Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Stupidity of the EDSA 2 "People Power" Gullibles Relived

A running broadcast advertisement is reliving the stupidity of the EDSA 2 crowd conned into deposing the constitutionally-elected Joseph Estrada and installing Gloria Arroyo as successor. The anniversary advert running in Philippine television stations shows Arroyo swearing in as "acting President" amidst the seditious sea of mob humanity who flocked the streets of EDSA. What follows is a series of 'testimonies' of ordinary individuals who claim to have experienced economic gains after the revolutionary change in government. Amidst the consistent surveys showing the worst levels of hunger, worst perceptions of corruption and worsening personal and national quality of life and--all under Arroyo’s illicit reign--the political spot comes as almost a complete joke.

This laughable political advert is part of the "Arroyo administration's seventh anniversary celebration of the now infamous EDSA 2 putsch-cum-People Power that overthrew the popular Estrada, and which sent the Filipinos into seven years of polarization and political instability. It illustrates how Arroyo has used the power of media to seize power and even, to maintain her hold on it.

The traditional local media had largely hailed the 2001 coup as a "People Power" triumph over the supposed corruption of President Estrada. In fact, the mainstream broadcast and print Philippine media have served as an influential force in advancing the demonization and ouster of the sitting President and further, in deviously disguising before the Filipinos the constitutional anomaly that is EDSA 2.

Anti-Estrada Propaganda

The 'Estrada is Guilty' and 'long live EDSA 2!' propaganda campaigns participated in by most of the Philippine media actually began months prior to January 2001 during the drive to depose President Estrada. In what has been later exposed to be a well-orchestrated scheme by elitist elements that included the camp of then Vice-President Arroyo and former President Fidel Ramos, the local broadcast and print media played an instrumental role in demonizing Estrada and generating some public support for his ouster. Soon after Estrada decided to leave Malacanang to avoid any possible confrontation with his followers, the largest television stations, GMA-7 and ABS-CBN, ran for several weeks their 'victory' footages of the four-day revolution, acclaiming it as supposedly a victory for democracy in the land.

In contrast, the foreign media were in general agreement in their critical coverage of EDSA 2, describing the event as a power grab instead of as transition enabled by "People Power." Phil Bowring of the International Herald Tribune decried the impeachment walkout and the revolt, saying that "far from being a victory for democracy that is being claimed by leaders of the Anti-Estrada Movement such as Jaime Sin, the evolution of events has been a defeat for due process.” Time Magazine, in its February 19, 2001 issue, saw how “People power 2 was swift justice indeed--as in a lynching, it repudiated the very essence of due process enshrined in the constitution.”

Even foreign politicians and analysts shared the criticism of EDSA 2. Then Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew was quoted by The Straits Times on how he viewed "the change of power in the Philippines [as being] no boost for democracy because it was done outside the constitution." Wikipedia also quotes Hong Kong-based political analyst William Overholt who referred to EDSA 2 as "mob rule or mob rule as a cover for a well-planned coup."

In contrast to what the local media wanted the Filipinos to believe, EDSA 2 was no real showcase of "People Power" but rather, the fruition of a sophisticated and complex power grab conspiracy. Part of the planning and execution of the coup-in-disguise included the exercise of subtle psychological warfare by a major general who is a veteran in this game. In the midst of the Estrada impeachment, his predecessor Fidel Ramos--himself beleaguered by corruption charges--marched on the streets of EDSA in a move that seemed to (successfully) beckon the people to protest and follow suit.

People Power II Myths

Contrary to the lying claim propagated by the Arroyo administration and EDSA 2 stalwarts though media propaganda, the unseating of Estrada did not come about because of a well-intentioned, spontaneous popular revolt. An interview conducted by renowned author Nick Joaquin and which first appeared in the Philippine Graphic revealed that a power grab from Estrada had been planned long before the impeachment and that two of the key putschists were no other than Gloria Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo. With or without a popular component, the overthrow of the President with the highest plurality vote in history would have pushed through.

The defection of the military's top brass was the focus of the putschists' Plan A. This priority plan was what brought in the campaign to bring people to EDSA through media propaganda and centralized invitation by cellular texting. Arroyo's camp managed to convince then Chief-of-Staff Angelo Reyes to join, but on the condition that there will be a million-strong crowd in the streets of EDSA to help convince the service commanders to join.

