by Francis Isaac
before the end of the first half of the year, the streets of Manila had
once again become a virtual hotbed of protest and discontent following
the release of the now infamous “Gloriagate”tapes. Featuring a female
voice closely resembling that of current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
and that of purported Commission on Elections (COMELEC) official
Virgilio Garciliano, the said recordings reveal an alleged sinister plot
to rig the May 2004 presidential polls in favor of the incumbent, and
ensure her victory by a margin of one million votes that would come from
momentum, the event soon caught the attention of the normally
unresponsive public, metamorphosing into a multimedia spectacle and
earning a niche in the heart of this soap opera/telenovela-loving
At first, the
demonstrations were few and isolated, like momentary drops of rain in
the scorching summer season—often manned by those from the Left whose
affinity for the streets have became part and parcel of their political
formulae. But these isolated showers soon gathered force, becoming a
storm with its corollary downpour.
By the middle of June,
the President herself has become the butt of jokes akin to the final
days of Estrada, with the now famous line “Hello Garci” from the
Gloriagate tapes becoming the latest ringing tone and fetching a hefty
income for vendors of pirated CDs trading their wares in the dark
corners of Manila.
In the end, pressure
from both the portals of power and the poor man’s hovel, to the
parliament of the streets became so intense that on the evening of June
27, President Arroyo herself appeared on television and admitted
conversing with a “COMELEC official” to ensure the safety of her votes,
apologized a la Clinton for her “lapse of judgment” and begged
the nation for leniency and forgiveness.
But the Chief
Executive’s live address failed to dampen the heat. Rather, her voice’s
passionless tone merely petrol to the already raging flame. By July 29,
two days after her televised speech, more than 1,000 people gathered in
the main campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) to officially
launch a new coalition dubbed as the Laban ng Masa (Struggle of
the People) and call for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo and her entire
Cabinet and establish a “transitional revolutionary government.” Headed
by former UP President and known Marxist scholar Francisco “Dodong”
Nemenzo, Laban ng Masa united various factions of the Left which
has been at the political margins since the split within the Communist
Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1992.
The following day,
June 30, a National Day of Protest was organized by the Freedom from
Debt Coalition (FDC) and other kindred formations, creating at least 15
“noise points” in the entire metropolis and nearby provinces, with
people gathering to hear speakers and firebrands demanding the ouster of
The storm, however,
was not a simple creation from witchdoctors and rain dancers from the
Left. For by July 3, the administration of Catholic-owned and
politically conservative De La Salle University system released a
statement calling for the resignation of the president. This signaled
the growing polarization of the middle class, and diminishing support
for Mrs. Arroyo from a class that was once considered as her
ever-reliable power base.
On the same day, the UP College of Law issued a similar call and was
soon followed by separate statements from two lawyer groups: the
Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (CODAL) and the Free Legal
Assistance Group (FLAG).
By this time, it
seemed as if the discontent from the lower classes had began to infect
the middle class, spreading throughout the body politic like an unseen
virus at such an alarming rate. A response has to come from Malacañang1,
lest this dangerous disease affect the other institutions of elite rule
such as the increasing restless Catholic hierarchy and the placid Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
By July 7, the Palace struck, with President Arroyo demanding the
courtesy resignations of her Cabinet members, stating that she needed a
free hand in revamping her official family and advance the reforms that
she was mandated to oversee.
But such an otherwise
immaculate blow was blunted the following day, July 8, at 10:00 a.m.
with the announcement of ten Cabinet members of their “irrevocable
resignation.” Now known as the Hyatt 10 from the plush Hotel where they
had their press conference, the group—mostly composed of the
administration’s economic team and presidential appointees from the NGO
Community—demanded that the President voluntarily relinquish her post in
favor of former news anchor and now Vice President Noli de Castro.
So began another day
of surprise announcements and sudden realignments. By 12 noon, the
Liberal Party which has previously supported the administration,
withdrew its support for the President and called on her resignation or
face impeachment. Three hours later, former President and Marcos nemesis
Corazon “Cory” Aquino also called on the Mrs. Arroyo to resign, but not
after criticizing those who seek solutions beyond the bounds of the
present legal order.
Such whirlwind events
of July 8 seemed to have allowed the previously nonchalant business
community to steel their nerves and find their guts, with the Makati
Business Club (MBC) issuing a statement that seemed to have gained
inspiration from Mrs. Aquino’s public pronouncement.
But the anti-Arroyo
juggernaut would soon come to a halt. For by 6:00 in the evening, the
president went on television announcing that she would reject any calls
for her ouster or resignation. The following day, Saturday, another
former President Fidel Ramos announced his support for the beleaguered
Chief Executive and proposed a shift to a federal-parliamentary system
as the solution to the current political morass.
Gaining the support of
Ramos and his reliable allies in the ruling Lakas-Christian and Muslim
Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the President began to toughen and ditch in,
preparing for a new offensive from her increasing number of critics and
From then on, the
atmosphere became relatively placid, with no major movement until July
13. By that time, the anti-Arroyo from the elite opposition to the Left
and even the Christian evangelical persuasion was able to muster a crowd
of 40,000 people in Manila’s financial district in Ayala which became
the largest demonstration so far since the start of the Gloriagate
Will this be a prelude
to a new uprising? At this stage, it is too early to tell. But one thing
is certain: the current system that was engendered by the People Power
Revolution in 1986 is now decrepit and dying—a worn-out institution
rotting to the very core. Both the Left and the elite know that it could
not last another blow. For this reason, certain sections of the elite
seek an immediate shift to a parliamentary system to defuse the crisis
while retaining their privileges.
The Left, on the other
hand, demands far more radical changes and an end to elite rule that was
by-and-large preserved despite the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in
1986. But with the Left lacking in any concrete proposal, the elite, at
this point of time, still has the better cards.
1 The name of
the Presidential Palace.
, Kiko as he is called by friends is currently taking his MA in
Political Science at the University of the Philippines. An avid reader,
he likes reading the works of Marx, Gramsci, Foucalt and X-Men
comics. He subscribes to the philosophy of Spider-man that “ with great
power comes great responsibility.”