Two women: Gloria

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By Antonio C. Abaya
Manila Standard Today

It was only last July 3 that US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as assuring President Arroyo that her much sought-after meeting with US President Barack Obama will happen “before the end of the year” on the grounds that a new US President always meets with the Philippine President during the US President’s first year in office. (See my article of July 6 titled Puno’s “Devious Plan?”)

Now all of a sudden, barely 10 days after Ambassador Kenney’s lollipop, Malacañang announces that this epochal meeting will take place, not before the end of the year, but on July 30, right after President Arroyo’s “last” State-of-the-Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on July 28.

And to add mystery to the puzzlement, the newly appointed head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, drops by for a 12-hour visit in Manila to meet with President Arroyo and other top Philippine officials.

What in the world is going on?

My reading is that the Americans smell a dead rat, in all likelihood planted by Ronaldo Puno, who, while attending his daughter’s wedding in San Francisco on July 4, is being eased out of the Cabinet (Interior and Local Government). Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called Puno’s leave “open-ended”… ‘‘for weeks” …. and appointed an officer-in-charge in Puno’s place. The parting seems to be bitter and final.

Puno’s offense? He has a “devious plan” for becoming president, as one reader e-mailed to me on June 18 after talking to some of Puno’s relatives, which I published as a reaction letter to this column.

A second reader e-mailed me after the May 27 announcement of Puno’s seeking the vice-presidency, that he would not be surprised if Puno, whom he has known personally for years—who helped make Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo president in 1992, 1998 and 2004 respectively—will now concentrate on making himself, Ronaldo Puno, president.

Even, wrote this second reader, if it means betraying Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Puno intends to become the “best president the Philippines has ever had or will ever have,” he wrote.

A third reader has now e-mailed me the anecdotal tidbit that when Puno, then 19, married his 18-year-old Maryknoller bride, he promised to make her First Lady one day. Has that day finally arrived?

What this anecdotal tidbit tells us is that Puno has had an overarching ambition to become president since he was in his late teens. Nothing wrong with that. I would not be surprised if other ambitious presidential wannabes made similar promises to their brides; Ninoy Aquino, Jose de Venecia, Manuel Quezon, Manuel Roxas, etc.

But what happens when this teenager reaches presidential age and finds that his ambition is blocked by his own boss who is scheming to stay in power beyond the limits of her non-extendable presidential term? Gunfight at the OK Corral, or its political equivalent in the Philippines?

At this the September of her years, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should concentrate on leaving as benign a legacy as is possible, under the circumstances that she and her husband have created for themselves, of their own free will.

Forget about running for congresswoman for her electoral district in Pampanga, which she has visited 16 times, and counting, since last February.

Forget about amending the Constitution to shift to parliamentary, now or in June 2010, by the dubious method of a constituent assembly, so that she can remain in power as Prime Minster for Life.

Forget about turning the Philippines into a First World country by the year 2020, under her tutelage, of course. It is physically impossible, even if her alma mater, the Balic Balic School of Economics, assures her in her fantasies that it is possible.

Forget about declaring emergency rule or martial law, now or in 2010, so that she can cancel or postpone the May 2010 elections, and thereby remain in power as a ”transition president.”.

A declaration of emergency rule or martial law will be counter-productive. It will make this country a pariah state. Whatever meager foreign direct investments are still trickling in will dry up completely. So will most or all of official development aid. Many countries will withdraw their ambassadors. The exodus of this country’s best and brightest people will accelerate. No one will be left here except the crooks, the cheats and the criminals, and those who do not have the means to get out.

My family and I supported Gloria Arroyo in what we have since realized was the stage-managed People Power agitation against Joseph Estrada in January 2001. In the 2004 elections, I was one of the few columnists who wrote that she was the actual winner over the deaf-mute FPJ, though by a thin majority, based on pre-election surveys, exit polls on election day itself, and an analysis of the data from the independent Namfrel. (GMA by a Hair, May 13, 2004; Who Won? May 19, 2004)

I supported Ms. Arroyo when in January 2003 she called for “a revolution in the way we think and the way we do politics and economics.” But there was no revolution in anything except in the way she blabbered words without meaning them. (GMA Revolution Stalling, Feb. 9, 2003).

As a former supporter, I suggest that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family magically vanish from the country hours or days before her term ends on June 30, 2010. Move to Portugal or Dubai, and count your “blessings” there. Forget the rumored losses in Lehman Brothers or AIG or the Dubai property market. Do not try to recoup those losses by staying here one minute longer beyond June 30, 2010. Do not force us to make public what we know about you and your husband..

I hope this will be what President Obama will tell President Arroyo on July 30. Anything less than that would be an unforgivable diminution of the Obama Magic.

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