“Tayo ang EDSA! Tayo ang pag-asa, ang totoo at ang pinakamakapangyarihang pwersa laban sa diktatura!“–Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. during a commemoration of the first People Power Uprising at EDSA last Saturday, 23 January.
By Luis V. Teodoro
The unprecedented removal through quo warranto proceedings of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from her post isn’t only about her, or solely about the Supreme Court, the rule of law, the Constitution, or the Duterte regime and its autocratic pretensions. Even more crucially is it about the fate and future of the democratization process that at least twice in history has been interrupted at its most crucial stage, and, driven by the need to address political and economic underdevelopment, has had to twice start all over again in this country.
The democratization of Philippine society began with the reform movement of the late 19th century and reached its highest point during the Revolution of 1896, which was as much for independence, equality and social justice as it was against Spanish colonial rule. Through the worker-led Katipunan, the Revolution was on the verge of defeating the Spanish forces and had achieved de facto independence when a near-fatal combination of betrayal by the Magdalo faction of the rural gentry and foreign intervention prevented its fruition despite the First Republic, and left it unfinished.
United States recognition of Philippine independence in 1946 made the resumption of the democratization process and the completion of the Revolution possible. But thanks to the heirs of the principalia — the handful of families the US had trained in the fine arts of backroom politics and self-aggrandizement during its formal occupation of the Philippines — what instead ensued for two decades was a succession of administrations that prospered while presiding over the country and its people’s continuing poverty and underdevelopment, subservience to foreign interests, and political disempowerment.
Against these fundamental ills there had always been both armed and unarmed resistance even during the country’s captivity to US colonialism. But it was in the mid-1960s when the historic demands of the Philippine Revolution found their best expression in the movement for change initially led by workers and students which soon spread across the entire country and among various sectors. Its demand for the democratization of political power, for authentic independence, gender equality, agrarian revolution, and national industrialization resonated enough among the peasantry, progressive professionals, indigenous peoples, the enlightened religious, and liberated women to mobilize hundreds of thousands.
In the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the numbers of its adherents and the power of their demands were demonstrably enough for the second Marcos administration to use state violence to suppress the strikes, demonstrations and other mass actions that were almost daily challenging dynastic rule by demanding the end of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism. In response to these demands, and to keep himself in power beyond 1973, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and made good on his threat to declare martial law in 1972, when he placed the entire country under a dictatorship sustained by military bayonets on the pretext of saving the Republic and reforming society while actually doing the opposite.
Despite the worst repression, despite the arrests and detention, despite the torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing of thousands of the best and brightest sons and daughters of the people, it was in the resistance to the Marcos terror regime that democratization continued to find expression.
Many of those in the resistance refused to surrender it during the period of repression, but it took 14 years of armed and unarmed defiance before the Filipino people once more recovered the possibility of exercising the democratic right to shape their own future. However, despite its promise of far-reaching change with the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, over the last 32 years the 1986 civilian-military mutiny known as People Power or EDSA 1 has failed to deliver on that promise, thanks to the continuing monopoly over political power of the same dynasties that for over a century have prevented the realization of the changes Philippine society so desperately needs.
Over those three decades, people’s organizations and other democratic formations persisted in fighting for those changes. In 2001, outraged over the corruption and incompetence of a plunderous regime, they removed another president from power. While state repression in various forms, and with it such human rights violations as torture, enforced disappearances, abductions and extrajudicial killings continued, the reigns of three of the five presidents after Marcos that preceded Rodrigo Duterte’s have not been openly antagonistic to due process, the bill of rights, press freedom, and the system of checks and balances.
The Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Benigno Aquino III administrations at least paid lip service to the desirability of peace and the rule of law. But one cannot say the same of the Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regimes. The former was mostly focused on the use of the presidency in amassing wealth, while the latter was intent on remaining in power, and did not hesitate to use state violence to suppress dissent and opposition in advancing and protecting the personal, family and class interests behind it.
But it is the Duterte regime, with the enthusiastic support of the Estrada and Arroyo cliques, that has most imperiled the realization of the legitimate demands for the democratization of political power and economic opportunity, true independence, and inclusive development. It has become increasingly clear that President Rodrigo Duterte has not bothered to craft any master plan to end or even reduce poverty, or even such of its manifestations as environmental degradation, limited employment opportunities and low agricultural productivity under an archaic tenancy system. But he does have a blueprint for the restoration of authoritarian rule through his accomplices’ and minions’ dominance in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
The abridgment of press freedom, the attacks on human rights, the willful debasement of public discourse, the further erosion of the already erratic observance of the rule of law, and the subversion of the little that survives of the system of checks and balances through the orchestrated attacks on the ombudsman and Chief Justice Sereno are parts of the plot to undermine what little is left of democracy in these isles of uncertainty. By riding the crest of mass disaffection with government and the burgeoning demand for change and revolution to win the Presidency in 2016, Mr. Duterte has managed to hijack all three branches of government.
