Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: March 2022

First of a series

LAST week, candidates started campaigning for 18,000 local elective positions. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) came out with some interesting tidbits. Eight hundred forty-five (4.7 percent) are running unopposed. But at the Congress, three-fourths of whom are members of political dynasties, 39 (15 percent) of 253 seats are unchallenged. This is a measure of how traditional politics permeate our system of governance. In the presidential derby, political realignments are currently volatile and disquieting.

First off, PRRD's PDP-Laban faction finally endorsed Marcos as "the candidate whose vision of governance is most aligned with the party's 11-point agenda...." Sen. Manny Pacquiao, presidential standard-bearer of the PDP-Laban Pimentel faction retorted, "...PDP-Laban members backing Marcos are stupid trapos... this party was formed to fight the rule of Ferdinand Marcos...." Here is a kettle calling the pot black — as Manny himself was a member of six or seven other political parties before being drafted into PDP-Laban. Manny is also fixated on the Marcos père — perfunctorily visiting onto the son the sins of the father. Speculation is rife that Duterte himself will eventually endorse BBM, which could really be awkward as he has been labeling BBM and the Marcoses as "mga kawatan."

Lately, the political circus is building up toward fever pitch with dancing beasts and clowns front and center. A consortia of family members, sycophants and political hacks bound purely by prurient interest that pass for political parties are now scouting for the next patron they can suck up to once the lame duck President Duterte exits the scene.


To understand the Philippines' convoluted politics, a brief description on how our unitary-presidential system breeds and nurtures tradpols impacting on our political party system. In this system, the president runs supreme where manna flows for the next six years. Presidential elections are merely opportunities for these unscrupulous politicians, power players and their oligarchic allies to sell their souls to the eventual winner. Political parties gamble on the most probable victor — in this case, BBM or Leni. Whoever wins, the early bird gets to partake of the early worms — political gravy galore. This system causes candidates and future legislators to flock to the party of the president, expecting entitlements contravening the role of political parties as institutions for legitimate political reforms.

Almost all of the political parties in the Philippines are structured in a manner that hew close to the centuries-old patronage system, with few exceptions. The top dog, customarily the funder, calls the shots. Allies and subalterns man critical committees. Party platforms are simply lifted from Wikipedia, passing them off as strategy for governance.

Invariably, political parties do not have a uniquely consistent set of beliefs that distinguishes one from the other; at most they proffer slogans and motherhood statements — googled political doctrines. Their agenda is predictably directed toward the preservation of elective members' prerogatives, ensuring the continued accumulation of pelf and privilege for themselves, their families and their allies.

Individual programs and family interest, perforce, have precedence over that of a political party's collective appreciation of society's needs. And once they are gifted the privilege to govern, public policies are instituted on the fly emanating from the framework of traditional political practices, their comprehension of national issues seen subjectively through the prism of personal and family interest, thus perpetuating the existing flawed political institutions.

Ingenious party realignments

The National Unity Party (NUP) was a breakaway of the Lakas-Kampi CMD of President GMA in 2010 at the twilight of her patronage. NUP subsequently joined PNoy's coalition in the 2013 elections while other members allied themselves with the other leading party — the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), founded by Vice President Jojo Binay, its standard-bearer. By 2016, the NUP became part of the PDP Laban-led Duterte coalition. Today, a lame duck Duterte simply awaits the next padrino anointed come May 9. The NUP, believed to be funded by oligarch Ricky Razon, is now betting on BBM-Sara.

Partido Reporma's recent decision to drop their chairman and presidential standard bearer, Ping Lacson, could be seen as a tragic turn of events but really just reflects the state of our politics and pseudo-political parties. The real power is former House speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez who wiped out Sara Duterte's regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro, along with her compatriots, Tony Boy Floirendo of the oligarchic clan and the del Rosarios who owned the governorship of Davao del Norte for decades. No love lost between Sara and Bebot, whom the former caused the latter's loss of the speakership, replacing him with GMA — there was no way Bebot could support the BBM-Sara ticket. As they say — all politics are local. And dirty and duplicitous!

