Revising History

Ironically, the more Mrs. Arroyo dismisses, degrades and tries to consign to oblivion the legacy of people power uprisings – of a people moving as one to overthrow the current Chief Executive Officer of the unjust and exploitative ruling system – the more she underscores its vitality, its correctness and its historical necessity.

BY CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Streetwise / Business World
Posted by Bulatlat

I craned my neck watching from the back of a packed room at that historic press conference of Vice President Gloria Arroyo with AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Chief Angelo Reyes who, together with other senior military officials, had just withdrawn his support from President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. The air was electric since everyone knew that the tide had turned: without the Armed Forces backing his presidency, Erap’s days in Malacañang were numbered.

I waited for Mrs. Arroyo to say something memorable. Surely she and her advisers had prepared for the possibility of her being catapulted to power riding the crest of a massive wave of people’s protest culminating in the four fateful days of Edsa Dos. She must have rehearsed some short lines that, even if not earthshaking, would be somewhat equal to the occasion. It is not everyday that you are a heartbeat away from being the most powerful person in the land.

But no, she was her usual banal self and though anyone could see that she was pleased and excited at the prospect of soon becoming president of the country, all she could say was that she didn’t aim to be the best president but just a “good” one “with the help of God Almighty”. What sounded then like a self-deprecating understatement turned out in fact to be a much bloated overstatement about what her presidency would be for most Filipinos – bad, worse and worst – by any measure.

As far as Edsa people power uprisings go, Mrs. Arroyo will be remembered more for her preposterously anti-people power official statement on the 23rd anniversary of the revolt that toppled the dictator Marcos. Mrs. Arroyo sums up her view thus, “The world embraced Edsa I in 1986. The world tolerated Edsa II in 2001. The world will not forgive an Edsa III, but it will instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.”

In simple terms, what she is actually saying is that she was on the right side of Edsa I (her father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, had by then joined the anti-Marcos opposition) and benefited from it when she was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as undersecretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). By the time Mrs. Aquino’s term ended, Mrs. Arroyo had gotten a sufficient boost in her political career to aim for a senatorial seat in 1992 and the vice presidency in 1998.

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