People Power

09 September 2005

A concerned citizen once commented: "MAJORITY RULES! who's the majority you think ha? those trapos in congress who murdered the impeachment? no no my dear. it's the PEOPLE who elected and put these congressmen in position." (NB: capitalisation and grammatical errors quoted as is).

Thus another irony that is lost in the sea of intellectual bankruptcy that is Philippine society. In a country peppered by souls still heady and giddy about Fiesta Revolutions of past, the rallying cry in response to an impeachment bid against President Gloria Arroyo that catastrophically failed to pass Congress on 06 Sep 2005 was once again -- you guessed it -- FIESTA REVOLUTION! Led by no less than Madame Ex-President, former Time Woman of the Year, and Ms 1986 "Revolution" herself -- Ms Corazon Aquino, what may now be billed Edsa IV (or Commonwealth Avenue I, as the case may be), promised to be another spectacle of sorts. This time there was no particular heir-to-the-throne around which the fete was organised. If it succeeded in its bid to amass enough warm bodies in the streets to make a statement, it would have marked a new low in the practice of a concept that Filipinos fancy themselves to have invented back in 1986. If it had failed, it will have further served to highlight the utter ridiculousness of how Filipinos conduct their affairs.

And failed miserably it did. Bursts of little street protests sporadically erupted in Manila's streets in the days following the House dismisal of the impeachment bid, but none even remotely approached the kind of numbers these would-be anarchists crowed in the days leading to Tueday. Each were in fact smaller in number than the equally ridiculous street gathering in Makati on 25 July.

Indeed, this penchant for Fiesta Revolution is but one in a multilayered cake of irony that is the Philippines (a cake, that routinely goes to waste):

  • A people who pinned their hopes on the democratic process of impeachment (a process than can have many outcomes), yet bizarrely expected only one acceptable outcome.
  • A people who elected their representatives to Congress by popular vote and then deny that these officers of the Legislature represent the will of the Majority.
  • A people who are now ready to once again infest Manila's streets and are looking to the "revolutionary" leadership of the mother of the current Constitution that frames the democracy that they presume to defend.
  • A people who fail to see that a chronic disillusionment with due process constitutes the seeds of anarchy. A state they, on the other hand, find distasteful when used in other contexts (such as the communist revolutionary context). The anarchy in the very street protests that are a response to a legitimate outcome of a democratic process such as impeachment is now and once again being used to uphold the anti-anarchy that is supposedly our Republic.

Belinda Olivares-Cunanan wrote in an INQ7.net article:

But more than this is the sorry move of former President Cory Aquino to lead the street protests because she and her followers cannot accept the House's 'closure' of the case, as this allegedly did not ferret out the 'truth.' As former President she ought to uphold the Constitution that was drafted under her rule. At the Batasan last Tuesday evening, a veteran of the Ninoy protest rallies came back to the session hall in near tears. She saw Ms Aquino walk out in the company of Sandra Cam, the confessed 'jueteng' illegal lottery bagwoman recruited by Sen. Panfilo Lacson to testify at the Senate jueteng hearings. Said this lady from the Visayas: 'Cory was our icon at Edsa. Now, she marches arm-in-arm with the relics of the Marcos era, the ultra rightists and the leftists who sought to 'rabble-rouse' the striking workers at Hacienda Luisita.' In a recent column, Star's Max Soliven also mourned Ms Aquino's call to her 'friends' in the military to join their protests.

So, in effect, Filipinos would have not accepted their duly constituted institutions and duly elected officials as the official authorities on the "Truth" yet would have easily relied on a street mob in yet another Fiesta Revolution to dictate and uphold said "Truth". This is tantamount to arbitrarily voiding Congress and allowing street mobs to call the shots from hereon. That it seems is what many Filipinos want. However, Filipinos have a track record of never going the whole nine yards when it comes to "revolution" (or anything else for that matter). Thus we have nothing more than Fiesta Revolution -- so much hate and tunnel-vision, but none of the conviction and wherewithal to go for the gold. The fact is, even in the happy sport of "revolution", Filipinos exhibit their world-renowned mediocrity.

The same hollow-headed challenges ring forth: "What next after the impeachment bid is dead?" Er, isn't this the part where we simply live with it and get on back to work? A democracy has never been known to deliver instant results. There are trade-offs to granting power to the people. One of these trade-offs is due process. Not happy with your representative? Societies that do not pretend to be democracies will simply guillotine an unsavory public official. Societies that consider themsleves "democratic" will wait for the next election.

Amando Doronila wrote what reads like a eulogy to Pinoy-style "people power" in an INQ7.net article on 09 September 2005:

One of the 'truths' that emerged from the dismissal of the impeachment complaints is that people power has been drained of its mystique as a magic formula to oust much-demonized leaders. The indiscriminate use of people power to overthrow unwanted leaders has drained its potency as a weapon for effecting political change. Its potency has been depleted by frequent use. The sputtering of protests after the House vote should be a rude reality check to Cory Aquino. She has been deserted by people power. And nothing could be more pathetic.

Which brings us to our final and most poignant Pinoy irony:

That the would-be "revolution" that failed the most miserably happens to be the one that was led by the lady who started it all!

Rest in peace Pinoy-style People Power. Congratulations Philippines!

Post script:
In what comes across as a last-ditch attempt to shore up hope for all self-styled "revolutionaries", the PCIJ posted an article on its blog site suggesting that Filipinos sing away their frustrations instead. The article cites a call to keep the spirit of Fiesta Revolution alive coming from a certain multi-awarded artist named Gary Granada:

Since our representatives have ceased to represent us, it is up to us to directly represent our sentiments and assert ourselves," said Granada. One way, especially for those inclined in the arts to "pursue yet another venue for reclaiming our voice" is through songs, he said, prodding songwriters and musicians from all over the country to create and share songs of protest.

Fair enough. No fiesta is complete without song and dance.

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