But Alvarez's statements twisting the knife on Ping Lacson needs to be read in full as a classic nauseating example not only of his person, his political party but also reflecting what is wrong with politics in the country. "Partido Reporma has always sought to represent the better ideals in politics, mindful of the limitations imposed by a far from perfect world, but faithful to the aim of attaining good governance — through reform — as its constant guiding north star. xxx... There is no doubt that, after a thorough search, we found a once in a generation candidate, a rare gem (Lacson) who devoted his entire life to exceptional public service, risked life, and limb for his countrymen, cleaned the ranks of the police force when he led that institution, fought against corruption, and advocated consistently and credibly for good governance." Now he speaks with forked tongue and sings hosannas to Leni whom he once described as "dumb and a traitor," calling for her impeachment.

There are other political parties waiting on the sidelines trying to divine whom the political gods will favor. One of the older ones is the Nacionalista Party (NP), funded by the real estate magnate Manny Villar who propelled wife Cynthia to number one winning senator in the elections of 2013, with his son conveniently ensconced as secretary of the Department of Public Works (DPWH) and Highways in 2016 — now also running for senator.

Another oligarch-funded party is the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC). It was founded as a breakaway of the NP adopting Danding Cojuangco for his presidential run in 1992. Danding's protegee and now head of his own conglomerate, Ramon Ang, funds NPC. They have not indicated their preference yet but like the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK), they make a last-minute endorsement on the winning candidate.

All these political parties decide on supporting the patron that best serves their own self-interest with nary a consideration for the welfare of the citizenry. They may be partisans on candidates running for office. But once the victor emerges, they flock to his banner — thus continuing the traditional political practices in the country. Unless this dysfunctional system is changed, the country will not move forward. But there are political parties that may prove to be different from the herd. These are those that go through the pain of their decision-making process and thus take responsibility for their choices.

Next week: The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), et al.

Published in LML Polettiques

LESS than 50 days from now, the PRRD regime will have come to pass. I have been critical of many of the President's policies and acts of commission and omission. For one, he should have taken proactive steps to resolve an ethical dilemma on the Pharmally scandal — after his people, evidently with his acquiescence, were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. His response instead was to double down. But I have also praised him for his accomplishments. He will leave behind much needed infrastructure projects. His Build, Build, Build program is vital to the economy's future take-off. Although it has cost our government an arm and a leg in the light of the pandemic that ravaged us economically, still, these investments will yield positive results for the next generations, far into the future. But we will leave it to history to pass final judgment on his six-year watch.

Failed political reforms

PRRD understood fully well the ideological profile of the PDP-Laban, the left of center political party that adopted him, and that of the Centrist Democrats (CDs) that supported him. That the roots of the problems of poverty, corruption, impunity and injustice which have plagued Philippine society for generations are traceable to systemic anomalies in governance. That some of the solutions are to be found in political reforms and systemic overhaul of a dysfunctional unitary government. Centralized authority and decision making have to be dispersed to the periphery where the people most affected are best allowed to solve their own problems as seen in their best lights.

He allowed baby steps with the creation of the BARMM — which was to be the template of an eventual federal government. He envisioned a parliamentary government, requiring the revision of the 1987 Constitution. Too bad, he dropped the ball on the more important promises he made during his candidacy. Worse, he presided over the PDP-Laban's messy political suicide — not even an honorable hara-kiri.

Lessons learned

A critical lesson learned from the Deegong's regime is that charisma and a proclivity to intermittently display alpha-male behavior dear to the Filipino masses passing off as a display of "political will" is not enough. A president needs to build a real constituency with his various authorizing environment, particularly the executive's co-equal branch, and play along with the real power behind the systemic changes — starting with the revision of an anomalous constitution. This is the Senate's prerogative. He did inordinately well installing his sycophants in the Senate — PDP-Laban senators imbued with the language of political reforms — Go, Bato and Tolentino, along with Pimentel, scion of the party founder. But it was too late in the day to change the Constitution. Even his Charter Change Consultative Committee (2018 ConCom) peopled by renowned constitutionalists, the likes of Reynato Puno, Nene Pimentel, Antonio Nachura and Reuben Canoy, among others, didn't make a dent with a Senate bent on preserving its prerogatives.

