Sta. Ana is the Coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in November 10, 2008 edition of the Business World, pages S1/4 to S1/5.
This is news that will make Mrs. Gloria Arroyo tremble: Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra—ousted by a coup d’etat in response to the Thais’ version of people power—is seeking asylum in another country, reportedly the Philippines, after Britain revoked his visa.
Mrs. Arroyo’s fear is not about handling a hot potato that is Thaksin, just in case he seeks asylum in the Philippines. That Thaksin intends to stay permanently in Manila, Boracay or Lubao is not a problem for Mrs. Arroyo. What frightens her is the thought that Thaksin’s fate could happen to her.
Let us recall the cases against Thaksin and his wife Potjaman. Potjaman was convicted for tax evasion charges. Thaksin was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for conflict of interest. At the time that he was the prime minister, he made it easier for Potjaman to purchase state-owned land. Still to be resolved are four cases of corruption against Thaksin.
Thaksin and his wife’s crimes —severe as they are—look puny compared to the charges against Gloria and Mike. The Garci tapes, the jueteng money, the fertilizer scam, the extra-judicial killings, the National Broadband Network scandal, the Jun Lozada abduction, among other things, will forever hound Gloria. At the back of her mind, Gloria dreads a worse outcome than the Thaksin tragedy. Pardon this oxymoron: It is perfectly rational for Gloria to be paranoid.
Let us assume Gloria steps down as queen of the enchanted kingdom in 2010. She has no choice but leave the kingdom to avoid the many criminal cases that will be filed against her. She cannot bet on the possibility that the next administration will be accommodating to her. For the next president, siding with Gloria would be political suicide. Look at what happened to John McCain; being identified with George Bush led Barack Obama to murder him in the US election.
So, for her security and happiness, Gloria will have to leave for distant shores. The questions she will ask: Is there a decent and comfortable country that will receive her, Mike, and family? Will an Obama or Gordon Brown embrace her?
But by now, she has the answers. Thaksin is no longer welcome in London; what makes her case different? She tried talking to Obama twice—when he was still campaigning and after he won the elections. In both instances, Gloria did not get through.
Gloria’s future would have looked brighter if Sarah Palin had become US vice president. She would have entertained Gloria. Palin is so warm and friendly as seen in her enthusiastic response to a phone call from French president Nicolas Sarkozy. It turned out that this was a fake Monsieur Sarkozy. I love that conversation between Palin and the Quebecois comedian disguised as Sarkozy. I especially relish the part where the comedian named Marc-Antoine Audette remarked that he could see Belgium from France in the same way that Palin could view Russia from Alaska.
It won’t be a surprise that in a conversation between Mesdames Palin and Arroyo, the former would offer to host the latter for a long vacation in Alaska. I would like the amusing Sarah to tell Gloria that viewing Russia from Alaska is a much better pastime than staring at Malacañang from Muntinglupa.
And so, Madame Arroyo’s best option is to stay put. She has the assets to do so. Congress and local government officials love her for the pork barrel funds. The Euro-generals will protect her. The Supreme Court is her Court, not the Reynato Puno Court. And in 2009, she gets to appoint seven Supreme Court justices. Dancing the Cha-Cha seems easy.
That’s why I tell friends and relatives that we cannot simply pin our hopes on the 2010 elections. And that we cannot be indifferent to the impeachment bid.
I want the impeachment process to move forward. I have no illusion that the impeachment will prevail. Congress will muster all efforts to overwhelm the impeachment attempt. But the impeachment will distract Congress from preparing the Cha-Cha and thus delay any conspiracy to extend Gloria’s reign.
In the meantime, let Gloria welcome Thaksin. She might be able to get some tips from this rogue who, despite his ouster, still gets the support of a chunk of the Thai electorate. But then she should know: many Thais, especially in the rural areas, voted for Thaksin. In her case, Garci’s votes from remote Mindanao made her queen.