One wonders why people are still surprised that Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III’s call to his people to wear a yellow ribbon in support of his personal war against the Philippine Supreme Court had fallen flat on its face.It is a fact, that his and his family’s whole “Laban” (‘fight!’) thing had died a long time ago. We recall the way calls to the streets coming from his own mother, former President Cory Aquino had also been snubbed by a rally-weary people following a failed impeachment bid against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005.
Back then, the Opposition was supposedly faced with “no other option” but to call “the people” onto the streets after the incumbent government remained standing after an impeachment complaint against Arroyo failed to pass Congress on the 6th September 2005. The rallyists were to enjoy the support and leadership of Cory Aquino as its guiding beacon. Unfortunately for them this was, by then, one call too many after several years of street parliamentarianism since Arroyo’s ascent to power in 2001. And failed miserably it did. Bursts of little street protests sporadically erupted in Manila’s streets in the days following the House dismissal of the impeachment bid, but none even remotely approached the kind of numbers these would-be anarchists claimed they could mobilise.
Each were in fact smaller in number than the first big street rally in Ayala Avenue, Makati on the 25th July 2005 shortly after the release to the public of incriminating recordings of Arroyo speaking to a COMELEC official during vote counting back in the 2004 Presidential elections. Sunstar.com related an account of what transpired in a report published the day following the rally (excerpt below):
It looked like a huge street party with an interesting mix of characters… Street vendors were out in full force, peddling corn on the cob, boiled bananas, fish balls, deep-fried chicken gizzards on a stick and scoops of ice cream on hamburger buns…. Music and entertainment were another crucial component, keeping the crowds from drifting away. Pop stars crooned on a huge stage and the “Sex Bomb” dancers–a group of young women in tight white tops and blue capri pants–did the classic bump and grind.
Indeed, yellow-flavoured street parliamentarianism in the Philippines had already become a joke even back in 2005 when gimmicks had routinely become part of efforts mounted by organisers to “keep the crowds from drifting away.”
Amando Doronila wrote what reads like a eulogy to Pinoy-style “people power” in an Inquirer 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.
Back then, the lesson was already clear. “People power revolutions” (of the sort that happened in 1986) cannot be replicated by command. And as to those sporadic bursts of activist fervour that had erupted since 1986, it has been proven time and again that nothing of lasting consequence ever comes out of them.
This is the same conclusion University of the Philippines Law Professor Dante Gatmaytan articulated in the paper It’s All the Rage: Popular Uprisings and Philippine Democracy published in 2006 where he wrote…
Because it is temporary, people power does not claim to initiate structural reform. It is a declaration of outrage that dissipates when the immediate issue is addressed. It gives hope but cannot provide a blueprint for reform. The political processes are, therefore, left vulnerable to predation. People power may be triggered by the ideal of justice, but it cannot see beyond its own rage and—it lacks the vision of reform.Wandering aimlessly, it is easily hijacked by remnants of the state.
Indeed, President BS Aquino, in calling on Filipinos to wear a yellow ribbon to protest the Philippine Supreme Court decision to rule his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, had, in effect, sought to subtract rather than contribute to an effort to build a strong nation. He aimed to achieve nothing out of it of consequence to the Filipino other than to assuage the personal slight he felt following the SC ruling. The only thing he inadvertently achieved was further bring attention to the fact that he has, for the most part of the last four years of his term as President, remained loyal to a party affiliation built upon an obsolete mid-1980s activist notion rather than exhibit allegiance to the national colours.
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