Ah, there. That was a more appropriate title to just saying, “last few months,” period. At least that captures the… essence of the discussions, debates and, yes, fears regarding the Little Girl on the Banks of the Pasig.
The first thing that comes to mind right now is… look, she’s still there. The longest-sitting President of the Republic since Marcos, the longest for the so-called “Fifth Republic” formed after the First People Power. Her… longevity flies in the face of what her critics say and trumpet, especially those surveys that, for years running, have condemned Gloria as the most unpopular President of all time. She has been vilified, crucified and maligned and her opponents have thrown at her everything including the kitchen sink and the icky things at the bottom.
And she’s still there.
So, the inevitable question: why?
In their self-righteous anger of her, I think this was one place where civil society has failed, with regard to Gloria: they never asked that question, especially after 2007 when there was still at least a year or two to make the case to remove her. I told people that, if you haven’t removed Gloria by December 2008, you’re not going to remove her through extra-constitutional means.
Unless one of the Hyatt Ten spills the real beans, the ones from up that beanstalk they’ve been keeping all this time, because almost all of them were neck-deep in the operations of denying FPJ the Palace, so if anyone would know, it would be them. Heck, we in the Liberal Party at the time kept bragging how we weren’t the “junior partner” in the coalition but co-equal to LAKAS, and I remember Butch Abad and Kiko Pangilinan defending Gloria in the House and the Senate Electoral Tribunals so don’t fucking tell me we didn’t know any cheating if it happened.
Hell, even if they admit it or not, I bet some of them were responsible for making Gloria renege on her Rizal Day Promise. Yes, I actually think she was honest with that one because she still had a cadre of people around her who could infect her with idealism. But then, there was 2004 and FPJ, so…
See, that’s the thing: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a creature of her contexts. She wasn’t her father, a lad who was born to poverty and had to fight his way up. Romanticism aside, Dadong was of a different context than his daughter, who practically grew up royalty. Gloria had a childhood where she was at the center of power and grew up breathing power. She was the successor, the heir, to the power and name of Dadong, history beckoning to her as the first person ever to be elected, in a (relatively) free and fair contest, to the same position her father once held.
This was the Gloria pre-2001, before the Second People Power. This was the Gloria that could abandon the Party her father fought for and died a member of, because it made strategic sense. And this was right after said Party feted her in grand fashion in the Araneta Coliseum, bastion of her fellow heir and royalty. This was the Gloria whose twin specializations was economics and politics. If you can’t appreciate the significance in those two disciplines, without a brake or idealistic point of reference – she didn’t take her undergrad in the Ateneo, after all, so how could she know of Liberation Theology and its struggle for the anawim? Of the horror of True Evil as you explore the Holocaust? Or of the nobility in the life of Plato’s Guardians? – then no explanations will illustrate to you why she only acts in the way her contexts made her to be.
The thing was, that brake, that… alternative point of view (for lack of a better term), was found for her, whether through an act of God, of the collective consciousness of the Filipino people wanting a clean break, or just damned happenstance. For after the chaos and bitterness of the Second People Power, Gloria was surrounded with supposed idealists. Her inner circle, her closest advisors, prior to July 2005 wasn’t Gabby Claudio, or Mike Defensor, or Ed Ermita, or even the FG. Or at least it wasn’t JUST them. Her Confessor, if she can be called that, was Dinky Soliman. Before they started distancing themselves from her for one reason or another, Dinky’s comrades in the “Tres Marias” – Vicky Garchitorena and Ging Deles – were her closest advisors. I was told often that Butch Abad could ask anything of the President, and she would give it to him. Dinky herself told us of an unguarded moment where the President would show her pain and frustrations, where ruthless, heartless, bitchy Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would actually cry on Dinky’s shoulders.
I would imagine that Gloria, as she went through those first few years leading to 2005, was in a quandry. Her instincts and upbringing and training all told her to side with the “Hawks” in her Cabinet in order to both maintain power and stave off Erap. There were too many enemies, too few allies and far lesser friends.
Yet, there were these people that showed her alternatives. There were, around her, voices that dissented from the Machiavellian precepts of the “Hawks”, who would, I think, encourage her to do what’s right and to temper power with ideals.
I don’t know what happened in those days leading to 8 July 2005. We were, I think, all aware of the ambition in Frank Drilon and, behind the scenes, you could feel the power plays between him and the other higher-ups of the Party, particularly those with intentions on the Throne in 2010. You could see the subtle, and then the not-so-subtle, way in which Drilon tried to, and eventually succeded in, sidelining Kiko Pangilinan. You could see the “dance” between him and Mar, until, somehow, the Piggy and the Poseur became a pair. I think I heard someone say that Drilon had somehow compromised the Abads. Chito Gascon probably found in Drilon his key in finally remaking the Liberal Party in his (Gascon’s) image by removing personalities that didn’t adhere to his limited worldview on what was right and wrong (which was simple, really: you didn’t side with him, you were wrong). Certainly, the National Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS) had already been compromised by this time, and FNF, too, when they somehow got rid of Dr. Ronald Meinardus, who, though he didn’t agree with what the Drilon cabal was doing, was a true Liberal by being fair to all sides.
See, it was weird. And Gloria probably found it weird, too. Not a year before, she had won and her allies had won. And, suddenly, several of her “Hawks” screw up in the damage-control following the revelation of two discs that purportedly contained proof she cheated big time in 2004.
