Anti-Arroyo Forces: The Broadest Ever

The Arroyo administration belittles the movement working for her ouster as a small group of “destabilizers” and “power grabbers” that are unable to muster the numbers to mount a People Power uprising. But the Anti-Arroyo movement working for her resignation or ouster is the broadest ever compared to the movement that ousted Marcos and Estrada.

By Benjie Oliveros

Questions regarding the legitimacy of the current administration have been hounding it since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was declared president in 2004. The opposition led by her closest rival Fernando Poe Jr. claimed that there was massive cheating during the last national elections. In fact, the administration had to use its majority position in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to ward off any attempts by the opposition to have the ballot boxes opened and to compare the election returns with the certificates of canvass.

But even after her proclamation and the subsequent filing of election protests by the opposition, PMacapagal-Arroyo was never secure with her hold to power. Charges of destabilization have been thrown by the administration left and right to prevent the formation of a broad movement that will work for her ouster.

The stormy months

The first week of June was the start of the crisis that shook the presidency. In an apparent attempt to preempt the impact of the exposé of the “Hello Garci” tapes, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye called a press conference, June 6, and presented two CDs. One, said to Bunye, was the original and the other a tampered recording, spliced to make it appear the president was talking with a certain Garci. Later on Bunye claimed that he never said that the voice was the president’s.

Two days later, lawyer Allan Paguia, presented a tape, which according to him was not tampered, containing the voice of the president conversing with Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

The damning silence (by the president) and frantic maneuvers (by her henchmen) could not mitigate the impact of the tapes. The opposition, militant organizations, and other political groups believed the tapes confirmed what everybody knew all along, that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated her way to the presidency.

The very next day, a group calling itself the Kilusan para sa Makabayang Ekonomiya (Movement for a Nationalist Economy) or KME together with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) or Bayan and its member organizations conducted a mass action. On June 24, Bayan, organizations identified with Susan Roces, widow of the late Fernando Poe Jr., such as Filipinos for Peace, Justice, and Progress Movement (FPJPM) and NCCV, with former President Joseph Estrada such as Partido ng Masang Pilipino (Party of the Filipino Masses) or PMP and PMAP, and the opposition under the United Opposition (UNO) converged at Welcome Rotonda, boundary of Quezon City and Manila.

On June 27, Macapagal-Arroyo appeared before national television and admitted she talked with a Comelec commissioner whom she did not name. She claimed she did it to safeguard her votes and not to commit electoral fraud. She apologized for her “lapse in judgment”.

The apology did nothing to appease her critics. The mass actions continued and broadened. Three of her rivals for the presidency, Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas (Rise up Philippines), former Senator Raul Roco of Aksyon Demokratiko (Democratic Action), and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson of the Be Not Afraid Movement joined the calls for Arroyo’s resignation or ouster.

The crisis of the presidency climaxed on July 8. Eight cabinet secretaries and two commissioners –namely, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Juan Santos of the Department of Trade, Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman, Department of Education Secretary Florencio Abad, Rene Villa of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Imelda Nicolas of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Commissioner Guillermo Parayno of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and Alberto Lina of the Bureau of Customs – resigned and urged Macapagal-Arroyo to resign. They collectively call themselves as the Hyatt 10.

The Liberal Party, headed by Senate President Franklin Drilon, bolted the ruling coalition and called for the president’s resignation. Former President Corazon Aquino held a press conference also calling for Arroyo’s resignation.

The troubles of Arroyo worsened when the Makati Business Club, Finance Managers Association of the Philippines, and the Personnel Managers Association of the Philippines also called for her resignation.

Four bishops also called for her resignation: Bps. Julio Labayen, Antonio Tobias, Oscar Cruz, and Deogracias Yñiguez

The continuing slide of the presidency halted when former President Fidel V. Ramos and Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose de Venecia took the side of the president. They called for charter change as a solution to the crisis and a graceful exit for the president.

This was followed by a statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) led by Archbishop Fernando Capalla calling for sobriety and reflection.

