President Corazon C. Aquino's body politic is under attack from both within and without. The government when, not shooting itself in the foot, spends much of its time avoiding being stabbed in the back.
Now, an apparently systematic attempt to destabilize the Aquino government makes membership of the cabinet like being in the O.K. coral, one cabinet minister said privately.In recent weeks, fragile hopes of stability and economic recovery that President Aquino brought back from her triumphant U.S. visit two months ago have taken a beating.
When Congress finally approved $200 million in supplementary aid under
pressure from an administration that had belatedly swung fully behind Mrs. Aquino, it appeared that a vitalpiece of the political jigsaw had been secured.
Then the International Monetary Fund blessed the economic recovery program, granting $508 million in new money and opening the way to renegotiation of the commercial portion of the country's $26 billion external debt.
Indicators then started to head in the right direction. Non-oil imports rose 66 percent in September and by 33 percent in the first nine months, suggesting increased use of existing capacity. Man-days lost to strikes were falling and the noisy labor minister, Augusto Sanchez, who had started his term in a combative mood against foreign investors, appeared tamed after having his wrist slapped by Mrs. Aquino.
Copra prices started to rise, putting more pesos into peasant pockets and a gold price hike started to make the export performance look brighter.
Even though investors had still not parted from their policy of wait and see, Mrs. Aquino was beginning to meet some of the preconditions for a return of business confidence.
Tentative investors were emerging from their shells and looking forward to more political normalcy that would come with the ratification of a new constitution early next year.
But now the heads have snapped back into those shells. Japanese embassy officials refuse to comment on whether the kidnapping of Mitsui Corp. general manager, Nobuyuki Wakaoji, last weekend is politically motivated.
However, it has sent shivers through Manila's foreign business community some of whom had suspected they would be targeted following the brutal murder of leftist union leader, Rolando Olalia last week.
The murder of former assemblyman, David Puzon, by unidentified gunmen Wednesday seemed to confirm the pattern of destabilization. A few days earlier, there were confirmed reports that military officers loyal to Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, were behind a planned coup that should have taken place while Mrs. Aquino was in Japan last week.
Inevitably, the reports have focused the blame for the destabilization on Mr. Enrile. Uncharacteristically, the normally garrulous defense minister, Mr. Enrile has uttered no comment or criticism of Mrs. Aquino in the last week other than to deny the Olalia killing.
However, cabinet ministers who requested anonymity and analysts believe military elements, led by a disaffected colonel who is not controlled by Mr. Enrile are probably responsible for the destabilization campaign.
Seasoned Philippines watchers also smell the hand of deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos operating through remnants of his KBL political party from his base in Hawaii.
To some observers, Mrs. Aquino appears to be trying to hold her breath until the crucial plebiscite to approve the constitution Feb. 2 next year.
It will be difficult for anyone to make a move (against Aquino) after the ratification of the constitution, former assemblyman and Aquino critic, Homobono Adaza told the Journal of Commerce in a telephone interview.
Her critics and opponents agree that she has done little to try to control the agenda of government and has mainly reacted to events as they occur. This is in large part due to the quality of advice she is receiving from her senior advisers, diplomats said.
Western political analysts also agree that she has wasted time in formulating a comprehensive plan for dealing with the Communist insurgency. They feel she could have done this without jeopardizing peace talks that, in any case, appear to be heading for the rocks.
And Mrs. Aquino has failed to impose her own rigid standards of clean, uncorrupt government on some of her cabinet ministers.
Mrs. Aquino has given only vague hints that she will revamp the cabinet. A number of analysts believe she is right to ignore cries for resignations, including that of Mr. Enrile, until the ministers concerned can exit with grace ahead of next year's national elections.
As for Mr. Enrile, there is a growing feeling that he overplayed his cards, especially when he appeared before a predominantly pro-Marcos rally early this month to denounce the growing Communist threat.
Palace sources say his primary goal may now be to avoid investigation into how he acquired his considerable wealth, at least some of it during his 17 years as defense minister under Mr. Marcos.
Against this background, the external threat of a collapse in renegotiations with commercial banks for some $6.5 billion of debt is the last thing that Mrs. Aquino needs.