Why GMA Sacked Her Cabinet

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

The drama of Gloriagate continues to unfold. Tonight, in response to increasing credibility problems and multiplication of statements asking her to step down, GMA made a surprise move. She once more suddenly went on national radio and TV and announced that she would not resign. Instead she fired her whole Cabinet, asking them to give her a free hand in re-organizing the government.

People are asking: “Why did she fire her entire Cabinet? Was it not that GMA herself has been the subject for intense calls to resign after admitting she was the voice in the tapes that documented election fraud. TruthForce! traces the developments that led to her decision.

Supreme Court Decision Breaks the Camel’s Back

Shortly after Gloria made her unsuccessful public apology, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping the implementation of the new Value Added Tax (VAT) Law. The GMA government started implementation of the new VAT law on July 1. Prices of fuel, transportation, toll way fees, and other products and services increased dramatically on this day. Then the Supreme Court decision came.

The immediate effect was to save GMA from further embarrassment and increasing mass actions as citizens, especially the poor, protest the increased prices in many sectors of the economy. It also meant that the Supreme Court turned back a central piece in the GMA administration’s fight to curb the huge fiscal deficit of the government.

As it turned out, according to internal sources in Malacanang, a number of Cabinet members learned that allegedly the Office of the President had something to do with the decision of the Supreme Court. After all, GMA had appointed the majority of the current judges of the Supreme Court.

That was it. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It became clear to the Cabinet members, who warmly serenaded her after she made her apology, that GMA had not overcome her fatal flaw of always putting her own personal advantage ahead of the national interest.

Cabinet Members Plan Exit of GMA

As a result, according to sources in Malacanang, several Cabinet members met with a group of Catholic Bishops to lay out a game plan. In this plan, a majority of the members of the Cabinet would resign and would, at the same time, ask GMA to step down. This would then trigger the peaceful transition of Vice-President Noli de Castro, who would then form the new Cabinet.

According to Article VII, Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution, the President of the Philippines can be removed from office when a majority of Cabinet members make a declaration to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House that “the President [of the Philippines] is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office”.

In short, a significant number of Cabinet members basically wanted to have a dialogue with GMA in order to convince her to step down. They even considered involving former President Cory Aquino to help smooth the acceptance of their proposal by GMA.

The Empire Strikes Back

But, alas, nothing in life is simple, especially if it is a life that includes GMA. Word leaked out to GMA that her own Cabinet was seriously planning to abandon her presidency. True to form and to avoid extreme embarrassment, GMA struck back. She moved swiftly to cut down the emerging “rebellion” within her own ranks. She hurriedly sacked all her Cabinet members.

True to Form

This incident captures the essence of the problem of the GMA presidency. First, she lacks a strategic vision. Even if she may have one, this vision is always subject to short-term political expediency and the granting of political patronage. Two, and worse, she has loyalty only to herself. When someone has outlived her or his usefulness, GMA easily drops them, no matter their qualifications, dedication and commitment. After all, the world revolves around her. And, third, she is stubborn for the wrong reasons. She would rather risk a nationwide civil war and division of the country than to step down.

On the third point, she gave an example last night. She silently approved the threat of the balkanization of the Philippines. Primetime TV showed her surrounded by governors from different parts of the country. A number of the governors mentioned that, if GMA was removed, they would consider establishing their own independent regional state. And what did GMA say? Nothing. She just went on smiling and chatting with the other governors as if she could not care less about the fragmentation of the country.

With this new decision, GMA is bringing the country closer to even more bitter discord. But this does not bother her as long as she is able to hold on to power. Her decision also makes clear why GMA has to go as soon as possible. She has minimal emotional intelligence and lacks the moral ascendancy to hold on to the presidency and effectively discharge its duties.

The sooner she realizes this, the better for the country. Otherwise, she will be swept away by the whirlwind that she has created. She will go down as the most unpopular President of the country, one that only thought about herself to the bitter end, even if this meant dragging her friends and the whole of Philippine society into the abyss.