GOLLUM IS HERE!
KEEPING POWER AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE AND OUR INSTITUTIONS
(Originally presented as an Overview to the State of the Presidency Forum at the Asian Institute of Management, July 25, 2009)
There is a pipsqueak but dangerous character in the international box office hit movie, The Lord of the Rings. This villain who evolves from a cute little character to an ugly despicable one, comes by the name of Gollum, the personification of someone who will get the ring in his quest for power, at all cost, no matter what, by hook or by crook, by deceit, yes, even if it destroys the whole world. Greed and the obsession to cling to power is at the root of this evil.
The nine (9) years in power of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have shown us that there is a Gollum in our midst.
In early 2001 when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became the constitutional successor of President Joseph Estrada after the EDSA 2 people’s uprising with the withdrawal of support by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), we thought that it would usher in a new era of good governance, and exemplary moral leadership.
We have to admit that we were wrong in allowing a Filipino version of Gollum to sit at the highest office with the ring of presidential authority.
Nine years of our own version of Gollum has put our political institutions in shambles, and while this Gollum and her ilk help themselves with the coffers of the state, millions and millions of Filipinos starve in the streets, are homeless, and hardly eat twice a day.
As an Overview of the 9 Years of the Arroyo administration, here are some prevailing trends:
1. The military which is supposed to be an institution for the defense of the nation and the Filipino people, has become an institution for the preservation of personal power by the president. There is no distinction made between national security and personal security of the president.
A self-seeking order whose very legitimacy was put into question by the people after the Garci Tapes scandal, had to rely more and more on the armed forces and Philippine National Police for its survival. Its patently illegal acts of misusing the armed forces for electoral fraud in 2004 has only made civilian authority vulnerable to military intervention and military support for its existence.
After every attempt to impeach Arroyo during the past few years, more and more less qualified AFP officers have been promoted because of their loyalty to Arroyo, overlooking seniority and merit. The generals of PMA Class of ’78 have been lucky in being appointed to the key and strategic positions in the armed forces, even bypassing their upperclassmen in PMA classes ’76 and ’77. The militarization of the cabinet and agencies of the government has become intensified with more than 50 recently-retired military men given civilian positions. The Metro-Manila Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police is also said to have been beefed up to several thousands and is now reported to be even better equipped than the elite units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In 2006, there was an attempt to place the country under martial law, which was strongly rejected by the Secretary of National Defense and key officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
2. Corruption at the highest levels of power has even become more entrenched, with the head of state and political allies leading/governing by negative example.
The series of unresolved corruption scandals i.e. the Arroyo couple and the ZTE scandal, Joc Joc Bolante and the fertilizer scam, the Euro-Generals, CyberEd scandal, swine scam and lately, the noodles scam, have endlessly plagued this administration. In Asia, we have always been rated second to Indonesia in terms of corruption. But can we now match the seriousness of the President of Indonesia in cracking down on government corruption, when his own in- law was just recently sentenced and jailed for corruption?
3. Manipulation and undermining of Philippine political and economic institutions in the quest for maintaining power.
From the failed People’s Initiative on Cha Cha in 2003 which was rejected by the Supreme Court, to the Presidential Proclamation 1017, Executive Order 464, “the calibrated preemptive response” policy against street protests –we have seen desperate attempts by this administration to manipulate and undermine our institutions just to remain in power. Indeed, this administration has shown no respect for the independence and integrity of its political institutions like Congress, the judiciary, the Ombudsman, Comelec, the BIR and Customs, among the many institutions it has tried to subvert or make an appendage of.
The various attempts at Charter Change (Cha Cha) and now, the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) are meant to alter the existing constitution to allow Arroyo to perpetuate herself in power beyond 2010. The plot for Arroyo’s term extension by tinkering with the Constitution only exposes the greed and audacity to try to escape from the potential criminal cases that may be filed against Arroyo and members of her family after her term as president ends.
It is a script too clear. Bombings, a foiled and aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which could never be approved by the Supreme Court – all to provoke the MILF into a rampage or offensive, and to use this as an excuse to declare martial law. But the problem is if Arroyo declares martial law or resorts to emergency rule, will this not only further prolong and strengthen the armed insurgency as when Marcos declared martial law and established a dictatorship? Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan’s and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ seminars in AFP camps for the military are trying to encourage the AFP for the creation of an authoritarian regime under a “transitional revolutionary government.” Of course this sinister plot comes with a military-backed Arroyo plus a group of civilian decorations.
4. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, abductions and other crimes against the people have been perpetrated by minions of the state against critics and the democratic opposition, and sadly, it continues with impunity.
In recent years, the United Nations, the European Union and even prestigious international human rights organizations have raised concern about the alarming statistics on human rights violations in the country. Between early 2001 to March 31, 2009, there were 1,013 victims of extrajudicial killings and 202 cases of enforced disappearances of farmers, workers, journalists, lawyers, students, etc..mostly critics of the government. When no less than the National Security adviser in the person on Mr. Norberto Gonzales, accompanied by the Jesuit priest Fr. Romeo Intengan, officially move about AFP camps nationwide conducting seminars for soldiers telling them to treat leaders and members of legitimate people’s organizations as “enemies of the regime” and as no different from armed combatants of the New People’s Army, then this is a declaration of war by the administration against its own people. The targets are often citizens who are peacefully exercising their democratic rights of free speech and assembly.
Meanwhile, government-sponsored death squads roam the country to pick on journalists, farmers, trade unionists, lawyers, and political opposition –those demonized by the seminars and public pronouncements of Fr. Intengan and Norberto Gonzales as “enemies of the regime”.
5. Foreign policy has been plunged into the abyss for getting international support for an unpopular regime.
Since 2002, this administration has practically given a blank cheque to the Bush administration for the restoration of U.S. military presence in the Philippines and their unhampered covert and overt activities in the country. This has bordered on unlimited U.S. military operations in the Philippines which was treated as the second front next to Afghanistan in the “U.S. war against terror.” Arroyo has used this as a continuous leverage from the U.S. government to acquire more U.S. political and military support to the sagging record of the Arroyo administration, especially along the issues of human rights violations, and pervasive corruption.
During the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections, the Arroyo administration was praying hard that Mc Cain and the Republican party would win, as they are believed to be more prone to support her martial law card, should this carry through. During one of the 2005-2006 U.S. state visits, Arroyo and her entourage were trying to sell the idea of emergency rule or even martial law to U.S. officials whom they hoped would give support. It was said to be rejected, according to former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz.
Will the U.S. and other foreign governments who have interests in the Philippine accept a dictatorship with no legitimacy? This could only lead to more instability that would threaten the vital economic and other interests of foreign countries here.
This is not just about bad governance. It is about mass poverty inflicted by a corrupt and greedy regime. This is the sad and despicable state of the Presidency today. Yes, our version of Gollum should heed the 2009 Inaugural Address of U.S. President Barack Obama before he meets him at the end of this month:
TO THOSE WHO CLING TO POWER
THROUGH CORRUPTION AND DECEIT
AND THE SILENCING OF DISSENT,
KNOW THAT YOU ARE ON THE
WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY….
Do we still have any doubts as to who is the real imminent threat to this nation? And if she pushes her luck too far, like Gollum, she will fall into the fires of hell.
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)