Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stepping down

It seems The Inquirer and the Philippine Star were listening to different SONAs yesterday, based on their headlines:
In the SONA that I listened to, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reiterated that were will be elections in 2010, that they will be automated, that her term will come to an end next year, and that she has never given any reason to believe that she would extend her term.

Demanding that the president explicitly state that she will step down next year is kind of like demanding that NASA refute allegations that they faked the Moon landings. Responding to these fools only dignifies their unfounded accusations. Filipinos need to start realizing that their constitution is bigger than just one person.

People have been pointing to Fidel Ramos' last SONA as an example of an explicit statement that he would be stepping down from power:
“I will be working and governing — you will all feel and hear and see me working and governing as your president — until I turn over the presidency to the 13th president of the republic at high noon on 30 June 1998.”
But did this work to silence his critics? If I recall, late-1997 saw a flurry of massive demonstrations protesting the silly allegation that Ramos would run for re-election, despite Ramos' repeated statements that he was stepping down. Excerpts:
The Philippines' most influential clergyman said today that President Fidel V. Ramos was so desperate to hang on to power that he was threatening to drag the country back to its dark days under Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Thursday, August 21, 1997
The Philippines' senior clergyman today told churches to ring their bells and drivers to blow their horns every evening for the next two weeks to protest ''immoral'' attempts by President Fidel Ramos to hang on to power.
Friday, September 5, 1997
Expect history to repeat itself later this year. So why do so many critics and cynics delude themselves into thinking President Arroyo plans to stay in power perpetually? The answer is simple: They're either intellectually dishonest or downright dense, and the real injustice here is that no one will put the spotlight on them when they are eventually proven, as usual, wrong.


  1. Your chronology may be incorrect above, because you overlook what the August 21 and September 5 stories were leading up to: the big Anti Cha Cha Rally in the Luneta on September 20, 1997.

    Up to that point, the effort to amend the Constitution was very much moving forward.

    This article gives a good digest of what happened:


    But don't take her word for it, though the Newsbreak Article where Gen. Almonte, FVR's national security adviser and main strategist of the Cha Cha effort together with Carmen Pedrosa, is no longer freely available online. But you can easily get a copy of Almonte's book where he states FVR's mistake was to throw in the towel in response to the Anti Cha Cha rally in September, 1997.

    Therefore, the critics were not to be silenced by the SONA of FVR, precisely because the effort to prolong his term by two years was already brewing. The same can be said of the ongoing efforts in the House of Representatives.

  2. LOL, maybe you should stick to software.

  3. Manolo: Still, Ramos made several statements that were unambiguously intended to quell his critics, such as..

    September 21, 1997:

    September 8, 1997:

    Didn't do anything to prevent 200,000 people from massing up in Luneta, collectively choosing to forget he said anything of the sort.

  4. Mike, yes, but you can review the long list of presidents who made unambiguous statements, beginning with Quezon, on critics' insistence they were maneuvering to stay in power longer:


    And the problem is, some succeded in their maneuvers, others failed; so what might be more helpful is to see whether events matched the statements or whether eventually something else took place.

    This is the difficulty that arises from reading anything any president says: presidents besides being statesmen have to be politicians too.

    But again, in terms of your additional links, put them in context: the Septmeber 21 was his response to the rally; his September 8 one, leading up to the rally that confronted him with the political problem of being one of the fathers of people power, being confronted with a possibly re-eruption of people power; a prudent man, he decided not to be one of the children devoured by the revolution they'd started.

    So I'm just suggesting any president operates on a couple of levels: what can be plausibly denied, which requires saying, always the right things and never something that can negatively haunt you later on, and what can conctretely be done, those things being undertaken sometimes long in advance and under the radar, so to speak. And that in the light of an institutiuon we've had with us for so long, the public does have enough hunches and practical experience to know how this game works, positively and negatively. again, this helps provide context as to why at times the public relationship with our presidents verges on the paranoid and the suspicious, and other times, on the supportive.

  5. Actually, though that Ramos news article is dated September 21, his statement saying he was against term extensions came out before the Luneta rally, and organizers said they would proceed with the rally anyway. The point here being that even if Gloria made an explicit statement that she would step down, people will find a way to ignore it.

    To me the idea that because our government leaders are politicians we must treat them with an assumption of bad faith... That's not a healthy democracy. Replacing our leaders would give an opportunity for a clean slate, but the real change needs to come in people's attitudes.

    I suppose you have the benefit of your years... I have almost never experienced Filipinos treating their elected leaders with less than paranoia.

  6. i'm just as troubled as you by the default position being paranoia -but also, as some others point out, there's the very real possibility this is a minority and most people are more reasonable, they will be cautiously optimistic.

    but also, if paranoia is an instinctive response, it doesn;t spring out of nowhere, like any manifestation of a trauma, it suggests there was precisely that -a trauma. so perhaps the productive way forward is to ask what can both leaders and public do, to clear the air; and that is where those who are neither pro or anti come in, to suggest that there could be ways to clear the air, to focus on what;s important, and that even if either pro or con have an agenda, there would be a way to make things work even if no one in the partisan divide might want it to work.

    but having said that, saying a is wrong because b didn't do precisely what a warned about, might be falling perilously into that partisan divide if one is jealous about not being categorized as being part of that divide...

  7. Why be content and proud about claiming to have stopped some nefarious deed? The potential evildoers are still out there ready to strike again. Why not do the extra effort of actually baring their conspiracy, punishing them in such a way that they can't do evil things again and discourage any other disordered minds from attempting the same?

  8. BTW, Mike, if you're wondering why you're getting extra traffic and commenters, I've been linking to your posts on Plurk for discussion purposes. :-)