It is therefore imperative for the voters this time around to install not only a president who would go for structural reforms but also senators who will put into law the process of revising the 1987 Constitution. Currently, the three leading presidential candidates (by latest trending polls) are Bongbong Marcos (BBM), Leni Robredo and Isko Moreno. BBM and Leni both professed to push for the changes in the 1987 Constitution but are not clear on the exact formula on the "what and how." BBM's priority is to clear and rehabilitate the Marcos name. Charter revisions is not a priority for him. Many speculate that he will indulge in "historical revisionism" to present an alternative narrative to what the five administrations post-Ferdinand had proffered.

On the other hand, Leni's antecedents and core base are the remnants of the Liberal Party whose prominent actor professed from the very start in 2010 that not one word of his mother's constitution be altered. Leni herself is ambivalent. Both BBM and Leni have yet to present in no uncertain terms a road map on how to bring about political-economic-social reforms short of motherhood statements.

Isko coming in third seems to be the candidate who understands the need for Charter revisions and has a vision for the country on systemic changes which include a federal-parliamentary government in lieu of a unitary-presidential one and institutionalization of political parties, strongly condemning the perverted party-lists.

What needs to be revised

I have been writing in my columns ad nauseam on what needs to be changed. With the required smattering of motherhood statements, I reprint the Centrist Democrat's (CD) credo (please visit our website www.cdpi.asia). A preamble sets the tone for the CD positions; our core value of human dignity, guided by principles of Christian and Muslim social teachings.

"Political, economic and social order must be so logically designed that the dignity of each person is protected and promoted. An atmosphere of freedom is a prerequisite upon which human dignity is enhanced. Self-determination by everyone, an essential component, is the impetus for collective expression toward the development of a just society."

"To be more specific the guiding principles are simple: 1) a strict adherence to democracy and the rule of law; 2) a parliamentary government based on program-oriented political parties; 3) a decentralized state structure with regional autonomy and local self-government, leading towards federalism; and 4) a 'social market economy' with a well-functioning open market, protected by a strong state."

Current Senate profile

If they adhere to their party's positions the four PDP-Laban senators (Go, Bato, Tolentino and Pimentel) could provide the backbone for Charter revisions, joined by Imee Marcos, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano and Bong Revilla.

This bloc going for Charter revisions already comprises three-fourths of the incumbents; with Cynthia Villar whose vehemence against federalism and Charter revisions are well documented, joined by Grace Poe and Nancy Binay. But as always among traditional politicians, negotiations and deal-making are a legitimate part of lawmaking although the sordid pragmatic bartering of their beliefs and integrity are a stock in trade. It is thus incumbent upon the voters who are adherents of systemic changes in the government structures to recalibrate their assessment of their favorite senatorial candidates. We need the 19th Congress to pass laws calling for a constitutional convention for the revision of the 1987 Constitution.

2022 senatoriables

Of the current crop of 20 Senate bets, many of whom are tradpols trending up in various polls, eight carry advocacies antithetical to the CD position. Among these are Loren Legarda, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Jojo Binay, Win Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Herbert Bautista and Dick Gordon.

Those whose advocacies are congruent with Charter change and Centrist Democratic positions are four: Migs Zubiri, Robin Padilla, Risa Hontiveros and Gibo Teodoro.

The remaining eight on the list are either ambivalent or uninterested in such issues. Among these are Raffy Tulfo, Mark Villar, Gringo Honasan, Jinggoy Estrada and half-brother JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Guillermo Eleazar, and Harry Roque Jr.

