Monday, February 25, 2008

Institutions or Insurgencies: Choose!

RONALD REAGAN's Secretary of State, George Schultz reportedly said in 1982,
"The Philippines is a country of forty million cowards and one Sonofabitch."

Ninoy Aquino found out a year later when he came home in 1983 just how big of an SOB Marcos really was, but Filipinos seem to have proven in 1986 that the above was only half true, although it took them long enough to prove Schultz wrong. I think many people were prepared to die when they answered the call of Jaime Cardinal Sin on Radyo Veritas. To protect the military rebels of RAM's Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Valdez Ramos holed up at Camp Aguinaldo in those momentous days of February, 1986, many people were prepared to use their bodies to block the tanks and troops of the Marcos regime, already then more 20 years long in tooth and claw.

Now because Marcos was indeed America's sonofabitch in the Philippines those long years, it has been comforting legend that he is all their fault. But he did it almost all on his own with help from Imelda. And what was it exactly that the Filipinos did in 1986 that they could not possibly have done in 1983, or 1973. Was George Schultz right? Why don't revolutions seem to do Filipinos much good and on the contrary, seem to lead inexorably to more revolutions?

TIME MAGAZINE tells the story of Ferdinand Marcos' last day in power on February 25, 1986 and the historic conversation with Republican US Senator Paul Laxalt, unmistakeably conveying Reagan's message to Marcos:

"At 4:15 p.m. Laxalt called Marcos, who immediately asked whether Reagan wanted him to step down. Laxalt said the President was not in a position to make that kind of demand. Then Marcos put the question directly to Laxalt: What should he do? Replied the Senator: "Mr. President, I'm not bound by diplomatic restraint. I'm talking only for myself. I think you should cut and cut cleanly. The time has come." There was a long pause that to Laxalt seemed interminable. Finally he asked, "Mr. President, are you still there?" Marcos replied, in a subdued voice, "Yes, I'm still here. I am so very, very disappointed."

In Manila it was after 5 o'clock in the morning of the longest day of Ferdinand Marcos' life. Before it was over, he would attend his final inauguration ceremony, a foolish charade carried out in the sanctuary of his Malacanang Palace. That evening, a ruler no more, he would flee with his family and retainers aboard four American helicopters to Clark Air Base on the first leg of a flight that would take him to Guam, Hawaii and exile."

It is very little appreciated what a decisive and pivotal role President Ronald Reagan played at a crucial moment of the Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986. Suppose for example that the message from Reagan to Marcos was not cut and cut cleanly but something like: "Do whatever yo have to do, we'll back you up!" ?

We might not be celebrating any such a thing as the peaceful Edsa People Power Revolution. If Ronald Reagan had not "withdrawn support" for Marcos and told him to hang tough, there might have been a bloody massacre and carnage on Edsa. Moreover, it is also under-appreciated that despite Marcos' raving insistence that he be flown to Paoay, (whereupon he could begin a bloody civil war or establish the Ilocano Republic), he nonetheless awakened the next morning in Hawaii. Aloha!

Like certain index species of frogs sensitive to environmental changes, Marcos' fall is seen by some as heralding the beginning of the end of the Cold War, being the first of many client states ("puppet regimes") of both superpowers to collapse in the years to come, though more noticeably for the Eastern bloc that came with the implosion of the Soviet Union's "Evil Empire".

But the idea that Filipinos taught the world "peaceful people power" -- or even caused the collapse of worldwide communism -- is simply too much. Mabuhay Radio of Los Angeles reveals how Bill Clinton started that idea with a magnificent piece of flattery during State visit to Manila in 1994. It has morphed into amazing claims that we are currently exporting democracy on a global scale!

CALOY CONDE of the NY Times/International Herald Tribune emails:
There's so much hand-wringing since Jun Lozada came out about People Power. Many were wondering at the seeming apathy of the public. Some even went to the extent of asking whether people power remains relevant. At least one bishop went on record saying that, in the case of People Power 2, they made a mistake in installing Arroyo. What do you make of this?
Cory Aquino, many of the CBCP's top leadership, and almost all the major politicians who helped to unseat Erap in 2001, have indeed, publicly or privately apologized to the only honestly elected Philippine leader in living memory, seriously flawed as he is. Unseating Erap may have been right, in the moral sense of what ought to be, but it was also illegal, unconstitutional and therefore unfair, because only the Senate had that power. It is metaphysically impossible to be unfair and expect to be JUST. In a way, Justice IS fairness.

The vote on the Second Envelop (16 Jan 2001) proved that Erap was sure to be acquitted at the the Senate Impeachment Trial. That was why Joker walked out and Davide soon aborted the trial instead of reconvening it. They did not abide by the Rule of Law and violated their oaths. Who, in History's vast audience will believe Erap validly and voluntarily resigned four short days later without duress and the threat of violence on his person? What first year law student can narrate what happened juridically with a straight face or without puzzlement? Even if he deserved to be removed and convicted,
Under the rule of Law, we must often abide by the WRONG result if it is fair--else a greater injustice would result. Which of course it did in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The sins of the Father are visited upon the children!

