Friday, October 26, 2007

La Gloria's Skullduggery

October 26, 2007

by: Perry Diaz

The recent bombing in Glorietta 2, Makati last October 19 has unleashed another shock wave across the country. The bombing killed 11 people and injured more than 120. According to police sources, traces of C4 plastic explosives were found at the site. What is odd is that no terrorist organization claimed the bombing. What is odder is that a lot of people are now pointing their fingers at the Arroyo administration for the bombing. And what is intriguing is that it happened following the bribery scandal and the filing of impeachment against President Arroyo in the House of Representatives.

The bribery scandal came to light when Gov. Fr. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga, in a press conference, claimed that he received P500,000 during a Malacanang meeting hosted by President Arroyo for governors. Three other governors also claimed that they received money from presidential aides. On the same day, Arroyo also hosted a separate breakfast meeting for some 190 congressmen and women. Manila Congressman Bienvenido Abante, a preacher, who attended the breakfast, echoed the claim of Gov. Fr. Panlilio -- he too received P500,000 from a presidential aide.

It is interesting to note that Arroyo was not around when the "pampadulas" (grease money) were distributed by her aides. Nobody would really expect her to be present during the distribution, after all she would not dirty her hands with "grease." In my opinion, the reason for the bribery was to derail the impeachment petition which is now in Congress. If it is defeated, Arroyo would be immune for one year from another impeachment attempt.

So it is not surprising that President Arroyo invited -- "summoned" was the word used by another journalist --the governors and members of Congress to Malacanang. Assuming that all of the 190 members of Congress who were greased would reject the impeachment petition, their number is more than enough to defeat the impeachment petition. But instead of fixing a potential problem, it backfired and created a bigger problem -- a bribery scandal -- that could ignite another people power revolt and force Arroyo to resign.

Just hours before the Glorietta blast, several Catholic bishops called for her resignation and cited "moral bankruptcy" of the government. In addition, Speaker De Venecia urged Arroyo to lead a "moral revolution" and eradicate corruption in the government. But does she have the moral right to lead a "moral revolution" when members of her own family were implicated to a multitude of corruption scandals?

It would not then be surprising if Arroyo would play her last ace to pre-empt any attempt to dislodge her. There were rumors that the Glorietta explosion may have been the handiwork of people associated with Arroyo. If so, could it be a diversionary tactic --the tail wagging the dog -- to buttress her shaky position? Or could it be the precursor to a martial law? Interestingly, with the enactment of the Human Security Act, Arroyo has immense power at her disposal.

We need to remember that La Gloria is a master -- nay, a grand master -- of skullduggery. Remember the "Hello Garci" election cheating scandal two years ago? On the brink of total collapse, she promised former President Fidel V. Ramos, who came to her rescue, that she would support a Charter change to a parliamentary system and would step down when it is approved. Speaker De Venecia, a strong advocate for parliamentary system also came out to her defense. As a result, her political life was given a respite.

But as soon as she consolidated her power, she reneged. However, she did call for a Charter change but on her own terms: political power beyond 2010. She was able to get enough signatures for a people's initiative in support of the custom-made- for-Arroyo Charter change. She could have gotten it her way had the Supreme Court not reject the flawed people's initiative.

Was it then an accident that Arroyo's Charter change proposal coincided with the bribery scandal? What is baffling is her timetable for the proposed Charter change. She calls it the "roadmap to federalism by 2012." The question is: why 2012? What will happen between 2010 and 2012? Is she going to hold on to the presidency until 2012? And then what? As Rep. Satur Ocampo said, "the bribery scandal is linked to the President's move to revive Cha-cha… she is literally buying her way beyond 2010, again on board her Cha-cha train."

It is interesting to note that she has chosen a federal system of government for her Cha-cha revival. Federalism is very popular in Mindanao -- particularly Muslim Mindanao -- and in the Visayas where a lot of Visayans resented the "Imperial Manila" central government. By gaining the loyalty of Mindanao and the Visayas, Arroyo could become the first President or Prime Minister of a federal government. As a matter of fact, during the 2004 elections, she did well in Mindanao and the Visayas. In the 2007 mid-term elections, she proved her strength in Mindanao and the Visayas including the populous Cebu. Does it surprise anyone that after winning the 2004 election, she had her inauguration in Cebu?

As a politician once said, "In politics, nothing happens by accident." It then becomes apparent that Arroyo could have been working on a scenario that would perpetuate her in power beyond 2010. Today, there in nothing on earth that could stop her; however, things could change tomorrow.

The Associated Press reported that "military elements were angry over the scandals rocking the Arroyo administration while troops were laying down their lives battling Abu Sayyaf bandits down south in Basilan and armed forces chief Esperon admitting 'there was no money for the increase in battle pay recently promised by President Arroyo'." Recently, the Commandant of the Marines, Major General Ben Dolorfino, said that the corruption scandals were affecting his troops and warned that another coup attempt could ignite a civil war. Clearly, these are red flags that signals potential trouble for Arroyo.

Arroyo should know that the loyalty of the military is paramount to her political survival. After all, had the military top brass in 2001 not abandon then President Joseph Estrada, Arroyo would still be a low-keyed Vice President assigned to ribbon-cutting ceremonies around the country. If there is one thing that would give her a nightmare is the thought of Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Gen. Dolorfino, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, and Gen. Danilo Lim banding together.

(PerryDiaz@gmail. com)

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