This columnist is in no way endorsing or disparaging these candidates. In the next columns, I will be describing in depth their positions relevant to my advocacies. Similarly, I ask readers to email me their preferences and why.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 16 March 2022 08:13

Closing act to Putin's war

TODAY marks the 20th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In the coming days Putin will unveil his endgame. Thousands will be dead and those that fled the cities are the lucky ones. Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Odessa will be reduced to rubble, proverbially comparable to when Tokyo and Japanese cities were firebombed, systematically killing civilians toward the end of World War 2. More Japanese were killed from the two atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war.

These two scenarios are different for both countries — America in 1945 and Ukraine in 2022 — yet paradoxically similar. America didn't want American boys to die in hordes by invading the Japanese homeland. US forces know only too well the resolve of a desperate people when American blood flowed, and precious lives wasted in what was to be considered pyrrhic victories for American forces in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The iconic image of the Marines raising the American flag in the summit of Mount Suribachi belies the fact that America did not have the stomach for 7,000 Americans dead and another 20,000 wounded out of 70,000 who fought for 36 days. True, the Japanese were annihilated almost to a man with only a handful alive against the 21,000 Japanese dead. But the price of American victories was unacceptable. Thus, the firebombing and the atomic bombs

In contrast, America will not shed blood for Ukraine. No "boots on the ground"! With its NATO allies, the US will simply arm Ukraine, encourage it to resist, and Russian and Ukraine boys will die. Victims all for a surrogate war for democracy. Not a drop of American blood spilled. But this act by America and NATO using Eastern Europeans to butcher each other is pushing Putin into a corner. Putin will not allow Russian boys to die in hordes in a protracted war with Ukraine. Putin has alternatives at his disposal, one of which is almost unthinkable. But as a superb poker player, Putin has gone "all-in" and put his nuclear options in play. But nuclear war will not happen. Putin understands only too well the theory of mutual assured destruction (MAD). American resolve is no match for Putin's when this war is being waged at Russia's borders. Russia will win. America, true to its democratic principles and concepts of freedom, will allow the blood of Ukraine and Russia to flow for the very concepts America holds dear.


John Mearsheimer, an American political scientist, is featured in a widely distributed video clip examining the antecedents of the Ukraine question. He argues that Ukraine was an unmitigated disaster. To understand its nature, it is necessary to examine the facts establishing who were responsible for this debacle. His disturbing but logical conclusions negate the conventional wisdom that Putin and Russia bear primary responsibility. The United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are to blame for this disaster, inferring from a series of moves which the alliance executed from the time the USSR was dissolved in the early 1990s. (Please refer to my TMT column of March 9, 2022.)

The US and NATO's behavior were singularly directed toward winning the Cold War, a period of geopolitical tension after WW2 principally between the United States and the USSR. This era saw the emergence of communism competing with liberal capitalism for world hegemony. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the liberal capitalist Western countries arrogated upon themselves the entitlements of the victors. NATO, formed to provide collective security against the Soviet Union, was free to expand outside its original sphere of influence, encroaching upon the old members of the Warsaw Pact, the military alliance of the USSR and its satellite states which subsequently folded in 1991.

NATO initiatives on Ukraine

But in April 2006, after having successfully recruited some old Warsaw Pact members to NATO, its three-prong approach to expand NATO became very clear. The first was to integrate Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, subsequently into the European Union and eventually converting them to pro-Western liberal democracies, putting in place the effects of the Orange Revolution.

The Orange Revolution was a series of daily protests, strikes and civil disobedience in Ukraine running for three months in the autumn and winter of 2004-2005 following the presidential election marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and electoral fraud. The votes were rigged by government authorities in favor of Soviet-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. The Supreme Court annulled the election. In a run-off, Viktor Yushchenko, perceived to be sympathetic to the West, won.

Putin's line in the sand

Soviet influence was unraveling. A pro-American Ukraine at Russia's border was unacceptable. Yet the Western alliances proceeded in making Ukraine a de facto NATO member. Putin unequivocally announced that this was a line in the sand that NATO could not cross. Ukraine's membership was an "existential threat" to Russia.

