12 January 2010

The Present as History: A Narration and Interpretation of Events

By Gonzalo M. Jurado, Ph.D.

The Landscape

Remember the “Hello Garci” Tapes and the hysteria they created that threatened to rend the national society apart? That was June 2005.

The events unleashed in those days by the playing of the tapes which indicated a woman, said to be President Arroyo, and a man, said to be Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, talking about numerical details of the presidential election sparked the resignation of the so-called Hyatt 10 and their demand for the President’s own resignation. These officials, some of them of Cabinet rank, were joined by a wide band of political and business groups and individuals including a Liberal Party Faction, the United Opposition, the Makati Business Club, and former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada, Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senators Aquilino Pimentel and Panfilo Lacson, all demanding not just the President’s immediate resignation but her impeachment as well.

A few weeks earlier, Sen. Jingoy Estrada had announced on the floor of the Senate, with absolute certainty, that Mrs Arroyo’s days in the presidency “were numbered.”

The bulk of the media, broadsheet and television, raised the clamor for the President’s resignation or impeachment to hysterical pitch.

Only the intervention of former President Fidel V. Ramos, Speaker Jose de Venecia, and members of Leagues of Local Government Units, who individually and collectively affirmed their support for the President, saved the day for GMA.

As events unfolded, somebody had wiretapped the President in violation of the law against wiretapping. It was said that a member of the Armed Forces, T Sgt Vidal Doble, did it. After investigating the matter, Armed Forces Headquarters concluded that the armed services did not have the technical capability to do that kind of job.

Further, the adverse information about the workings of the Philippine Government that served as cannon fodder for the political opposition had been delivered to them directly by a Philippine-born US marine working in the White House by the name of Leandro Aragoncillo and, in some cases, indirectly through a former assistant of Senator Lacson, Michael Ray Aquino, who had fled to the United States to escape indictment in connection with the Dacer-Corbito murder case. The material had been prepared by the US Embassy in Manila.

In the days that followed, Garcillano, who had gone into hiding, surfaced and appeared before a House of Representatives investigating committee, admitting that he indeed had talked to politicians – to the President once and to others including members of the opposition many times. In response, Congressman Francis Escudero admitted that he had talked to Garcillano during the election period not for himself but on behalf of a constituent. In addition, Congressmen Escudero and Rolex Suplico acknowledged that one day during this period of political turmoil they had visited the US Embassy.


Even before the tumult had died down and continuing to this day, many observers of the national scene have been asking such questions as:

(1) Could the political and economic forces that got together on that day of June 2005 to unanimously demand the resignation or impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have come together by accident or where they organized and coordinated by an Unseen Hand? The diversity of the anti-GMA forces on the one hand and the uniformity of their demand and timing of their actions on the other seem to rule out spontaneous combustion.

(2) How could Leandro Aragoncillo, a US marine whose financial future was assured, or any sensible human being for that matter, have been so short-sighted and so reckless as to jeopardize his lifetime security by violating his government’s State Secrecy Act through delivery of information to anti-government politicians in a foreign land, who were not even in power?

(3) How explain the breadth and depth of the vilification campaign against the President, mobilizing not just the opposition politicians and the anti-Gloria newspapers and television stations but also a business club, an opinion survey entity, leftists groups, and even a few academics acknowledged for their principled championship of nationalist anti-imperialist causes?


To find an answer to these questions, one has to go back to Angelo dela Cruz (remember him?), the OFW captured by Iraqi militants and threatened to be beheaded if the Philippine contingent in Iraq was not withdrawn. The Philippines had earlier joined George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing” and sent a small contingent to Iraq. Facing an issue of political commitment versus human life, GMA opted for the latter, withdrawing the Philippine contingent to save the life of Angelo dela Cruz. That was July 2004.

This is where the dog is buried. George W. Bush was “dismayed” by the withdrawal. Thereupon, the Bush Administration through its Central Intelligence Agency launched what can be called the Aragoncillo Project, a program of destabilization and vilification aimed at the overthrow of the Arroyo government, mobilizing as its tools everybody in the Philippines that had an axe to grind against GMA.

Was the gathering of the motley group of politicians and businessmen, rightists and leftists, on that day in June 2005 accidental? Who could have done so efficient an orchestration? Was Aragoncillo reckless? Now we know.

It was at about this time that the US government appointed Ambassador to the Philippines – hold your breath -- a former CIA agent. Not long after her arrival, the Ambassador called on President Arroyo and Senate President Drilon on separate occasions. Press statements from the US Embassy released after each visit indicated, when compared, that the Ambassador spent time with the President that was less than one-half that spent with the Senate President. This is standard CIA way of degrading anyone that does not meet its approval.

