To tell you honestly, I was never a big fan of Joseph Estrada. When he became president, my middle class grade school sensibilities were insulted. I was young then, but not young enough to be immune to the bourgeoisie disdain everyone around me had for Estrada. With eyebrows raised, I watched his state of the nation address; carefully tallying his mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, real or imagined. You could say I was a really snobbish kid. In retrospect, I would have to agree with you. But I was a snobbish kid who could do nothing but turn up her nose at the president on television. I was powerless to do anything else.
We are a fickle-minded people. By the time I got to high school, people on the street were screaming for Estradaâ€™s blood. I thought it only logical. He seemed like a bumbling idiot, a womanizing corrupt idiot at that. I felt it was high time he resigned. With people shouting bloody murder in the streets, Estrada stepped down. In hind sight, I think he didnâ€™t have the balls to stay in power. He couldnâ€™t bear being unpopular.
When Estrada stepped down, my bourgeoisie self was appeased. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seemed a far better person. At least she went to college. When she came to power, we were all in high spirits. Finally, something would be done right in this forlorn country. At last, here was someone who was qualified to run our country. She promised us better governance, healthier industries and better social services. Moreover, she promised to be the transition into something better. And we, suckers that we were; believed her.
Now here we are, six years down the road. Our lives have not improved, our foreign debt has ballooned, and millions of our country men are starving to death. And letâ€™s not get started on corruption in the government. What then do we think of the promises of EDSA 2? Slowly and painfully, the middle class and civil society must admit this very obvious fact: we were duped and we are paying for it. Our president has betrayed the very principles that put her to power. In fact, we have been short changed twice over. First when we believed in the fairy tale called the “transition president”. Next, when we accepted her legitimacy despite all the noise that the “Hello Garci” scandal created. We seem to forget all too easily how this regime has made our lives more miserable.
We need not look at the business pages to see how low our country has sunk. The peso-dollar rate only reflects how many have been forced to work abroad. It is no wonder that the peso is growing stronger, the scarcity of jobs in this country has forced the most talented and better educated of us to work abroad. No, the exchange rate is not proof of a growing economy. It is only proof of the dwindling opportunities in this country.
During Estradaâ€™s term, almost two hundred political activists and critics of his government were murdered. Under Arroyo, almost a thousand political activists, media practitioners and student leaders have died. Almost 200 have gone missing. So many have clamored for justice yet their voices have reached deaf ears. And if these werenâ€™t enough, we now have the Human Security Act which can brand anyone who speaks out a terrorist. It is a law that legalizes warrantless arrest, detention of up to 72 hours, surveillance and wire tapping. I feel like Iâ€™m living in the martial law years. Indeed, if we look closely; the Human Security Act is martial law relabeled. And it does not help that Arroyo has once again proclaimed innocent convicted criminals. With the pardoning of Joseph Estrada, one can only wonder: at what cost? Surely, a deal was made somewhere. This washing of hands can only be seen as a desperate attempt of the administration to silence the opposition.
Tell me, after two EDSAs; did we get what we bargained for? Do we deserve another fascist regime? I may never have liked Estrada but I donâ€™t like Arroyo better. For in all respects, she is worse; much worse than Estrada.