Few will dispute that the country has never been as unstable as today. But it isn’t because it is divided, as Malacanang would have us believe.
The “division” created by the Arroyo political crisis exists only in the frantic imaginations of Palace henchmen. A division implies a more or less equal balance of forces for and against. But the Arroyo camp is almost totally isolated and its support dwindling, while those opposed to it grow in strength and numbers.
Over 80 percent of Filipinos believe that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cabal of Commission on Elections officials, generals, local politicians, academic and media hacks, and other dirty tricks operatives stole the 2004 elections. A huge 41 percent thinks that her resignation would be best for the country, while another 40 percent thinks it might be. Arroyo’s approval ratings are so uniquely low the polling firms have run out of adjectives (“rare,” “unprecedented,” “unusual”) to describe it. And more Filipinos than ever before believe that thanks to the Arroyo regime, their lives have never been as difficult.
The Filipino people have never been this united, in that huge percentages of the population now agree that Arroyo is the worst thing that has ever happened to them. They want Arroyo out, while the handful of Arroyo functionaries and their dwindling partisans want her to keep the power that’s fattened their bank accounts.
Its real, unstated reasons aside, the Arroyo argument for remaining in power consists of two parts: (1) that it won power legitimately; and (2) that the power it would keep is being used in behalf of the Filipino people. Therefore, those opposed to it are not only dividing the nation. They are also sabotaging the Arroyo government’s efforts to prevail over the current economic crisis for the good of us all.
This is the fiction it has not tired telling. But it contradicts itself in deeds and even in words. To silence protests, suppress the truth, and remain in power, it has unleashed a wave of repression, and even threatened to impose emergency rule.
These are the sure signs of isolation from the very people it claims to be working for. Its “calibrated preemptive response” (CPR) policy–a euphemism for savage police attacks on those who dare exercise their constitutional right to free assembly–wouldn’t be needed if it indeed enjoyed the support claimed by those media ads it pays for with the people’s money. Neither would its frantic efforts to pass into law an equally mislabeled “anti-terrorism bill” be needed if the interests of the people drive it, not its breathtaking lust for power and its spoils.
The “anti-terrorism” bill Arroyo’s House allies have pieced together is outstanding for what’s missing in it. Terrorism consists of acts of violence indiscriminately applied, and in furtherance of political ends. These qualifications are nowhere in the bill.
It defines terrorism as any “premeditated, threatened, or actual use of violence, or force” or “other means of destruction” to create or sow “a state of danger, panic, fear or chaos to [sic] the general public, group of persons or segments thereof, or of coercing or intimidating the government to do or abstain from doing an act.”
It raises penalties–to as much as life imprisonment and P10 million in fines–for assassinating or threatening to assassinate the president or vice president; hijacking and piracy; attacking or threatening to attack cyberspace; willfully destroying natural resources; inflicting serious risks to health and public safety; kidnapping or threats of kidnapping; and the illegal manufacture of chemical, biological or nuclear agents as well as explosives and bombs.
It thus classifies acts already penalized by law as terrorist acts, so long as they intimidate or frighten individuals, groups, businesses, organizations and the public as a whole, or disrupt essential public services. A Quiapo orator predicting the end of the world would be a terrorist if he succeeds in frightening his listeners, as would a consumer whose picket disrupts the operations of the power company.
Anyone who “abets” such acts would be as guilty–including, say, a journalist or anyone else who agrees that the world is coming to an end thanks to the ruthless exploitation of the environment by mining companies, or who expresses the view that power company rates are unjustly high.
It is evident that the Arroyo regime is going the way of the Marcos terror regime–except that it has neither the decency nor courage to declare martial law, and instead undermines the Bill of Rights through such “legal” acts as its CPR policy and an anti-terrorism bill so broad in meaning and application those in power could use it to terrorize not only social critics, the media and the opposition into silence, but the entire population as well.
A comparison with the Marcos regime is inevitable. To remain in power, the Marcos regime declared martial law in 1972 on the pretext that it was saving the Republic and reforming society. Though said in different words, “saving the Republic and reforming society” is the very same pretense of the Arroyo regime.
It is also using the same Marcos-era methods of silencing dissent and protest, though under a different name and in different forms. It was “national security” then. It is the economic crisis and “anti-terrorism” now that’s the excuse for attacking those who still believe that the electoral system should be impartial, and who demand the resignations of those who have corrupted it.
Despite its own fatal weaknesses and the people’s gathering anger, the Arroyo regime probably thinks it will succeed where the Marcos regime failed. But all tyrannies dig their own graves by inspiring, not fear, but resistance. This truth the political elite of this country has never understood. But it is a lesson the regime needs to be taught.