I thought that President Gloria Macapagal was particularly bitter and petulant in her last State Of the Nation Address or SONA. It was quite un-presidential and reduced what could have been a historical moment into a soap opera. It seems like Gloria is approaching the end of her term without the grace of acceptance. Instead, she saw only her enemies and could not resist the temptation to be petulant and arrogant.
It has been more than eight years when Gloria first became president by the direct intervention of Filipinos. Popularly known as EDSA Dos, the second peaceful people powered revolution succeeded in removing a sitting president. Unlike the first miracle of EDSA, however, when the main frustration of Filipinos was focused on the tyranny of a dictatorship, EDSA Dos happened because a critical number of Filipinos decided that they could not take more of public corruption.
It was natural, therefore, that a president removed from office by superior military force would be charged with plunder, and then convicted. What was not natural was a presidential pardon before the guilty could even spend a day in captivity. The pardon had nothing to do with justice, nor humanitarianism. It was a direct attempt to preempt any disorder from followers of the condemned, and, perhaps, set the tone of her own future pardon.
When public officials get low popularity ratings, they say that governance is not a popularity contest. This administration has used that line so many times that it is hardly asked anymore how it feels to get so low a grade from the people it serves. It insults the Filipino when government does not value how the public feels. Public opinion is not a popularity contest; it is a true gauge of the relationship between leader and people. The disdain of public servants towards the people is an extension of a matapobre attitude that marked the relationship between master and slave.
Yet, there is as much hypocrisy as there is arrogance. Government officials say they do not let negative public opinions stop it from doing what is right, but they take extra steps to commission more surveys and dedicate more resources to address the complaints of the citizens – without admitting it, of course. It is obvious that people and government do not have a friendship. People do not believe Gloria, do not like Gloria, and are eager to see her leave office. Gloria, in turn, does not display affection for the people, does not show respect for the people’s opinion, yet does not categorically say she does not want to be their president anymore.
It makes me wonder why there was a particular venom when she lashed out at her detractors in her SONA. What her political enemies have been throwing at her are less important than what Filipinos think of her. If she can disregard her own people’s opinion, she does have the capacity to disregard the opinion of her enemies. It seems strange that she will use a most important speech of a president to say what she can also express in a press conference. It seems strange, or it is simply her lack of concern at what her own people deserve from their president.
The most popular speculation, though, is Obama. The sudden turnaround of Obama in approving a White house visit for Gloria, from a consistent allergic reaction to her from his election to office, speaks volumes. One can only speculate, of course, but politics, even of the international kind, is not profound enough to make it unreadable. The interests of America are not secret, nor are they holy. America does care for the Philippines, or, more aptly, cares for what the Philippines offers in geopolitics and the balance of power in Asia.
It is not the interest of America to promote democracy, not when democracy stands in the way of its interests. America has openly supported, or propped up, tyrants of all kinds. And America has not hesitated, either, to cause the sudden removal from power any dictator it has once helped when its own people demand so. American administrations do openly value the opinion of their citizens. They may try to hoodwink their public, as in the weapons-of-mass-destruction lie, but then do effective remedial action when the American people express their displeasure.
What is the interest of the United States, then, that is more important than doing what is right for the Filipino people? Why would Obama suddenly pander to Gloria when he has the power to remove her from office by simply sharing critical and damaging information? Obama knows that the Filipino people, and the global community, know the Arroyo administration has led the Philippines to the most shameful corruption ranking ever. The measurement of corruption is an international science, and all results during Gloria’s presidency point to a worsening, not lessening.
There was a time when Gloria’s favoring of multi-billion contracts from China must have made the United States uneasy. By coincidence, it appears, one contract after another between China and the Philippines has been aborted or canceled. By coincidence, too, Gloria has stopped making surprise, and unreported, visits to China. And the United States did not make a peep when the Smartmatic contract with Comelec was signed even though a purported co-owner of Smartmatic is the anti-American president of Venezuela.
If one has to speculate at all, there are no other major possibilities but the most consistent one in the last eight years of Gloria’s presidency – Mindanao. The Visiting Forces Agreement is not about visiting, it is a virtual marriage. Considering that the whole region is dominated by China and Muslim Indonesia and Muslim Malaysia, and the same region has vital sea lanes which remain under the control of the 7th Fleet, it is not necessary to speculate that the interests of the United States is deeply affected and it must try to gain a stronger position. American must gain Mindanao.
It is not wrong for America to want its interests protected and enhanced. It is not wrong for Gloria to want assurance she will not be removed from office, or not persecuted by the United States after her term. What is wrong is that the American and Filipino people do not know what the deal is.
“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus