After a nine-year reign as the most powerful woman in the country, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now probably the loneliest person on this side of the planet.
The once iron lady of Asia has been reduced to being perceived as faking illness in order to escape prosecution that could land her in jail for the rest of her life – a fate also suffered by her immediate predecessor.
The man from whom she inherited the presidency was as disgraced as her, convicted by a graft court and sent to prison under her presidency. She is now staring at the same ignominious fate.
There have been two previous presidents who were ousted by popular revolts, Joseph Estrada and Ferdinand Marcos. Yet despite their falling out of favour, they were able to sustain a mass support base for quite a long time.
The Ilocanos of the north still revere Marcos. His son and namesake Ferdinand Jr won a seat in the Philippine Senate last year most likely because of the strong support from Ilocanos scattered all over the archipelago. Ferdinand Jr’s sister is the governor of Ilocos Norte while mother Imelda, she of the 3,000 shoes infamy, is a member of the House of Representative representing the district of her late husband’s hometown in the Ilocos region.
Marcos’ erstwhile well oiled but now defunct political party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, was still able to field a full slate in the 1992 elections with Imelda as its presidential candidate. Some loyalists in the military even joined several coup attempts against the late President Corazon Aquino. Twenty-five years after the late strongman was booted out of the country, he continues to be in the conversation as the Aquino government recently rejected his burial at the Libingan ng Bayani (Heroes Cemetery).
Estrada had his wife elected as senator and a son who is an incumbent one who would probably run for the presidency at some other time if not in 2016. Another son is a member of the House of Representative while a nephew is a mayor of a town in south of Manila. Months after Estrada’s ouster, a throng of fanatical supporters tried to launch their own version of people’s power. It failed miserably but a handful died while expressing support for Estrada. Estrada would again run for president in 2010. Despite being dismissed as a non-entity in the presidential race, he came in a strong second to President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III.
Both Marcos and Estrada were accused of plunder – a charge that will soon be slapped on Arroyo.
Of all the presidents of the republic, Arroyo served the presidency longer than anyone except Marcos himself who reigned for over 20 years, more than 14 of them under effective martial rule.
Like Marcos, Arroyo was also accused of cheating in the elections for which she is now detained on charges of electoral sabotage.
Like Estrada, she would likely be charged for plundering the country and amassing illegal wealth.
Of all presidents of the republic, she reportedly has the lowest approval rating and base support at nine percent, according to a former cabinet official of the Ramos government.
When Marcos went into exile, he still had the loyalty of 20 percent of the population – almost the same figure Estrada was able to rally immediately after he was ousted in Part 2 of the EDSA revolt.
Arroyo has now lost most of her allies in the House of Representatives who protected her from all impeachment attempts against her during her presidency.
Blame it to the changing times but Arroyo, despite her long tenure in office, was never a popular president.
This apparent lack of enthusiasm to rally behind her could lead to her eventual conviction as she won’t be viewed as a persecuted former president.
Unlike her two predecessors, there will likely be no crowd to protest her being sent to prison.
Unlike Estrada, whom she pardoned just months after a conviction from a graft court, Arroyo may serve jail a little longer.
Sad and ironic but she has been her own undoing.