The 1986 EDSA Revolution’s legacy: Three key aspects of the 1987 Constitution that hobbles Philippine progress

It’s that time of the year again when we celebrate that supposedly seminal event in Philippine history when, according to the local lore, the forces of evil (porportedly the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos) were vanquished by the forces of good (supposedly the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan).

Marcos removed. Game over.

The 1986 “People Power” EDSA “revolution” is finished.

Song-and-dance: The late Cory Aquino with former President Gloria Arroyo
Song-and-dance: The late Cory Aquino with former President Gloria Arroyo
Somewhere between that point and the turn of the century, EDSA 1986 became all about the “heroism” of the late Ninoy Aquino and former president Cory Aquino. What happened to the contribution of the military elements that were also instrumental to achieving this happy ending? As the favourite philosophy of the average Filipino politician goes, “What are we in power for?” The EDSA revolution, we are told, was all about the reinstatement of the supremacy of civilian government. As such, the civilian component of this “revolution” were the good guys and the key characters in its military aspect were the bad guys.

Tough luck for the army:

The winners get to write the history books.

Jim Paredes himself used this very winners’ privilege against his Twitter archrival Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, saying that “The people went with good intentions. But the coup plotters had other intentions different from ours”. So the “people” (presumably those who did “People Power”) had good intentions, while the “coup plotters” had other intentions — agendas, if you like. What were those “good intentions” supposedly harboured by that subset of the cast of characters that were involved in this “revolution” who are favoured by today’s history writers? It’s all in the narrative told by those who emerged “Victorious” from this “revolution” and who went on to legitimise themselves as the new civilian government of the Republic and whose “heroism” is now trumpeted continuously by the Big Media owners of that cultural artifact now known as “Edsa”.

The emotionally-charged song, dazzling dance, and nebulous symbolism that is continuously delivered into every Filipino’s living room everyday by Big Media — Paredes’s Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo, Tito Sotto’s Panahon Na, the Yellow merchandise that emerge from the commercial woodwork on every Aquinoist occasion — these all symbolise those so-called “good intentions” that define “Edsa”.

But beyond the paraphernalia that represent these “good intentions” where exactly are the specific artifacts that “symbolise” those “long-term aims” that remain unfulfilled today? The second Aquino president himself, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, is increasingly under critical scrutiny owing to a lack of any evidence of a plan of some sort that leads to fulfilling a vision of some equal sort.

When the dust settled in the months following the 25th February 1986 street “revolution” that ousted Marcos and seemingly (at the time) ended decades of government thievery, Filipinos were left with a Constitution within which remained enshrined key tenets that were to hobble the country’s development in the three decades that were to follow. These tenets include, among others:

(1) use of a method of selecting state executives and legislators on the basis of their mass popularity rather than by their professional qualifications;

(2) persistence of an investment policy that ensures continued domination of key Philippine industries and assets by the traditional clique of oligarchs and clansmen; and,

(3) prohibition of the establishment of foreign military bases within Philippine territories.

These three features of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines that was pretty much the single biggest enduring legacy of the 1986 “revolution” alone have collectively contributed the majority bulk in the sack of intractable issues now exerting its crushing weight on the back of the average Filipino — the thievery being perpetrated by politicians elected to office by the popular vote, the continued delivery of (at best) mediocre services by for-profit corporations that manage the nation’s critical infrastructure, and the severely-atrophied military capability that reduces the Philippines to whining about its international “rights” under the thumb of a vast military superpower that considers itself above international law.