The anti-Arroyo campaign has taken a new turn. The social classes and sectors have converged; students, men and women religious and the bravest of bishops ---the poster boys and girls of EDSA 1 and 2 are back; and a big sector of the media will talk of nothing else. Yet not even Cory Aquino seems to think it’s going to be a walk in the park. And for obvious reasons.
First of all, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is resolved to dig in, whatever the cost or consequence. She has seen what happens to ousted Presidents: Marcos died in exile in
Second, Mrs. Arroyo still controls the military and the police (although some suggest the opposite) and is locked in with the local officials, most congressmen, justices and judges and possibly some “opposition” figures and prominent religious personalities.
Unless the scandal reaches a tipping point, a critical mass develops, the armed forces withdraw their allegiance and the bishops bless their efforts, her support base could keep her where she is. Marcos fell in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 only after the people and the military, with episcopal benediction, camped out in the streets.
Third, the presidential hopefuls, with their big bucks and even bigger bungles, would rather play with Mrs. Arroyo than with a transition regime that could rob them of their chances of becoming president by 2010. They might pay lip service to the “Arroyo, resign!” campaign, but they are not likely to risk anything, unless assured of a place in the next government.
Fourth, as the anti-Arroyo forces spread so also will the power struggle among the putative leaders intensify. They all agree that Mrs. Arroyo should go, but they can’t seem to agree on anything else. Some prefer a military junta that will eliminate corrupt politicians and promise “radical and sweeping change.” Others insist that only an elected president replace a president with a disputed mandate, no matter how rotten the elections. And not even Vice President Noli de Castro would like to bring in the Vice President.
De Castro, however, is the only card the anti-Arroyo forces could play if they want to push Mrs. Arroyo out without straying from the constitutional path. He is also the same card Mrs. Arroyo could play if she is compelled to capitulate or if she wants to preempt everybody else. She need not resign to bring him in. All she has to do is to inform the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that she is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of her office,” and make De Castro acting President.
In that case, she would remain the President (although “on leave”), immune from suit, though not necessarily from impeachment, which may no longer matter too much at that stage. She just might see in De Castro what the Russian President Vladimir Putin saw in his successor, President Dmitry Medvedev.
Some GMA loyalists, however, argue that, given another chance, she could still reform and rehabilitate herself. They cite as proof her decision to revoke Executive Order 464, which barred Cabinet members from appearing before Congress without her prior consent, even though she still requires them to withhold secrets from Congress, in the name of “executive privilege.”
Many will argue that she did it only to please the bishops who had asked for it in exchange for their decision not to ask her to quit. It is too little, too late.
But what if, just to confound her enemies, she should now cancel all questionable contracts, abolish the pork barrel, reform the electoral system, change all her Cabinet members who have not been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA), recall former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. whom she had sent as Philippine permanent representative to the U.N., in violation of the Foreign Service Act, which terminated all septuagenarian ambassadors in 1992, and of the Constitution, which requires the prior consent of the CA for all ambassadorial appointments?
What if she now prosecutes all offenders, including those close to her, and begins to execute every single law faithfully, according to her oath of office?
And, what if the Supreme Court, for its part, decides to revive the impeachment process by abandoning its totally repugnant decision in Francisco vs. House of Representatives, 415 SCRA 44, which saved then Chief Justice Davide from being impeached in 2003, and now allows impeachable officials to avoid impeachment simply by causing the filing of a faulty complaint against themselves, in order to prevent the filing of a real complaint against them for at least a year afterwards?
Mrs. Arroyo has seen no need to do any of these things till now. But, what if she discovers that she could survive the raging storm only if she did what she had avoided doing all these years?