President Arroyo and her team are reeling from the series of misfortunes capped by the death of people power icon Cory Aquino. All their plans are in disarray as the GMA administration irretrievably slid into the morass of a lameduck presidency. Psychologically, they are now in the stage of denial.
With the huge outpouring of public grief and sympathy for Cory and her family, the political crisis has turned into a contrast game between the Arroyo term and that of Cory’s. Unfortunately for Gloria, it is a devastating comparison.
Cory has the outstanding historical achievement of helping topple the Marcos dictatorship, nurturing the still-fragile democracy, and setting an example for a frugal, simple, and clean lifestyle while in office. However, the more relevant thing she did–from the perspective of the current political crisis–was to readily vacate the presidency when her time was up. Her death exposed the considerable inroad she made into the hearts of a grateful people.
Gloria is now being portrayed as the exact opposite. She is being accused of weakening a still fragile democracy, setting an example of a jet-setting and Le Cirque-eating flamboyant lifestyle, and conjuring the ghost of a resurrected strong(wo)man rule. At the heart of the current political crisis is the attempt to change the 1987 constitution by her allies–which most people suspect is a scheme to prolong GMA in power. She also holds the unenviable record of being the most unpopular president the country ever had.
In the aftermath of Cory’s death and the people power it evoked, it is inevitable that the political implications will come to the fore. For one, the charter change initiative(and the emergency rule it requires) is dead, with only the most desperate among them still willing to push it through. With it, the lameduck GMA presidency comes into being. Increasingly, “loyalists” will realign themselves with various candidates for the presidential post.
The only alternative option for the survival of the GMA coalition, ironically, is to replace her as the rallying point of the coalition. This will prevent its disintegration and solve the problem of defending the indefensible, i.e., her unpopularity. It may even pave the way for a viable presidential candidate. However, this means that GMA would have to step down very much earlier than June 2010.
Political damage has already been done to the Arroyo administration. The dike has been breached and the castle is inundated. Damage management is at the magnitude of a surgical intervention.