Thenceforward, with diplomatic niceties out of the way, the Ambassador wasted no time in travelling on sorties to far-flung communities of her country of assignment, distributing goods to poverty-stricken groups, delivering little speeches to rural crowds. These were no innocent acts of charity as the media made them out to be. These were authentic CIA tactics of political interference – in this instance designed to alienate the Philippine government under President Arroyo from its constituencies.

George W. Bush himself made a personal contribution to the destabilization campaign. On meeting GMA in the halls of the United Nations in New York in September 2005, he made big water of the employment of a Filipina chef in the White House when he could easily have referred to somewhat less trivial state-related matters. If the world did not notice the insult, it was because GMA overshadowed it by her masterful chairmanship of a United Nations General Assembly Meeting at that time.

In July 2007, Aragoncillo was meted by a US federal court a 10-year sentence for stealing and passing on secret US documents. In the Philippines we call this moro-moro. Michael Ray Aquino was sentenced to six years and four months in prison, too harsh a sentence for a forced accomplice.

More recently, the failure of President Barack Obama to receive GMA on several occasions, explained by Washington people as arising from his heavy schedules, was a deliberate snub intended to remind GMA – and the Philippines-- that Uncle Sam remains profoundly displeased over the Philippine government’s failure to stand by the US in Iraq.

And so the destabilization and vilification campaign against GMA rages on, carried out by politicians, businessmen, newspapers and television stations, an opinion survey firm, individuals from left and right, some academics, all of them associating every conceivable wrong-doing with the President. The US ambassador’s political interference continues unabated.

A Comment

It’s been five and a half years since the redemption of Angelo de la Cruz, what conclusion can we derive from the events that transpired over that period of time? Two conclusions. The first is that the destabilization and vilification campaign has succeeded in projecting the President as guilty of all charges of wrong doing, alienating the President from many of her people, as gleefully chronicled by an opinion survey firm day after day. Though a case can be made that GMA is one of our better presidents, some people are convinced she is the worst. In terms of its over-arching objective of toppling the Arroyo government, however, the destabilization and vilification campaign has miserably failed. There are reasons for this.

One, the campaign lacked popular support, Remember the hundreds of thousands of people that the United Opposition promised to bring into Makati to protest GMA’s mandate that never came? Or former President Corazon Aquino’s attempt to rouse another People Power, through a prayer vigil supporting some Fort Bonifacio mutineers, that people simply ignored? Or Sen. Pimentel’s repetitious call for snap elections that fell on deaf ears? Remember how the sidewalk crowds of Makati disdainfully turned their noses up to the Peninsula putschists when these tried to entice the crowds to join them, exposing these putschists’ isolation from the public?

Two, the political opposition, as excellent as it was in its brand of Parliamentary practice, suffered from what can be called litigational infirmity, the lack of ability to back up allegation with evidence or proof. As a consequence, whatever issue it raised, many reasonable people dismissed as plain politicking. The continuous carping, however, did produce a good result for some of the critics: it got them elected to the Senate.

This technical incompetence must be supplemented by the physical cowardice of the military ringleaders who identified themselves with the destabilization effort. Their pathetic surrender at the Peninsula even before a single APC could enter the hotel lobby reduced the whole destabilization program to a comical and ridiculous enterprise.

And three, the media outlets that supported the anti-Gloria crusade did so with such arrogance and self-righteousness they only succeeded in undermining their own cause. As some independent-minded observers wondered, how could these media outlets be so sanctimonious in their judgments when they were merely pushing forward their owners’ interest?

The second conclusion is that some of our leaders in politics and business and many of our opinion makers in media did not mind selling their country down the river, performing the role of stooges of a foreign power, so long as it promoted their personal ambitions. More normally functioning countries have a way of dealing with such behavior as this.

In summary, it must be galling, with Big Brother calling the shots at that, to have thrown at your opponent everything including the kitchen sink and the kitchen itself to destroy her, to have exposed your most meticulously hidden secret for the sake of overthrowing her, only to see her still standing, as strong as ever.

The President continues to preside over the affairs of our country, pushing its development as she sees fit. By all indications, she will remain in office until her term expires, on June 30, 2010.

Dr. Jurado is Vice-President for Finance and Development and concurrently Professor of Economics of Kalayaan College. In this essay he advances of recent events an interpretation that has far-reaching implications to the political sovereignty of our country.