Whichever side you’re supporting in the unfolding political crisis our country faces, one thing’s for sure: Philippine politicians have no sense of irony. And our country is truly the Republic of the Absurd.
I was just listening a few minutes ago to my former boss, Rigoberto “Bobi” Tiglao, talking to GMA 7’s Mel Tiangco as he defended President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on air, calling on the Filipino people to respect the constitutional process. While acknowledging that the ongoing Makati rally, which as of last count has drawn 30, 000 people, is the biggest anti-Gloria demonstration so far during this latest political crisis, Bobi, who was our former editor in chief at INQ7.net, pointed out that about half of the rallyists are accounted for by the Left, which he said always calls for the downfall of whichever government is in power anyway.
Yeah, Bobi, that’s one way to get people to sympathize with the President. And isn’t it ironic that Gloria, who was swept into power when a duly elected president, Joseph Estrada, was ousted by People Power, should now have so much respect for the Constitution — which she wants to change, anyway? And I don’t think Gloria was sneering at the Left when they were the ones helping bring her into power back during EDSA II. Of course, it was convenient to have the Left conducting these rallies back then, right?
Not that all those People Power 2 rallyists really wanted Gloria to replace Erap — they just wanted Erap out. And I remember that image of betrayal back in 2001, when the leftist groups in Mendiola were already encircling Malacañang, only to hear Gloria’s supporters telling them that a compromise had already been reached with Erap and that they were now swearing in Gloria at EDSA.
Now that the shoe’s on the other foot, here’s Gloria saying the world tolerated People Power in 2001 but wouldn’t forgive another People Power in 2005. The situation is messier now of course, and even more filled with irony, than in those days when I was doing the INQ7.net Running Account that offered a blow-by-blow coverage of the Estrada impeachment trial and EDSA II.
The forces calling for Gloria’s ouster are split. Even the so-called People Power 1 and People Power 2 architects are divided — former president Cory Aquino has asked Gloria to resign for the country’s sake, but the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has not called for Gloria’s resignation. The anti-Gloria forces don’t even agree on who should replace Gloria if ever she is ousted. Will it be Susan Roces? Panfilo Lacson? Joseph Estrada? Or, for the sake of the “constitutional process,” Noli de Castro?
The funny thing is that the Gloria campaign for presidency in the 2004 elections, which, by the way, she promised she wouldn’t run for, basically boiled down to the argument that she was the least evil, that the President was still the country’s last, best hope. And that’s the same script they’re following now: no matter how the country’s confidence in her has been shaken, her supporters would claim that there’s no better alternative. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, I think it shows how pathetic the Philippines has become, that the best we can hope for in a leader is the one we perceive to be the least of the evils.
I have a lot of respect for Bobi, but sometimes I wonder what kind of process people have to undergo when they enter public office. He told us back then that he joined the government after long years as a journalist because he no longer wanted to criticize from outside, but now wished to bring about genuine change within the system. But what happens to people when they become “insiders”? Does he really believe in the official party line he must defend in public? The same goes for all the officials who are now supporting Arroyo, eerily echoing the lines and tactics of their counterparts in the Estrada administration when those in power were dismissing calls for Erap’s ouster and loudly proclaiming that they would be with the president until the bitter end.
And the irony is obviously not limited to the pro-administration forces, because after Bobi’s defense of the President, GMA’s 24 Oras showed how politics really makes strange bedfellows with the formation of the “tactical alliance” among former political enemies who are, for the moment at least, united in calling for Gloria’s ouster.
Yes, we have party-list representative Satur Ocampo of leftist group Bayan Muna — the same Satur who was formerly a member of the communist underground and who was jailed during Martial Law — joining forces with the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Ilocos Norte Representative Imee Marcos. Not to mention Imee joining forces with Butz Aquino, the brother of her father’s main political rival, slain hero Ninoy Aquino. And how about the tactical alliance between Panfilo Lacson and FPJ widow Susan Roces — when Lacson’s decision to run against Susan’s late husband, Fernando Poe Jr., split the opposition and cost them the election, apart from the alleged fraud Gloria committed.
Then again, this is the Philippines. There are no permanent allies in politics, only permanent interests — which more often than not is self-interest.
In the end, I don’t think Gloria will voluntarily resign — particularly not after another former president, Fidel Ramos, publicly declared his loyalty to her and renewed his call for Cha-Cha, for reasons only he knows for sure. Again, some things never change, because it was Ramos who wanted a Cha-Cha to extend his term when he was president, and God knows if he will end up as prime minister. That is, assuming Gloria keeps whatever promise she gave him. For all her good points — and I’m not blind to her accomplishments – she’s not exactly been good at keeping promises, has she? Or in showing that she’s willing to buck traditional politics and push for genuine reform. Heck, she didn’t even really look that sorry when she apologized for her “lapse in judgment,” did she?
One thing keeping the odds in her favor though is that, quite frankly, who’s the least evil the United Opposition has to offer? So yes, it’s just possible Gloria will survive this crisis and muddle through.
Just how many years does she need to accomplish her tasks, anyway? And just how long must our country put up with all these absurdities?