Saturday, August 06, 2005

Glo's Not Indispensable

Separate Opinion : Looking for a leader

Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

AS an ordinary citizen observing the swirl of current events, I would say that the opposition to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is losing steam. Her foes are being routed by the propaganda countercharge mounted by their intended victim. They probably now realize that Ms Arroyo is not the pushover they had imagined her to be.

In the view of her critics, the ouster of President Arroyo was practically a done deal two weeks ago when former President Corazon Aquino publicly asked her to resign. That immediately created a snowball effect. One Opposition leader predicted that the chastened Gloria would be history in 72 hours. It is now going three weeks since that confident boast but Ms Arroyo is still in Malacañang.

What stopped that dangerous momentum on its tracks was another former President who came to La Gloria's rescue. This was Fidel V. Ramos who presided at the hastily convened conference she called to ward off the growing clamor for her resignation. She sat silently as Mr. Ramos regrouped her demoralized forces and commanded them to fight back. They obeyed, and the tide began to turn in her favor.

Now the anti-Gloria campaign is back to square one. The five committees of the House of Representatives have resumed their investigation of the Garci tapes but without the original moral indignation and inquisitiveness. It is not likely to go far without the principal witness, who has so far not surfaced despite the supposed determined search being conducted by the police and military authorities. Some say Virgilio Garcillano is already dead, like Bubby Dacer, who also knew too much.

The Senate investigation of the jueteng scandal also faces a blank wall. Evidence of the alleged involvement of the Arroyo family in the payola distributed by the gambling lords is mostly hearsay if not also generally unconvincing. Bong Pineda, whom the senators want to question, is out of the country and beyond their jurisdiction although they have ways to compel his return if they really want to. The probe is likely to meet the same fate as the investigation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson four years ago that was never resolved by the past Senate.

The surveys in Metro Manila showing Ms Arroyo's declining popularity among its residents have been dismissed by her supporters as not reflective of the people's will outside that region. Metro Manila is not the Philippines, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita declared, arguing that the rest of the country is still for the President. Malacañang has also pooh-poohed the President's poor ratings and has pointedly asked who are paying for such surveys.

A recent study made by the research group of this paper revealed that the majority of the 79 provinces in the country are still for President Arroyo. At least the governors and mayors are, although it is not certain that they control their constituents. Assuming that they do, the national consensus still appears to be for the resignation of the embattled chief executive.

The other remedy is also problematic. Impeachment can succeed only if the vote requirements in the Constitution are satisfied. To date, the House of Representatives has not mustered the one-third vote of its members needed to impeach President Arroyo. The proponents have so far mustered only some 50 of the needed 79 votes. Even if the number is reached and the case goes to the Senate for trial and decision, the outlook is also dim for Ms Arroyo's foes. The vote needed to convict is two-thirds of the 24 members, of whom only eight are now in the opposition.

Things can change drastically if the evidence in the legislative investigations, and particularly in the impeachment trial if ever it is conducted, becomes irremediably damaging to President Arroyo. Some of her supporters may join her opponents. But even that is not certain if we go by our experience in the Estrada impeachment. Despite the shocking revelations at the trial of his misdeeds, he would have been absolved if the case had continued. Up to the last minute, his 12 allies in the Senate remained steadfast.

The trouble with those who want President Arroyo out of Malacañang is their lack of an effective leader. The "trapo" [traditional politicians] in the opposition will not do because the people do not trust them. The religious and military leaders, like Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Gen. Fortunato Abat, have moral but hardly any political following. The Hyatt Ten may have valid cause for complaint but most of us do not even remember their names. The people who want to oust President Arroyo want to be led, but there is no leader to lead them.

Somewhere among the 86 million Filipinos such a leader must be waiting to be called to bring us to the Promised Land after these many decades of fruitless search. The poet Thomas Gray mused: "Full many a gem of purest ray serene / the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear, / full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen / and waste its sweetness in the desert air." Such is the leader who is yet to be discovered. Released from obscurity, such a leader can guide the nation, with its full support, to the true path of morality, freedom and democracy.