(Which, when you think hard about it, was an absurd notion at the time – and the Palace should have just played it cool then – because BOTH the CBCP, through the PPCRV, and NAMFREL accredited the 2004 Elections. Everyone – or at least everyone who, and this is important, didn’t want a Second Erap – certified and even praised that election)
Note that Gloria was under siege. The Radical Left, never her friends to begin with, had now sided with Erap’s boys (no surprise there; everything for the Revolution, right?). The Church, through Gloria-haters like Bishop Lagdameo, were also siding with her enemies; it was only fortunate for her that the all-powerful Archbishop of Manila was more advocate than activist. Her “Hawks” had failed her in their increasingly inutile attempts at damage control. Its a cascade effect, you see: once the kuryente starts, and you keep doing damage control based on that kuryente, your whole system will short out, just like a power grid that goes into overload.
So, who does she turn to? Who did she listen to?
You have to understand the context of that statement Dinky and the other nine in the Hyatt Ten used as illustration of a Gloria that “refuses to listen” and had to be put down like some rabid dog. I remember them saying that, sometime after that “I’m Sorry” speech, the President angrily told her “Doves” that she said sorry and didn’t get anything out of it. Taken one way, it seemed like the Gloria we know now: ruthless, cunning, calculating, and bitchy, too. Like Lelouch Vi Brittania in Code Geass, all of her actions are done with her advancement and advantage in mind.
But when you look at it another way, this was a Gloria that was angry at the way her foray into idealism had failed her. Her “Dove” advisors had told her “Doing a Clinton” was the right thing to do. In fact, I think the idea actually orginated or was developed by us in the LP, or maybe even NIPS, because Chit Asis had been crowing about it being “an” option – the “an” making it sound like it was “the” option – sometime before that evening when the Prez says the actual apology (and did you see how quickly Drilon was ready, and smiling, for the response?).
Yet, not only did it not difuse the situation… it made it worse.
And then, on 8 July 2005, her closest advisors, led by people she trusted and even considered as friends, probably… backstabbed her in the worst possible way, in the worst possible time. That it had to take Persons of Uber Patronage, like my kinsman and JDV, to save her.
Gloria was betrayed by the good guys.
She was saved by the bad guys.
Imagine her then. How far will you have to go to think about the kind of reaction this would engender in someone like Gloria who, I think, tried to do it the right way for half a decade, but ended up being proven wrong. The supposed idealists betrayed her; I could even hazard to claim that she was set up by them, if the things I hear about the events leading to 8 July 2005 are even half true. And she was saved by the system she knew, that she grew up in, that she was trained in.
So now you have the Gloria of today.
We made her.
Because we had the chance to change her… and we did a Brutus on her.
One of the lessons I carry with me, top-of-the-mind, from that amazing semester with Fr. Luis David, SJ, was my Mentor asking us a semi-rhetorical question about why, if we never noticed it, young people who were active in college doing social work suddenly disappear after graduation.
“Take for example the “Socially-Oriented” organizations of the Ateneo,” Fr. David said. “They are the largest cluster, with orgs chock-full of members who even sacrifice their meager weekends to go to some depressed community and help there. Where do all of these young men and women go after graduation?”
Fr. David then explained to us that the reason for this was that they suddenly lacked the mechanism in which this idealism could be both exercised and nurtured. Corporations, despite the existence of Corporate Social Responsiblity, are not entities that encourage social activism; they exist for the bottom line. Social activism among young people drop drastically after college because they lack the support structures for it.
This was the same with the ruthless, calculating, seemingly-power-hungry Gloria you see today. The support structure to encourage her to be other than what she is doesn’t exist anymore. Even worse, the people who supposedly were to encourage her to do good backstabbed her and declared her enemy of the people. Which was probably horrible to Gloria because, really, didn’t she just take their advice to say sorry? If it had looked so bloody bland and unreal, shouldn’t they have told her and done something else? Eh, hindi eh: nagkantahan pa sila ng “if we hold on together” after, her “Doves” calling it a success eventhough, yes, she looked like she was pulling your leg over nationwide TV.
The structures of good politics had failed and backstabbed Gloria, so she fell back on the structures she knew, the mechanisms and tools she was trained and grew up on. And you know the lesson she learned from the experience of 2005? That the latter situation is right. Because, see o, she’s still there.
She doesn’t have to be popular to stay in power. She just has to do the “right” things.
Why should she worry about doing the RIGHT things? They only left her out to dry the last time she did. And the so-called Paragons of Morals and Virtue of the Public Sphere all played a wonderful game on her, too.
So, yes… be scared. Those surveys do not matter. Your rallies do not matter. Even the Supreme Court doesn’t mean shit because – think about it – would they insist on sending HR 1109 there if the situation wasn’t favorable?
You are fighting a Gloria who was shown that being Good almost led her to the gallows. A Gloria whose brilliance, savvy, and skills are now geared and focused not for the Republic, but to save Mike Arroyo and company.
Because we not only failed her in 2005, not only did we abandon her to her Hawks… but some of us, the supposed best of us, backstabbed her.
We made this Gloria.
Good luck in unmaking her.
Because you’ve been underestimating her since she recovered in 2006, and now she has us all game, set and match.
And the only tools left for us all are… the bad ones underneath the toolkit. You know, the ones labeled, “for extreme emergency use only?”