Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Paradox of People Power

The PCIJ weblog has a podcast which contains an essay entitled The Paradox of Freedom, read by ABSCBN's David Celdran. It addresses a very interesting question: Why was there no People Power Event in 2005 against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo despite the existence of:
"a familiar pattern of titillating scandal and media overkill, Congressional investigation and official coverup, street protests, and digital demonstrations ... a perfect formula for another uprising ... and the Opposition is fiercer and far more determined to oust her than the one that faced Joseph Estrada in 2001..."
Why, indeed? I think the key to understanding why is to first understand the premises of the question, which are fortunately enunciated by the unidentified female voice on the podcast that introduces both David Celdran and the PCIJ's definition of People Power itself. Have a "listen":
"[fanfare music]Tan tan taran tan taran tarantan tarantarantan ! ...This is the PCIJ Channel podcasting from the Philippines. Filipinos are known for starting what is called people power, the peaceful political uprisings that topple corrupt or dishonest leaders. In the Philippines, People Power has successfuly ousted two Presidents, Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and Joseph Estrada in 2001. But what has baffled many in the past few months is why the Filipinos have not mustered enough People Power to oust Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo despite the latest surveys which show that they distrust her more than they ever did Marcos or Estrada."
INDIFFERENCE: I'm a little disappointed in the rest of the podcast because it was just a weak rehash of certain explanations with lots of interesting and clever flourishes and twists of tongue that most people have not found to be compelling reasons though they were factors -- a lack of a clear alternative to GMA, political fatigue and numbness to it all, and apathy. I was also forced to listen to the mp3 a couple of times to understand what the paradox of freedom was being referred to in the podcast's title. It turns out to be a puzzlement over why, despite an era of unprecedented freedom of expression, political activism seems to be on the wane, which the voice of Celdran answers forthwith -- "indifference can be a form of protest too."

WHERE'S THE BEEF? So where is the paradox of freedom in that? All I see is a failure of the kind of activism preferred by the Organized Left, which doesn't have the imagination to use indifference as a tool of public protest, or anything but what was invented during the First Quarter Storm thirty five years ago--confrontational street protests without end. The only thing that's changed is that the front organizations have learned to use banners that aren't colored a Maoist dark fuschia. There is no paradox of freedom here, just a sore disappointment.

OCCAM'S RAZOR: I prefer a much simpler explanation for why there was no people power event in 2005 over Gloriagate. It is because there was no perfect parallel between 2001 and 2005 at the level of the "elements" that constitute a successful people power. Edsa II was not a peaceful political uprising, it was a peaceful political uprising that was made successful by a judicial putsch executed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice HILARIO G. DAVIDE JR. whom History will inevitably finger as the Main Culprit in the 2001 People Power event. In the clear 20/20 of hindsight, Edsa II was a successful combination of MOB RULE and COUP D'ETAT. Hilario G. Davide Jr. conspired with Jaime Cardinal Sin and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the morning of 20 January 2001 to declare Estrada permanently incapacitated and to swear in the Vice President that same day. If you don't believe me, ask Cory Aquino and the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Art Panganiban, both of whom, directly and indirectly, have confirmed this awful truth that many of the konsentidors of that era still deny to this day.

LESSONS: I suppose this is a good time to list what we have learned about the Philippine Constitution from Gloriagate, namely the five and exactly five ways that a Presidency can legitimately end:

(1) Completion of the six year term;
(2) Death of the President;
(3) Voluntary resignation of the President;
(4) Impeachment and conviction with removal from office; and
(5) Permanent incapacity.

A PUTSCH FOR BREAKFAST: We have learned from Gloriagate that Erap was illegally deposed, because on 20 January 2001, at the moment when Davide swore in GMA as President, NONE of the above conditions applied to Joseph Estrada. NONE. It was a lie that Erap was "permanently disabled" on that grim Saturday for democracy, when a fax signed by the Vice President (and penned by the sitting Associate Justice Antonio J. Carpio) arrived at the Supreme Court at 11:36 am. Less than an hour later, Hilario Davide had hornswaggled the rest of the High Court to go with him to EDSA and swear in GMA, as planned and agreed to with Cardinal Sin at breakfast that same day. To prevent "violence". Don't believe me? Ask Cory. She was there for breakfast at the Cardinal's Palace on Shaw Blvd. And ask Panganiban, he told all about "the restoration of Zion" in a speech to seminarians at UST.

