Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gloria Arroyo’s conundrum

“Stop titillating the nation,” former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos admonished President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was like telling her to make up her mind whether she intends to push through with the Charter Change initiative in Congress as a constituent assembly or run in the 2010 elections for her son’s congressional seat in Pampanga.

But in fairness to Gloria Arroyo, whatever last ballyhoo she has in mind is for her alone to ponder. She is no under legal obligation to disclose what her plans are after her term of office expires in 2010. Suffice it to say that the present Constitution has taken care of this issue. Her term expires; she cannot run for office again. She can spend her retirement in teaching or in writing her memoirs, or through joining the lecture circuit as other former presidents are wont to do.

Yet, Gloria Arroyo keeps sending confusing signals. The merger of Kampi-Lakas-CMD administration parties means she is consolidating her political base. Congress House Resolution 1109 was rammed through by her followers to amend the Constitution by convening a constituent assembly which could postpone the 2010 presidential elections, overhaul the legislature, and transform it to a parliament, and for all intents and purposes, keep her in power beyond her present term of office. Plus, all this talk about her son giving up his congressional seat in Pampanga so she could run in next year’s elections only adds fuel to the fire than extinguish the rumours of her desire to stay in office.

Everyone knows why she wants to amend the present Constitution. But it is next to impossible now to achieve what she wants, legally and based on public acceptance. The Supreme Court, in the meantime, has refused to hear a petition to disallow the congressional initiative to convene a constituent assembly, deciding to wait and see if Congress would go ahead with its plan. It seems likely that this initiative will fizzle out and so goes Gloria Arroyo’s fervent wish to overhaul the government that will give her the chance to lead the country one more time under a parliamentary system.

But why would Gloria Arroyo even think of running for Congress? If she was scared of being sued for her wrongdoings in office after her term expires, a seat in Congress does not give her the immunity from being sued. The Constitution only gives her temporary freedom from arrest while Congress is in session, but she could still be charged criminally or sued in a civil action for damages. Being a member of Congress gives her immunity from liability for making speeches, but that’s not what the people are demanding that she be prosecuted for. The massive cheating and fraud during her re-election and the brazen graft and corruption in her government are almost akin to the crimes for which her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, was charged with, especially plunder which carries the death penalty. No wonder that Gloria Arroyo is scared to death after her term is over because executive immunity ends the moment she steps down.

It seems understandable, although not an appropriate excuse, that someone would crave for more power in order to cover her sins in office. But why a person in the first place could be motivated to be dishonest and corrupt remains a beguiling concept.

The daughter and first child of a former Philippine president to hold the post as president, Gloria Arroyo seemed destined for the presidency. Well-qualified with an academic degree in economics, she has the tools to understand why the country is poor and the wherewithal to redeem the country from the mire of poverty and misery.

During an interview with Time International upon taking over the presidency in 2001, Gloria Arroyo cited her father and former President Cory Aquino as her role models: “I will follow my father’s footsteps in doing what is right, and God will take care of the rest. My father is my role model. My living role model is Cory Aquino. I am prepared.”

In The Power and the Glory: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Her Presidency by Isabelo T. Crisostomo, Arroyo was quoted thus: “I dwell on what must be done. I am a very focused person. I don’t focus on laurels, on feeling secure, feeling comfortable. Even on the day I was sworn in as president, I didn’t say, ‘Wow, I am now president,’ I said, ‘What should I do now?’”

Well, Gloria Arroyo might as well ask herself the same question, ”What should I do now?” in the face of her present conundrum.

To run or not to run, that’s not even an issue that should bother her, if she’s only willing to save her presidency or whatever is left of it. Respect the Constitution, and she must because this seems the only moral choice. The Filipino people have a large and forgiving heart. Otherwise, we could have a revolution in our hands soon.

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