They didn't make a mistake installing Arroyo, who was VP under Erap. The mistake was in aborting the Impeachment Trial and not allowing the Senate to decide Erap's fate. Instead Hilario Davide, Angelo Reyes, Cory Aquino, Cardinal Sin and GMA as the main beneficiary ditched the Constitution to get rid of Erap without bloodshed. (But, DID we get rid of him after all??)

History records that Erap Estrada was treated like a moral cancer on the body politic almost from Day One of his Presidency. (For good reason!) He became a deserving target of society's moral guardians with his drinking, gambling, womanizing and intentionally Bad English as President. But his popularity and trust ratings with the Public at large have only grown despite being convicted of plunder last year. So much so that when he was pardoned by PGMA two months later, there was no public outrage of any kind. One decisive factor was the fact that Erap NEVER ran away from the charges against him, despite well publicized offers from the Palace for him to leave, free and clear, with his money and his reputation. That means that Joseph Estrada not only took his medicine like a man, he bowed to the Rule of Law.

Verily, God works in mysterious ways!

That can't be said for former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, for example, or former AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes, or the VP GMA herself. Together they conspired with Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino (who later admitted it) , to overthrow Erap Estrada four days after the Second Envelope Vote because it proved that Erap was going to be acquitted in the Senate Impeachment Trial. The entirely illegal Edsa II People Power Regime Change was premised on Erap being "permanently incapacitated" when Gloria was sworn in at noon on Saturday, 20 January 2001, as she claimed in a fax to the Supreme Court that arrived at 11:26 AM of that same Saturday morning. Later the Supreme Court retroactively changed that reason to "constructive resignation"! It's architects forced Edsa Dos to its stupendous conclusion because they had to abort the impeachment trial at all costs. They achieved the removal of Erap, but little else. And it seems, not even that!

The very essence of People Power as a genre of revolution is its bloodless and nonviolent nature. But we must not forget that graft and corruption and many other high crimes and misdemeanors are also bloodless and nonviolent, yet despicable nonetheless.

There is no high order mystery in the people's disenchantment with people power. It has failed to live up to its promises despite the damage to institutions of the Law. We have not been freed of our metastatic social cancer despite the radical surgeries of People Power.

Seeing the hardcore Edsa Dos People Power Revolutionaries now turning on the Monster they created in GMA and urging another people power amputation as a cure for Brain Cancer, maybe the Public is not showing apathy but a disdainful schadenfreude.

It's slowly sinking in.
The System of checks and balances is more important than any particular result or contingency. Democracy anticipates the emergence of EVIL at the highest levels of the government, not with the fallacies of direct democracy inherent in the People Power concept, but in the engineering design of a tripartite government and its mutually counter-vailing institutions.

MLQ3 justifies the use of People Power as a last resort for "when our representatives fail." He describes a very politically correct People Power (peaceful, egalitarian, moral, gender-neutral, organized yet spontaneous!). People Power as an extra-Constitutional Skyhook in which "the People" are able to enforce the morally right result if the Justice System cannot. Pull the tooth instead of saving it if it hurts too much from inner rot since root canals take too long even if the tooth is saved thereby. Nota bene: My problem with MLQ3 here is that we are either a representative democracy or we are not. The ideals of a direct democracy, which are being offered as a last resort under the label, People Power, are essentially ultra vires under our Constitutional representative democracy, because they violate One Man One Vote and the Rule of Law!

So far, People Power has not resulted in any real bloodbath, and perhaps the enchantment with it among the very best of our thinkers will not pass until that happens.

Impeachment should be the final stage of Public Accountability, not some imaginary process in front of, or inside a religious shrine. What needs fixing is the imbalance in the tripartite system that was wrecked by People Power 2! The Congress of the People is the INSTITUTION that has the sole and exclusive power to bring Constitutional officers to account. Davide and the 2001 Supreme Court rearranged the Machine and gummed up the works with that silly impeachment rule. That's what needs fixin'.

The Outrage of Conrado de Quiros (none better in this genre) is positively Biblical today as "Yahweh sends lightning in the direction of Baal!"

But over at Ellen Tordesillas' blog, where the Military is usually pictured as the murderous Philistine minions of Baal, strange how today they are suddenly "protectors of the people" and "outrage" from the generals and the soldiers is being awaited with bated breath. Turns out even moral outrage grows out of the barrel of a gun too, and People Power needs their help to do another "peaceful" putsch.

TIMEOUT...Eye Candy (Hat Tip: The Ignatian Perspective).
"Secret...!" Erap's response to a question about whether he is in touch with elements of the Philippine Military. He claims to be ready to take over again as President...Uggh! Then again Gloria asserts she is the president and the only president. Double Uggh!

