The fundamental question is: What, really, is happening? The short answer may be: The President has decided to ride the tiger.
While it pleases Malacanang to think that the President’s real constituency (or the index of her performance) is the economy, it seems more and more difficult to escape the conclusion that the real source of her mandate is the armed services. Let me rephrase that: It seems that the President thinks the real source of her continuing mandate is the support of the armed services. She may still have a solid grip on the House of Representatives, she may continue to draw sincere and effective support from the local governments, but — at least from the way she is acting — she thinks the military and the police form her real constituency.
1. If this reading is true, then we can expect more arrests, or more harassment, of above-ground Leftist leaders. The President has tapped into growing concerns in the AFP about the scandalous success of Leftist party-list groups (scandalous to both the rank and file and the officer corps, because of the perception that pork barrel funds are used, in part, to finance the insurgency). The crackdown on Crispin Beltran, Satur Ocampo, and their colleagues in Congress, therefore, is part of the price for continuing military support.
2. We can also expect relatively lenient sanctions against Brig. Gen. Danny Lim and Marine Col. Ariel Querubin. Being stripped of command of an elite combat unit is not exactly the equivalent of 200 push-ups, but compared to the possibility of a court-martial, it is almost a pat on the back. Note that official AFP explanations of the conduct of these officers are careful to limit their liability: They had not plotted a coup, or even threatened to withdraw support from the President; they had merely informed the higher-ups that there was such a plan to withdraw support. At best, they are guilty of sympathizing with the planners. (Querubin, of course, has to answer for another transgression: complicating the issue by bringing civilians into the picture.)
3. We can expect the President to lift Proclamation 1017 before the Supreme Court rules on it. (We can also expect the President to render EO 464 inoperative, if she gets wind of an adverse high court ruling against it.) The pattern seems to be: Implement controversial measures as though they meet constitutional requirements, then withdraw them if an adverse legal ruling is imminent. This cat-and-mouse game favors an aggressive (and thick-skinned) executive.
4. But Proclamation 1017 will continue to fuel restiveness in the ranks. I cannot quite believe that the bright boys in Malacanang do not see this; rather, it seems to be the case that for them restiveness in the ranks of the military is an acceptable risk.
5. The weighing of risks, of course, leads us back to the tiger of military intervention. Contrary to what the AFP top brass has been saying, a crack seems to have formed in the Armed Forces.