FIDEL RAMOS was at his joking but edgy best today during a much-anticipated Press Conference at which some imagined he might announce his defection to the Opposition. He did no such thing. Instead FVR confirmed IGNACIO BUNYE's derisive remarks towards FRANK DRILON and TITO SOTTO by saying he let them take a photograph of their recent meeting only if they promised to tell the truth about it. He also disparaged the expensive bottle of French wine the trio drank, but only after he made them drink some of Mrs. Ramos' strong barako coffee. After much banter like that, FVR declared that he would never get into a "triumvirate" with Cory Aquino and Joseph Estrada, keying on the latter's unresolved Plunder case. (About which you you might want to read inThe Real Victory of Joseph Estrada and When Last the Military Withdrew Support.)
Asked pointedly at one point if he still supported the President FVR hedged with, "Yes, but..."
So what has FVR been up to with the series of month long media appearances, winking and dropping hints of apocalyptic possibilities? Today he repeated his earlier calls upon President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to "do the noble thing and cut her term short" (printed in globally infuential Newsbreak last September). At today's Press Conference, FVR was more specific about what he wants to happen now after six months of a devastating political crisis. His views can be summarized in something called the RAMOS SCENARIO: FVR said he wants four things to happen (well really three because the "fourth item can wait."):
(1) A CONSTITUTIONAL SHIFT to a Parliamentary system of government by 2006 with a plebscite to ratify it, one way or the other, by early 2007 so that the regularly scheduled 2007 elections can take place either way. If the people reject a new charter, regular senatorial and local elections will be held in May, 2007 as mandated by the 1987 charter. If it is accepted, and FVR presumes it will have a new parliamentary legislature, then the 2007 elections will be for Members of Parliament. GMA relinquishes her office under the Ramos Scenario in January 2007, coinciding with the sixth anniversary of her assumption as President on 20 January 2001, or no later than June, 2007. I find the idea that GMA should be President only for six years very attractive, since it was the clear intention of the 1987 Constitution to limit Presidential terms to a single six year term. What happened at Edsa II could really not have been foreseen in 1987.
(2) POLITICAL PARTY REFORM as a pre-requisite of a parliamentary system. However, there is great skepticism in all the land over the proposition that a unicameral Parliament will be any better than the present setup, given that it will probably contain the same mix scoundrels and saints, mafiosi and idealists as the Kongress is made of now. FVR again made mention of his position as Honorary President of the Vast Worldwide Christian Democratic Movement (or something to that effect), with his trusty sidekick Jose de Venecia, as vice-President of the Euroasiatic Parliamentarians (or something to that effect). The Christian Democrats, FVR informs us, are having their big annual pow-wow in Manila at the end of the January. I am suddenly struck at the possibility that FVR sees himself as a kind of French President with JDV as Prime Minister.
(3) FVR also mentioned the need for electoral reform, which made me groan since it is quite obvious that the NEXT ELECTION is the biggest bone in the throat of the body politic. I have said several times the MANUAL ELECTION SYSTEM HAS TO DIE. I just cannot see COMELEC ever running another election again a la Garcillano.
(4) FVR also said "judicial reform" could wait ... a huge puzzler considering there 50,000 graft and corruption cases backlogged in the Ombudsman alone, including one very intriguing case called the Plunder Case of Joseph Estrada. And that poor judge in the PIATCo case was just gunned down...now the judges want to wear .45s and 9mm handguns under their robes.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Did FVR come out of retirement all of a sudden to deliver some paternal lectures on the need for national unity and parliamentary democracy? Seems to me that FVR's touting of his honorary and honorific titles in Lakas and international Christian Democratic movements, only suggests FVR may think he is losing his grip on Lakas, and that is what his recent active stance is all about. He certainly made much of his position as Chairman Emeritus of the Lakas Party and that it was his idea for a meeting of the State Council to be convened, as it will later this month.
GMA HAS MESMERIZED TRAPODOM WITH NO-EL Even if the idea is eventually shot down, it sends an electrifying message to the local chieftains and the Lakas party faithful that FVR-JDV may be washed up as leaders, that it is GMA and her younger, gang-banging new posse of Cabinet members and high paid consultants at the Palace who have the IMAGINATION and derring-do, who have more modern and radical ideas about what to do when you can be FOREFATHERS and FOREMOTHERS of the nation just like HILARIO G. DAVIDE JR. and CECILIA MUNOZ PALMA were, (though I hate to mention those two in the same phrase!).
CUT OUT THE OLD CODGERS? I suppose if I were GMA, having survived as much as she has in the Gloriagate crisis, FVR and JDV could seem like so much old baggage right about now. The Palace has really grown into its role as Capi di Tutti Capo to the local political mafiosi and local warlord classes that rule the various pieces of the Archipelago. And they like it! It was after all what saved GMA from doom last year. The Palace really holds all the cards with respect to that local officialdom since they completely control their lifeline in the purse. Since the seminal thesis of the Parliamentary change is a union of the Executive and the Legislative, the President has smartly decided to consolidate her alliance with these local forces and CUT OUT the old codgers. The Palace has plenty to choose from to contest JDV's old supremacy. Without JDV in control of Kongress, he and FVR will have nothing to parlay with and will slowly slouch towards irrelevance.
BATTLE FOR TRAPODOM'S FEALTY: I don't see why the Palace even has to humor FVR and JDV on Chacha. If Chacha fails, it's their dead baby and she gets to stay till 2010. But the battle is on for the fealty of Trapodom. GMA has the upper hand because she holds the Purse and because she also has the CONSIGLIERI of the Supreme Court in her pocket. They are the real key to the legal challenges of 2006: Garci, impeachment, wiretapping, voterigging and Charter Change. Perhaps FVR will have to go to Fortunato Abat for Plan B, because I think GMA has seriously outfoxed the old Soldier. Having come this far, having "crossed the Rubicon" as she declared just before the first impeachment bid was sunk by the concerted Majority, why after all would the President put her fate in the hands of FVR and JDV only to have them get fat-headed about their own silly importance. Better just to clean it all out ... Michael Corleone would be so proud...