The self-destructing administration
The potent combination of outrage and sense of betrayal coupled with simmering discontent and long-dormant animosity finally came to a boil in the political event of the season that was the prayer rally held yesterday at the Luneta. For quite sometime now, many have been wondering what would finally make people snap out of their collective apathy. We know the answer now.
The throngs of the betrayed have been galvanized into action, their anger ignited by the brazen and callous post-midnight conspiracy of the administration congressmen in the House of Representatives to change the Constitution through a constituent assembly.
What is truly sad about the whole sordid turn of events is that all these are reminiscent of previous chains of events that consequently threw someone out of Malacañan Palace. Frankly, we’ve been there before; didn’t the administration see this coming? Edsa II and III were ignited by the same callous disregard for due process, the same wanton disrespect for people’s intelligence. In moments like these, we can’t help wondering whether the people who walk the corridors of power in this country have indeed become so drunk with power that they have become deaf, blind and numb to the fact that there is actually very little support for this administration to begin with.
Let’s do a quick reality check. The failure of the opposition and militant groups to muster numbers for protest actions in the past were not due to overwhelming affection for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was due to grudging capitulation that rocking the status quo would be more dangerous. That was then. I have always maintained that many people were willing to cut President Arroyo and her allies some slack, but that this was preconditioned on certain deliverables. Okay, let’s call a spade a dirty shovel and state what I think many people wanted: clear signs of repentance and mending of ways.
There is only so much that people can take. Even the most apolitical and the most apathetic person could be roused to action when he feels insulted and abused. And the shameless way in which the House of Representatives railroaded the process to convert itself into a constituent assembly while the nation slept was truly insulting. How dare these people think they can get away with whatever it is that they want!
A line has been crossed in the last three weeks. And, unless more concrete steps are taken to assuage people’s fears and doubts, unless very definitive assurance is made that similar sinister conspiracies will never ever be resorted to again, I am afraid that the resentment will continue to snowball.
It is very easy to dismiss the prayer rally spearheaded by the Catholic Church yesterday simply as a warning salvo to the powers-that-be. I don’t share that belief. The organizers may have tried to downplay the political overtones of the event by insisting that it was simply a religious affair. But the truth of the matter is that most of the people who went to Luneta yesterday did not go there to pray. Everyone knows we can pray anywhere. People went because of political reasons. People went because they felt violated. People went because, quite frankly, their patience was wearing thin.
In the same light, the government’s frenzied but inept attempts to backpedal on the constituent assembly proposal and to diffuse the situation were indicative of certain things: most specifically, it shows the level of concern, even panic, on the part of Malacañang. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales even went to the extreme of trundling out that old worn-out communist bogey threat in an effort to discourage people from going to the rally. It was almost farcical how he attempted to dissuade parents from allowing their children to go to the rally by citing security threats. Oh please, this tactic had been practiced by the Marcos lackeys in the ’70s and ’80s, and had proven to be so unsuccessful. The problem with using fear as deterrent is that it only serves to embolden people and deepen their commitment after their initial success in overcoming their misplaced fears.
Using scare tactics has never worked in eliminating casualties due to the use of dangerous firecrackers during New Year’s Eve, or in HIV/AIDS prevention, or in many other situations. What ever made Gonzales think it would work now?
More telling is the way the Palace has been forced to reveal its hand in the whole scheme of things. We can recall that in the beginning, the government made it appear that it had nothing to do with the workings of the House of Representatives. Now that things have come to a boil and the backs of administration congressmen have been put against the wall, Malacañang has taken a direct hand in diffusing the situation and doing spin control. It would have been convenient to simply toe the usual line and pin the blame squarely on the administration representatives. Given the way things are, however, this would have smacked of political suicide. As it is, we’ve already had a number of Pontius Pilate wannabes washing their hands in public a good three months before Holy Week.
So here we have a situation where the President is no longer linked to the whole sordid mess simply by association. It is now pretty clear that the Palace has been behind the move after all—and this conclusion is no longer drawn from simple inference. This spells trouble for the President who, except of course for that very incriminating taped conversation (whose impact may have been diminished but continues to haunt her just the same), has so far been spared from being directly implicated. The chinks in the armor are now all there for everyone to gawk at. The opposition and the civic groups who have been sharpening their axes for quite some time now are all ready to strike again. I can almost hear them humming that old familiar refrain, “happy days are here again.”
Serves the administration right, I think. It has been given more than enough opportunities to redeem itself but it has only squandered these. If there is something that can be said of this administration, it is that it has done a great job at self-destruction. Instead of focusing on building a great legacy that will counterbalance the series of scandals that have rocked it from its inception, it has wasted its energy on counterproductive actions that have only alienated more and more people, including those who have been initially supportive—whether sincerely or grudgingly.
Is everything lost, then? I don’t know. Right now, I can’t see through my personal resentment at the way my intelligence has been insulted by this administration over that stupid move to ram that constituent assembly. Proposal down my throat. It is just sheer luck that all this mess is happening during the Christmas season when people are in a more forgiving and hopeful mood. But this self-destruction has got to stop. It simply has got to stop. Enough. Please.