TEACHING THE LAW: Recently, I ran into Dean Andy Bautista of FEU and I asked him how in the world they teach Estrada vs. Arroyo (March 2001) and Estrada vs. Desierto (April 2001) at the FEU Law School. He really had no answer you know, because these two decisions are hare-brained acts of judicial putschism which we are suffering from still and cannot stand the light of review. But people are wrong to say that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what the Law means. Because there are future Supreme Courts that can overturn any past decision. Like a century of pro-slavery decision making in the US Supreme Court -- before Abe Lincoln and the US Civil War.

WE KNOW WHAT YOU DID: But the present political crisis in the Philippines was made inevitable on 20 January 2001, by Hilario Davide, the Chief Justice who is about to retire next month and ought to be informed: we know what you did. This doesn't mean I consider Erap innocent of plunder. He wasn't. He was guilty of it, but is unconvicted of the charges, after four years in jail, the only democratically elected Philippine President of recent memory. But it doesn't mean that two wrongs make a right. Just because Erap was guilty of plunder, why do we think Davide and GMA were incapable of conspiratorial treason and other high crimes against the Constitution? Why do you think Erap's case is not at the Supreme Court? Because it would all come out. They are just waiting for Davide to leave so Carpio can close the book on Erap.

But Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. does have two weeks left before it's pass your paper time. If he doesn't do something by then, he will surely get an F-minus in Judicial History.

THE MUTINEER: The other big ingredient missing from the "perfect formula" was a DISHONORABLE MUTINY by the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, ANGELO T. REYES such as happened on 19 January, 2001 when COS Reyes did indeed tell his Staff, "Gentlemen, I hope you realize we are commiting a mutiny." Whereupon they repaired to the Edsa Shrine to the jubilant cheers of the waiting Mob for which they "withdrew support for the President" and to which they defected.

MORAL MIDGETS: Moreover, there was no successful move to impeach GMA in 2005 unlike in 2001 -- a thing definitely creditable to Jose de Venecia's Kongress of Moral Midgets, whose Justice Committee Report quashing the impeachment move, shall also be a matter of some chagrin and humor among beginning Law students of the future, in my opinion.

STONEWALL & COVERUP: There was no 2005 People Power event because there was no "perfect formula" as in 2001. It is a testament to the consummate political skill of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her Palace team to have remembered and comprehended both the necessary and the sufficient conditions required for a successful people power event, by which they captured Malacanang Palace. They then ruthlessly and deliberately did all the right things to prevent those components from ever coming together to bite them.

So are people power events by nature peaceful?

I don't believe they are, and one need only consider the violent events that occurred in May 2001 at Edsa III, when a pro-Erap mob marched on and attacked Malacanang. Notice that the female voice does not mention Edsa III as a people power event. Why? I think precisely because it turned out to be violent. If that Mob had succeeded and ousted GMA then, perhaps they would be podcasting about three successful peaceful political uprisings that toppled corrupt and dishonest leaders.

So does Edsa III prove that people power events can turn violent? Yes it does. Edsa III also reveals the paradox of people power --


Edsa III proves that there is nothing inherently or inexorably peaceful about a people power event. Mob rule is mob rule. Sometimes it's peaceful, but at least once in three, it wasn't.

EDSA I REDUX: But let us look fearlessly again at the most revered Edsa I People Power Revolution of 1986. Proof of above claim is there too, at least in a plausible, hypotheical sense. Recall that at the most critical juncture of that historic event, Marcos could have conducted the most bloody, violent carnage on Edsa if he had gotten his overwhelming force of tanks, soldiers, artillery to massacre the assembled citizens. The conventional explanation is that the huge force of people power on the streets protecting Enrile, Ramos and RAM won over the soldiers, and dissuaded Marcos from carrying out a blood bath, because he couldn't, as the soldiers had already turned against Marcos. That DID happen in history. But there is another way things could easily have turned out. At the decisive moment in the developing crisis, then President Ronald Reagan conveyed to Marcos the position of the United States that he should "Cut, and cut cleanly!" and even offered Marcos sanctuary in Hawaii (not Paoay, which would have led to civil war). But suppose that the message transmitted to Marcos from Reagan was: "Mr. President, the United States takes a neutral position on this, you may do as you see fit, we'll back you up whatever that is." I think there is a good chance we would not be celebrating the peaceful Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986 at all, but the Great Edsa Massacre of 1986, and commemorated under the great red banner unfurled, -- of the People's Communist Republic of the Philippines.

