Gloria in excelsis Digong

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is said to be the outcome of three factors: Arroyo’s drive towards political rehabilitation; Sara Duterte’s vindictiveness; and the congressmen’s disenchantment with the former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

This is at once both a positive and a negative to Duterte. Positive because Sara Duterte got rid of her nemesis and thereby showed her political mettle. Negative because, in so doing, Duterte helped prop up a resurgent Arroyo who now represents perhaps a bloc more powerful than the Marcoses, and therefore less pliant than Alvarez.

The post-EDSA 2 regime of Arroyo, the second-longest presidency on record after the Marcos dictatorship, has a terrible human rights record. Duterte is comfortable with that. Very comfortable in fact because Arroyo’s military chief of staff is now Duterte’s national security adviser. Like Duterte, Arroyo was known for a policy of political killings — among other barbarities.

Arroyo enabled Estrada

Perhaps one of her lasting legacies, which is unfortunately blamed on voters and the general public, was Arroyo’s grant of pardon on her predecessor Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

Arroyo granted Estrada presidential pardon soon after he was convicted for plunder.

Prior to this, Senator Mar Roxas filed Senate Resolution 135 urging Arroyo to pardon the plunderer.

At that time, many viewed Arroyo’s move as less about national reconciliation but political accommodation. She had to pardon Estrada to make him less combative and less participative amid that time’s rising protest movement against her regime. Roxas meanwhile was known to be angling for the presidency, and also made such a fantastic overture to Estrada and his supporters.

The effect of the pardon?

“Executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by Sandiganbayan [anti-corruption court] of plunder and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetual. He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights.

Yes, folks. It was Arroyo and the entire political establishment that supporter her pardon which made it possible for Estrada to run for president again in 2010, and for Manila mayor in 2013.

The pardon basically trashed both the political verdict of the EDSA 2 that toppled Estrada, and the Sandiganbayan decision finding him guilty of the crime of plunder.

Duterte enabled Arroyo

Arroyo got very fortunate under Duterte: Eight Arroyo appointees to the Supreme Court voted to acquit her of plunder charges soon after Duterte came to power. The court has upheld its ruling.

This year, a lower court likewise cleared Arroyo’s son of tax evasion charges.

Soon after the 2016 elections, Arroyo’s allies in the House signed a coalition agreement with the PDP-Laban, pledged to help elect Alvarez as speaker, and even named him as chairman emeritus of the pro-Arroyo National Unity Party.

Arroyo has since been identified as an influential supporter of Duterte.

Duterte Estrada Arroyo Marcos

Today, Duterte presides over a ruling coalition of the worst traditional politicians in recent memory, including his criminal family. His daughter leads the Hugpong party in Mindanao, a counterbalance to an unwieldy PDP-Laban now headed by Arroyo as its next highest political leader, de facto replacing Alvarez.

The Duterte coalition includes plunderers Estrada, Marcos and Arroyo — who we should add, are also well-known for being brutal fascist in varying shades of blood-red.  Duterte obviously loves and admires them, and has eclipsed their record of brutality and bloodshed.

This is generally positive to the united front of political forces challenging Duterte. But at the same time, the traditional politicians involved in the anti-Duterte resistance should own up to their roles in the culture of impunity especially when they were in power, and repent the steps they took or failed to take, their sins of commission and omission that paved the way for Duterte to demagogically claim to be an agent of change. Otherwise, the DDS would play up those facts and continue to pretend to be pro-change.

Progressive and patriotic Filipinos would do well to expand their vision further than 2010. Philippine history didn’t start in 2010 or 2016. Duterte has been making a play about post-EDSA grievances of the public, partly due to the failure of the system to admit and address its mistakes. Historical revisionism is not just about the artificial prettification of Marcos, Estrada, Arroyo and Duterte. It also involves the betrayal by liberal-democrats whenever they were in power, thus in effect giving fuel for the bombast of populists like Duterte.

We are just talking right now of the past 30 years, and yet debates are quick to escalate. Why? The enemies who the people have courageously defeated have been able to make a comeback, no thanks to a corrupt and rotten system, and they are using everything from their stolen loot to the political platforms they have been able to snatch back not just to despoil discourse but also to rewrite history and to capture and expand their political power.

The way forward

The recent United People’s SONA is a preview of things to come. When otherwise warring political forces find common cause, like fighting Chacha and dictatorship, we see a glimmer of hope because they show a way to challenge the perceived superpower-like qualities of Duterte.

The rainbow coalition that made the United People’s SONA is now in a position to call for more mass actions to show Duterte’s weakening hold on the populace, demand an end to his brutality, denounce corruption and incompetence, and to stop Chacha and TRAIN. How this coalition would do this depends only on three factors: 1) their sense of unity, and their readiness to lead actions; 2) the divisions within the Duterte ruling coalition and the crises that they cause; 3) the people’s support and rising awareness and activism.

The united front should remind themselves and also Duterte: The people toppled two of his allies through magnificent uprisings, and we can only perfect this method of punishing leaders like them.