Arroyo and Singson's camp also had a Plan B that included having elements of the military strike the initial blow by withdrawing from the government, to be followed by other groups such as the Philippine Military Academy graduates from Class '71, Class '72, etc. Moreover, they had a bloody "back-up strike force" given the orders to shoot against every place in Metro Manila and the provinces where Estrada forces will resist. It is herein seen that the unseen hand that directed the propaganda and political machinations against Estrada had a heartless determination to grab power. For all the illusions of the EDSA 2 people, it has become apparent that they had simply served as pawn to overthrow a very popularly elected leader. Worse, the EDSA "People Power" principle of a peaceful revolutionary change in government was in no way a consideration for the elitist elements who never respected the millions of masa (lower-class) votes received by Estrada.

Concededly, though, idealistic elements were present in the civilian support of EDSA 2. No less than members of the youth and the academic community lend some dignity to the rebellious occasion. It is even safe to state that the country's premiere university, the University of the Philippines, attended in majority force. It is just so sad that for all their intelligence and patriotic aspirations, the more honorable of the EDSA 2 civilians had been, well, had. Conned by political opportunists and elitist elements who envision democracy to work according to their convenience, they prejudged Estrada as guilty without the benefit of a fair and complete trial. The seemingly possessed EDSA 2 mob then dropped half their principles and acted in a Machiavellian fashion to taunt, jeer and malign Estrada. The climax came rather swiftly as the threat of the lynching mob--foolhardily ignorant of the putschists' machinations--was conveniently used to negotiate Estrada's departure from Malacanang. Aided by the seditious "party" animal, then Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide, and failing to smell the odor of the wicked wolf in their midst, the pathetically jubilant mob then foolishly handed the Presidency to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a silver but tainted platter.

Revolution towards Greater Hunger and Corruption

It is most ironic that the 'Oust Estrada' campaign rode on the wings of anti-corruption and moral recovery promises but ended up driving the country into probably unprecedented post-war levels of misery, a corruption and immorality.

2007 was particularly a year of ignominy for Arroyo on several counts. Despite her proud but dubious claims of steering the country into economic stability, a Social Weather Station survey study shows that the level of total hunger hit its highest last year--the second time in her administration. Another 2007 survey, this time by Pulse Asia, betrays how Filipinos consider themselves and their countrymen worse off now than some years back ago.

It is in the area of morality, however, that Gloria Arroyo received the worst disgrace of her political life. The October 2007 Pulse Asia nationwide survey on corruption revealed how Filipinos view her as the "Most Corrupt President in Philippine History." The survey results prove particularly embarrassing not only for Arroyo but, perhaps, also for those responsible for her unconstitutional ascent into the Presidency because she even beat Guinness-holder Ferdinand Marcos for the inglorious title. Estrada, who has faced the politically-suspect Plunder charges and seven years of consistent demonizing by the Arroyo administration and elitist camps, placed only third in the list. What had made Gloria Arroyo top the "Most Corrupt" list is nothing else but a long litany of corruption issues that began soon after the EDSA 2 "People Power" gave her the reigns of illicit power.

Mea culpa

A number of personalities and participants of EDSA 2 have already admitted to the mistake, nay stupidity(?), of the Estrada ouster. Prominent among them is former President Corazon Aquino. While admission and penance may not necessarily bring back the constitutional order of the government, nor undo the defamation of Estrada, nor perhaps the lives of those who died by hunger or poverty-related suicide due to corruption of public funds, nor return the lost honor of the Supreme Court, it is a step in right direction. The zeal for change may sometimes override sobriety and foresight, and lead people to stupid decisions. Let EDSA 2, then, be a bitter blunder to rectify because otherwise, the nation as a whole will suffer worse.


Monday, January 21, 2008

The Sorry State of the Philippines under the EDSA 2 President

If you wish to get an objective and accurate picture of the state of the Philippines under Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo, get yourself independent data that are untwisted or unmanipulated by the propaganda machinations of the administration and, to a very limited extent, of the opposition. Survey data and other statistics from independent and established local and international polling firms and watchdog institutions will prove reliable. Facts and figures from the local Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia survey groups and Transparency International (TI), Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, and Amnesty International (AI) should together provide the most accurate and unprejudiced picture of how better off or how worse off the Philippines currently is from the time Arroyo grabbed the presidency from Joseph Estrada in January 2001 through the EDSA 2 "People Power" backed by the military's top brass.

