Arroyo’s Diminishing Options

With all remaining options including attempts at another Cha-Cha diminishing the whole nation should brace for some extreme measures being resorted to in 2009.

Posted by Bulatlat

By law, Gloria M. Arroyo steps down from the presidency 19 months from now. Before that presidential elections will be held in May 2010 to elect the new president. The big question foremost in the mind of many Filipinos is: Will Arroyo really voluntarily leave the presidential palace to make way for her successor who will then govern the country for the next six years?

By June 2010 when she is expected to leave, Arroyo, the Philippines’ 14th president, should have been in power for 10 years – the longest tenure after Ferdinand Marcos who became president and dictator for 20 years (1966-1986) until he was ousted by civilian uprising.

If Arroyo clings to power beyond 2010, as dissenting voices from various sectors fear, she would be the third president to attempt so. Marcos declared martial law in September 1972 on the pretext of protecting the republic from Rightist and Leftist forces and ruled as a dictator for 14 more years. During his presidency (1992-1998), former General Fidel V. Ramos called for charter change (that’s where “Cha-Cha” came about) in a bid to restore authoritarian rule and establish a strong republic. His two attempts failed, chiefly because of a stronger public resistance. He ended his term in June 1998.

From the very beginning when she took over as president on the heels of the fall of Joseph E. Estrada in a second civilian uprising in January 2001, Arroyo’s term had been challenged. The whole length of her presidency for the past nine years can qualify as a perfect episode for the popular TV series: “Surviving the Presidency.”

Coup attempts

Arroyo faced at least five coup attempts and mutinies: The first was in May 2001 when civilian supporters of Estrada tried to storm Malacanang. The siege was to climax with a coup fomented, reports claimed, by former Estrada officials and allies. Some of these ex-officials have since been co-opted by Arroyo. Calls for her resignation or removal began as early as 2002 picking up steam after the 2004 presidential race amid strong allegations of rigging the elections. Three impeachment complaints were filed against her at the lower House in 2005-2007 and the fourth complaint was thrown out by Arroyo’s political cronies last week.

Arroyo was wily enough to pick a vice presidential candidate (Noli de Castro) who, despite his claimed popularity as a broadcaster, has no presidential credentials thus making him a no-no in the event of a third civilian uprising.

To stay in power, the beleaguered president used political patronage to the hilt in order to rein in her narrow political base among members of Congress, local governments, senior military and police officials, business cronies, and, in some respects, even among leaders of the influential Catholic clergy. The political support purchased by patronage, allegedly in the form of bribery, distribution of pork barrel, promotions, junkets, and other means has been pivotal to keeping Arroyo in Malacanang.

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