The first Inquirer editorial last Sunday makes a key assumption.
It is the new administration policy that has turned the impact of the rallies into a net negative. If the Palace had let well enough alone, the President would have returned from her chairing of the UN Security Council summit in New York City with the wind truly at her back. To be sure, the rallies would have continued, especially because the impeachment complaints against her had been thrown out by what her critics call a compliant Congress. But they wouldn’t have merited international attention. [Emphasis in the original.]
The editorial assumes that street protests would have petered out, dwindling to insignificance. Is that a valid assumption? Another way of phrasing the question would be to ask: Could the Palace have let well enough alone? Does the President, in fact, have a choice, other than the hard line she has decided to follow?
I think the answer is Yes — at least in the realm of possibilities. Max Soliven has written more than once about GMA being her mother’s daughter, thus suggesting not only that she has a will of iron, but also that she has no choice; she cannot act otherwise.
His opinion may be overly deterministic, but even if were true, the economist in her must surely understand that she still has other options. It may well be that some of her closest advisers are unreconstructed hawks, and they have succeeded in limiting the range of options open to her. (You can tell them by the way they see themselves as hard-nosed realists, using turns of phrase like "reality on the ground.") But this is to suggest, wrongly I think, that she does not in the end keep her own counsel.
It may also be that, to her mind, she has already given the alternative all the room it needed — agreeing on a course of action recommended by Dinky Soliman’s group, for example, or deciding to admit to a "lapse in judgment" on Senate President Franklin Drilon’s recommendation — and look where that got her. July 8 must have struck her as stark confirmation of her mother’s worst fears, including (I am guessing here) betrayal from within and the folly of making decisions based on weakness, rather than strength.
Besides, she must have thought, there is no making peace with certain members of the Arroyo opposition. Nothing she can do can change their mind. But again, even if this too were true (it is), the politician in her must know that politics remains preeminently the art of addition; her paramount need is not to swell the ranks of her enemies.
Containment, in other words, is one rational choice, which I would have expected to appeal to her, if she had only done the math.