Hunger and Poverty in the Philippines

The level of hunger and poverty experienced by the Filipino masses under the Arroyo administration is reflected in the yearly survey of SWS on "self-rated poverty and hunger". As of November 2006, record high levels of "overall hunger" and "severe hunger" were recorded by the SWS survey for the quarter. The 19.0% Total Hunger and 15.1% Moderate Hunger represent unprecedented levels that far exceeded the highest levels recorded during Joseph Estrada's administration--14.5% and 9.2% levels, respectively. The highest level of Severe Hunger, at 6%, was also recorded during Arroyo's administration, in March 2001.

In 2007, hunger in the Philippines turned out for the worse as Arroyo beat her own record of economic and political mismanagement. The previous record high of 19.0%, reflected consecutively in the last quarter of 2006 and 1st quarter of 2007, was surpassed in the 2007 3rd quarter SWS survey that showed a hunger deterioration of 2.5 points from the end of the previous year. The new record, a national proportion of 21.5%, represents some 3.8 million of Filipino families who suffer from involuntary total hunger. The latest survey results also present another record high since 1998: Filipinos now experiencing hunger ‘A Few Times’ or ‘Only Once’, or Moderate Hunger, is now at the highest ever at 17.5%.

Worsening Personal and National Quality of Life

A similar survey conducted by Pulse Asia in 2005 confirmed the present dire difficulties faced by Filipinos. The July 2005 survey shows a majority—a total of 67%of Filipinos—believe " the circumstances of their families as of the survey period [to be] worse than their circumstances a year earlier." The 2005 survey, timed with Arroyo's Ulat ng Bayan, also reveals how a resounding majority of 80% of Filipinos believe that "the national quality of life now is worse than in the previous year and expect it to be even worse in the year ahead."

These findings lend a sort of medium-term trend to Pulse Asia’s pre-election 2007 survey showing how majority of Filipinos consider themselves worse off now than three years ago. This majority figure of 54% sharply contrasts with the 11%, or only 1 in every 10 Filipinos, who see their personal circumstances as having improved in the past three years. The April 2007 figure represents an increase from the 49% recorded in April 2004, or a worsening QOL of the Filipinos.

The same survey also showed how two out of every three Filipinos (65%) perceive the overall situation of their countrymen to be worse off now than in 2004. This sentiment is expressed by a considerable-to-big majorities of from 60% to 76% across the Philippine’s geographic areas and notably, also across the socio-economic classes. Those who say otherwise—that the state of their countrymen has improved at this point—account for a negligible 7 percent. Thus, these individual and national QOL survey results seem to belie the loud pronouncements of Arroyo on the supposed improvement in the country’s economy under her presidency.

Dissatisfaction with, & Distrust, of Arroyo: the Only RP President to Ever Score Negatively

Judging from the SWS and Pulse Asia periodic surveys on the satisfaction and trust ratings of Presidents, it is clearly shown that only during Arroyo's presidency is the level of public satisfaction and confidence ever at a negative and consistent low.

While the performance satisfaction ratings for the past presidents, including Joseph Estrada, easily exceeded the 65 percent levels during their peaks, Arroyo's net satisfaction only reached the 30 percent level as its highest: this less-than-satisfactory ‘achievement’ would subsequently be negated by her lowest net satisfaction rating of –33 percent, recorded in the 2nd quarter of 2005. In the latest 4th quarter 2007 survey, Arroyo earned a net dissatisfaction rating of 16 percent—which registered despite the majority approval (54%) of her grant of pardon to former President Estrada.

From 2004 until the last survey in November 2006, the net satisfaction ratings of President Arroyo were at a consistent negative. Her first brush with negative public satisfaction, however, came a year earlier: in the 1st quarter of 2003, the Filipinos’ satisfaction with Arroyo dipped to a historically unprecedented negative 14 points. For over half of her controversial regime, Arroyo would go through an arduous, yet loudly unsuccessful, struggle to satisfy the Filipino public. In fact, what the twenty-one-year-long SWS survey data on the net performance satisfaction of four Presidents show is that never before since the end of Martial law has the Philippines been served by a President unaccepted by the general population.

Given the worst-than-failing net ratings given by the Filipinos, it is hardly surprising that Arroyo has largely garnered distrust from the people she has vowed to serve. Based on the ABS-CBN/SWS January 6-9, 2001 Arroyo actually came from a distrust rating of (negative) 11 points some two weeks before she helped succeed in deposing Estrada and took over from him as President in January 2001. Soon after taking over Malacanang, with the mainstream media largely hailing her constitutionally suspect ascent to power, however, Arroyo’s trust ratings recovered and even shot upward.

