The results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) June 27-30, 2008 national survey released today, Friday, showed that Mrs. Arroyo had a net satisfaction rating of -38, her lowest since the -33 recorded more than three years ago. Only 22 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the President’s overall performance against 60 percent who said they were not.
This was, of course, after typhoon Frank had already ravaged the Philippine heartland and she was still traipsing in the US. A Nero act, some would say. However, it is also as much a product of the relentless rise of oil and food prices that already produced an 11% double-digit inflation rate, as well as her stubbornness in preserving the expanded VAT regime.
The eVAT has always been a political issue, especially among the poor people, that victimized its author, former Sen. Ralph Recto. He lost in last year’s senatorial elections because of this issue. GMA refused to let go of it despite the widespread clamor to rescind it–even only for fuel products. During these days of high prices, she knows this stubbornness will lead to a political debacle for her administration.
Her attempts at distributing some of the windfall from eVAT such as the one to transport workers and their families are only seen as mitigating pogi points and not a real solution to the inflationary pressures of a high price crisis. There is already the public perception that these are attempts to bribe the local leaders, protesting sectors, and the restive masses. Worse, there is the public perception that it only provides new avenues for big-scale and petty corruption. That’s what you will get if there is a yawning gap in credibility between leaders and the people.
It is within this context that one should view the renewed calls for federalism, such as the new angle of satisfying MILF demands for a peace agreement brought up by former chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. Whatever the merits of federalism, unfortunately it is being viewed in a very negative light today because of suspicions that a constitutional change process–required by such a major political proposal–can easily be manipulated in order to extend GMA’s stay in power.
Charter change under an extremely unpopular president can only feed the political crisis–it will lead to a political conflict that may strain the democratic system itself. It will also effectively set aside the 2010 presidential elections. At this point in time, any such move will require neutralizing all political opposition.
Will she dare to declare some form of martial rule?