More than 60,000 people from all walks of life rallied in Makati tonight. Similar mass actions simultaneously happened in other cities of the country. This was not yet the People Power that the opposition wants and Malacañang dreads. However, it is a harbinger of things to come.
The rallies are enough to shake the foundations of the House of the Arroyos. They cannot–on their own–bring it down, at least not yet. The more immediate impact would be on the Cabinet, the ruling coalition, and on the military and police support legs of the regime. The people in these institutions will come under intense pressures in the days to come to at least fall back in their defense of the Arroyos and, more likely, start negotiations on transition scenarios. The question of loyalties has now come to the fore.
The Metro-Manila Pulse Asia survey of February 21-24, 2008 indicated the worsening popularity of the Arroyo couple to the level of July 2005 (distrust rating of 76% for both). This basically translates into an acute political vulnerability at a time when there is a momentum of popular opposition to the regime.
There is already a vote for regime change among the people, particularly among those in the middle classes and the grassroots. The only agenda left on the political table is who will deliver the bacon first. There are acute maneuverings within and outside the ruling coalition and among the political elite to do so. A major tug-of-war will revolve around Vice-President Noli de Castro, the constitutional heir-apparent.
People power here cannot yet assert its own agenda–it is in fact still evolving its own beyond the call for truth and resignation or ouster. If the political elite fails to resolve the political crisis soon, this people power–shown in Makati–may surely come again with a definite program, definite leaders, and a definite strategy. If it does so, and assuming a more organized and stronger presence, it could very well overwhelm the various elite schemes and dictate the terms of regime change.
As it is, Noli de Castro and other presidentiables are now hamstringed by the middle class-led upsurge in terms of political reforms, particularly in the areas of anti-corruption, electoral reforms, and accountability of public officials. This has already resulted to the difficulties of the Arroyo couple to obtain pledges of immunity from possible suits once GMA leaves office.
The people are voting with their feet–not away into more apathy and foreign havens but into the political fray and substantive reforms based on regime change.