REAGAN AT EDSA: This little bit of information will hurt some people's ideological feelings, but I should mention that the "Cut and cut cleanly" suggestion of Reagan to Marcos was reportedly urged upon him by Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, then a much younger foreign policy aide of Reagan in the White House. Mr. Wolfowitz became President of the World Bank, I think, and yes, he is that neoconservative thinker that the International Left has come to hate so much in the runup up to the invasion of Iraq and ouster of Saddam Hussein. Yet history will record that he was one of those low-ranking but far-thinking officials who believed and said so, during the Reagan Presidency that the United States had to take the moral high ground in the struggle with the Soviet Union, and stop supporting brutal client state dictators as the Soviet Union and the US were both doing during the Cold War. President George W. Bush is regarded as the first great President of the 21st Century because he has committed America to a vast new project of democratization in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and now China. I believe this is largely because of Paul Wolfowitz's stunning concept of an all-democratic world. Eventually. Everywhere.

Which I say we should fight for until it is achieved.

Most people in the Archipelago are unaware that Paul Wolfowitz and the "neocons" have begun an important new phase in the evolution of American global policy. It is their thinking that overthrew the bedrock of Cold War US geopolitical strategy expressed in the saying once applied to Marcos and attributed to US officials: "He may be a sonofabitch, but at least he is our sonofabitch." The mistake in that has already been acknowledged. It is reflected in many essays at the US Army War College, (see Parameters) and most significantly in two speeches of President George W. Bush before the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. The second of those speeches is reproduced here at the resurrected Philippine Commentary: Democracy and the War on Terror.

I know that the Organized Left has well prepared the ground in the Philippines for the coming offensives of the BushLied crowd and the expectation that the Americans will cut and run from Iraq. (Except for these steadfast folks). That they will abandon the project, the vision of Democracy for the Middle East, is what the International Left and the jihadists are counting on, and they will try to make that happen by attacking Bush. It's up to the American people. A gargantuan struggle of America with itself, is once more afoot.

GEORGE W. BUSH: But in one sense, I don't really care about the personal fate of George W. Bush. He has already accomplished what in history was only fervently wished for by all who suffered under Marcos' brutal dictatorship. (Like me! For I was arrested
with Ninoy and Pepe and Chino and many others, on that first night of martial law, oh so long ago.) That fervent wish was that America would not support dictatorship in the Philippines, that she would always and everywhere uphold the Liberty and Democracy that her Constitution and her history stand for -- the Light of the world beckoning to its teeming and huddled masses. But if you read those speeches of Bush, you will find that he admits the horrible compromise with its own principles that the US leadership of many generations had to make as a consequence of the Cold War. I would rather that when martial law was declared, the Americans had invaded this country with a force of Marines led by Filipino-Americans and kicked Da Apo the Dictator's butt to Hawaii then. But they didn't. That was in 1972. But in 2002, I was glad that America had George W. Bush to question the idea that the brutal Baathist dictator, Saddam Hussein, Marcos' Big Bad Brother, could be allowed to threaten the fuel tanks of the world without the pilots getting mad and taking him out. George W. Bush was the first President in US history to show that America is willing to interfere in the internal affairs of the sovereign dictator, as a pre-emptive measure. I find solace in that even as I see the history of the last century, but my reading is this: America can never again support inhuman dictatorships even if the sonofabitch is theirs. It must now work for the destruction of all such totalitarian and terrorist systems, especially in the Middle East where there is today only a single Arab democracy: Iraq. Even if it takes a century. That is the singular accomplishment of GWB, to put America on the right path in the post Cold War world.

A CENTURY OF HONOR: We shall argue about this now until the end of George W. Bush's presidency. But I think Filipinos should know this. America must stay in Iraq now for at least 50 years, if not a hundred, in order to redeem George W. Bush's promise in a speech he made on Sept. 12, 2002 in which he said: "Liberty is God's gift to every man, not America's." And this shall be a cause for us to understand why Rizalist has named this blog, Philippine Commentary, Letters from the First Iraq. For now America is given a second chance at getting the "agriculture of democracy" incrementally better in the real Iraq. The "second Philippines" of America is chance to prove that human progress is a process of successive approximations to an ideal, and that we should cherish every faltering step, as long as it is in the right direction. That direction is what we call "ideology" and is what distinguishes globalists from nihilists.

