Ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo releases memoir to 'correct' misconceptions about her

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 02 2022 08:55 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2022 07:11 PM

Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo poses with her book 'Deux Ex Machina' in her Quezon City residence on Wednesday. RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo poses with her book 'Deux Ex Machina' in her Quezon City residence on Wednesday. Handout

MANILA— Twelve years after leaving Malacañang, former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday released her memoir where she talked about her story—from her roots, to her rise to the presidency, and her life afterwards, in a bid to “correct the misconceptions.”

With around 100 friends and supporters joining via Zoom, and a handful of friends and family joining her at her residence in La Vista, Quezon City, the country’s 14th president said she released this book so that people may know her better as a person.

“Traditionally, former presidents write their memoirs to provide a record of their time in office. Many people were also asking me to write my memoirs, for some to correct the many misconceptions that keep getting repeated, and for many others because of my experiences both in politics and as the daughter of a president," Arroyo said.

"In the end, it is more about me as a devout Catholic and as an economist, and less about me as a politician. One of the things I am most proud of is my role in ending our decades-old cycle of economic booms and busts," she added. 

"I left the presidency with 38 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth, so our economy was ready to grow further under the presidencies of my successors.” 

 DEUS EX MACHINA

Arroyo borrows from ancient Greek drama in choosing the title of her book. 

The former president explained that it resonates with her as a person and in several instances in her life. 

“Deus ex machina is a plot device in ancient Greek drama whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence," Arroyo narrated. 

"In realpolitik there is no deus ex machina. But for those who trust in the Lord, there is, and it’s called Divine Providence," she added. 

 

“Divine Providence has played such an important role in my career, and I refer to it in several instances in the memoir, interchangeably with the more secular term deus ex machina. It was my brother Boboy who suggested using it in the title,“ Arroyo said, referring to her brother.

During the virtual book launch, Arroyo read an excerpt of her book which seemed to be an example of the Divine Providence that Arroyo talks about. 

It was when she placed 13th in the 1992 senatorial race, which only gave her a 3-year term for senator, and how that seemed to set the wheels for her ascent to the presidency in motion.

“When I ran for senator in 1992, 24 Senate seats were up for grabs. The top 12 would serve for 6 years and the next 12, 3 years. In the first half of the campaign, the surveys did not show me in the Magic 24 group," Arroyo said.

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“I was elected as 3-year-term senator in 1992, bitter that I missed a six-year term by a small margin. Little did I know that within a decade, I would become president, which might not have been if I had been able to reclaim those few thousands of lost votes in 1992 and squeaked into a six-year Senate term in 12th place," she continued. 

"As number 12 winner in 1992 rather than top placer in 1995, I would have been just another reelectionist senator in 1998 and not the winning candidate for vice president. I would not have been the constitutional successor to the presidency in 2001. Divine Providence.”

The daughter of a former President, Arroyo served as a senior official of the Department of Trade and Industry before becoming senator, vice-president, president and eventually, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

That journey is chronicled in her 7-part book, she said. 

POLITICS

An economist, Arroyo was, during the early part of her political career, also wildly popular. Thanks partly to her packaging as the “Nora Aunor” of politicians—a reference to her height and charisma which political strategists claimed she shared with local filmdom’s superstar.

But the political divisions created by the 2001 EDSA Dos and allegations of cheating in the 2004 elections which she won against popular film icon Fernando Poe Jr, swept away that popularity.

Arroyo, however, pointed to her management of the economy as one of the highlights of her life. 

“One of the things I am most proud of is my role in ending our decades-old cycle of economic booms and busts. I left the Presidency with 38 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth, so our economy was ready to grow further under the presidencies of my successors," said Arroyo.

She recalled how she found the economy when she came to public service, and contrasted it with how she left it by the time she left the presidency.

"Before my time, we had followed the then accepted path of economic development by creating domestic industries to make our country more self-sufficient. This was the nationalistic path also taken by other developing countries like Brazil, which achieved economic growth," she said. 