In retaliation, in August of 2008, Russia waged war against Georgia. Upping the ante, in February 2014, a crisis erupted in Ukraine precipitated by a coup, supported by the US and NATO, overthrowing President Yanukovych (who succeeded Yushchenko), replacing him with a pro-American president. This was the Euromaidan Uprising. Putin's response was to invade and annex Crimea while fomenting civil disturbance in its predominantly Russian-speaking Eastern Donbass region.

The second major crisis building up was in 2021 when Ukraine was being treated as a de facto NATO member with US-supplied arms and drones used against the Donbas region rebels; a British warship sailing in the Black Sea — long regarded as a Russian lake; and US bombers flying 14 miles off the Russian coast. These all proved to be the axiomatic last straw that broke the camel's back. Today, we have a real war!

Aggressive policy initiatives

American pundits, the policy elite in Washington D.C. and mainstream media have been selling an alternative narrative that this is not about NATO expansion but Putin recreating the glory days of the USSR or a Greater Russia. American and NATO's role were disguised, elevating instead Putin as the aggressor.

Mearsheimer's contention is that even before the first crisis on Feb. 22, 2014, during the Crimea annexation, nobody was arguing Putin was an aggressor. Putin never said he was bent on recreating the USSR or Greater Russia. He was not out to conquer Ukraine or plan to reattach Ukraine to a Greater Russia. Putin never did want to occupy Ukraine, nor did it want Ukraine to join NATO. It serves the interests of both Russia and Ukraine for the latter to remain pro-Russia — sitting as a buffer at its western boundary.

In fact, "Obama was caught with his pants down because the US didn't think Russia, Putin were aggressive. Putin doesn't have enough military to recreate Russia and economically Russia has a GNP smaller than Texas." Thus, incapable of confronting the full might of America and NATO.

Putin only understood too well the lessons of occupying Eastern European countries as a prescription for trouble during the Cold War: 1953 in East Germany; 1956 in Hungary; 1968 in Czechoslovakia; and problems with border countries Poland, Romania and Albania.

But you don't poke the Russian bear in the eye. The US and NATO did.

And God help Ukraine.


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 09 March 2022 09:36

Ukraine: Putin's war — a briefer

SINCE December when Russian troops were massing at Ukraine's borders, social media was inundated by requests for prayers anointing Zelenskyy as the good guy and Putin, the devil incarnate. These supplications accelerated as Russian troops crossed over.

In the Philippines, half a globe away, our prayer warriors were occupied storming heaven imploring the divine providence to intercede in Ukraine's favor with incantations of Oratio Imperata with the same fervor as Catholics did against Covid. The charming thing about Filipino Catholics, Christians and "born again" is their propensity to "oratio imperata" everything, from natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and even the 1986 People Power uprising. This one-prayer-fits-all is very convenient for the cultural habits of Pinoys' "bahala na ang Panginoon," implying fatalism, leaving to the almighty the pretext of trusting the Lord to solve all problems.

Prayers will not help Ukraine now. Putin is unfolding his endgame pursuing what to him is in the best interest of Mother Russia — an altogether justifiable response to what America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have been doing all along.

Just imagine NATO with its short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) at the borders of Russia. How was it different when Khrushchev in 1962 stationed missiles in Cuba just outside America's borders? Kennedy drew the line then as Putin similarly has drawn the line now. NATO's overture to Ukraine after the USSR's collapse is tantamount to Putin's Red Line that America and the West have long crossed. Online prayers were never asked when America and NATO in essence actually provided a casus belli for Putin's acts.

