After the Con-Ass Debacle, the Elections

Having seen the country’s major political pillars festering under the hands of the elite – the presidential office, Congress and the electoral system in particular – the bourgeois election will serve as an opportunity for broadening the masses’ political consciousness about genuine people’s governance and establishing real democratic institutions.

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) Program
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
Posted by Bulatlat.com

After suffering an ignominious defeat in a bid to perpetuate itself in power through the Con-Ass express, will the Arroyo administration be able to recover for it to make a credible showing in the May 2007 elections? In last week’s mayhem in Congress, the bullying tactics and dictatorship by numbers that Arroyo’s allies used to ram through their self-serving scheme smashed head-on with the spontaneous mass outrage so powerful enough that it forced Con-Ass to wobble and stop dead on its tracks.

The public image the Con-Ass promoters created was that if this is the bunch of people who will craft a new document so fundamental and sacred as a Constitution, then where are they leading the country to?

Con-Ass was designed to scuttle the May 2007 elections and allow administration allies in Congress and in the local governments to stay in power. It was also designed to thwart a possible third impeachment against Mrs. Arroyo. Recall that charter change was hatched by former President Fidel V. Ramos and De Venecia during last year’s political crisis in order to save Arroyo from being dislodged from power. Through trade-offs and under-the-table deals, Mrs. Arroyo, Ramos, De Venecia and other architects of charter change (or cha-cha) rallied the House votes that aborted the impeachment. In turn, Arroyo was expected to lend her remaining influence and government resources for cha-cha.

Now that Arroyo and her close allies have sustained a major political wound, the administration is hard-pressed to recover its losses and prepare for a major battle – all in a span of five months. The May 2007 elections are a make or break test for the President: If the anti-Gloria opposition dominates the Senate race and garners more seats in the House, the probability of a third impeachment will be high. That is, of course, if the opposition would still agree with the party-list groups to make a third try that would lead to the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo. Despite overwhelming evidence, they were unable to muster enough votes in their first two impeachment initiatives against the President – in 2005 and this year – over charges of fraud in the 2004 elections, human rights violations and other constitutional infringements.

Alliances

The political crisis generated by the fraudulent May 2004 elections led to the polarization of major political forces in the country arrayed against Arroyo. The anti-Gloria opposition parties and groups, on the one hand, and the cause-oriented movement, religious organizations and segments of the middle class, on the other found common grounds to campaign for the removal of the President. The fluid political situation gave birth to plans to put up a transition government in place of the corrupt and widely unpopular President and, even if that program fizzled out for various reasons, its concept will endure. It will so endure as the country is headed for more turbulent times and more intense intra-elite rivalry, requiring a more organized and grassroots-based response to the crisis.

Mrs. Arroyo, in collusion with the military clique and anti-communist hardliners in her cabinet, imposed emergency rule that preceded other repressive decrees on the pretext of preventing a military-Left plot to oust her early this year. But these measures along with the escalation of political killings perpetrated reportedly by government forces against Leftist activists and leaders have failed to douse cold water to the simmering public rage. The international backlash on the extra-judicial killings followed by the unilateral cancellation by Mrs. Arroyo of the scheduled ASEAN Summit have further eroded her credibility, as confirmed by recent surveys showing a -13 popularity rating. The international condemnation of the extra-judicial killings is significant considering that a number of foreign governments are threatening to tie their economic assistance to the President’s human rights performance.

With the cha-cha ending in a setback and the President’s popularity rating falling, Mrs. Arroyo’s options for staying in power have narrowed down. One of her political advisers’ preoccupations now is damage control and preventing the ruling coalition from crumbling once Arroyo’s political allies especially those running for reelection begin drifting toward the anti-Gloria opposition camp in the tradition of political opportunism.

Right now, it is probably to her advantage that the anti-Gloria opposition camp – part of the country’s political elite – remains in disarray, galvanized only by the objective of removing the illegitimate President. If they aim to be back in power, then they should begin talking about unity, forging a solid coalition and reaching a consensus on who will be the next President in a scenario where Mrs. Arroyo will be ousted in a third impeachment, in a snap election or, who knows, in the 2010 elections. How to match the administration’s election machinery, which includes the use of government resources, its control of the Comelec, the AFP and national police all of which can be harnessed to commit yet again a monumental fraud, is an obstacle that needs to be hurdled.

Meantime, the organized masses can use the next electoral circus as a political process toward ousting the President. Having seen the country’s major political pillars festering under the hands of the elite – the presidential office, Congress and the electoral system in particular – the bourgeois election will serve as an opportunity for broadening the masses’ political consciousness about genuine people’s governance and establishing real democratic institutions. Many unorganized elements from various social classes and sectors who were politicized by the constitutional crisis generated by the electoral fraud, the impeachment initiatives, and the manipulative tactics of the traditional elite aligned with Arroyo can likewise use the campaign period for deepening their political consciousness and linking up with the progressive and patriotic forces.

It will be a good time to articulate at the forefront the basic demands that cry out to be addressed, including the termination of the lopsided Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as well as the destructive mining law, a stop to political killings and justice to the victims of the Arroyo regime’s political persecution, a stop to the ongoing demolitions in Metro Manila and elsewhere, environmental degradation, and several other land and labor issues. Posted by (Bulatlat.com)

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