The president’s trip to Spain raised more than its usual share of speculation for the unprecedented size of its entourage. There were speculations that plans had been hatched for a possible charter change initiative next year or, at the least, for a decisive oust-Speaker de Venecia strategy. An interesting speculative counterpoint was for the mapping out of a GMA political retreat.
Whatever the truth, the present situation invites these speculations. The president, according to the constitution, will have to end her term of office at noon of June 30, 2010. If she wants to do anything about this–whether to accept this gracefully or to attempt an extension of her stay in power–she has only a few months at the most.
Any extension of term or a new mandate under a separate political arrangement requires a constitutional change. Again, the only options here is either a people’s initiative or a constituent assembly–a constitutional convention will take too long.
She tried it in 2006 but both attempts failed because of institutional and civil society resistance. Martial law or a declaration of national emergency had been seen by Malacañang hardliners as an indispensable requirement in the next charter change attempt in order to overcome this resistance. However, this is a chancy option at best, given the fractured and politically-mired military with uncertain loyalty.
The Manila Pen incident underscored this uncertainty with both sides in the military and police stand-off engaged in a complicated moro-moro. Whatever its other nuances, the ultimate message of the affair is the complete dependence of the political leadership on military support and the military’s choosing its own rules.
The options for the president is narrowing. Compromise with the broad political opposition is almost gone and her maintaining the option for term extension is riling all presidentiables–whether from the opposition or from her own coalition.
In a situation where the transition to a lameduck presidency has already begun, there is growing pressure for her to resign in order to normalize the political situation–in time for the 2010 presidential elections. Resignation, in this case, is the price she may have to pay to ensure her survival in the post-2010 period. If she choose to stick it out, the only option left for her is to throw caution to the wind and go all out for term extension. Otherwise, she may be helplessly caught in a maelstrom of conspiracies as all the other political forces fight for the high ground towards succession.
She–and the nation–are at a crossroad.