‘Revolutionary’ governments have been a Filipino obsession since 1898 when the first such government was supposedly established by Emilio Aguinaldo to mark the Philippines’ so-called “independence” from Spain. Several “revolutions” later, including the recent 1986 EDSA “revolution”, Filipinos continue to pin their hopes on the anticipated revolutionary outcomes of these revolutions. What makes revolutions so appealing the Filipinos, it seems, is that these supposedly pave the way to a prosperous future.
It is easy, in hindsight, to take stock of the results delivered by these hopes in a better future that marked the euphoria following the 1898 and 1986 “revolutions”. They are similar to the same sort of hope that was in the air when the Philippines was granted “independence” by the United States in 1946 and then when Ferdinand Marcos launched his “New Society Movement” following his declaration of Martial Law in 1972. The short of it is that whether the momentous occassion involved a “revolutionary” transition of power or a sudden win for “freedom” (or whatever else was supposedly “fought” for), the long-term outcome was mostly that of abject disappointment.
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Out of the 1898 “revolution”, an independent Philippines did not materialise — at least one recognised by the rest of the world (evidently something important to Filipinos as we observe today). The 1946 granting of independence to Filipinos, likewise, turned out to be the Philippines’ peak year and, from there, it was all downhill. The New Society Movement held promise — but much of the wealth this created is owed to oligarchic enterprise and not much to the capital-creation prowess (or rather lack of it) of the Philippines’ indigenous population. Finally, the 1986 EDSA “revolution” raged on the promise that where there is freedom, prosperity will follow. Sadly, that too did not turn the Phlippines into a competitive economy at the leagues of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand which all powered ahead leaving Filipinos in their dust.
The lessons in all the dashed hopes that swirled around these “revolutionary” events in the Philippines’ history is that neither greater autonomy nor greater freedom translates to economic prosperity for the average Filipino. This lesson should then be applied when evaluating this most recent talk of “revolutionary government”, this time under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
As usual, the Philippine National “Debate” is missing the point of this issue by a mile. Much of this “debate” involves mere quibbles over legalities and technicalities, the predictable drawing of parallels with the Marcos regime, and speculations and conspiracy theories on people’s hidden agendas and sinister motives. In that regard, the Philippines’ political discourse, as usual, fails to offer real insight on this issue as it remains the sad meeting of small minds it has long been known as.
The true issue surrounding the effectiveness of any proposed political solution regardless of how “revolutionary” it is or not lies in the character of the Filipino. The right question Filipinos’ “thought leaders” should be raising is quite confronting:
Do Filipinos, as a people, possess the right character to seize the opportunities in the changes that will follow Duterte’s “revolutionary” government?
As was exhibited in the past, Filipinos have, throughout history, shown a lack of capability to capitalise on “more freedom” and “greater autonomy” (much less off full independence and unfettered “democracy”) to lay the foundation for real inclusive prosperity.Indeed, it can be generalised that political solutions do not deliver results for Filipinos — which brings to question the astounding energy Filipinos pour into their politics, their partisanism, and their political chatter on social media.
If such “revolutions” in national independence and transitions from “dictatorships” to free democracy throughout the Philippines’ history have consistently proven to be non-events as far as delivering tangible results to the ordinary Filipino (or to the overall value of the Philippines to the world, for that matter), perhaps it is high time we consider the common denominator across these failures. That common denominator is staring back at us when we look into the mirror.
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