The election of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the new Speaker of the House proves that the Philippines is no longer in remission. She is on the last of her three consecutive terms as a member of the House of Representatives representing the second district of Pampanga with mid-term elections due next year, yet she managed to muster 184 votes from her colleagues to unseat Pantaleon Alvarez during one of the most bizarre proceedings in the history of Congress. The third Mondays of July are reserved for the delivery of the President’s State of the Nation Address and last July 23 was supposed to have been no different, except that the presidential address, which was supposed to start five p.m. sharp, was delayed for an hour while the House cleaned house. And just like that, Alvarez went back to being an ordinary congressman representing the first district of Davao del Norte.
Thus, like a phoenix rising from the mud, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo completed her political redemption. Actually, knowing the woman, which I personally don’t, I will not be surprised if her ambition ends there. Remember when she carefully bided her time to unseat Joseph Ejercito Estrada, refraining from breaking away from his administration when all his other officials were resigning en masse only to step up when her position was a sure thing? Remember when she promised that she would not seek re-election in 2004 only to break that promise when 2004 came? Remember when, during her second term, she tried to have the Constitution overhauled to enable her to run yet again, only to have every attempt roundly rejected?
As it is, she is comfortably ensconced where she is right now. Right now, she is fourth in the presidential line of succession, after the Vice-President and the President of the Senate, in case President Duterte dies, becomes permanently disabled, is removed from office or resigns. Leni Robredo’s position is far from secure in light of Bongbong Marcos’ election protest and a lightweight like Tito Sotto at the Senate simply isn’t Malacañang material. Noynoy Aquino says he doubts if Arroyo will be able to have a significant impact as Speaker since she only has until May next year, but remember again that Arroyo bested Aquino’s efforts to lock her behind bars: all she needed to do was bide her time—a proven Arroyo tactic—be patient, and when the first chance came, her appointees at the Supreme Court exonerated her of everything Aquino accused her of. She became a free woman, became a member of Congress, and as of last July 23, its 21st Speaker and the first woman to do so.
On top of everything else, she became cured of that idiopathic disease involving some glands of hers that necessitated her confinement in hospital instead of detention in prison like other persons accused of non-bailable offenses, in her case plunder. That is the miracle. Whether she took the waters at Lourdes or walked on her knees at Manaoag I do not know but now she is back like a tumor.
I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing, let me be clear. If federalism pushes through and the Constitution is changed accordingly, both Rodrigo Duterte and Arroyo could seek re-election. Whether either running would be good for the nation is an altogether different question, but since when did the nation’s welfare factor into politicians’ ambitions? They may say that they are running because they are heeding the people’s call for them to run, but really, nobody believes that, not even, I think, themselves. It’s a grand little deception that satisfies the niceties and glosses over naked ambition to make it more palatable to voters, a lesson that Jejomar Binay should have learned before 2016. As a voter faced with a choice between Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Rodrigo Duterte, who would I choose?
Hands down the choice would be Arroyo. Why? And then again, why? Because she does not make me cringe. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is infinitely more presidential than the one we have now. She does not curse, she does not make crude jokes, she does not insult people who cannot answer back, she does not demean women, she does not bully, and though oftentimes she comes across as smug, she projects gravitas. Because of his office, Rodrigo Roa Duterte is respected; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on the other hand, is respectable.
And then again, everything is relative. Also, under her administration—let us describe it charitably as imperfect—government did not adopt a State policy of extrajudicial killings. Duterte’s disregard for even the most rudimentary tenets of due process is all the more deplorable for his training as a lawyer. His callous disregard for human rights, his single-issue presidency and general unpreparedness for the top spot has resulted in the highest inflation rate in five years. I think people are beginning to realize the mistake they made in voting for him, public satisfaction surveys notwithstanding.
The time may soon be here when we will have to choose between the lesser of two ills. Would you rather be diagnosed with a tumor or an STD? G