This was my column last Monday, November 9.

As Yul Brynner thundered in the musical The King and I: “It’s… a… puzzlement!”

Most can’t wait to get rid of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Yet strangely, there’s also this rather perverse, almost insane attention already bordering on fixation, around her political plans after her term as President expires in 2010.

In fact, I would even venture to say that many are indulging her or her allies this fairy tale fantasy that there still remains some semblance of a high-profile political career for her and that she could still continue to wield power after she steps down as President. The initial talk was that of Arroyo becoming prime minister. When that didn’t work, the talk shifted to her becoming Representative of a district in Pampanga en route to becoming presumably Speaker of the House, and in the event Charter change gets through the gauntlet that is the Philippine Senate, prime minister. The buzz last week was that of Arroyo settling for the vice presidency.

Of course the issue of Arroyo’s political fortunes beyond 2010 is complicated and confounding; almost like a multi-headed hydra.

There is the distinct possibility that all these discussions of options are really part of some sinister political machination designed to condition all of us to accept a political eventuality. As the old saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire. Perhaps Arroyo and her allies are really so drunk with power that they have become numb to the general discontent and revulsion many have toward them. Perhaps the President really wants to become representative and eventually speaker of the House just to be able to continue to wield power enough to escape political prosecution from the next administration.

It is also possible that the conditioning process that is being employed here is directed toward attaining a more benign political goal, albeit no less devious. By stoking people’s fear of the specter of a President-in-perpetuity, we are all being conditioned to accept a compromise which is to give the President the chance to live out her retirement in peace, free from persecution, or else.

There is also the distinct possibility that the issue is being harnessed by various political forces for their own vested interest. Two of the most widely-used campaign strategies being employed today by those who stand to gain from them are, first, to enhance political stock by painting oneself as the complete opposite of the President—and many have no compunctions of resorting to this old Machiavellian tactic. Second, which is a natural extension of the first, is to invoke Arroyo’s supposed political kiss of death.

But what are we to make of everybody else’s continuing fixation with Arroyo’s and her allies’ furious efforts at wishful thinking? Instead of quashing the idea firmly with a “no effing way!” many are actually furthering it, even adding fuel to the conflagration, by saying that the possibility is not remote and that anything can happen in this country as if we are all spineless jellyfish puny to political machinations. Oh please, if there is something that Filipinos consider anathema after Ferdinand Marcos, it is overstaying presidents.

Fidel Ramos was one of the better presidents we have had and his reason for wanting to stay in power longer was more valid, but the Filipino people didn’t want to take the risk of having another president laying proprietary claims to the office. The people didn’t want to give it to Cory Aquino, not even to Fidel Ramos. What makes anyone think that Filipinos would give it to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?

However, the idea of the President running for vice president in 2010 is downright absurd. I am surprised that people who are supposed to know better bothered to dignify it with some semblance of an intelligent reaction. To my mind, the logical reaction to the trial balloon propped up by Representative Danilo Suarez was to laugh it off as gibberish regurgitated by someone with an overactive imagination who unfortunately had nothing better to do.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a lot of things but she is not crazy. She knows that her chances of winning the vice presidency is about the same as that of an ice cube surviving in hell. One has to be blind, deaf and stupid not to realize that running for the vice presidency is worse than political suicide both for Arroyo and the ruling coalition. They might as well kiss goodbye whatever microscopic chances Gibo Teodoro has of becoming president of the republic.

But lest we forget, we are a country populated by politicians afflicted with the most severe cases of narcissism so the fact that quite a number of our national leaders actually scrambled all over themselves to register their reactions was to be expected. Even those who wanted to say they had no comment on the matter, people like Senator Pia Cayetano, still managed to say quite a mouthful in the process.

Nevertheless, I did find Senator Mar Roxas’s reaction an exercise in unwarranted sanctimoniousness. Although he did preface his reaction with a lighthearted comment about how Arroyo’s purported candidacy would boost his own chances of winning the vice presidency, what he said next left a bad taste in the mouth. He actually said that they have nothing to fear because what they stand for is righteousness while the administration symbolizes wrong deeds.

Crucifying this administration for various wrongdoings is par for the course and it is very often fully deserved. However, I don’t think leveraging on the misdeeds of others to boost one’s political stock is righteous either. To actually verbalize that one is righteous is downright being sanctimonious.

I know what some pundits are going to say: They will say that Bong Austero is quick to dismiss this administration’s frailties but are hard on members of the opposition. I’ve said this many times and I am going to say it again here. I think it is hypocritical to ask this administration to be honorable and moral because these things are simply beyond their comprehension. It’s like asking a scorpion to refrain from being a scorpion. But the others who are leveraging on this administration’s lack of morals to prop up their political stock should hold themselves up to a higher moral standard precisely because that’s what they are supposed to be about.


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