(Note to Bloggers: Most of those big time warbloggers in America have insufficient knowledge of what their grandfathers and great grandfathers were trying to do here, or what exactly happened here. Did it fail or succeed, or something in between and what lessons ought be learned for the next step in the Ascent of Man? You do not know that history either, I would suspect, but you are closer to some of the sources. That history and shared experience contains far more wisdom-- American and Filipino wisdom-- about liberty, democracy and honor -- than even Instapundit.
or even the Mr. Spock of the American Blogosphere, Steven den Beste. Because the First Iraq is a real, historical data point. So study your history, and don't just read Blount or Constantino and Sison, or Mark Twain and the US Anti-Imperialist League for crying out loud. Try a little "Gleeck" and spend some time at the American Historical Collection at the Ateneo -- you might find a whole new perspective on our past, and more importantly, our future. You shall meet the Democrats and Republicans again in that history! Our history!)

LIBERTY: I believe that America will transform the Middle East even if it takes a century. Because they believe the Metaphor of the Single Jetliner, or something very close to it, is a true description of the world as it exists today. In 1898, in the Age of Empire, they had no use for such a metaphor. But in the Age of Global Terror the people in First Class are only just as safe and secure as those in the Cargo Hold, no more and no less. Not everyone in America understands this either. Certainly not some Democrats. The Metaphor of the Single Jetliner, that is the meaning of: My Liberty is your Liberty!

I can say this because America has proven that it can undertake such an Herculean task. WE did it before for Asia in rehabilitating Japan and for Europe in rehabilitating Germany, after 50,000,000 human lives perished in World War II. WE shall do it again for the Middle East, and the rest of the world, or the jetliner will surely crash with all on board.

But it does remain to be seen if America will stay the course.

For the nihilists here have allies in America too, who think they can shut the doors on First Class and forget the Cargo Hold. They are dead wrong. If the movement there with the slogan, "NO END BUT VICTORY!" fails, so shall we all.

EVOLUTION: For the dubious who do not believe that democracies can and do evolve much as people do, consider this: America once owned slaves. Racism was a mental disease pandemic. America denied the vote to women for far longer than we did, for women suffrage was recognized by the Malolos Constitution. But America is also the oldest modern democracy (July 4, 1776), just as we are the oldest modern democracy in Asia. (Philippines: June 12, 1898; Australia January 1, 1901, New Zealand Sept 26, 1907; China (Sun Yat Sen October 10, 1911). And of course it was America that delivered the first mighty blow against Empire (colonial imperialism!) . When America broke the bands that tied her to the British Empire, she ignited the global nationalist revolution still being felt today. And America is the preferred and irrevocable home of four million of the most successful, optimistic, prosperous, freedom-loving "little brown brothers and sisters" -- the Filipino Americans. Even though it was the six-month old democracy of their forefathers, that was kidnapped in its cradle outside the Spanish Convent at the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898 and forced into Hollywood. Do I resent that? No. That is what happened in history and there was more good than bad, in my opinion that came of it. But if all we do is look backward, then we cannot, conversely see forward. Now is the time again to understand history, not to resent it. Now is the time to support the awesome project to create a second Philippines that is underway in the real Iraq. Why? Because there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the first data point that will make the second one much better, more resoundingly successful -- for the sake of our fellow human beings, our little brown brothers and sisters in Iraq! We must not wish for them today, the fate that befell us: to become Orphans of the Anglosphere.

As much as she once planted the seed that bore the meme of Nationalism, despite a dalliance with Empire herself, I believe America will also be the cradle of the 21st Century's greatest meme:
Globalism. Either that or its evil twin, also the child of Empire and Nationalism will triumph: Nihilism.

Podcasts are hard to fisk coz you can't just cut and paste the stuff you wanna skewer. It's a cute idea, but having to listen to the voice is distracting. It may take some time before this new genre of propaganda can challenge the AM radio band of the demagagosphere. But the eliterati will love it--pocket propaganda. As a medium podcasting gets away from the directness and economy of plain text and partakes of the theatrical, the entertaining, the ethereal in broadcast media. And it is of course, like main stream media, one-way push technology. Maybe it'll be good for poetry.

UPDATE: Albion's Seedlings references this post in The Other Archipelago.


Rizalist said...

A WARM WELCOME FOLKS...It's cloudy and hazy in the Archipelago...Sorry if this post went in and out of cyberspace just now, but my eight year old PC is acting up and oh well, ... enjoy!