But that did not stop the mass actions, which rose steadily reaching its peak on July 13 at Makati where anti-Arroyo forces gathered around 40,000 people and on July 25 at Commonwealth Avenue, in time with President Arroyo’s state of the nation address, where the gathering reached around 60,000.

The start of the impeachment proceedings provided President Arroyo relief from the intensifying mass actions.

The subsequent junking of the impeachment complaints on technical grounds galvanized the anti-Arroyo forces. It also worsened the cracks within the military and police, leading to rumors of attempts at coup d’ etat.

Anti-Arroyo forces

With the intensification of calls for her ouster or resignation came the formation of various coalitions and alliances.

On July 23, a formation calling itself the White Ribbon movement was launched. Its members are personalities within the middle sector most of whom were active in the Estrada Resign Movement.

Bayan Muna Party (People First) and Bayan, with its member organizations such as the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement) or KMU, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Peasants in the Philippines) or KMP, Kadamay, a federation of urban poor organizations, Gabriela, an alliance of women’s organizations, among others, formed the Gloria Step Down Movement.

The Hyatt 10 and social democrats, which formed Kompil 2 during the movement to oust former President Joseph Estrada, formed the Black and White Movement. They are working for Arroyo’s resignation and replacement by constitutional succession.

The party list group Akbayan, the Freedom from Debt Coalition, Sanlakas, Bisig, and Kalayaan formed the Laban ng Masa (Fight of the Masses).

The biggest formation is the Solidarity Movement. It is comprised by organizations under Bayan Muna Party and Bayan, PMP and PMAP, FPJPM and NCCV, UNO, and Reporma Party of former presidential candidate and defense secretary Renato de Villa, and Bangon Pilipinas. The basis of unity of the Solidarity Movement is the ouster of President Arroyo and formation of a Transition Council that will preside over the country until the holding of elections in six months after Arroyo’s removal.

The broadest formation is the Bukluran para sa Katotohan (Unity for Truth). Its members encompass the members of the Solidarity Movement, Black and White Movement, Gloria Step Down Movement, White Ribbon Movement, Laban ng Masa, and KME. It is comprised by around 80 organizations. It is a loose coalition of organizations working for the resignation or ouster of President Arroyo.

Other groups, which are not part of the said formations, are the Christians Nationalist Union, Coalition for National Solidarity, and the People’s Coalition for National Salvation led by a former chief of the Philippine Army, Fortunato Abat, Salvador Enriquez and Linda Montayre who are both associated with former President Fidel V. Ramos. Lacson’s Be Not Afraid Movement also makes their presence felt during mobilizations.

The non-aligned institutions calling for Arroyo’s resignation or ouster are the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, De la Salle Brothers, Philippine Independent Church, United Church of Christ, Concerned Ateneo faculty and students, and UP Aware.

Anti-Arroyo groups within the AFP and PNP have made their presence known. These groups include the Protectors of the Filipino People, and the Young Officers Union or YOUNG.

Political crisis and impasse

Still, Macapagal-Arroyo refused to resign.

She was counting on the support of the majority in the House of Representatives, local government officials, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the chain of command of the AFP and PNP, and the U.S. embassy.

President Arroyo tried everything to maintain herself in power from rewarding her loyal supporters with positions and pork barrel funds, curtailing civil liberties, harassments and killings. Her administration also delays the implementation of politically sensitive policies such as the EVAT. And she tries to divert the attention of the people to other matters such as the “war on terror” in Mindanao, bombings, the anti-terror bill, and constitutional amendments.

The administration claimed the movement to oust her failed and they are over the hump. But surveys by independent groups show that the president continues to get negative ratings and the slight improvements in her satisfaction ratings are far from being enough. More than half of the Filipino people still want the president to resign or be ousted.

The lingering crisis of the presidency forced the administration to surface Comelec Commissioner Garcillano to deny that he was the person talking with the president in the “Hello Garci” tapes. But Garcillano complains that nobody believes him.

Nobody is budging from his/her position. Politically, the nation is at an impasse. There is an economic crisis. The people are suffering from unemployment and high prices. And the Arroyo administration is facing a movement far broader than the ones that ousted the late dictator Marcos and her predecessor Estrada.

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