The Long View: Ceasefire?

By Manuel L. Quezon III

Let’s not forget that in 2005 and 2006, public opinion was for impeachment and against Charter change, but divided on other options. From 2005 to the present, public opinion has overwhelmingly been against the President, but disunited on what, if anything, to do about it. And so it all came to a head on Election Day, in a near-nationwide rejection of the President’s senatorial slate and some of her preeminent local candidates.

On Oct. 26, 2006, I pointed out that the President, as her so-called “people’s initiative” ran aground at the Supreme Court, might be headed for lame-duck status if she failed to prevent an election in 2007.

She failed - and her allies, too; though on Dec. 1, 2006 it seemed to me necessary to bear in mind Churchill’s admonition to his countrymen upon the deliverance of the British Army from Dunkirk: “Wars are not won by evacuations.” The hordes of Charter change advocates were driven from the field; there would remain other battles.

Not least within the President’s own forces. The President’s partisans tried to massacre the Lakas-CMD Party; the massacre failed; and what Team Unity spokesman Tonypet Albano proclaimed, prior to the elections, a “juggernaut” - an idol on rollers crushing all opposition before it - turned out too creaky to guarantee instant victory.

In this latest battle (the election), the President’s machinery and “command votes” proved to be, if not completely a mirage, then, so vastly overstated. This was my point last Monday – some of her people might still win, but it’s taken so long; and having been accompanied by such obvious chicanery, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best.

And so we can say that this early on the Palace has proven itself a victim of its own quackery. The administration might have won individual battles, but it’s incapable of winning the war. Yet, a Palace bristling with generals isn’t one to fold its tents and negotiate a surrender; that much we know.

It’s also true that the two factions that constitute her ruling coalition have maintained their hold on the House: indeed, the President claims she has, at least, not lost on all fronts. Again, so what if a rational mind would know a war of attrition can’t be hers to win? The constitutional clock runs out for her in 2010, doesn’t it?

But then why not smash the clock?

Can the President then, mount a fresh offensive, specifically, a new effort to achieve Charter change? Mounting such an offensive requires the use of the coalition that very nearly collapsed because of the Kampi Party’s cannibalizing of Lakas-CMD’s ranks prior to the elections. But there is no greater balm for the antagonized ally than the soothing prospects of forestalling presidential and senatorial elections in 2010.

And so, once more, and ever more, unto the breach! Tennyson once wrote of the Light Brigade what might well be Lakas-CMD’s and Kampi’s political epitaph:

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

As Pierre Bosquet said of the same ill-fated cavalry charge, “It is magnificent but it is not war.” It was suicide for the Light Brigade; it would be verging on the suicidal for the nation.

Yet if the Palace could not see then, it will not see, not now; maybe never?

For this reason, Conrado de Quiros says it will get a lot worse before it will become better. He said it not out of love of confrontation for confrontation’s sake; he said it as a rational person who loves this country, who does not want to prolong its agony, but who clearly sees that if the Palace won’t see reason, it will have no qualms about doing a suicide charge - regardless of the collateral damage.

Two eminently rational minds have suggested how confrontation can be forestalled.

Randy David last Sunday said the way forward requires three steps: (1) Stop the attempt to cheat the senatorial results; (2) All the commissioners of the Commission on Elections should resign and be replaced with credible people; (3) The President should tell the country she will withdraw from public life in 2010, or sooner, and thus hopefully begin a process of reform and healing.

Columnist Tony Abaya said last Tuesday that to forestall a public backlash against the administration, and a repressive counterstrike from the military and the police, the President should acknowledge she has lost the de facto referendum that was the May elections and devote herself to leaving a good legacy: this means foregoing any further efforts to adopt the parliamentary form of government.

So, is it time for a ceasefire? A conditional reprieve for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Is she a lame duck yet? She still has an army. And a police force. Even the lame can command from the rear. Which means, she can still borrow a line from that old Pearl Harbor-inspired song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!”

So what’s left but to recall the naval hero John Paul Jones? What did he tell the British when they bombarded his ship and demanded his surrender?

“I have not yet begun to fight.”

The British commander had reduced Jones’ ship to a hulk; he rammed the enemy’s ship and captured it.

Rather than discuss a reprieve, it might be better for the President to be reminded of what a famous American revolutionary flag defiantly proclaimed.

“Don’t tread on me.” On the country.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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