R. O. said...

I remember an article (by Wil Wylton) that gives a very different picture indeed of the so-called neocons, esp. Wolfowitz. I think what America needs is to fix its reverse image problem: world bully. What do you think about this?

Marcus Aurelius said...

Rizalist a very intriguing blog.

I am glad you mentioned Mr. Wolfowitz.

For years the left has been whining how the source of evil in the world is the US supporting tryants in an alliance against the USSR. No one was too evil (the left would complain) as long as they were against the USSR. Now, this thinking is changing and so too is the left on that thought. Their argument was taking hold and they dash it for another shiny pebble.

The problem is there are quite a few bad men in the world and the left points to all those other unmolested and bad men to try to claim some sort of hypocracy or ulterior motives. Prudence. In fact we just got our bases booted from one of the Stans for not being silent about massacres of protestors in that nation.

Why no neo-Edsa? I think exhaustion is as good an explanation as any. We came out once, twice, and now you want us to come again? What's next? We'll tell you what, have your political squabble and we will just stay at home doing our own thing. Especially when one considers if things get out of hand (a large political gathering with police determined to keep the order, a guard determined to keep protesters at a distance, and agitators equally determined to overcome the police and guard) then it can be very messy. No one really wants to be a part of a mess like that especially when the mess is guts and blood on the walk.

Up in Cheddarland we have cold, this morning was rain and snow and a long commute (made longer by the weather). Tomorrow is no snow but very cold and wind. With the holiday I get to stay home to cook and BLOG!

Rizalist said...

Hi XP, Yes they need better PR, but don't forget the Media there is just like the Media here, loyalties are divided, but they do tend to be "anti-"

Rizalist said...

Marcus Aurelius -- Welcome from all the way over in Wisconsin! Good points you raise about Wolfowitz, but I am feeling good making contact with Cheddarland. Lived there for a while "Wauwatosa" and know lots of people from General Electric MedSys. Helped to build the first CAT Scanners and giant xray tubes, went ice sailing on Peewaukee lake on a day just like you describe..thank god for the stone cold water and crisp clean air of Wisconsin!

Marcus Aurelius said...


Okay we'll narrow it down some more than. Appleton is where I live & Madison (for the time being) where I work.

Let me throw a name or two (or so) at you. Do you know Emraida Kiram? How about Dar Muceno? Josefina Gardinier? Have you checked out the following sites: and ?

When my wife first arrived one of the Filipino families we knew from the UAE was temporarily settled in Pewaukee so we met some people there. I can not recall their names, but our friends from the UAE moved onto New York.

Rizalist said...

Go Badgers! Been a quarter century since I lived in Milwaukee. But I had a friend whose last name was OTT in Appleton. Good to make contact with you, keep in touch.

Rizalist said...

Welcome everyone. If you find factual errors or typos in this post, please point them out to me. Philippine Commentary is like a living organism, like a plant or a tree, and often needs trimming and pollinating. But I cannot always see the trees for the forest and sincerely need your help.

Anonymous said...

As a sad fact our military is wanting of equipment
I have been an observer in the modernization of our military (observer as in I have been reading open exposed secrets ...use your imagination)

The modernization law is just a law till the fiscal crisis and last priority in national budget....

I think this just a leakage in the whitehouse,Langley or Pentagon

as we know we occupy the whitehouse from the kitchen to the chief of staff's office

Anonymous said...


I love having you as my daily dose

Thanks for the everyday knowledge and cloud eraser enlightening
words of wisdom

Anout wolfowitz
Due to my mixup of info having read to many stuff

I mixed up Cut it and cut it clean and the proponent of alcogas
to Marcos
that is why I displayed another round of ignorance in MLQ's blog

About US spanish war

I hope got my sources right when I said it started in Cuba and Americans came here when they got control of Latin America....

and that REgionalist/nationalist argument in MLQs brown brther
actually confused me more

can you email me a more clear picture including points above

many thanks


Anonymous said...

By Marlen V. Ronquillo
November is past tense

The message delivered to Marcos to “cut and cut clean” was the second to the last intervention from the United States government that changed the course of the nation’s history profoundly. This was in 1986 yet, before the family’s flight to Hawaii. The late US President Ronald Reagan and the Republican leadership just loved Marcos and wanted him to stay in power, perhaps forever. He was, in their eyes, a SOB, “ but our SOB.” These were the Cold War years and Marcos’ anticommunist rhetoric was as tough, strident and unbending as Reagan’s.