When we submitted our collective irrevocable resignation from the Cabinet on 8 July 2005, we were absolutely convinced that the expose on the “Garci tapes” had severely damaged beyond repair the credibility of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And the “least disruptive and painful option that can swiftly restore normalcy and eventually bring us to prosperity” was for Mrs. Arroyo to voluntarily relinquish her office. Otherwise, the longer she insisted on staying in office–at all cost–under a cloud of doubt and mistrust, the greater the damage to the economy and to our political institutions. In the end, the poor would suffer the most.
It has been exactly four years since our resignation, and the serious concerns we expressed in our resignation statement have come to pass. The truth remains suppressed and the lying continues: the Garci case was never resolved, “executive privilege” became a convenient tool to frustrate truth-seekers, even the President’s health condition has become the subject of subterfuge. Corruption thrived and has continued unabated. Its many face–the First Couple and ZTE, Romy Neri, CyberEd, Joc-Joc Bolante, swine scam, General Garcia, Euro-Generals, DPWH bidding anomalies, and, lately, the noodles scam–have earned for the Arroyo regime the dubious distinction of being among the most corrupt in the world. Even the killings of journalists, activists, and peasant and union leaders, despite stern warnings from international human rights watchdogs, and journalist and law associations, have not stopped and, worse, have persisted with impunity. Amidst all of these, Mrs. Arroyo seems undeterred. Perhaps to escape all the criticisms for the sad and despicable state of the country, the President–the most peripatetic in history–has taken flight, with her usual coterie of politicians, family members, and hangers-on, wasting precious foreign exchange, while the fiscal deficit threatens to go haywire. As we speak, she may be scaling the pyramids of Egypt!
As the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term fast approaches, a profound fear of having to account before our people for all the cheating, the lying, the stealing, and the killings, not to mention, the neglect of the basic welfare of our people, especially the most vulnerable, has taken hold of the President, her family, and their cabal. From mere survival, the President is now consumed by schemes, however illegal or unconstitutional, to perpetuate herself in power–indefinitely.
One track is in play: the subversion of the Constitution, or what constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas calls “constitutional gang-rape,” to enable her to retain her powers under a parliamentary set-up as Prime Minister. Mrs. Arroyo’s lapdogs in the House have taken the first cha-cha step with the passage of House Resolution 1109, which seeks to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to pass upon amendments to the Constitution, even without the participation of the Senate. Any time now, we expect the House to convene by its lonesome self and trigger the filing of a “justiciable” case in the Arroyo-appointee dominated Supreme Court. The hope is that a favorable judgment–that legally the House can convene by itself as a constituent assembly for as long as it secures the 3/4 votes of all members of Congress–will give pork-starved members of the House the legal justification to go along with the scheme, no matter how patently illegal.
But should the cha-cha train derail–and by the day, if many of the House members are to be believed, it is becoming an increasing possibility–the Arroyo regime has also put into play a more sinister plan: the declaration of a state-of-emergency. The signs are dangerously evident: the mysterious bombings in Mindanao and Metro Manila, which seem to follow the same pattern as previous but failed attempts; the militarization of the Cabinet and strategic offices in the bureaucracy; the accelerated promotion of Class ’78 generals–the PMA batch purported to be loyal to the President–in strategic services and positions in the military, at the expense of officers belonging to Class ’76 and ’77; the unprecedented increase in the armed personnel of the PNP’s Metro Manila-based Special Action Force (SAF), which reportedly is now even better equipped than the military, which, because of rumblings and divisions within the ranks, has been rendered an unreliable ally of the regime.
And what about the only desirable option acceptable to our people–the scheduled May 2010 Presidential elections? While Mrs. Arroyo herself and her minions have repeatedly assured us that there will be elections in 2010, their actions belie their claim. Even the election automation project, which is supposed to ensure an orderly and fast count, is now mired in controversy. Suspicions linger, with talks of intervention by “big people in high places” to manipulate even the automated process, that automation is not yet a certainty.
What now? Lest we find ourselves once again fighting a repressive and kleptocratic authoritarian regime, we must be vigilant. We must expose and fight every move of the Arroyo regime to stay in power against our will and in violation of our Constitution. We call upon all those who truly cherish our democratic way of life, no matter how imperfect it may be, including those in the military and the police, to stand up against those who seek to exploit the instability and confusion in our midst and impose their dictatorial will upon us. Let us all join hands–with urgency and resolve–in ensuring that a clean, peaceful, orderly and automated election does take place in May 2010.
Finally, to the President and her cohorts, this challenge we throw: Don’t push your luck. You have crossed the line too often enough. With impunity, you have exploited our peopleÂ’s cynicism and apathy for your own narrow and selfish ends. As with all things, this too will come to an end. Of this, we are certain.
With God’s help, the Filipino people will put an end to this despicable Arroyo regime.
FLORENCIO B. ABAD
Department of Education
EMILIA T. BONCODIN
Department of Budget and Management
TERESITA QUINTOS DELES
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Department of Finance
IMELDA M. NICOLAS
National Anti-Poverty Commission
Department of Social Welfare and Development
ALBERTO D. LINA
Bureau of Customs
Bureau of Internal Revenue
JUAN B. SANTOS
Department of Trade and Industry
RENE C. VILLA
Department of Agrarian Reform