What to expect in 2007? It won’t be more of the same. While I consider this year as less tumultuous, next year’s political exercise will shake the foundations of this country. It will be the first elections after the “Garci tape” scandal and while President Arroyo is not running, the result will determine the future of her presidency.
The President will have to work hard to retain the administration’s overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives where impeachment complaints were filed against her for the past two years. She also needs to regain control of the Senate for insurance (the Senate hears the case if by chance the House gets to impeach her).
What does that mean? That Malacañang’s concentration will not be on the more important affairs of the state but on strategizing and “tacticizing” for the polls. That means oiling the administration party’s machinery (which includes local government officials) and shifting whatever resources are available to it for the election effort.
There will be a sense of urgency considering that opinion poll surveys for the senatorial elections show strong voters preference for the political opposition. Besides, Arroyo’s popularity rating has been floundering. Malacañang’s advantage is in machinery and in the government resource at its disposal, but those are two-edged swords.
Public perception is the key there. If the use of the machinery and resource are perceived to be on the level, then there is no danger of a political backlash once majority of the administration bets in all levels win. But if people believe Arroyo’s people cheated, the “Garci scandal” will be dredged up and anger will spin out of Malacañang’s hand.
The political opposition, then, has two chances of fulfilling its dream of ousting the President: in the election (control of Congress means a successful impeachment run) or after it (perception of administration cheating can be used to encourage larger street protests, even people power). Win or lose, the opposition will have issues to fry Arroyo.
The year 2007 then will determine the country’s political direction in the next few years. If the Arroyo administration plays its card well, won’t mishandle the elections and will win nevertheless, it will survive. But if it clings to power and does not respect the voters’ will, then this country will plunge into a new period of chaos and uncertainty.
As for the other aspects, like the economy, they will have to march in step with whatever political reality will prevail in 2007. Which is sad considering the seeming stability acquired in 2006 and gains like the strengthening of the peso vis-à-vis the dollar and the lowering of the prices of petroleum products. But that is how this country swirls.
—Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for the Sun.Star Cebu issue for December 28, 2006)