Option One: Get the House of Representatives to convene itself into a constituent assembly after her “last” State of the Nation Address. She might be able to twist the arm of one or two senators to sweeten the pot, but what matters is that a justiciable controversy arises that will trigger a petition to the Supreme Court, which will then have to rule on the constitutionality of the interpretation of the overwhelming majority of the House on the manner of convening to propose amendments to the Constitution.
The Supreme Court may issue a restraining order, which means that material time may pass before they can propose amendments, approve the same, and finally, ratify these in a referendum. Doing all these will no longer be materially possible. Besides, a special appropriation for the holding of a plebiscite will not happen without the Senate cooperating, and from where I sit, that is next to impossible.
Assuming the Supreme Court, packed as it is by Gloria’s appointees, decides that Congress can convene as a constituent assembly on the basis of a three-fourths vote of the joint total membership of both houses, and does so before the 2010 elections, then clearly, the “legal” way is established. It will thus be left to the representatives of the people elected in the May 10 elections to forthwith convene as such. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo shall by then be a member of the House, representing the second district of Pampanga. From such perch does she hope to pull the strings, and her puppets could then ordain a switch to a parliamentary system.
But as there is a newly-elected president, this assumption is fraught with risk. Bagong hari, bagong ugali. The new president dictates who will be speaker of the house, unless he is willing to share this power with his benefactress, the former president, which is not likely. Not even if it is Noli, or Gibo.
Variants of the shift to the parliamentary system, which she hopes the newly elected “hari” may agree to: Variant One --- a French model, where he is the supreme leader, and she is COO, as prime minister. Variant Two --- at the very least, amend the Constitution to provide lifetime immunity from suit to all presidents, past or present. The newly elected president may agree, but will public opinion accept such shamelessness?
Oh, giving up is so very hard to do…oooh (to paraphrase an old Burt Bacaharach song). It’s really hard to say goodbye to power, ain’t it?
Option Two: Since likelier than not, charter change cannot be pushed before the scheduled elections, it will be important to ensure that the next president elected on May 10, 2010, will be either “hers” or will be soft on her.
Option 2.1: Is it Noli, who ranks high in the surveys whom she will anoint as her candidate? Right now, she isn’t in election mode, and he isn’t in the mood to seek her “kiss of death”. Yet. When the arithmetic of resources plus machinery is figured into the equation, and when the configuration of the opposition challengers is clear, Noli might soften and want to be her endorsed.
Option 2.2: Take a limb on Gibo. Which means heaven and earth will need to be moved to make him win, as I don’t see a 1 percentage point shoot up to double digit between now and November, even December, unless she gets to buy SWS (but Mahar Mangahas is reputedly close to Manny Villar), or Pulse Asia, or PSRC, certainly not whatever “center” Ed Malay and other groups claim they are.
Option 2,3: Make side bets. Whoever is the “official” candidate of Gloria’s PaLaKa, she could always detour with cozy arrangements with so-called opposition candidates. The Nacionalistas would surely bite. The NPC might be willing to talk, but their presidential candidate may not want to destroy himself or herself, young as they yet are. The Liberals? Perish the thought. As for Erap, the Supreme Court will deal with that.
But whichever option, the question persists --- can they be trusted to “protect” her, even against the onslaught of fierce public opinion? Will street-smart Noli, never mind Gibo who cannot likely win, or transactional Villar, be true to whatever commitment is forged? Didn’t Villar, handpicked by Erap as speaker, impeach him because of public clamor? Surely the lady does not forget.
There is an escape route. She and her family could always leave the country when no one is looking. When the preparations for the inauguration of the new president are in full swing, she can always leave for Cartagena or elsewhere in Latin America, maybe Paraguay, or Portugal, never to return. Bye, bye, Pilipinas, without waiting for the “transfer” of power. She won’t be missed anyway.
If she lives to the ripe old age her mother and her father reached, exile for a decade or more can be difficult. Besides, with the world becoming smaller and smaller, what are the guarantees she could run away forever? Pinochet could not. Fujimori could not. And suicide is un-Catholic.
Oh, giving up is so very hard to do, isn’t it? How can one ever say goodbye?
