Good Company

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Making a Mess in the Philippines

Looks like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's days as President of the Philippines are numbered. A third of her Cabinet--ten members--quit and urged her to step down amidst bombshell allegations of voter fraud. The story has received little international press attention. I guess Philippine corruption is so dog-bites-man it doesn't merit front-page news.
As I noted in an earlier post, it's probably not good news when the president of a country announces the firing of the entire cabinet, which, it seems, may have just been an attempt at window dressing the whole sordid matter.

As it happens, I am in the midst of reading In Our Image: America's Empire in the Phillipines by Stanley Karnow (available at Barnes & Noble)
And about which Publisher's Weekly wrote:
Though Karnow claims that U.S. imperialism in its former colony, the Philippines, has been "uniquely benign'' compared to European colonialism, the evidence set forth in this colorful, briskly readable history undercuts that prognosis. He shows that a succession of U.S. presidents and administrators coddled the archipelago's 60 or so ruling families, perpetuating the feudal oligarchy that continues to this day, and widening the gap between rich and poor...
While I don't understand the use of the word "prognosis" (perhaps "analysis" would have been better), the book's underlying historical background seems to be accurate at least as of the date of its publication in 1989. However, it does point out that corruption in the government of the Philippines is neither a new development nor particularly surprising given the requirements of a system of personal and family favors that lies in the background...

The Philippines is a fascinating country, with all the complexities that a long archipelago composed of thousands of islands and number of differing tribes can bring. And while we can argue about whether the US treated the Philippines well or not in the past, its current population deserves better than what it has.

Update: President Arroyo is clinging to power despite more calls to resign and she may be right to do:
The 58-year-old U.S.-trained economist said she was moving on by naming a new Cabinet. She repeated her offer to undergo an impeachment process, telling her opponents they should follow proper procedure and take their case to Congress, where her administration holds majorities in both houses.

"The Philippines has fallen into a dangerous pattern, where the answer to every crisis is to subvert due process rather than work within the system," Arroyo said. "This must stop. I was duly elected to uphold the constitution and ensure that the institutions of the nation were strengthened, not weakened."

Despite her effort to present a business-as-usual approach, prospects appeared to be fading for anything other than a peaceful handover of power to Vice President Noli de Castro, who leftist groups said must show that he's not tainted, too.

Her Cabinet defectors told a news conference that Arroyo has been crippled by allegations that she rigged last year's presidential race, was making decisions guided by her political survival and has lost the ability to lead.

The Liberal Party, a key part of Arroyo's coalition, said it would support an impeachment process if she won't yield power.
Sometimes, even when you are clearly in the wrong, it is right to insist that the rule of law be applied. But she may also be gambling that an impeachment would not fly in light of the majorities her party enjoys in the the Philippine Congress. Which would be worse - resignation under fire or an impeachment or an failed impeachment that would be viewed as being part of a corrupt system or an impeachment that fails but the process is perceived as fair? Maybe her economics background involved "decision tree" analysis...

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