Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, DavosThe second episode of the teleserye part of Philippine history that I see starts with President Arroyo deciding to run again after she said she would not. She won the elections and her rival for the Presidency, Fernando Poe Jr., an actor and friend of Erap, died in December 2004 – but the Hello Garci scandal (link) gave indications that votes might have been stolen in Mindanao. There was a speech with the famous saying sorry for an inappropriate phone call, but denying wrongdoing, which caused even more anger and a dramatic public retort by Poe’s widow Susan Roces.

There was a state of emergency (link) for about two weeks in early 2006. Arroyo claimed there was a coup plot while others claimed she was trying a Marcos-style power grab. There was also talk of charter change to a federal and parliamentary form of government. Charter change was often an instrument for keeping power in the Philippine political setting. Concerns about human rights were also a hallmark of those days (link) with talk of death squads sponsored or tolerated by the government. General Jovito Palparan (link) is alleged to have played a major role in this.

There were allegations of enormous corruption in her times which later led to her imprisonment and charges of plunder. The ZTE scandal (link) in 2009 also showed a strong link to China, which was reflected in the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) of 2004 with Vietnam and China, as well as the Northrail deal which her successor President Aquino cancelled. The 2007 Manila Peninsula siege by Senator Trillanes and General Danilo Lim (link) was motivated by their perception of Arroyo’s Presidency as corrupt and lacking legitimacy.

Erap was pardoned in 2007 based on an initiative of then-Senator Mar Roxas in the name of national reconciliation. The good thing most will agree upon about the Arroyo period was the rising Philippine economy. Most economic policies of Arroyo were continued and enhanced by President Aquino. The 4Ps policy, based on similar Conditional Cash Transfer programs in Latin America, was also started late in her second term and continued by Aquino. PNP professionalization was also started late in her term and continued by the DILG under Robredo and Roxas.

The issue of non-inclusive growth inspite of general economic progress also started in her time – in fact it seems that the incidence of hunger increased among the poor (link). Anger at the handling of typhoon Ketsana or Ondoy (link), which hit Metro Manila in 2009, as well as an ostentatiously expensive dinner by Arroyo and entourage in New York increased her unpopularity towards the end of her term. There was the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 which placed the Philippines in front of Russia as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

The death of Cory paved the way for her son Benigno Aquino III or Noynoy to become the next President. But that is the next episode in the teleserye. The Hacienda Luisita massacre, which took place in November 2004 (link), is often made to look like the responsibility of President Aquino even if it took place in President Arroyo’s term and Cory no longer had any share of the hacienda. Speculations exist of a connection between the ouster of Chief Justice Corona and the Supreme Court case against the hacienda the owners lost in 2011. This too is part of the teleserye.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 27. June 2016