3 Reasons Why President Arroyo is Still Around and May Yet Finish Her Term

Amando Doronila believes that the cover-up orchestrated by Malacanang over the ZTE corruption scandal and the botched abduction of Lorenzo “Jun” Lozada may doom the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Mr. Doronila writes in his Inquirer column:

State coercion has been the standard response of the Arroyo administration to public unrest sparked by allegations of corrupt practices and abuse of authority. It is the same strategy used to suppress sordid details about the canceled $329-million contract with China’s ZTE Corp. for a National Broadband Network (NBN).

The political tempest created by the ZTE scandal has plunged the administration into its most perilous crisis since its near collapse in 2005 following the mass resignation of no less that 10 Cabinet officials. This was prompted by the disclosure of telephone conversations purportedly between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a Commission on Elections official in what appeared to be an attempt to rig the results of the 2004 presidential elections in her favor.

The President again faces another legitimacy crisis as grave as that of 2005 as public protests over the ZTE scandal mounted on Friday in Makati City, reviving demands for her resignation. The Makati rally was the biggest antigovernment protest in years and was conservatively estimated by police to have drawn a crowd of up to 10,000.

Whether the soldiers, Atienza and senior police officers kidnapped Lozada for whatever reason, Lozada was held for more than five hours without warrant and taken to Laguna for whatever purpose, and security forces were involved in the hijack. This pattern of coercive acts has aroused citizens’ fear and outrage over abuse of police power to suppress the disclosure of evidence pertaining to corruption scandals.

It is easily forgotten that EDSA People Power II was triggered by suppression of evidence by the impeachment tribunal in the trial of Estrada. The current unrest was sparked by attempts to cover up the ZTE corruption scandal with coercive measures. The lid is primed to blow up from the pressure of suppression of evidence”

Doronila postulates that the public condemnation of the Arroyo government by influencial business groups like the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines signals the beginning of the end for the Arroyo administration. Says he:

“These two organizations represent key players in the business sector, and their breakaway suggests the disintegration of the presidential alliance with the business community.”

I don’t think so.

The first reason is that the people are taking a wait-and-see attitude, whether it be from apathy, cynicism, political fatigue or a host of other factors. Mr. Doronila equates the withdrawal of support by admittedly well-known and respected pillars of Philippine business with widespread public outrage and the imminent toppling of GMA. But the public reaction to le’ affaire Lozada, while largely sympathetic, has been muted. It will take more than shrill declarations from the MBC and MAP to cause the people to spontaneously spill into the streets calling for GMA’s scalp.

Last Friday’s rally in Makati, supposedly drawn from a rainbow coalition of progressive, centrist and conservative political groups, could only muster 10,000 warm bodies, by the most optimistic count. And this dwindled rapidly as the evening wore on. This was supposed to be the lead-up to larger mass actions but 10,000 people, though a respectable number, is only a fraction of the throngs that made EDSA I and II possible. Its just about (or even less than) the Saturday afternoon-to-Sunday-morning crowd that the El Shaddai draws during its regular prayer rallies.

Secondly, the military and police are in GMA’s pocket. Or, more accurately, she is in theirs. The AFP and PNP brass see no reason to shift alliances and throw their weight behind the people since their collective beds are nicely feathered by personal and political concessions and the financial largesse provided by the Palace. GMA is beholden to Esperon and company, and this arrangement suits them nicely, thank you.

Thirdly, the opposition is in disarray, lacking a coherent political program, except to oust Gloria, and a person credible and charismatic enough to bring the anti-Gloria forces together. It certainly won’t be Jun Lozada, with his weepy mea culpas, or that old political hack JDV or the mutant trapo, Jojo Binay. No one, in or out of government, or from the Catholic Church or any religious group, fits the bill. The proposal of Eddie Villanueva, of the Jesus is Lord charismatic assembly, for a “constitutional” way out by having Chief Justice Reynato Puno oversee a caretaker government, is a silly pipe dream. GMA will never play along and neither will the other politicos. The Chief Justice will never lend his good name to such an unworkable and constitutionally questionable scheme.

Thus, the observations of the New York think-tank, GlobalSource, are probably correct. “Ordinary citizens have grown numb to the scandals and apparently grown tired of the continuous change in leaders sans accompanying change in the socioeconomic situation,” GlobalSource said in its February country report.

“Without public outrage and with a well-kept, top-brass military circle remaining fiercely loyal to the President, we don’t see an impending leadership change outside of the framework set by the Constitution–that is, elections will go through as scheduled,” said the report written by Filipino economists Romeo Bernardo and Margarita Gonzales.

It’s frustrating but there it is.

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