Malacanang may have been given a breather over the long weekend since the Samuel Ong affair has not generated the kind of people power response that followed the decision of the Senate not to open the second envelope during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada.
No throngs flocked to San Carlos Seminary where Ong sought refuge nor was there strong support from opposition figurehead Susan Roces whose husband was the direct victim of the alleged election fraud. At best, Roces was lukewarm to the whole affair and for that many Filipinos were grateful. Roces has in her power to appeal to the masses and inflame them to another popular uprising. At least one figure chose to remain level headed thru this sordid affair.
But as many well know, we are just in the opening moves of a very elaborate chess game with the future of the Republic of the Philippines as the stake.
At present the political situation is at a stalemate, with both sides waiting for the next big move.
Many expected Mrs. Arroyo to make a stand on the wiretapping issue during Independence Day but instead, she called for an end to "dirty politics".
Mrs. Arroyo should realize that the more that she evades the issue, the more she fans suspicions that it was she indeed in the tapes presented by Ong.
Already, two independent foreign voice analyzing companies have confirmed not only the authenticity of the tape, in that the conversations have not been edited or altered in any way, but also that the voices have been identified as belonging to Mrs. Arroyo and COMELEC commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
Garcillano’s continued disappearance adds to speculations that Malacañang does not want the conversation confirmed because that would further pin down Arroyo. Attempts to arrest Ong bolster his claim that Malacañang wants to silence him because he has more explosive evidence incriminating Arroyo.
Mrs. Arroyo has to handle the volatile issue very carefully lest it blows up in her face and she incurs the wrath of the people. As it is, the Philippines is quite near the boiling point.
The scandal over the so-called "Mother of all tapes" will continue to hound her unless she comes forward and honestly answers it. She owes it to the people who voted her into office, first and foremost, to explain about it.
At the end of the day, the political battle between the opposition and the administration would likely result with one side winning, and another side living to fight another day.
If Malacanang plays their cards right, Mrs. Arroyo might survive this latest assault to her presidency but the confidence of the people and perhaps the world community would be seriously compromised.
The losses in the local currency and the stock market would be difficult to recover and the confidence of the international investment community would again be nearly impossible to regain.
A strong republic is what Mrs. Arroyo wanted, but a stong republic requires an equally strong leader which sadly she is proving to be wanting.