President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently signed Executive Order 728, in which among other provisions dealing with the food and fuel crises, permits herself to explore emergency powers if the crises deepen. According to EO 728, the National Food and Emergency Council (NFEC) is empowered to make recommendations to the President and Congress to exercise emergency powers.
Predictably, Senate President Villar and House Speaker Nograles rejected the idea and stressed that the president has enough powers to address the twin crises without emergency powers. Other senators (particularly those considered as presidentiables) also pitched in with their objections.
GMA has her own crisis of legitimacy. This crisis has now evolved into a crisis of political survival, especially since there is as yet no guarantee from presidentiables on her future, her deep unpopularity continues, both friends and enemies plot despite or even against her, and the economic crisis increasingly becomes unmanageable. This move by the president, within the context of her own political crisis, smacks of a desperate maneuver to force the hands of her opponents to give her the breathing space she craves.
The problem, of course, with emergency power–such as the one she declared in February 2006–is that it breeds its own crisis dynamics. For one, the loyalty of the armed forces to her is questionable–having demonstrated their independent course in several occasions before. Secondly, with the start of the 2010 election campaign and her increasingly lameduck situation, there is the question of her political capability to successfully implement emergency powers. It is a situation of “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
At any rate, her current moves of giving all sorts of subsidy to various sectors are too little, too late. It will not appease them, it will not solve their problems. The best way forward for her is still to undertake the real political reforms that have been perceived to have been sidelined and should have been her legacy. For example, good appointments to Comelec and other key government posts are one. Pushing for the passage of the CARP extension bill, the political party reform bill, and other reform-oriented bills are another. Putting a definite closure to the many scandals in her government is still another. Ending the insurgencies is also a legacy target.
She has to make peace–real, genuine reconciliation–with the people. Only then can she achieve her own peace.