If you thought American politics were crazy, you should come here to the Philippines.

Right now we have a President who ousted the previous President for corruption…and was then elected on her own.

Since then, the opposition has been trying to oust her, but hasn’t been able to do so.
The last try was about the “Hello Garci” scandal, where a woman’s voice discussed the vote count…some say discussed stealing the vote.

Well, the tape was illegal, so not released to the public (or allowed into the Impeachment hearing). However, this being the Philippines, if you wanted to hear the conversation, all you had to do is go to the local street vendor, who had the CD, right next to pirated copies of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Then, to change the subject, President Arroyo decided to make “Charter change” the issue…i.e. change the subject. Promptly dubbed “Cha cha”, that caused a big kerfluffle and went…no where.

The latest scandal is about granting a broadband contract with China, without having competitive bidding. The public outcry made that deal get withdrawn, but not before charges of bribery to officials (often to members of their families) were discussed.

And now a bizarre story of “gifts” of money given out to politicians at a luncheon— in flowered paper bags, no less, by the President; or maybe not: As one paper’s headline cynically proclaims after one politician changed his story:

Abante: President no longer present during cash handouts

which, of course, can be read as “president left before we were bribed” or “Now the guy’s story has changed, and he claims the president wasn’t there after all”..

The Inquirer editorial states the bribes were to short cirucuit an impeachment investigation (note: legally there can be only one impeachment trial per year).

Rep. Crispin Beltran of the Anakpawis party-list group says, on Tuesday last week, that an official of the Kampi party offered him P2 million to sign what was perceived to be a weak impeachment complaint that would immunize Ms Arroyo from impeachment for another year. The President summons, on Thursday last week, 190 of her congressional allies and gave each of them sums ranging from P200,000 to P500,000.

Father Ed Panlilio, governor of Pampanga province, reveals scarcely three days later that he received half-a-million pesos at a Malacañang breakfast meeting of local officials with the President. Two other provincial governors and several congressmen have since confirmed receiving similar amounts.

The stories keep changing: It was money to use for local projects. It was public money. It was private money, and merely a Christmas gift. (note one Peso is 45 cents US, so the bribes were roughly $5,000 to $10 000 each).
If your head is spinning, then don’t worry. I can’t keep the feuding straight.
But President Arroyo is from the Bill Clinton school of avoiding impeachment: according to the Inquirer:

One: deny the story.

Two: Hide the witnesses.

Three: dump dirt on the opposition.

Four: Say: This is not important. We have a country to run.

One difference between the Hello Garci scandal and this one is that the bishops have had it, although the Army says they are staying out of it this time.
However, as one commentator noted on the news, there hasn’t been any mass demonstrations yet.
The talk shows attribute this to scandal fatigue, but  I attribute it to the rice harvest. Everyone here is busy cutting, threshing and drying the rice crop.

Even in the Philippines, there are more important things than politics.


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

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