The Traveler on Foot presents a powerful retrospective on a friar-led revolt in 1717 that led to the assassination of Governor General Bustamante. Allegory? Worth a visit just to see Felix Resurrecion's masterpiece depicting the event.
JOSEPH ESTRADA has just called upon President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign. This according to Pinky Webb, reading a statement of the former president made in an interview with Al Jazeera TV in Manila this morning.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan brings up a good point: PGMA could be impeached immediately after the Supreme Court rules that a flawed impeachment complaint (Pulido) had been given due course by the House Majority last July just to innoculate Pres. Arroyo. He said if the Court rules tomorrow the House could impeach her on Wednesday! The other important point Kiko had on ANC's noon time news was on Executive Privilege. Since Romulo Neri's case is up for resolution at the High Court, the admission of the President that she signed the ZTE deal with China despite knowing it was accompanied by irregularities becomes important to the Court's eventual verdict in this case. Since they have not decided it, they cannot ignore the facts now being widely publicized because in Senate v. Ermita, the Court itself places strict limits on the exercise of Executive Privilege. It cannot for example be used to shield irregularities! PDI's headline has Senate President Manny Villar opining that the admission could impeach the President.


Anonymous said...

Wala akong hibang na pangarap sa tapang ng pinoy. Noong maliit pa ako, sinabi ko sa isang taxi driver na hinde maka-pinoy ang ginagawa niya na mansamantala ng pasahero sa gitna ng kahirapan. Ng ikuwento ko ito sa kuya ko, ang sabi niya: yung ugali ng taxi driver ang ugali ng tunay na pinoy. Gumising ka!

DJB Rizalist said...

Don't forget your war paint!

MLQ3 said...

al mccoy has a very good account of what marcos really wanted to do. which was, crush the gathering at edsa. he wanted a tiananmen square solution. of course he didn't say so publicly. the problem was, ver was utterly incompetent and then the other generals balked at a tiananmen square style solution. and don't forget fm wanted to continue the fight from the ilocos, the way jee wanted to buy time so reinforcements could arrive from the provinces -and the same way the idea of holing up in cebu was dangled as an option for gma in 2005 and is being floated again, now.

Que Sera Sera Philippines said...

With all the preoccupation on rallies and people power and Senate investigations (which I don't mind as long as it deters corruption) will the country have enough time to insure a credible Presidential election in 2010?

Will we have an unbiased and incorruptible COMELEC by then? Will there be a quick and tamper proof system of counting the results and proclaiming the winners in place?

Or will it be another hard slog before a doubtful winner is declared?

If the problems facing the COMELEC to conduct an honest election is not fixed, then the Philippines should not bother about having an election in 2010 and just have people power sorties every six years!

Let those who shout the loudest and have proper access to media and the military decide who they want to be the President! Or maybe we should just leave it to Ellen to choose - Cheaper that way! LOL!

I am staying put and boycotting any call for People Power. For me once (I joined EDSA 1) is enough!

But if you want to join People Power 3 to People Power 99 (If you could live that long), so be it!

Que Sera Sera Philippines said...

I meant "you" as in the pro People Power people like Ellen and not "you" as in the blog owner...

I Actually agree to most if not all of what Dean has to say!

Does anybody actually know for sure (as in beyond reasonable doubt) who killed Ninoy Aquino after all these years?

What if it was all a big mistake? Could we have had gotten rid of the dictator by any other non-violent means- I mean Malaysia managed to get rid of Mahathir. So did Chile's Pinochet without People Power. Aren't these 2 countries more stable democracies now than the Philippines?

Just a thought?

Anonymous said...

Schultz is already dead. Wonder how he would characterize the situation today....90 million cowards and a b....

blackshama said...

I have stated in my blog that people power is evolving. Some "varieties" of this phenomenon may be short lived. In the Dawkinian sense the people power meme that is selected maybe something that most of us do not expect.

One thing is sure the Coryist kind of people power has been selected against.

The funny thing is that the Probinsiyanong Instik is the selecting factor!

I would have to vehemently disagree with you DJB that people have schadenfreude over the pathetic response to the Coryist people power meme. You and Her Majesty Gloriana may rejoice with unbridled joy but not I or the many of us in the salt mines. Well we have something in common with Gloriana. We have PhDs don't we? It may be so tempting to rejoice!

Democracy does not anticipate evil at every level of government. But if we use a Matt Ridley analogy, democracy is always a step against "evil". Democracy is evolving all the time.

The Constitution may remain constant in words but in practice it is applied in an evolving sense. That is the genius of the oldest written constitution and the oldest constitution in the world.

Amadeo said...

The report on the demise of George Shultz has been greatly exaggerated, borrowing from Mark Twain.

He is 87 and still able to kick.