The Inquirer has been quick to blame the collapse of the Lakas-Kampi coalition on the machinations of the First Gentleman. However, while Mike Arroyo’s clumsy interventions have probably hastened the disintegration of his wife’s support, the demise of President Arroyo’s congressional coalition was surely inevitable.
I have never believed in the doomsday scenario that has Congresswoman Arroyo controlling the largest voting block in Congress, getting herself elected speaker, and then forcing through constitutional change that would end up with her as an all-powerful prime minister.
For a former president to wield that sort of power, he or she would need at least two of the following:
- A considerable personal following in Congress as a result of his or her achievements in office.
- Significant influence in the country at large from the deep love and affection his or her countrymen hold for the ex-President.
- A guarantee that congressmen would receive short-term rewards for their support in terms of pork barrel allocations and straightforward brown envelope bribes.
- A guarantee that congressmen would receive long-term rewards for their support in terms of an anticipated return to power of either the ex-President or perhaps one of his or her children.
In Arroyo’s case, not one of these conditions is present. Given both the congressmen’s strong instinct for survival and the overriding follow-the- money imperatives of Philippine political life, it has been clear for months that the rats would soon be leaving the Lakas-Kampi galleon, which was itself a makeshift craft cobbled together by Arroyo in order to merge her own minor party (Kampi) with the larger Lakas, the political organization representing the post-EDSA consensus (see Manuel Quezon's historical analysis of the formation of Lakas-Kampi-CMD and of the party's current crisis).
Given the bleeding of her support, shortly to turn into a full-on haemorrhage, Congresswoman Arroyo seems certain to become a marginal figure in the next Congress, perhaps not even attending many of its sessions.