Friday, September 01, 2006
The present Philippine political chaos spawned by the alleged 2004 poll fraud corrodes the country more everyday. The moral degeneration this nation suffers from has manifested itself by way of bickering and squabbling and mudslinging on all sides. On one hand, there are claims of shameless cheating; on the other, the claimers are dismissed as plain sourgrapers who have nothing in mind but government destabilization. As a result of this political mess, the economy is fluctuating and the socio-cultural makeup of every Filipino is anything short of embarrassing. Needless to point out, the country is in a state of political calamity.
At the center of this crisis is the Philippine President herself, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Challenged formidably by the neophyte yet popular movie king, the late Fernando Poe, Jr., Gloria exhausted all electoral machinations, including the alleged diversion of ill-gotten Marcos wealth purported for agricultural modernization and widespread vote-padding, in order to assure her winning. She allegedly employed her executive influence to access government treasury to fund her election campaign and to manipulate certain agencies like the Commission of Elections (Comelec) to carry out the anomalous dagdag-bawas scheme: subtract her rivals’ canvassed votes to be added to hers. This unclean practice was done in the name of money and other favors. Here, mutual ways of moral malpractice are being exercised in the name of material things like money and executive power. Evil lives off in another evil.
Irate at the fraudulent exercise of yet another national election, some sectors of the civil society took to the city’s major thoroughfares in what has been Philippine-identified as parliament of the streets. The President cheated her way to the Malacaňang Palace, her opposition chanted, and defying illegal wiretapping laws, a source spilled the beans that a bugged conversation of the President with a Comelec official suggests that vote-padding indeed helped catapult the President to her executive seat. A probe on the “Hello Garci” tapes ensued but eventually died a natural death, even as the President, by virtue of her televised national apology, practically admitted she was leading the Philippines on a faked mandate. Ironically, the delayed honesty looked as if it was to be taken as yet another serious lie from no less than the supposed icon of national integrity.
Instead of the President’s “I’m sorry” episode punctuating the political mess, the furor inflamed more, with the legislative chambers launching into several investigations and the rallyists grew in multiple proportions. Enter two damage-control policies: Executive Order 464 and Calibrated Preemptive Response. The former was supposed to ban government officials from attending house hearings related to the political controversies, in the hope of aborting the possibilities of these officials’ turning against the President, what with more lies waiting to be uncovered during the legal inquiries. Meanwhile, the latter was done to extinguish popular uprisings—with water or police force—before they ultimately transmogrify into the same people power that installed her as “revolutionary” President in 2001. These damage controls were conducted to save the queen from letting the concerned and the people know the truth and from allowing the justice-hungry masses to demand yet again for another Philippine president’s head. Not only was the truth delayed but also was cast out of immediate sight.
The so-called death of the democracy ironically took its toll during the 20th anniversary of the EDSA I Revolution, what with the President issuing Proclamation No. 1017 or State of National Emergency. The sectors of Filipinos getting frustrated at the dismal administration of Mrs. Arroyo have swollen by the numbers, and should the government just dismiss this swirling mass of disappointed people as paid hacks by the opposition force, then the latter must have vast sums of money to fund all these rallies. The Presidential allies were singing hosannas regarding the rosy economy without effecting tangible improvements on the lives of the growing poor, so the civil society has used the media and the streets as people’s forum. Defiant as ever, the President did a Marcos by announcing a virtual Martial Law which somewhat legitimated warrant-less arrests of Arroyo’s arch-nemeses and censorship of media companies critical of her administration. The week-long emergency state might have been lifted, but with a prototype of Marcos’ Proc. No. 1081, can Martial Law under Mrs. Arroyo be far behind?
The impeachment against Mrs. Arroyo did not progress, so did cases filed against her before the Supreme Court. However, rallies continue to be called for her to abdicate from power, so the President went so far as proclaim a national emergency to serve warrant-less arrests of her known political enemies. A mutiny and a stand-off did not prosper in booting Arroyo out of office, but rumors of coup de etat continue to revive threats against her government and against the economy that has started to pick up after decades of horrible performance. In due time, this government’s act of self-preservation may produce significant political reforms as Arroyo may have wanted, but for now, the executive control being subscribed to by the President is all but a desperate attempt to maintain a semblance of equilibrium under a roiling sea of civil discontent over a perceived corrupt, dishonest and inhuman government.
The divide separating the rich and the poor having widened once more that even the bourgeois has wisely done some belt-tightening measures, the masses thought of themselves as poorer and hungrier than the previous years. While this impoverishment on their part and the failure to deliver on the government’s part must have alerted vigilance against further hopelessness, how may the underbelly of the society carry on with empty stomachs and blurred minds? The mass is made critically aware of the revolution that must take place but the uprooting of institutionalized social ills need endurance not only on most aspects of every person but also, especially, on the physical. This material problem notwithstanding, a waxing majority believes that the political crisis will not cease for as long as the President stubbornly stays in Malacaňang. This is short of saying that Mrs. Arroyo is perceived by dismayed electorates to be the root cause of everything that demonizes the Philippine society.
Were I a key actor in this political drama, I would be a representative of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and do the same clarion call for this country to undergo moral rejuvenation. As the institution I represent deems that this nation has succumbed to the curse of moral decadence, I in behalf of the CBCP would appeal for transparency and moral reflection regarding the issues circumscribing the political crisis. Also, I would convince the people that political vigilance should couple the moral change to equip oneself with, because the political crisis is perceived to be bedeviled in order to throw the entire country in political hell. The Philippines needs to refocus its priorities from the material to the spiritual, for as long as the earthly corrupts the soul of the people, the hunger for material power will not stop and this will hound the nation into a land of endless suffering. The First People Power has shown that the country can have a renewal with the significant help of pastoral leadership; surely this political impasse may yet be broken by the same spiritual hands that herded the Filipinos to freedom. A peaceful, morally-guided status quo is feasible for as long as the nation sustains moral integrity, and this can be done by upholding moral revolution amongst the rendered-vigilant people.