed men believed to be state security agents.

The Macapagal-Arroyo administration has only itself to blame for being doggedly haunted by these issues. It has been continuously violating two very basic rights of the Filipino people: the people’s sovereignty and will, and the right to life.

There can be no better example of a person being haunted by its own ghosts than what is happening to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is being apparently tormented by the specter of electoral fraud, as well as political killings and enforced disappearances.

International pressure bearing on the Macapagal-Arroyo administration was believed to be the solution that would put a stop to its abhorrent practices. But it did not. What is left is for the Filipino people to act and show their disgust through a concerted effort and to hold the Macapagal-Arroyo administration accountable for subverting the will and violating the most basic rights of the people.(

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