23 March 2008

Imagining Gloria Arroyo

One of the exercises I do in my playwriting classes when I want to help my students create a character goes like this: Imagine yourself as the character and, using the first person pronoun, articulate what you feel and think.

Suppose I were writing a play about Gloria Arroyo, how would I write what is known in the drama trade as a monologue? The following, then, is a purely creative exercise; any resemblance to any living or dead person should be considered purely coincidental.

First of all, if I were Gloria Arroyo, I would never resign. That is simply stupid. I would be immediately hauled into jail by whoever replaces me. Even if the new president only puts me under house arrest in my own condo, that would still be very embarrassing, not to mention inconvenient. That is what happened to Erap. The people wanted Erap’s blood, and I had to give it to them. The people now want my blood, and whoever leads the mob will be just too glad to oblige them.

Secondly, I would never give up the presidency. The same reasons that prevent me now from resigning will still be around in 2010. The next president, even if he or she is the one I anoint, will undoubtedly put me in jail.

I had to put Erap in jail, even if I served him hand and foot as his Vice President. The only thing I could do for him was to pardon him the moment the court convicted him. That way, technically, he never spent a minute in jail. Of course, he did spend all those years not being able to move around, but that’s just a technicality. Technically, he was presumed innocent until proven guilty. As soon as he was proven guilty, I pardoned him. My successor will pardon me, I hope, but how many years will I have to spend imprisoned though presumed innocent?

It is not even a question anymore of my being innocent or guilty. Erap still says he is innocent, but I arrested him anyway. I think I am innocent, or at least I think I have done and continue to do the right thing, but no one seems to agree with me, not even my closest aides, who I cannot trust. In fact, I don’t really know who to trust anymore, since Erap’s closest aides betrayed him. Erap’s betrayers are in my Cabinet, for heaven’s sake. As they say, once a traitor, always a traitor.

I could declare martial law. But the Constitution says I cannot do that without Congress looking over my shoulder. It’s a good thing I have made sure that that fellow is no longer in charge of Congress. I never trusted him, even if he always defended me when I needed defending. He is always only for himself, not for anyone else, least of all me. But there’s still the Senate, and I can’t seem to get through to them. Not yet, anyway.

But I am not sure of this new Speaker either. I thought he was for federalism and a parliamentary system and all that. That is why I picked him. But he now says he is against changing the Constitution. A parliamentary system would have made me immune forever, because I can always be a member of parliament.

On the other hand, where would I run as a candidate? My own provincemates elected that pesky priest as our governor.

I don’t know why I ended up president in the first place. I just wanted to be a teacher. I loved being in a university, where you are judged not by who you know, but by what you know.

The die is cast. I have to bite the bullet. Martial law is the only thing I can do, and I better make sure Congress agrees with me. I don’t really care what the Supreme Court says. I have violated all sorts of laws anyway, but since it takes forever to challenge anything I do in court, I will have plenty of lead time to think things through. And to pack my bags.

They say I already have a place set up in Portugal or some other place where no one can touch me. That may be true, but why would I want to go into exile? I don’t want to die like Marcos did, just an unknown foreigner dying in a foreign land. I don’t want to end up like he did, not even having a proper burial as a former president. I want to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, because I am a hero. I saved this country from Erap. That makes me a hero, doesn’t it?

What an ungrateful people these Filipinos are! I have spent my entire life serving them, yet they turn against me just because some of my guys foolishly got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. It’s so hard to get good help these days.

(Published in Philippine Star, 20 March 2008)

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