Feb 23, 2006

 

People Power at 20: Facing the myths and challenge of Arroyo

1. Twenty years ago this week, Filipinos committed a grave error by deposing the Ferdinand Marcos. The Filipinos violated the 1973 Constitution when they decided to give Marcos the boot.

2. In 2001, Filipinos repeated the same mistake when they violated the 1987 Constitution in ousting the popularly-elected Joseph Estrada.

3. This 2006, Filipinos seem bound to do exactly the same thing to Gloria Macapagal.

4. People Power is the culprit behind the destabilized political system, and the reason why foreign investors shy away from the Philippines. Concomitantly, it is a big reason why most Filipinos are poorer and more destitute today.

These four points could perhaps encapsulate the vilest lies about People Power that are being spread by Mrs. Arroyo and her supporters.

Of course, the two People Power uprisings were not mistakes, as what Mrs. Arroyo now claims.

The brutal and kleptomanic Marcos had to go after undertaking what could be considered a nationwide massacre of lives and rights of Filipinos that was important in ensuring that he, his family and his cronies would be able to raid the Philippine treasury with utmost ease. Anyway, the Filipino people have had enough of the brutality and plunder by 1986, especially following how Marcos brazenly proclaimed himself winner of the snap elections he didn't win.

People Power was actually the "final act" in nearly 14 years of continued struggle and resistance. Tens of thousands died fighting the dictatorship, with perhaps an entire generation of Filipinos resisting the status quo and joining the armed revolution and the revolutionary underground.

By the time soldiers announced their uprising in the wee hours of February 22, Filipinos were already sufficiently aroused and organized that mobilization was a matter of time and good timing. The putsch was the right time and the right timing to come out in full force to give the dictator his last stand.

In 2001, Estrada meanwhile had to pay dearly for his immorality, plunder and the way his allies in the Senate tried to crush the impeachment trial.

In both instances, People Power became the expression of the will of the real sovereign power in the Philippines -- the Filipino people. When they speak and take decision in a direct way, as in People Power, no law is above them. They are the law because they are the sovereign.

The uprising in fact involved tens of millions in Metro Manila and in many cities across the country. Overseas Filipino Workers contributed in their own way in vigils and protest actions in front of consulates and embassies.

Short of social revolution, People Power were effective ways to depose the two unwanted leaders who the established processes cannot remove and only invited direct people's action.

Indeed, it is a shameless lie to claim People Power 1 and 2, both or either one, were wrong or were mistakes.

Which brings us to the second and third points I wish to make: People Power actually saved the country from certain ruin under the two deposed leaders. And that it is not the fault of People Power that the people remain engulfed by poverty and despair under a political and economic system that's rotten to the core.

What really riles the people is that the post-People Power regimes miserably failed to demolish all the vestiges of the dictatorship and pursued fake "reforms".

No serious efforts have been undertaken to consistently uphold the civil, political and human rights of the people, and to cut down military influence that held sway under martial law. Thus, the continuing violations of our people's rights and a strong militarist mindset pervades in the supposed civilian government.

The "reforms" undertaken by all post-People Power regimes were actually poisonous impositions of the same international institutions and world power that backed up Marcos until the end: privatization, liberalization, deregulation and the complete sellout of our economy, patrimony and natural resources. No wonder, we now burden rising costs of living while being made to scrimp on low wages and meager social services.

Arroyo herself faces serious and unresolved allegations that she lied, stole, cheated and suppressed the Filipino people. That she didn't win in the 2004 elections, that she used public funds (including the recovered Marcos loot) for her own personal benefit, that she is baring her fascist fangs with her calibrated preemptive response and all out war, that she is not stopping but abetting the endless rise in prices of petroleum and basic goods and public utility rates, that she is insulting the people with her yarn about People Power.

As the nation marks the 20th year of People Power, let us pause and remember the big sacrifices our forebears made to fight and crush the dictatorship, and what we recently undertook in 2001.

Our remembrance should compel us to give the best kind of tribute to those who gave up their lives and the best kind of social insurance to the future: Cast aside unfounded fears, unite, wield People Power to oust Arroyo and make sure that the replacement would undertake reforms. No more mere changing of the guards. No more politics-as-usual.

Photo courtesy of Philippines Today website.



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