The ouster of Sereno as Chief Justice is not solely about Sereno. Neither is it about the Maleficent Six. It is about the imminent danger of dictatorship. This is the context in which, with the collaboration of his cohorts in Congress and the Supreme Court itself, Mr. Duterte is putting a stop to the democratization of Philippine society as Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972. For the third time since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that process is once more in danger of interruption — and worse, its final liquidation.
In these circumstances only the people themselves can put a stop to the latest assault on their right to self-government and the realization of their aspirations for a society of peace, justice and equality. Because the leaders to whom they had previously delegated their sovereign authority had failed them, they exercised their right and duty to remove them in 1986, and again in 2001.
Some events in the political lives of nations can be the turning point in the resolution of the contradictions that afflict them. The Sereno “incident” could be that point.
(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from the Supreme Court.)
Progressive organizations marched to EDSA to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the first EDSA People Power uprising that deposed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
While they recalled the horrors that many suffered under Marcos’ Martial Law, they said genuine change has yet to happen.
The group did not join the pro-Aquino or the pro-Duterte activities which were held separately yesterday. Read more
THE FIRST PEOPLE POWER uprising gave Filipinos a phenomenon that, ironically, is a symptom of its failures. The ouster of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 gave rise to local political comedy that burst out from the gates with the likes of the IBC 13’s Sic O’clock News and ABS-CBN’s Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata. For the first time in many years, comedians may make fun of politicians and their shenanigans. It was such a fresh whiff of air and the Filipinos breathed it in by the lungful.
Jon Santos was a product of those tumultuous, albeit sometimes funny, times. He cut his teeth under veteran comedians Tessie Tomas and Willie Nepumuceno and has never stopped looking back since. As the country commemorates the 30th anniversary of Edsa 1 this year, Santos stages his funny-sad tribute to People Power and all the political craziness and crazies it spawned with an hour and a half comedy show entitled Hugot Your Vote: WTF (Wala Talagang Forever…sa Malacañang) at Resorts World Manila.
Last March 5, Santos performed before a capacity crowd at the Marriot Grand Ballroom. Drawing from international pop star Madonna’s recent concert in Manila, he emerged onstage with a “Vogue” number that sings and dances about the Filipino’s current travails—elections, traffic, a strong-arming China, moralizing bishops, and others. The opening segment was obviously an attempt to be current, although Madonna was as 80s throwback as anyone. A receptive audience was generous with its chortles.
Santos was just warming up though. What really got the audience in stitches were two of his standards—his exemplifications of Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joseph Estrada. Although the characters now talk about the senator’s second presidential bid and her famous pick-up lines, as well as the mayor’s new “Eraptions” none of the jokes really sounded new. But Santos was so funny the audience could not help but applaud in between laughs.
Election-themed and staged during yet another campaign period Santos’s show included an exemplification of Grace Poe, a candidate to be the next president of the Philippines. As amply suggested by the jokes, Poe is a unique product of our post-Edsa times. While finding political fame after the Marcos era the jokes could not help but refer to her family’s loyalty to the dictator, even rumors about her biological links with the late dictator. It was also as much Poe’s fault that Santos had to deliver many of her character’s lines ala-FPJ.
If the show had a low point, it was Santos’ exemplification of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. This was when the audience almost stopped laughing and the mood change was palpable. Despite the, err, headpiece, the yellow shirt, the high-waist pair of pants and the awkward gait, the character, as the person being characterized, just isn’t funny. The comedian here is tested to his thespian limits. Perhaps Santos would have better success impersonating Aquino’s anointed candidate Mar Roxas in future runs instead.
Santos’ exemplification of Mommy D is a direct contrast of his Aquino. The person is funny in her unique way in the first place. Her lines on the show however are new, referring to Congressman Emmanuel Pacquiao’s fairly recent tirade against same-sex marriage. Moreover, it is highly probable that Senate shall soon have its boxer in addition to basketballers and bowlers anyway.
As political jokes became funny again immediately post-Edsa, Santos’s WTF jokes are still funny thirty years later. One wishes though that the politicians and personalities that make our country a butt of jokes start becoming part of the past. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Enraged by the unexplained decision to prevent them from commemorating the 30th anniversary of the People Power uprising, militant groups overpowered the Philippine National Police to reach the EDSA Shrine at the corner of the famous thoroughfare and Ortigas Avenue.
Waiting their turn after the official program led by President Benigno Aquino this morning, the protesters led by groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) wanted to march all the way to the shrine but the police tried to block them.
During their own program, the groups took turns warning about the possible return of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s family to Malacañan Palace with Ferdinand Jr.’s vice presidential bid in the coming national elections.
They also condemned the police actions as reminiscent of Martial Law policies.