Fall of USSR

To put these developments in proper perspective, it is necessary to look back at the recent history of Ukraine and Russia. One could go back centuries to the time from 1187 to the 1600s when Ukraina began to take shape. But the more appropriate time period for our purposes was during the intervening years of 1989-1992 at the dissolution of the USSR. The collapse started on Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's watch when the USSR loosened its grip on the Eastern European countries (Soviets) composing the USSR, allowing them multi-party elections that began a slow process of democratization. This led to destabilization of communist control and the ensuing momentum caused the greatest modern symbol of communist Soviet hegemony to fall — the Berlin Wall. America, the USSR's greatest Cold War rival was not exactly gloating on the sidelines. Nevertheless, this was a humiliating blow to the hardline Russian communist elite — though the Russian people and the freed Soviet republics welcomed Gorbachev's reform agenda and subsequently President Boris Yeltsin's rapid economic reforms.

Rise of a despot

One who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall was a KGB apparatchik, an undercover spy in East Germany named Vladimir Putin. The aftermath was chaotic for Russia that lost 15 of its Soviets and 2 million square miles of territory, including the second biggest after Russia itself — Ukraine. This was seen as the century's greatest geopolitical disaster, ushering in political and economic chaos in part caused by unfamiliarity of capitalist concepts introduced after decades of socialism. This tectonic shift in the economic paradigm brought to the surface the shady part of capitalism — graft and corruption, pervading all levels of bureaucracy. Putin came at the right time during Russia's metamorphosis. From a KGB master spy, he entered politics, went up the political ladder in 1991 as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin only understood too well the private capitalist game and began to create his own network involving his own set of wealthy friends; assigning them lucrative government contracts, unauthorized use of city government coffers; collaborating with various crime organizations purportedly to regulate the gambling industry and accumulating funds overseas through money laundering. It is alleged that Putin's political umbilical cord was intertwined with his old KGB security network of displaced officers, corrupt politicians and even crime syndicates making him the darling of the oligarchy. This cabal propelled him to national politics in 1999 when the politically weak President Yeltsin appointed him prime minister of Russia. This gave Putin, a fierce Russian nationalist, a springboard to regain Russia's glory in the next two decades.

NATO and Warsaw Pact

A predominantly Christian Orthodox non-Islamic country, Ukraine was one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union from its 1922 founding until its collapse in 1991; whereupon it reverted back to a status as an independent republic. It was the biggest and the most populous after Russia itself and the USSR's westernmost border.

Here the complications begin as it played footsies with the arch enemy of Russia — the US-led NATO. Established in 1949 after WW2 by 12 Western European nations, NATO expanded to 30 allies bolstered by erstwhile members of the USSR's similar alliance — the Warsaw Pact, a collective defense treaty established in May 1955 during the Cold War, composed of seven socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe. Dominated by Russia, the Warsaw Pact was meant as a balance of power to NATO. But the bloc began to unravel upon the collapse of the USSR. East Germany withdrew upon its reunification with West Germany, followed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as did the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Revolution of dignity

Ukraine's relationship with Russia has always been complicated even beyond 1922. In 2013, large-scale protests erupted, known as Euromaidan, against President Victor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a popularly supported political association and free trade agreement with the European Union. These protests turned violent and continued for months, resulting in Yanukovych's ouster, who then fled to his patron, Putin. In response, Putin considered the new interim Ukraine government illegal. The protest turned into a full-scale revolution giving Putin the alibi to annex Ukraine's southern peninsula of Crimea and recognize the Russian-sponsored separatists states of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the southeast collectively known as the Donbas region.

In 2016, the UN General Assembly condemned the annexation, "...the occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine — the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol."

America and its allies countered with wimpish economic sanctions, unwilling to go to war in Ukraine's behalf. NATO's castration set the stage for Putin's second act.

The road to war

For Putin, Ukraine was "...tied to Russia by bonds of faith, family, politics and a millennium of common history." (Simon Shuster, Road to War) Putin's closest Ukrainian friend, Victor Medvedchuk, the leading voice for Russian interests in Ukraine, controls the biggest political party opposition in parliament. Over the past year, that party has come under attack. Medvedchuk was charged with treason and placed under house arrest. Days after President Joe Biden's inauguration, President Zelenskyy took Medvedchuk's TV stations off the air, depriving Russia of its propaganda outlets in the country. His assets were seized, among which was the crown jewel of the Medvedchuk family, the pipeline that brings Russian oil to Europe. The US embassy in Kyiv and America applauded the move. Huge mistake!

