Gloria Forever, part 4

Gloria Forever, part 4
Ricky Carandang

The pieces are falling into place.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s longtime bodyguard, Delfin Bangit sits atop the chain of command of the Armed Forces.

Arroyo is a shoo in for Speaker of the House following her near certain win in the 2nd district of Pampanga.

And now she is set to appoint a loyal and pliant Chief Justice at the Supreme Court.

The appointment of General Delfin Bangit raised a few eyebrows but, lets face it…any president would want to choose a chief of staff of the Armed Forces that he or she would be comfortable with.  On its own, Bangit’s appointment shouldn’t be more alarming than the appointment of General Hermogenes Esperon a few years ago.

But then there’s the run for Congress. A clear sign that Arroyo does not intend to simply fade away.  With a barrage of tv ads and infomercials meant to establish her “legacy” (Ituwid Natin!), she has been campaigning around Pampanga for her son Mikey’s seat in Congress, but she’s also been traveling around the country campaigning to be speaker of the House.    If I’m not mistaken, the Lakas Kampi party is spending more on Arroyo’s bid for Congress than it is on Gilbert Teodoro’s presidential campaign.

As Speaker, with billions of pesos in resources at her disposal, and with four or five of her family joining her in the House,  Arroyo would remain a formidable political force with the potential power to impeach a recalcitrant president, and decide what bills get passed and what measures get blocked.

But what really takes the cake is the Supreme Court’s innovative reinterpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution clearly says that the president shall not make any appointments except temporary appointments in executive positions within 60 days before an election.  That provision has been backed up by precedent: In 1998, Fidel Ramos tried to appoint two judges to regional trial courts in Nueva Ecija and the Supreme Court, voting unanimously, nullified the appointments.  And yet, this Supreme Court–specifically Justice Lucas Bersamin–threw it all out and overturned the Constitution.  Such extraordinary action must require an  extraordinary motive.

I believe that Arroyo is once again moving pieces into place to try to extend her term of office.  Imagine if the Comelec announces that it cannot proclaim a new president by June 30.  Per the constitution, the order of succession would be the vice president, the senate president, and the speaker of the House, in that order. But with the terms of all of these officers having expired on 30 June, the country would be put in a situation not contemplated by the constitution…the terms of the old leaders have expired and no new leaders installed. There would be no legally constituted head of state or government. A perfect opening for the outgoing president–in this case Arroyo–to proclaim herself holdover president until a new president can be proclaimed.  Protests would follow,but thanks to Bangit, they would be quelled and the Armed Forces would remain loyal to her.  Lawyers would question her assumption of holdover powers and question its legality before the Supreme Court.  Thanks to this new decision the new Chief Justice would rule in her favor.   The end.

Or another scenario is that elections go through on the local level but fail on the national level. This means that new mayors, governors, and congressmen are   proclaimed but no new senators, president, and vice president would be proclaimed.  Following the line of succession, the acting president would be the Speaker of the House. Since the winners of congressional races were proclaimed, the House could convene and elect Arroyo speaker, and she would assume the position of acting president. The end.

It has always been Arroyo’s style to push the limits of public tolerance and back off when it has been reached. She tried to revise the constitution and got as far as convening the Abueva Commission and having it draft a new charter.  It was only when public anger rose that the Supreme Court stopped the charter change effort.

This time around, she has managed to declare her candidacy, ensure the loyalty of the AFP, and overturn a constitutional provision with hardly a peep from anyone except a few lawyers’ groups. There has not yet been enough pushback from the public for her to stop.  I think the next two to three months will indicate to her whether she pushes forward or backs off.  So far, the coast seems clear.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.