July 04 - July 17, 2005
OPINION

IN-DEPTH (2)
Juan L. Mercado

Is bashing heads the only option?

Has it come down to this? Must we again unleash “People Power” to redress grievances against the administration?

Obviously, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s capacity to govern has been sapped. It’s bogged down in scandals and the wiretap controversy quagmire. Runway oil prices and inflation are scrubbing faint signs of economic rebound.

‘So, there’s no other option.” Says who? Says the most improbable coalition of political harlots, this jaded country has seen for some time.

On one hand are the communists and party list-allies. Their fronts try—but haven’t succeeded—in scrubbing Marxist jargon from their press releases. They’re still infatuated with red-banner waving rallies.

Shackled to a failed creed, they’ve been abandoned by allies, the latest being China. They’ve never produced a leader who came within spitting distance of the presidency. Nor have they massed enough warm bodies to muscle their way into power.

People Power I and II erupted without them. Thus, they’ve been reduced to hijacking any leader or movement that comes along.

They hitched their tattered wagon to the Fernando Poe campaign. The 2004 elections and the “Da King’s” death finished that. His widow, Susan Roces, would not give local commissars the time of her day.

On the other hand, there’s a severely- tainted opposition. Their out-of power members would topple government by any means. “Power corrupts,” Ambassador Adlai Stevenson once said. “But nothing corrupts more than lack of power”.

No one takes ex-General Fortunato Abat and his geriatric military buccaneers seriously. Columnist Manuel Quezon has noted that those booted out by People Power remain anathema to many.

That includes Joseph Estrada a.k.a Jose Velarde. Or Panfilo Lacson of Kuratong Baleleng fame, and Francisco Tatad of the “Craven Eleven”—who suppressed the second envelope during Estrada’s impeachment.

Then, there’s Jinggoy Estrada, the Marcoses, Maceda and hangers-on like disgruntled Arroyo supporters. Many would grace a police line-up.

Do they still make vultures today? May be not. But to be on the safe side, these characters should probably be castrated.

En tiempo de hambe, nuay mal pan, my grandmother used to say. “In times of hunger, there’s no bad bread.” For their own ends, these two groups have forged an alliance. Thus, Rep. Francis Escudero struts with Rep. Teddy Casiño.

A coalition for what?

For “a calibrated and methodical plot”, says Inquirer columnist Amado Doronilla. Its shadowy authors seek to overthrow the government, in the streets. They stoke public discontent over pocketbook issues like high prices and mal-governance.

Sober reputable individuals and groups agree with that analysis. “We see calls for ‘civil disobedience’ and ‘people power’ as cynical mimicry of such historic forms of expressing popular will,” the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture said.

Only President Arroyo’s “letting the law run its full course on the charges brought against her, her relatives and her administration” will start to dispel doubt that has descended on the highest office of the land”.

But the Institute “decries opportunistic attempts to use these as political fodder for destabilization and a power grab on the part of the opposition”.

The power-grabbers, for now, are jelling around a valid demand: that the President speak up on wire-tapped phone conversations on elections. Were these between her and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano?

Thus, non-partisan groups, like the Catholic Barug (Stand Up) movement of Cebu say: The President should speak—or lose credibility.

But speak on which tapes? The overloaded five-committee probe in Congress is packed with partisans from both sides. Now, it’s confronted with mutating copies. New versions are being manufactured daily, Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye claims.

We can buy that. This country never implemented Intellectual Property Rights, whether on compact discs, movies or video and printed matter. And under the Quiapo Bridge, counterfeiters can whip out Harvard or Oxford diplomas for a small fee.

Thus, each passing day the tape issue gets murkier. This benefits the administration. Ironically, it suits the opposition-communist alliance too.

The President’s opponents are “bent on bringing the issue to a head in the streets by escalating their demands,” Doronilla notes. “They have shut the door to directing the controversy toward constitutional and legal processes”.

“There is only one avenue of action,” says former Supreme Court Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma. “And that is the impeachment process provided for in the 1987 Constitution.

During martial law, Ms. Palma was admired as the “only justice with balls.” She has not lost her calm forthrightness.

Congress’ request that the President confirm or deny the tapes is a gross violation of the separation of powers, Justice Palma says. This issue should be looked into by the proper constitutional body, and not by the personal views of government officials or private citizens.

“The only way to way to put an end to this present situation is to go through the process of impeachment,” she believes.

In the days ahead, we will probably to see who the people heed. Will they move out of the sidelines and join others to bash heads in the streets? That would create mob rule and the use of force in effecting a change of power? Or will they press for a reasoned approach?

(E-mail: juan_mercado@pacific.net.ph)

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