By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
MANY WRITERS and thinkers in the Philippines have in the aftermath of the recent state of emergency being declared and then suspended, been trying to analyze why we have ended up with such a president as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. One who so resolutely hangs on to power despite her popularity being down there in the dumps.
As Conrado de Quiros so rightly pointed out in his column on Tuesday, Arroyo has been able to cling on to power for so long because of the unholy alliance she has formed with traditional politicians to keep show business people out of power. Of course, the main example of their success is the undemocratic and illegal overthrowing of President Joseph Estrada in the 2001 EDSA II uprising. His election to the presidency by a landslide in 1998 was an affront to all of those trapos who couldn’t stomach seeing a man who once starred in movies, occupying the most important position in the nation.
But the trapos were not alone in their scheming against movie stars with political ambitions. They had the not insignificant support of the middle classes, who naturally felt aggrieved and horrified that a college drop-out had become their president.
The trapos played well on the complexes of the middle classes, who in my opinion suffer from a huge inferiority complex, thus enabling them to shame many decent Filipinos into thinking that overthrowing Estrada was right because he had unexplained wealth in secret bank accounts. Screw the fact that he was elected fairly by millions of poor Filipinos. In the twisted and morally-superior attitude of the middle classes, who think they know best, the poor should just quietly follow their lead and keep their mouths shut.
This has led us to this ridiculous situation where many educated, middle class Filipinos keep clinging on to the hope of President Arroyo redeeming herself as the savior of the nation, despite the fact that she is an egomaniac, power-hungry and ultimately corrupt president. A good example of this is an email by a certain S. C. Austero entitled “Open Letter to Our Leaders: Why We Are Not Out in the Streets.”The whole “Hello Garci” tape scandal last year just proved that Arroyo was ready to go to any lengths to assure her election, and she did.****
Is Nelly Sindayen Telling the Truth?
AN angry reader of my column emailed me last week wanting to prove that the coup plot against Arroyo had indeed been an alliance between Leftists and parts of the military. As proof of his assertion he directed me to Nelly Sindayan’s incredible report in the March 6, 2006 issue of Time magazine’s Asian edition.
I read the story and thought it amazing. Amazing that anyone really plotting a coup against the government would let such a well-known and experienced reporter as Nelly just walk around at leisure in Jose “Peping” Cojuangco’s house and listen in as a man supposedly talked to an American official in Washington who was supposedly giving Bush’s blessing for the coup attempt.
Cojuangco has denied Nelly’s account, and Arroyo cheerleader Belinda Olivares-Cunanan has an interesting analysis of the event in her column. Entitled “Nelly’s Word Against Peping’s”, she naturally defends Nelly, calling her a grizzled veteran who cannot be easily fooled. I would have also tended to defend Nelly’s accuracy, but her story was so bizarre that I find it a stretch this time.****
PRESIDENT Arroyo is such an opportunist that it amazes me that more Filipinos have not been put off of her for life.
She successfully courted the Leftists in EDSA II, gaining their support after promising them jobs and a certain amount of influence in government. But after last year’s extremely corrupt and manipulated elections, many of these Leftists became disillusioned with her and stopped supporting her.
Unfortunately, some otherwise intelligent commentators sneered at anyone who was angered by the arrest of Bayan Muna Rep. Crispin Beltran. One such writer was my colleague Manuel Quezon III, who said he despised Beltran for having supported the bloody Chinese repression of the Tiananmen Square protests.
Fair enough, I too do not like these unreformed Maoists who think that every repressive act by the Chinese government is “good” for the people. But isn’t arresting someone on a 1986 charge, after he has been elected to and sitting Congress for a long time, rather ridiculous and unfair? I would have thought so, because obviously if the Arroyo administration had concrete proof of Beltran’s scheming with the military to overthrow the president, I don’t think they would have resorted to a twenty-year old arrest warrant. In any event, wouldn’t the statue of limitations have already run out on that warrant? One would have thought so.
****Arroyo’s Husband Was Ready to Shed Blood
Finally, I was directed by a link on Manolo Quezon’s blog to the Philippine Commentary blog which this week carried an interview given by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to Graphic magazine in 2001 following EDSA II.
The interview is disturbing because Mike Arroyo claims that he and the military forces loyal to his wife were ready to use force if need be in overthrowing President Estrada. Not only that, he also claimed that Gloria didn’t know about the “use of force if necessary” edict until after the fact, which I find hard to believe.
Here’s the chilling bit of the interview: “In fact it was our group that won over to our side the PNP first. If Panfilo Lacson had resisted, he and his men would have been repelled: there would have been bloodshed, but not on EDSA. In every place where Erap loyalists had a force, we had a counter-force to face it, with orders to shoot. And not only in Metro Manila. Carillo had already been sent to the provinces; and in Nueva Ecija, for instance, we had Rabosa. This was a fight to the finish. That’s why those five days that Erap was demanding were so important. He was counting on counter-coups and baliktaran.”
Just imagine if EDSA II had been bloody, not only in Manila but across the country. I don’t think Gloria would be the president now and the world would have right away lost the respect they had for People Power revolutions. As it is, most people have lost faith in these EDSA coups, especially in the case of the second one which disrespected the choice of millions of Filipinos at the ballot box.