Why should she?

Posted: July 27, 2009 in GMA, Philippine politics
Tags: , , ,

As in her previous State of Nation Addresses (SONAs), President GMA reported on her administration’s many accomplishments and claimed that the ‘state of the nation is a strong economy’.

She disappointed those who expected her, including her many critics, to make a categorical statement that it was to be her last SONA, that presidential elections will be held in May 2010, and that she will definitely step down from power on June 30, 2010. The closest statement she made to that effect was a declaration that she never aspired for extending her term beyond 2010.

But those who expected such categorical statements are bound to be disappointed. Why should GMA make such a statement? For one, GMA has not honored a Rizal Day 2002 declaration that she will not seek the presidential office in the May 2004 polls. When she did run, it was the first time that an incumbent run for office (under the terms of the 1987 Constitution) and predictably took advantage of vast government resources for her candidacy. Since the Garci tape revelations in mid-2005, her trust ratings had been consistently down. So if she said that she will step down in June 2010, will we believe her? Knowing we won’t believe her, why should she oblige us?

In her SONA, GMA scored some brownie points against Erap and FVR, both of which were pushing for Charter Change (Cha-Cha) during their terms but who are now opposing the same efforts pushed by the current administration. She also reminded the nation of the profligate lifestyle of Erap, claiming that somebody who had been jailed (and who should have been still in jail) should be the last one to carp about corruption and governance.

GMA conveniently forgets that she pardoned Erap. Therefore, she should not ‘complain’ that he is out free and running about as an aspiring presidential candidate (constitutional issues notwithstanding). Furthermore, every citizen (including ex-presidents deposed by ‘people power’) retains the right to criticize any sitting government of the Republic. GMA does not enjoy the privilege of lese majeste of the Thai monarch. Or perhaps, she wishes she does.

GMA failed to follow Tita Cory’s example in the latter’s July 1991 SONA when she thanked everybody and said farewell to the nation. GMA also forgets to mention that Tita Cory herself is against Cha-Cha and all other schemes to circumvent terms limits for the presidency.

No constitution is sacred and is thus amenable to change. However, any Cha-Cha initiative of an incumbent president (especially one with consistently low or negative net trust ratings) will be perceived (rightly or wrongly) as an attempt to stay in power after her term’s expiration. It is best that a Cha-Cha initiative be launched during the early part of an incumbent’s term, preferably within her first year. It is likewise pro forma that the incumbent should not benefit from the new provisions of the charter.

Interviewed by Ted Failon, my retired colleague Prof. Felipe Miranda believed that GMA did not make a categorical statement regarding her political future since she was probably thinking there may still be ways to stay in office after June 2010. I agree with him and note that we have a whole year between now and June 2010. Other commentators have noted that her confidence is so absolute that she may be faulted for a lack of self-reflection.

What we have here is an extremely confident politician who believes it is to her best interest to keep everybody (foes and friends alike) guessing about her intentions. Whether she will emerge as a ‘winner’ in the end remains to be seen. A greater concern however is whether the nation also ‘wins’ with her.

  1. Rex A. Ubac says:

    Thank you sir for sharing your thoughts. I must agree with you in saying that the President should not complain on Estrada’s criticism as well as his intention to run for office comes 2010, she could have prevented this things from happening had he not granted the presidential pardon. This is evidently a consequence of her own hasty decision. Indeed we are left guessing by the President’s speech as to her plans in 2010, but personally, I believe that the issue whether Pres. Arroyo will run next election or not is irrelevant because even if she say she would not, no one and nothing can prevents her from changing her mind. I am just hoping that whatever transpire in the 2010 election would redound to the best interest of the Filipino people. By the way, sir may I know your thoughts relative to the President’s contention that she was able to cushion the effect of the global recession.

  2. Raul Pangalangan says:

    So what are your scenarios for her to stay on beyond 2010? If we parse her language, all she said was that she wouldn’t extend her term (as president, we assume).

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