Someday in the distant future, scientists will score a breakthrough and replicate the amazingly powerful adhesive with which Gloria Arroyo has managed to cling to power.
Since becoming President in 2001 – she wasn't elected, she replaced the loutish Joseph Estrada -- Arroyo's deflected every move to dislodge her. She's survived impeachment hearings, neutralized coup attempts, shrugged off a mass desertion by her own cabinet, weathered spectacular corruption scandals that would make a Chadian politician envious.
Don't think she's just passively endured, though: Arroyo has been proactive hanging on. She very likely cheated in the 2004 election which she won. Throughout her term she's tried to change the constitution to allow her to say on. She's dabbled with emergency rule and lately, Martial Law, instruments which dictator Ferdinand Marcos used to set himself up in the despot business.
This year her time's supposed to be up: after the May elections President Arroyo loses her title. Already, various political characters are campaigning to succeed her. That fact that she has the worst popularity ratings of any president in the last two decades, suggests plenty of Filipinos can hardly wait to see the back of her.
They should hold off celebrating.
Tough and tenacious, Gloria Arroyo has repeatedly shown she's no quitter. Her trademark has been a swift political opportunism coupled with a profound disregard for legal niceties. Just because she's supposed to step down doesn't mean she actually will.
She's already served longer than any President of the republic. While her term has hardly enriched our country's exiguous annals of enlightened governance, it has coincided with a wondrous enrichment of her family and cronies. For example,her son has charted an eye-popping jump in income.
Why give this up, especially when there are plenty of cards to play? Arroyo will never be as strongly poised to entrench herself as she is now. Her allies and clients dominate Congress. She's packed the Supreme court, maintained a politicized military and eroded the Civil Service with her unqualified appointees.
Here's one way the "Gloria Forever" game could be played. As its presidential candidate, Arroyo's party has picked a total unknown and never heard, Gilberto Teodoro (as a lawyer he defended the ill-gotten wealth of two top Marcos cronies). He could win, given the sort of administration resources that were deployed in 2004.
But there's a rumor Arroyo has a backup -- she's allegedly also supporting the candidacy of billionaire Manny Villar. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if the administration's secretly backing several candidates.
At any rate, with a political pawn/ally as president, and Arroyo herself winning a congressional seat, she'll be in a position to make a comeback via a constitutional change -- taking office as interim president, prime minister, whatever fits.
The problem with the scheme is that it leaves too many things to chance. The cat's paw or ally might not win, or if he does, could prove uncooperative.
There's a simpler alternative. Arrange a failure of elections, creating a free-for-all situation where the advantage lies with whoever controls the military, legislative and judiciary. Any guesses who that might be?