With the current intensification of the political crisis, the growing movement calling for Truth and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation or ouster might still be able to muster enough strength to push the Arroyo government out of Malacañang and mitigate the sufferings it imposed on the Filipino people. But if the Arroyo government is able to again weather the storm and win the race against time, it would leave the nation more deeply scarred.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Vol. VIII, No. 7, March 16-29, 2008
The Arroyo government is gloating over the fact that Congress would have a three-week recess starting this Holy Week. It is hoping that this would break the momentum of both the Senate investigations on the graft-ridden and disadvantageous National Broadband Network (NBN) contract with ZTE of China, and the movement for Truth and for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation, which got a boost after the February 29 interfaith rally in Makati that drew in a crowd of around 80,000 people. It is also wishing that with the end of classes, mobilizations would not be able to equal or command a larger crowd than the February 29 rally and would eventually fizzle out.
But its boast that the political crisis it is enmeshed in is over is betrayed by its own actions. The Arroyo government gathered 1,000 students in Malacañang on March 13 and did a unity walk in an attempt to pre-empt the March 14 rally that would be mainly participated in by students before their summer break. A Malacañang-sponsored party-list group Babae Ka, which failed to gain a seat during the May 2007 elections, filed seven corruption charges against Senate witness Rodolfo Jun Lozada. And (in)Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, acting as if he owns Iloilo city declared that he is banning Lozada from speaking in public schools in the city and ordered the local branch of the Justice Department to monitor the movements and speaking engagements of the latter.
While the Holy Week and the summer break would buy the Arroyo government some time, it is not yet over the hump. It has not, as National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales claimed, “reached the end” or “the peak of scandals, intrigues, everything.”
The Arroyo government has been enmeshed in this crisis since December 2002 and has never been resolved since. It would be remembered that the Arroyo government first sunk into the political quagmire it is in because of corruption charges, worsening hunger and poverty, its unwavering support to the U.S. “war on terror” and the increased presence of U.S. troops in the country. The pressure abated when Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to declare that she would not run for president in 2004, which she, of course, backtracked from a year after.
The crisis came to a head again in July 2005 when the Hello Garci tape – which recorded President Arroyo talking with a Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner, widely-believed to be Virgilio Garcillano allegedly to rig the elections to ensure that she wins by 1 million votes over the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections – was exposed; several of the Arroyo government’s Cabinet secretaries resigned; and calls for Arroyo’s resignation intensified. The Arroyo government was barely able to hang on to power after former Pres. Fidel Ramos, the House of Representatives led by former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the U.S. embassy expressed their support for Macapagal-Arroyo. But the nation was irreparably divided.
The recent explosion of the crisis is the third and was sparked by the expose’ and kidnapping of Lozada. The crisis is again starting to intensify and there is still no end in sight.
Even before the NBN-ZTE deal enraged the nation, the Arroyo government was already on the defensive locally and internationally because of the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance of activists from the Left and the killings of journalists. The ludicrous explanation of the Arroyo government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the killings and abductions were the result of an “internal purge” within the Communist Party of the Philippines was debunked by United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Killings Philip Alston in 2007. This forced the AFP to go slow in committing extrajudicial killings but the political turmoil continued to build up until the Lozada expose’.
The political crisis is far from being resolved. Not only are the issues being raised against the Arroyo government not being addressed, it keeps on piling up. The list of corruption and bribery scandals involving the Arroyo government keeps on getting longer: the onerous IMPSA power contract, the overpriced Macapagal-Arroyo Blvd, the controversial NAIA 3 terminal, the North Rail and South Rail projects, the fertilizer scam, the PhilHealth cards, the NBN-ZTE contract, the bribery at Malacañang, and the Transco privatization. The human rights violations, the extrajudicial killings, and the attacks on civil liberties persist. Charges of electoral fraud during the 2004 presidential elections have not yet been resolved and the May 2007 senatorial and party-list elections were again fraught with cheating. The Arroyo government sold out our national patrimony and natural resources to multinational corporations with its aggressive promotion of large-scale mining, and the oil and natural gas exploration activities at Malampaya, Tanon Strait, and now the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking at the Spratly Islands. Even the conservative estimates of the government, which uses a very low poverty threshold, show that poverty is worsening; and self-rated hunger persists at very high rates.
The Arroyo government could keep on stalling and suppressing the issues but it would not be able to make it go away. These issues would keep on haunting the Arroyo government for as long as it is in Malacañang. The Arroyo government’s hold on power is still hanging in the balance. With the current intensification of the political crisis, the growing movement calling for Truth and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation or ouster might still be able to muster enough strength to push the Arroyo government out of Malacañang and mitigate the sufferings it imposed on the Filipino people. But if the Arroyo government is able to again weather the storm and win the race against time, it would leave the nation more deeply scarred. (Bulatlat.com)