This trend would not hold for so long, though, because later surveys would portray plurality distrust towards her, particularly after 2004. Beginning 2005, Pulse Asia’s periodic surveys would show how the negative trust towards Arroyo hovered between 59% and 42%. The latest distrust ratings of Gloria Arroyo came through the Pulse Asia's October 2007 Nationwide Survey on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings reveal that the percentage of those who distrust her is a majority plurality of 46%, as opposed to only 23% who trust her. The figure of distrust represents an upward movement in Arroyo’s overall distrust rating from the pre-election research conducted from November 2006 to April 2007. For the said five-month period, the poll research showed an average distrust of a plurality of 42% of Filipinos, in contrast to a mere 24% who trust Arroyo (undecided respondents averaged 33.5%). Results of this Pulse Asia national survey are consistent with findings reflected in the various geographic areas and all socio-economic classes. It is also notable that between the months of July and October 2007, Arroyo registered double-digit margins of increase (11 -19 percentage points) even in her traditional bailiwicks--the Visayas and Classes ABC.

Filipinos’ Desire to do away with Arroyo’s Presidency

A more direct expression of the Filipino public’s rejection of Arroyo is seen in the separate surveys of the SWS and Pulse Asia conducted in two consecutive years. These survey studies reveal that beyond distrust and dissatisfaction, majority of the people actually want the President installed in 2001 by the military-backed EDSA 2 to be out of Malacanang.

In mid 2005, Pulse Asia undertook a nationwide survey on "Alternative Political Scenarios and Best and Worst Persons to Lead the Country Now.” The survey study results showed that as of July 2005, only a mere total of 26% of Filipinos favor Arroyo's continued stay in power until the end of her term, while a decisive majority of some 73% think it would be "most beneficial" for the country if she either "resigns or is impeached", "resigns and she is replaced by a [junta], or "removed from office using any means." It is most interesting to note that this survey research came only within a year after Arroyo supposedly won in the highly controversial 2004 Presidential polls.

This Pulse Asia survey would be corroborated to a certain degree by a later SWS survey that asked the people’s opinion regarding the resignation or removal of Arroyo. In March 2006, some 44% believed that it would be beneficial for the country if Arroyo resigns from Malacanang—almost double the 23% those who think otherwise. As to the option of removing her through People Power, a plurality of Filipinos (48% agree; 27% disagree; 21% undecided) also think any such development would be good for the Philippines. It is notable that this SWS survey reveals a direct relationship between the public’s dissatisfaction with Arroyo’s performance and the Filipinos significant “desire for her to be toppled, regardless of the way for this to come about.”

Corruption in the Philippines

Surveys have a way of revealing or highlighting what the media may choose to ignore or have inadvertently overlooked. In October 2007, the corruption-related survey of Pulse Asia disclosed the majority view that Gloria Arroyo is regarded as Philippine history’s “Most Corrupt” President ever. This most unpalatable distinction of having topped the most corrupt list of Philippine leaders—even surpassing the image of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos—obviously is a reflection of the immoral brand of governance Arroyo has wielded since EDSA 2.

Certain apologists or supporters of the Arroyo administration could argue that the local SWS and Pulse Asia are biased survey research firms. However, even independent international watchdog and survey firms portray a bleak picture of the obtaining situation in the country. To start with, the 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) tool of Transparency International gives the Philippines a score of 2.5 (out of the best possible 10), based on the "perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." This very low CPI score of 2.5 would be posted anew in 2007, based on 9 surveys. The 2006 and 2007 CPI scores represents a significant worsening of corruption in the country when compared with the 2.8 score in 2000 during President Joseph Estrada's last year in office. When viewed in the context of the use of the corruption issue to rationalize the constitutionally suspect unseating of President Estrada's back in January 2001, the CPI score comparison becomes all the more telling.

Even in terms of the holistic National Integrity System (NIS) Study of Transparency International, the Philippines is shown today to be a "country with institutionalized corruption" that is plagued by "the lack of will power to stamp out corruption, the nagging problem of morality in leadership and the absence of respect for the rule of law." The 2006 Philippines report show a big gap persists "between catching ‘small fry’ and ‘big fish’; between rhetoric and reality, and promise and performance."

Perception of the Government's Efforts on Corruption

How Filipinos really view the much-touted anti-corruption campaign of the Arroyo administration is revealed by the Global Corruption Barometer 2006 tools of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International. Survey data on how ordinary citizens "assess their government's fight against corruption" show that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos negatively view the administration's efforts. A mere 21% positively rate Arroyo's anti-corruption campaign, as opposed to a total of 78% of respondents who believe otherwise: 23% think the Philippine government "does not fight at all," 31% think the campaign is "not effective," while 24% hold that the administration "does not fight but actually encourages" corruption.

