If elections are about choices, then Philippine elections should be called something else. We could call them reassignments, for example, or even resurrections, refurbishings and renovations.
The mid-term “election” this year is as close to a historic opportunity to truly serve this country as the band of hucksters whom we call politicians will ever get. It’s a chance for the so-called opposition to resolve the political crisis that since 2004 has sapped the country’s energies and forced it to a standstill while the ranks of the hungry grow, the brain and brawn drain swells into a flood of biblical proportions, and mass despair and misery boost the suicide and murder rates.
While the Arroyo regime has declared the crisis over and done with, it has continued to fester. The regime itself has acted and still acts in defiance of its own declaration that the crisis of legitimacy that nearly toppled Mrs. Arroyo in 2005 is over. It declared a state of emergency in 2006, proceeded to savage the Bill of Rights, and put in place a policy of political assassinations and the arbitrary removal of unfriendly local officials to preserve itself.
To legalize these and other acts that the Supreme Court has been declaring unconstitutional, it tried to revise the Philippine Constitution through dubious means. To assure itself of US support should its existence ever be threatened, it has allowed foreign troops free run of Mindanao, and surrendered the rapist Daniel Smith to US custody in mockery of its own claims to sovereignty.
The Arroyo regime has managed to do all this without the support of the citizenry, 75 percent of whom want Mrs. Arroyo impeached or otherwise ousted from the office it believes she has no legitimate claim to. The regime has relied instead on its control, assured through the tried and tested ways of patronage, over the House of Representatives, to implement what is first and last a political agenda of survival and dominance.
It is that drive which has put the country at the crossroads of, on the one hand, the path to continuing instability and authoritarian rule, and, on the other, the path to a resolution of the legitimacy crisis.
The resolution could have come through a number of means, People Power not the least among them. But it could also come through impeachment via the House of Representatives, and a subsequent trial in the Senate. Two impeachment attempts have failed precisely because of Mrs. Arroyo’s control over the House of Representatives. Obviously a third impeachment attempt can only succeed if the House were in the hands of the opposition.
Mrs. Arroyo’s impeachment in the House would not assure her conviction in the Senate, but assuming that she is indeed impeached and convicted, it would not necessarily mean the dawn of a new day in the country of our afflictions either. What it would do is make certain things possible.
It would not only mark the resolution of the legitimacy crisis. It could also release and enlist the citizenry’s energies in the effort to find or develop, first, a popular alternative to the combination of patronage, terrorism and fraud that has proved lethal to the political system’s being ever used for the benefit of the majority; and second, to fashion the blueprint for economic recovery and development the system has made impossible.
These are of course mere possibilities. The skeptical would argue that in the political upheavals we know as EDSAs 1 and 2, the hopes for the future they rekindled were soon doused by the narrow interests of the politicians who seized power in the aftermath.
They would be right. But while a repeat of the same thing is a distinct possibility, without a resolution to the present crisis it would be an absolute certainty.
Thus the need to resolve the crisis. The May elections offer a path to that resolution, and that is the signal service the majority of Filipinos should expect from the politicians who call themselves oppositionists.
Unfortunately few of these creatures seem aware of the possibility that for once in their lives they may be able to really serve this country and its people quite simply by giving the electorate a clear choice between, on the one hand, keeping the putrid authoritarian gang in Malacanang in power till 2010 and beyond; and, on the other, electing to the House, the Senate and to the local governments individuals who truly have something to offer a weary citizenry in terms of a commitment to its democratic rights and to a workable program of government.
If real choices are what the citizenry needs, what it’s getting are totally unreal ones. In the Senate, for example, it’s between the likes of Michael Defensor on the one hand, and, on the other, Joseph Estrada’s children–or between creatures who were once with the administration but who’re now with the opposition, and former oppositionists who’re now in the administration. God knows what the choices will finally be at the local level. Whatever else the May event will be–a bloodbath, a dynastic restoration, another fraudulent spectacle–it’s not likely to be an election.