Friday, September 21, 2007

PRESIDENT ARROYO'S 'AUTUMN OF PERIL'

There's something about the last quarter of the year that spells danger to President Arroyo.

Rumors of another coup, I hear, are circulating in Manila. I found the timing uncanny, almost predictable because it's been like that since PGMA was installed in the presidency via "EDSA-2" in what feels like a long, long, long time ago. The "ber-months" have always appeared perilous for her; whether this is just perception, I'm unsure. Didn't she announce in December 2003 that she would not be running in the May 2004 presidential elections? Wasn't it around this time in 2005 that she faced impeachment, only to be rescued by allies in the House of Representatives? It's as if the calendar itself was part of what she likes to label as a "conspiracy" to unseat her.

Anti-Arroyo conspirators -- real and imagined -- have always been busiest this time of the year. A friend, Boy Saycon, once explained this was all because of the country's weather. A campaign to oust a sitting president needed just the right pacing -- one year might be too long to keep the plot secret; three months would be too short to plan and prepare. They seemed to have settled for six months. And the reckoning begins at the end, not at the start.

This "template" was likely an offshoot of "EDSA-1" -- the February 1986 People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. To draw people out to the streets, conditions must be just right -- a popular cause, the promise of victory, and a cooperative weather. No rains, just enough sunshine, salubrious climes. It's no coincidence, Saycon argued, that both successful People Power revolts occurred in the first three months of the year when the weather is most supportive of mass actions in the streets.

President Arroyo appears scared of the shadows she's created, a foreboding of karma. It was about the same time in 2000 when a small circle of army and police generals started drawing a plan to hostage President Estrada and any general who sides with him -- to be galvanized within the next several weeks as the Singson expose rapidly upped the plot's tempo as well as the political temperature. The conspirators were egged on by the pillars of Philippine civil society -- many of whom would eventually regret their actions and try to reprise the process, this time against PGMA -- by assurances that the people would march out to the streets to support the putsch, offers of money and logistics, and the promise of acceptance if they were successful.

PGMA, then Vice President, was eventually apprised with the plan through a then-army major (I'd rather not mention his name, but he's PMA Class '74 -- some call them PGMA's "jedi" for their courage and innovations in the AFP, as well as their steadfast loyalty to her). Hence, she was "on it", contrary to assertions she only came aboard after the generals launched their uprising. Although she apparently had no say in the plot, she knew when it would start (reason she was conveniently near a Cebu convent when it happened), knew the generals involved, and probably had some knowledge of how it'd be done. That's why she's now afraid. She's seen how the generals can work against their Command-in-Chief, and she knows precisely what comes next.

So it's that time of the year again. PGMA may be a bit more alloyed by the experience of fighting off an impeachment and repeated challenges. She may be a personification of that old adage "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". Her announcement in Baguio City in December 2003 that she wasn't running in the following year's polls was, her own detractors have admiited, a stroke of political genius. She was vulnerable, from Estrada forces, from the Left, from inertia within the military. She lulled her opponents with her proclamation and assurances, knowing that she had to make it through the summer, to the elections scheduled in May. And she did, she survived. Many criticize her "escalator policy" of promoting generals to top AFP and PNP posts -- but that's exactly how she keeps their loyalty.

As the months march on to the next year, President Arroyo will be hounded by danger -- if not in reality, then in her mind at least. It's that time of the year again. She may already be looking forward to summer, to the start of next year's rainy season.

1 comment:

DJB Rizalist said...

Oh but wait, she still has an important legacy to leave: Bangsamorostan for all her fans in America to admire her more from afar. Very far.