In the 2007 Global Corruption Barometer Report, this pessimism regarding corruption is maintained. Approximately 79% of the respondents expect corruption in the Philippines to actually worsen in the next three years. The survey results pinpoint the Police, the Parliament and Political Parties to be most affected by this corruption. The same report also showed a significant depreciation in the trust of the people towards the Philippine government’s anti-corruption effort. A very significant percentage, 64% of respondents, now say that the campaign to rid of corruption is “not effective”–a figure that is more than double the 2006 figure of 31percent.

Even the latest corruption survey of the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy lends support to the perception of severe corruption in the country. The 2007 survey of expatriate businessmen in Asia lists the Philippines as currently the "most corrupt" among 13 countries and territories surveyed in the continent. The story appearing in the International Herald Tribune quotes from the survey report how "People are just growing tired of the inaction and insincerity of leading officials when they promise to fight corruption." Part of the survey shows that the respondents even gave the judicial system a nearly appallingly perfect 9.06 out of 10score, with 10 as being "ineffective."

State of Human Rights in the Philippines

The extent and severity of obtaining human rights violation in the country under the Arroyo administration is most objectively seen through the holistic study of the renowned international human rights group Amnesty International (AI). While the military and police may dismiss human rights reports by Karapatan and other local groups for being produced by entities infiltrated by or sympathetic with the CPP-NPA or perhaps, Muslim terrorist groups, the AI 2006 report represent a study independent of political ideology or affiliation. The following are excerpts from the Amnesty International Report 2006 for the Philippines:

"Scores of leftist activists were killed by unidentified assailants, often reportedly linked to the armed forces. Peace talks between the government and armed groups – Muslim separatists in Mindanao and communist rebels – made limited or no progress. Arbitrary arrests, unlawful killings, torture and “disappearances” were reported in the context of military counter-insurgency operations. Armed groups were responsible for abuses including hostage-taking. Complaints procedures, investigations and criminal prosecutions of suspected perpetrators of human rights violations were often ineffective. Criminal suspects in custody, including women and children, were at risk of torture or ill-treatment by police. Death sentences were imposed but no executions were carried out."

Amnesty International Report 2007, Philippines paints a similar state of human rights violations. The political killings of leftist activists are supposed to have continued as the government went on a declaration of "all-out war" against the communist rebels. While the government did establish a police task force and a Commission of Inquiry in order to investigate the killings, unfortunately these “resulted in only a limited number of arrests and prosecutions.”


Most Corrupt President in Philippine History
Pulse Asia's October 2007 Special Report on Corruption-Related Issues & Most Corrupt Philippine President
SWS Degree of Hunger in Households: July 1998 to February 2007
4th Qtr. 2007 SWS Survey
Pulse Asia's April 3 - 5, 2007 Pre-election Survey on Quality of Life
Pulse Asia's July 2005 Ulat ng Bayan Media Release on Concerns, Coping Strategies & Perceptions of the Poor
By Dr. Mahar Mangahas
16 February 2001

Pulse Asia's October 2007 Ulat ng Bayan Survey
Media Release on Presidential Performance ratings and Trust ratings

Pulse Asia's April 3 - 5, 2007 Pre-election Survey Media Release on Trust Ratings of Selected Public Figures and Groups
Pulse Asia's July 2006 Ulat ng Bayan Survey Media Release on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings and the National Administration's Performance
SWS Net Satisfaction Ratings of Presidents, May 1986 to 2007
4th Qtr. 2007 SWS Survey
2005 Pulse Asia Most Beneficial/Constructive Political Scenarios Table 1
Pulse Asia's October 2005 Ulat ng Bayan Survey
First Quarter 2006 Social Weather Survey: Options For Toppling GMA:
Coup Gets Split Opinions, People Power Gets 48%, Pro-Resign Gets 44%

Transparency International CPI Report 2007
Transparency International CPI Table, Report 2006
Transparency International CPI Report 2000
Transparency International NIS Philippines 2006 Study Report
Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2006 - Report
Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2007 - Report
International Herald Tribune story "Philippines most corrupt, survey says"
AI Report 2006, Asia-Pacific: Philippines
AI Report 2007, Asia-Pacific: Philippines


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