President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has announced her candidacy for a congressional seat in the 2nd District of Pampanga, to no one’s great surprise. She needs to stay in power by some machination if she is to withstand the legal and political challenges she will face as soon as she steps down from the presidency in May. It’s a matter of survival and one can readily understand her motives if not her morals. It’s unprecedented to slide down from the highest elective post in the land to a be a congressperson but it’s the only constitutionally-open door to her at this point. Such a move is entirely consistent with her character of shameless audacity.
And with the withdrawal of Randy David from the race, Arroyo will run unopposed. A lot of people were naturally disappointed when Prof. David announced his abandonment of the earlier plan to go against GMA. His reasons are undoubtedly valid. He wanted to spare his family and friends the expected hardships which would attend a campaign against Arroyo. He was especially concerned about putting his younger brother, Catholic Auxiliary Bishop for Pampanga Pablo Virgilio David, on the spot. The good bishop would not have have been spared in an undertaking expected to turn vicious early on. Think of Maguindanao but on smaller (and more sophisticated) scale.
David also explained, a bit too dryly but spoken like the true academic that he is, that: “I am heeding the counsel of family, friends and colleagues from academe who are concerned that my taking on a political role as a candidate would undermine the authority I have carefully cultivated as a social analyst and public intellectual”.
But I suspect that another major reason he bowed out is that he knows that Arroyo would not allow anyone to get in the way of her plans, least of all the will of the people. In a fair and honest world, David would have had more than an even chance of winning. But not in a contest where GMA holds all the cards.
And there is a very real possibility that there would be blood shed. Pampanga is no stranger to Maguindanao-type killings, albeit conducted in more circumspect way. This David clearly wants to avoid. Not for himself, but for the sake of his family and supporters.
Even if no physical harm would befall David and those behind him, he would still have to take on the whole Arroyo machinery. David has little or no funds to go against GMA. His network of NGOs and civil society stalwarts is no match for the traditional political apparatus propping up Arroyo. In sum, to use the old cliche, he has no guns, no goons and no gold.
And what would he have accomplished in the end for all his trouble ? Nothing except to have legitimized Arroyo’s holding on to power by providing the illusion that she won over the efforts of a worthy opponent. Better to save himself for the battles to come in other arenas. Which will be soon.