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“However, the era of global banks came in the 1970s, where foreign banks lent huge sums to developing countries that resulted in the global debt crisis of the 1980s. Meanwhile, the new economic philosophy of globalization became the accepted path to growth, as shown by the Asian tiger economies that left us behind in the 1980s,“ she added.

Arroyo would go on to pass the controversial expanded value-added tax (e-VAT) during her presidency, which had been credited for saving the economy from the global financial crisis at that time. 

It is a legacy which she believes continues to benefit the country today.

"Under my watch, we took the painful and necessary fiscal reforms that we needed to recover. Implemented in 2005, they were popularly referred to as e-VAT. 
So, under the watch of my two presidential successors, we have begun to catch up with the Asian tigers,” Arroyo said.

“And when we finally put the pandemic behind us, I am confident that our next president will take us to the next economic level, where we can look to our neighboring countries with heads held high as economic equals," according to the former president. 

"This sense of anticipation of good things to come is most rewarding. I am thankful to God that He gave me the opportunity to make a contribution to our progress as a nation," she added, just as she looked forward to what the 2022 elections could bring the country.

PLUNDER CHARGE

Also known for her infamous temper and sometimes confrontational relationship with the media, Arroyo now opens up and tells her version of history in this book which she wrote while she was detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center during the late Benigno Aquino III's administration for a plunder charge. 

That plunder charge was dismissed by the Supreme Court when her ally Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016. 

During her incarceration, she was also suffering from complications from her cervical spine surgery which began as a pinched nerve. 

“About as long as my presidential term itself. It took so long during my incarceration, firstly with the long recovery period from my 3 surgeries,“ Arroyo said of her book-writing process.

During her time in the hospital, her access to visitors, gadgets and outside communication were restricted, which also affected her writing process. 

“Secondly, with access to computers and the internet prohibited, the research required personal interviews with visitors when I felt well enough, and through hard copies of documents; and the writing had to be done manually, on yellow pad, or with an electric typewriter. Editing and corrections were literally cut and paste."

 LONGER VERSION? 

But her book writing took a break when she resumed public office. She was Speaker of the House, the first woman to hold the position, from 2018 to 2019. 

"Then, when I was acquitted and released, I became very busy and the writing went to the back burner. When I became Speaker, it stopped altogether. I resumed working on it after my term in Congress ended. When I resumed, the extensive revisions with the editor happened," she shared.

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Arroyo said what is being launched now is the shorter version of a longer book that is in the works. 

“My brother Boboy suggested having two editions: a short one for casual readers, only 200+ pages with large font size, and a second more extensive one that researchers can use as reference material. The one we’re launching is the short version," she said.

Arroyo listed reasons why there will have to be 2 versions of the book. 

“I started aiming for a 550-page single-spaced 12-point-sized manuscript with 55 chapters patterned after dad’s memoir 'A Stone for the Edifice,'" she said. 

"It covered mostly my presidency, not much of my earlier life as youngster, wife and mother, bureaucrat, senator and vice-president. When the editing happened, those parts of my life became longer, but because we wanted the book to be read by casual readers, the book itself had to become shorter, only 200+ pages with larger font size," she said. 

"So the portion about my presidency had to be shorter. It became much less archival, focused on a few most strategic issues, and more personality-based.”

The former chief executive credited her close family and friends for their contributions to the book. 

Her appreciation for her family doesn’t stop there, as she recalled her favorite part of the book. 

“The part about my roots. I have so many fond memories of my parents and of growing up with an Assumption Convent education that shaped who I am and helped me withstand the many crises I faced later in life. ”

Arroyo’s memoir, she said, is planned to just be the first of 2 books, where the 2nd is expected to be a more comprehensive look at her presidency.

”That’s why it’s short as memoirs go, and I apologize especially to those Cabinet members whose contributions to my presidency were not yet included in this earlier edition," she said. 

"I have started writing the longer edition, and I hope that the 100 persons in this book launching, who were all an important of my life and career, can tell me how they would like to be remembered in my book. To you and to all, thank you for the honor of serving the Filipino people as president.”