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Arroyo-Obama Meet: Seeking Legitimacy Thru a White House Photo-op

n July 30 Philippine president Gloria Arroyo will get her long-awaited desire for a photo-op with US president Barack Obama. Gloria Arroyo delivers the State-of-the-Nation address a few days before flying to Washington DC to meet Barack ObamaFor many Filipino-American Democrats who worked hard to get then Candidate Obama elected, news of the meeting is likely being received with mixed feelings. On one hand you have a newly elected, young, idealistic, dynamic, US president; a superb orator who just happens to be Black, and who told world leaders during his inaugural address "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history..."

On the other hand you have a lame duck Philippine president who has been dogged by one controversy after another since taking office, and who hopes to legitimize herself in the eyes of her constituents and the world by standing side-by-side with President Obama in the White House.

An ongoing online poll by ABS-CBN showed that a day before her State of the Nation address, 61 percent of her constituents give Gloria Arroyo a failing grade. Pulse Asia's June poll gave Arroyo an even lower 26 percent approval rating. And global watchdog organization Transparency International ranks the Philippines worse than Libya or Nigeria when it comes to corruption.

Because of the power and global prestige of the US presidency—especially the Obama presidency—what many Filipinos fear most is a repeat of the nineteen sixties, seventies, and eighties when a despotic and corrupt Philippine president, President and Mrs. Marcos take a stroll with President Reagan outside the Oval Office in 1982Ferdinand Marcos gave himself, along with his cabal of kelptocrats, the veneer of legitimacy by hoodwinking successive American administrations from Johnson to Reagan into giving tacit approval of their actions. At the very least, Marcos could force the Americans to look the other way, because back then the United States had two of its largest military bases on Philippine soil.

For Gloria Arroyo, the gambit could be the war on terrorism, or the strategic location of the islands. Hopefully one of those might induce the American president to go easy on her administration's dismal human rights record, or look the other way when it comes to the endemic corruption that has marked her 9 years in office.

Whichever way this visit goes, one thing is certain: Unlike the Filipino-Americans during the Marcos years, who railed against the Philippine dictator yet left successive American administrations blameless, today's Filipino-Americans have the voice and the votes to make known their displeasure if the US goes easy on a Philippine president who no longer has the support of the Filipino people.     

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