In the last few months, President B. S. Aquino 3rd has managed to ignore completely the call coming from the National Transformation Council, and repeatedly articulated by its moral and spiritual leaders, for him to step down. The Council believes Aquino had “won” the presidency in an “illegitimate and illegal election” conducted by a foreign company (Smartmatic) on behalf of the Commission on Elections, (which has the exclusive mandate to conduct elections), using the precinct count optical scan machine, after it had been divested, in violation of law, of all its safety features and accuracy mechanisms. To them, therefore, he is no more than a de facto president.
In addition, Aquino has casually violated the Constitution, and gravely abused the pork barrel system, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, in order to corrupt and control Congress, the Commission on Elections and the other constitutional commissions, and to intimidate the Judicial Branch. He has become impeachable for culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust, and perhaps even treason, but has remained unimpeached simply because of his ‘pork’-fed relationship with the congressmen and senators, who alone have the power to impeach and remove the President.
For so long as Aquino was hearing it from some Catholic bishops, Protestant pastors, Muslim imams and Lumad babaylans only, and not seeing it on protesters’ placards or in screaming headlines, he could pretend there is no demand for his early departure. But last week, former Congressman Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., his mother Cory’s younger brother and the most political of all his uncles, detonated a small bomb by asking PNoy to step down, as demanded by the Council.
Cojuangco is president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, and for that reason a part of the administration. He is not a member of the Council, which was organized in Cebu three years ago, and has not attended any of the five assemblies it has convened since August 27 in Lipa City to Dec. 5 in Davao. But he said he “liked” the Council’s position and was pleased to support it, thus his call. Now, while anyone may support the Council’s position, it is not always necessary to do what Cojuangco has done.
So, what was his reason for asking his own nephew to step down? Do they have a family feud, which has been kept away from the headlines, or was it simply because Cojuangco could no longer suffer Aquino’s plumb incompetence and his record of corruption? Or does Cojuangco agree with the Council that Aquino was, after all, not elected in a legal, legitimate and honest election?
Cojuangco did not say so, but his call set Malacañon fire. It is burning right now. How will Aquino put out this fire? As a very close adviser to Cory during her presidency (1986 -1992), and one of the first to lobby the country’s foreign allies on PNoy’s behalf in 2010, Cojuangco had a vital role to play in making his nephew president. However, this appears to be largely unacknowledged by PNoy, who seems determined to make people believe he had become president on his own steam, in a clean and honest election.
What kind of support Peping has within the Cojuangco clan and the administration, we do not know. Is he capable of creating the same problem, which seven Cabinet members and three agency heads, known collectively as the Hyatt 10, tried to create in 2005 when they tried to compel then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign, before she sacked them en masse? What is Aquino’s own evaluation of the harm that his uncle’s call has done, or could possibly do, to his presidency?
Will he now reach out to his uncle and ask him to reconsider his position? Or will Peping’s call snowball among Aquino’s relatives and friends who now recognize the harm PNoy has done to everyone? No country in Latin America, which once had a President El Loco in Ecuador, or Africa, which once had an Idi Amin in Uganda, has produced anyone like him. How soon before the fire Peping lit turns into a real conflagration and burns the entire house down?
The story did not land in any of the pro-Aquino newspapers. But it ran as the Times’s banner story, and prompted Aquino to call in some of his closest advisers for consultations. They decided not to react officially to the story, but simply to intensify monitoring of the activities of the Council. So the next two assemblies convened by the Council on Dec. 3 at the Grand Lewis Hotel in Angeles City, and on Dec. 5 at the SM complex in Davao drew noticeably increased interest from the intelligence services reporting to Malacañang.
It can be assumed that Malacañang got an accurate intelligence briefing on the presence of the militant Guardians organization and of one former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces (Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr) in Angeles, and of several powerful Muslim groups among the 4,000 or so Mindanaoans at SMX in Davao. That, together with the strong declarations issued by the two assemblies, should have prompted Aquino to see the Council, and his uncle’s position, in a clearer light.
The Angeles declaration endorsed all the previous declarations issued in Lipa, Cebu, and Butuan, and called for a stepped-up campaign for regime and systems change. The Davao declaration, on the other hand, declared that no solution to any of the problems being raised before the Council was possible until Aquino was forced out of Malacañang. “The time to compel Aquino to step down is now,” the Declaration said. After Davao, “the Council should now embark upon a nationwide mobilization effort to transform its vision into reality,” the Declaration concluded.
And for the first time since Lipa, the Council heard a specific proposal for “people power.” In his call to action, former Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said “people power” had become inevitable, and that people should be prepared to stay out in the streets the minute they decide to go there.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa on the other hand said “people power” should remain under the Lord’s guidance and should synonymously mean “prayer power.” He recalled that in Lipa, the assembly fell on August 27, feast-day of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine; in Cebu, Oct. 1, it coincided with the feast-day of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower; in Butuan, Nov. 11, feast-day of St. Martin of Tours, soldier-turned priest and bishop, and famously known for cutting his soldier’s cloak in two in order to clothe a beggar who was freezing in winter; in Angeles, Dec. 3, feast-day of St. Francis Xavier, great Jesuit missionary saint who converted millions in the Orient; and in Davao, Dec. 5, first Friday, feast-day of the Sacred Heart, a day equally sacred to Muslims.
The work of the Council has always counted on the intercession of the saints, and should continue to do so, the Archbishop said. We shall soon see if, indeed, we have reached the point of no return.