By Raïssa Robles
This Year 2012, or the Year of the Black Water Dragon, one Chinese horoscope predicts that “something unexpected will happen.”
That’s putting it mildly if applied to rapidly unfolding political events in the country.
Long before the dragon sets foot on the celestial plain this February 4, two events have already occurred that would affect the rest of the year.
First is the arrest and hospital detention of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Second is the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona by members of the House of Representatives. Should political fortune favor either Arroyo or Corona or both of them, President Benigno Aquino III will be in hot water – likely facing a serious threat of impeachment himself starting this July.
His political troubles won’t necessarily come from Mrs Arroyo, according to Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms. Casiple believes Arroyo is no longer the main threat: “On her own, she can’t do it,” meaning topple Aquino from the presidency.
However, “she’s still a threat” if she combines forces with others and contributes her extensive network and financial resources, he said.
A prominent western businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity gave an assessment of Arroyo similar to that of Casiple. He said he based this on the glaring absence of civilian protests on the day Arroyo was transported to a military hospital. He described this as “a manifestation of her consistent unpopularity as measured by two major public opinion pollsters or surveys.”
However, she is widely believed to be well-funded, he said.
He and Casiple expressed the belief that Arroyo on her own can no longer muster widespread political support from the masses, the politicians and the military in order to topple PNoy – Aquino’s popular nickname.
She can only bank on the expectation that Aquino’s popularity would plummet by the second half of this year, as what has happened to previous presidents. To political science professor Benito Lim, that will happen “when (food and gas) prices go up – PNoy will not be popular.”
In addition, Lim said efforts are afoot “to cut down the popularity of the President” by raising issues against him such as his delayed visit to typhoon-ravaged cities, the continued rise in poverty and his defiance of the Supreme Court order allowing Mrs Arroyo to travel abroad.
Events are now centered on the actions of President Aquino, not Arroyo. Casiple explained that “the situation is physically transitioning into an Aquino-dominated situation but in the context of the 2016 (presidential) elections.”
“Those who are maneuvering to run for the presidency in 2016 are trying to fish in troubled waters,” he said, obviously referring to Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the only politician who has openly declared his intention to run for president in 2016.
Casiple noted that by July this year, Binay will be thrust into a unique constitutional situation. Under the 1987 Constitution, if the sitting president should vacate his office for whatever reason two years and one day after assuming office, the vice-president who succeeds him can still run for a full six-year presidential term.
July 1, 2012 will mark President Aquino’s two years and one day in office.
“This is precisely the scenario that GMA (Arroyo) took advantage of when she decided to run again in 2004” after replacing Estrada in January 2001, Casiple said.
“Definitely, the people around Binay are thinking of that…but there’s no indication Binay or anyone close to him are doing something about it,” Casiple said.
One way to trigger such a scenario is to impeach Aquino in the same way Estrada was impeached in the year 2000. Casiple disclosed that “even now, there are talks going on in the House (of Representatives) about a possible impeachment of President Aquino (come July). Some of them are collecting articles of impeachment….the president will be vulnerable by then. “
Some Catholic bishops have also openly talked about impeaching Aquino for defying the Supreme Court on the matter of Arroyo’s travel abroad.
In a lightning move last year, congressional allies of Aquino impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. He was accused, among others, of ill-gotten wealth and issuing decisions favoring Arroyo.
If the Senate acquits Corona, this may well pave the way for Aquino’s own impeachment – using as grounds his open defiance of the Supreme Court and well-publicized efforts to unseat Corona as chief justice.
Should this happen, Arroyo, who is now a congresswoman “doesn’t have a choice but to play because she’s not decisive anymore,” Casiple said. He noted that “in the developing political situation, there are those who can make use of it more than she can.”
But just as Arroyo weathered several impeachment attempts against her, Aquino is bound to use the very same political weapons that Arroyo had used to neutralize all impeachment threats – through the grant of political favors and pork barrel funds.
One potent weapon Arroyo never had, but which Aquino continues to enjoy to this day is the wellspring of popular support. This partly stems from the fact that his first two years in office were marked with a stunning absence of any money scandal involving any member of his official family – that had marred the two previous administrations.
How will Aquino, a Metal Rat in the Chinese zodiac, fare in the Year of the Black Water Dragon?
Dramatic changes have happened at least thrice during the Year of the Dragon in Philippine history.
On January 30,1965 during the Year of the Dragon, Ferdinand Marcos was overwhelmingly elected president. He soon began quietly plotting to stay in power forever and stashing money in a secret Swiss bank account under the alias ‘William Saunders’.
Again, in the Year of the Dragon, a Philippine president was impeached and unseated for the first time. Then President Joseph Estrada was impeached by the House of Representatives on November 13, 2000 and the military turned against him on January 19, 2001 – or four days before the Year of the Dragon officially ended.
In the Year of the Dragon this 2012, one Chinese horoscope has predicted that Metal Rats like Aquino (born February 8, 1960) are bound to have a “fair year”, though one not marked with “outstanding achievement.” Meaning, “it only means you might get less return than you expected even if you put more effort in it.”
One alleged local psychic, who had earlier predicted that Senator Manuel Villar would win the presidency, lately claimed that Aquino would not finish his term.
Casiple disagreed with his forecast, saying: “The opposition is waiting for him (Aquino) to stumble. But I think he will go the whole term. I’m not saying it will be easy. There will be challenges along the way.”
[Note: This article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Asian Dragon magazine. I am posting it with the magazine’s permission. Also, my thanks to those of my commenters who first raised the July 1, 2012 constitutional temptation scenario for VP Binay.]