Option 3: The automated elections are after all a disaster waiting to happen. A thousand people will line up to get a double-side printed ballot in hardly readable font, shade the dots beside a listing of some 300 choices, line up once more to insert these into a single machine, hah! Many will be unable to vote, many ballots will be spoiled, even the printing could be made to go haywire. With a million and one problems on or even before E-Day, expect the clueless Comelec to turn belly up. We discussed this last Thursday in this same space --- failure of elections.
Every candidate, from councillor to mayor, to board member to governor to congressman to senator, not to mention the presidential candidates, even the party-list groups will be indignant. And we have a multiplicity of these characters. See what happened in Iran because Ahmadinejad imported “Garci”? And we have no Ayatollah to silence the crowds, who in any case are not yet silenced.
With Congress unable to proclaim because of the failure of elections, with the board of canvassers also unable to proclaim local winners yet undetermined, there will be total chaos the evening of May 10, 2010, and every day thereafter. There won’t be a numero dos to succeed, as he will be a candidate for president, and in any case, his term expires, just like her, come noon of June 30, 2010. The current Senate President’s term is also up, and with the failure of elections, he will likewise not be proclaimed. The Senate may be a continuing body, but will the twelve remaining senators be able to convene? In 1972, all some brave souls could do was pose for a photograph before a padlocked Congress --- the rest were either in the stockade, or exiled, or too timid. Ditto for the House. All of them are functus oficio come June 30, 2010. As for the current Chief Justice, his term is up by May 2010, and there will be an acting primus inter pares, as Dona Gloria could no longer appoint in the twilight of her constitutional reign. Besides, how many divisions does the Chief Justice command?
The perfect recipe for emergency rule. She will still be commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces until June 30. With Delfin Bangit as the Chief of Staff, and the Class of 78, of which she is honorary “mistah” and patroness in the strategic commands, can they pull it through? Maybe. Just maybe.
Really so hard to say goodbye.
Option 4: Strike when they least expect. Which means sooner than 2010. That’s what Norbert, her national insecurity adviser is loudly proposing. A transition government. Transition to perpetuation.
Secret “societies”, cabals or covens if you wish to call them, in the Byzantine bowels of the stinking palace and Camp Aguinaldo are weighing these options. The “predicate” can easily be laid. A few strikes here, an ambush or two there. A few bombings here, a few “terrorist” attacks there. All these can be stage-managed. Marcos did it in 1972. Why ever not his gloriannic reincarnation? She is as tough, if not tougher. And she has no limits. He blinked in 1986. She does not even know the meaning of the word, not after Hello Garci and “I am sorry”. Not after Hyatt Ten. Not after February 25, 2006. She has passed it all.
Just a golpe. A coup-me scenario, where she turns out to be the secret coup plotter herself.
Arrest whoever needs to be arrested. Neutralize them before they can counter-attack, if at all. Declare a bank holiday to freeze all liquid assets of the resistance. Condone all loans of soldiers and the police, whether for housing or whatever. Double their salaries. That should make them happy, and loyal to their commander-in-chief, forever and ever.
Come up with immediate appeasement measures. Remove E-Vat on petrol, on medicines. Order the NFA to sell rice at l5 pesos per kilo. These will presage more “revolutionary” reforms. She could announce a shift to federal government, which should make the Americans and the Arabs and Malaysia happy, since that would mean the ancestral domain issue they are pushing will finally be realized. Like Elizabeth Regina, she could name a privy council composed of the clergy, perhaps my lord bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, one of her favorites, plus a retired general, plus a Protestant bishop, plus a high-profile businessman, plus a co-opted senator here, a co-opted governor there will be announced as among those who would advise her on “needed policy reforms to alleviate poverty, distribute wealth equitably, and all that ek-ek. A compact, appointive legislature of toadies and stooges with malleable character would suit her fine.
“A new day has begun!”, she will gloriously announce. Just like Juan Peron and his Evita shouted from the balcony of the Casa Rosada when Gloria was not even born.
Unthinkable? Why then does she return Norbert’s prognostications with the silence of the Sphinx? No slap on the wrist, no tape on his mouth? She could just shout “calla te”, and throw him a banana. But she does not.
As supra-“intelligent” Lorelei who speaks for her would say, “respect her privacy”, while she mulls her options, whether in the lahar flatlands of her “holy” land, or in the gardens of Brasilia, or the baluartes of Cartagena where there are no OFW’s to bother her.
Never can say goodbye.