The scandals have been perculating along for awhile, but things are starting to get more serious for President Arroyo.
The president is scoffing at a repeat of the “people power” revolutions, where peaceful demonstration caused a change in the government. She is probably right: only 10 thousand showed up for last weekend’s demonstration. Yet there are increased numbers of important people who are starting to pressure her to resign.
This area is anti Arroyo and pro opposition party, so it’s hard for me to judge what’s going on in Manila, but when a relative came back from a business meeting there and told me that they were holding a mass on Sunday, I figure something might be brewing.

Former President Corazon Aquino will lead key players of the 1986 EDSA people power revolution in a thanksgiving Mass at Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City on Monday to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the first bloodless revolution that ended an era of dictatorship…

Makati is the main business area of Manila, and a couple weeks ago was the site of a minor uprising, not to mention recent demostrations. Lozada, the witness testifying about the ZTE scandal, will be there, as will Makati Mayor Binay and other opposition leaders.
And there is a multifaith prayer rally scheduled next Friday, with one million people forcast to come.
ABS-CBN also reports that FINEX, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, is now urging the President to come clean and let her cabinet and supporters testify before the Senate about various bribery and kickback scandals:

In a paid ad in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, FINEX said President Arroyo should resolve the controversies hounding her administrating including the fertilizer fund scandal, the “Hello Garci” wiretapping scandal, the distribution of cash gifts in Malacañang, the ZTE, Cyber-Education and the North and South Rail projects.

This is important since the business community is one of the major supporters of the President, whose administration has been pro business. However, the amount of corruption by government officials has discouraged many businesses from investing in the Philippines.

In the Loscada hearings, it was revealed that the average kickback for politicians to approve of a government contract was 20%. The ZTE scandal occurred because rumors that a 40% kickback was requested, and the result was that the project was rejected. The politician involved was a good friend of the First Gentleman, fueling speculation that he was involved in the project, but no linkage has been proven so far.
The press, who tend to dislike the president, is speculating if Vice President deCastro will break ranks and join with the opposition in a move similar to when the then Vice President Arroyo helped remove Joseph Estrada from power.

However, in some ways President Arroyo reminds one of her ex classmate, Bill Clinton, in avoiding direct scandal and being protected by those around her.
So why would a mass be a threat to President Arroyo?

Possibly because the present Catholic bishops with one or two exceptions are more conservative than those of the past when it comes to political activism, there is no definite plan for another hymn singing EDSA I revolution.

But if the bishops and leaders of other churches, many of whom are already upset about “extrajudicial killings” of activists and journalists, start backing  change or naming names they have a lot of influence. And there is evidence that some in the government fear such a scenerio: Today’s paper contains an open threat to remove their tax exemption if they continue to back anti corruption tactics:

Speaker Prospero Nograles told reporters of the House of Representatives yesterday that he will “look into the possibility of lifting the tax privileges for religious organizations which are involved in politics.”

Such threats are more likely to invigorate the churches in their crusade against corruption and the politicians who go along with “business as usual”.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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