Wednesday, April 05, 2006

By Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio

POLICARPIO: The Arroyo Government is a De Facto government, isn’t it?

While visiting my two elder brothers in the Philippines last month, I had a brief experience of living under a “state of national emergency” for a few days. After Mr. Christopher Hill, a U.S State Department official, visited Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Malacanang Palace where she temporarily holds office as president, she lifted her proclamation to place the Philippines under a state of emergency which lasted for about 7 days. But during that short moment in time, she was able to harass her political opponents with warrants of arrest and possible prosecution as communist rebels, an outdated Marcos’s technique to terrorize political dissent.

As a typical journalist, I grabbed the opportunity of listening to the sentiments of certain political personalities embroiled in the ongoing struggle for political power in the Philippines. In my conversation with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr on the Senate floor minutes before he lambasted in a privileged speech the current lady tenant of Malacanang as a pretender to the Philippine presidency, he expressed his belief that the political opposition will finally unite soon and force Arroyo out of power without violence. He favors the holding of a snap election which has the silent support of the Bush Administration.

From the camp of former president Estrada who is currently in detention, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s office also expressed a feeling that the Arroyo days are numbered. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s spokesman said that the former president is no longer interested in winning back the presidency despite his belief that Gloria Arroyo stole it from him in 2001. However, he added that Estrada would join a snap election to enable the Filipino people choose their real president. He also said that some elements from the United States government expressed support for Estrada’s regaining the presidency.

Mr. Romulo Lacson, speaking for his younger brother Sen. Ping Lacson who was not feeling well on the scheduled time of our political conversation, stated that his brother is not interested in becoming president. He said the former presidential candidate is now interested in becoming Mayor of Manila. He also revealed to me the existence of a secret para-military force ready to defend to the death Gloria Arroyo against any similar military or armed group that would try to oust her from office. He said that people behind this set-up recently smuggled high-powered arms from abroad. He hinted that he knows the identity of the person leading this sinister group who operates a similar security agency business as he does.

A few days before I left Manila for New York City, I had a lengthy telephone conversation with Mr. Matthew Lussenhop, U.S. Embassy’s Spokesman. He repeated the same line of the United States as supporting the democratic institutions in the Philippines, not the personalities. He said that the United States government has to deal with a Philippine government that you see on television and read in the press. He exclaimed that bilateral trade activities and other bilateral transactions need to go on despite the political turmoil fueled by the question of legitimacy of the Arroyo administration. Regarding the issue of press freedom and the Philippines’ human rights record, he suggested to me to read the United States report to Amnesty International about the Philippine government’s violation of human rights. He further stated that it’s up to the Filipino people to do what they want to do with the current administration. So when I described the current Philippine government as a de facto government, Mr. Lussenhop’s prompt remark was “You said it.”

This is the kind of government the people have in the Philippines in the eyes of our American government: a de facto government defined by Webster’s dictionary as “existing, or being such in actual fact though not by legal establishment, official recognition, etc.” and by a Law Dictionary by James A. Ballentine as “a government wherein all the attributes of sovereignty have, by usurpation, been transferred from those who had been legally invested with them to others, who, sustained by a power above the forms of law, claim to act and do in their stead.” Now, fellow Americans, do we have to deal much longer with such a government or it’s now time to formally withdraw recognition of an illegitimate government?