Thus, on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin made his move.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 02 March 2022 09:29

EDSA People Power 1986 redux

TODAY, while Covid-19 may no longer be as lethal compared to the past 25 months or so when the Grim Reaper stalked the land harvesting 6 million souls worldwide, our fear of death has subsided, leaving us simply to mourn our loved ones. In time, that too will fade and only the scars of the healing wounds will remain. But the protocols imposed by Covid will somehow linger, altering our behavior and our "concept of normal" for the foreseeable future.

Back home from my vacation-cum-Omicron exile in America, I am confronted with an issue still relevant, particularly to the presidential elections — referring to the last days of February 1986. Its peculiarity revolves around how people perceive and treat events over time, just like our Covid experience, particularly the propensity of Filipinos to adapt to the changing realities, altering details of their own stories to conform to those changing narratives.

People Power uprising

The same is true when it comes to the changes in our perceptions of the events of February 1986, which for the past three decades many of us have hailed as our narrative and memories of the EDSA People Power Revolution (EDSA1). Thirty-six years is more than a generation and half of the participants on both sides of the divide are gone. It is perhaps better for our society that those partisans are now being replaced — by attrition — by the young who have their own stories to tell. And these young Filipinos who have no intimate connection to EDSA1 will nevertheless have to navigate the political crosscurrents generated by the remnants of EDSA1.

The ghosts of EDSA1 are still alive in those few holdouts who are now back to carve their own little stories from our histories and memories projecting the same as "the truth." The main protagonist of course is the son of the deposed Ferdinand Marcos himself who was ignominiously booted out by the original "yellow forces" in 1986. And I can't blame the son for crafting his own narrative. He may well be in a position to proffer his own version to vindicate the family name if he wins. It is obviously the primary duty of a loyal son. It is not the same, however, for the opportunists who must alter the narratives on the whims of political fortunes.

The opportunists

Juan Ponce Enrile is such a one, now 98 years old, who at 62 deserted his mentor, friend and sponsor Ferdinand, now changing his tune, along with Gringo Honasan vying for another term in the Senate. The actual events at EDSA1 would not have happened on those heady days of February 1986 were it not for their bungling with the help of a cabal of the colonels of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). Enrile, Honasan and the RAM provided the trigger.

Were it not also for the call of Cardinal Sin for the people to mass and protect these mutineers, they would have been kaput. And the timely infusion of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) under Gen. Fidel V. Ramos gave a much-needed boost to the mutiny. Cory was not at EDSA during the breakaway on February 22, a Saturday. She was in Cebu for a rally of the original Yellow forces and on her way to Davao the next day. But make no mistake, the EDSA1 phenomenon was a culmination of a cowed people's anger over the injustices and repression of martial law. All these were embodied in a frail woman, a mere housewife who acknowledged she was not meant to lead — but fate and circumstances intervened to elevate Cory as the leader and symbol of a hopeful masses.

Several years after the euphoria of the uprising had subsided and a modicum of normalcy descended upon the people, we had the luxury of introspection. Cory has always maintained that her role was simply to reestablish normalcy upon the "restoration of democracy" ushered in by EDSA1, although many of us in the struggle against the dictatorship, years before the appearance of the Aquinos, had expected more. I wrote then:

Promises unfulfilled

"Many of us in the decades-long struggle for real democracy from the mid 1960s. adherents of the parliamentary-federal structure of government, were enthusiastic in supporting Cory Aquino as she was our symbol against the repressive dictatorship. We understood too that she was from the elite and her values therefore were those of her class, but we were hopeful that she would transcend these with the outpouring of love and adulation shown by the masses — whose values were not congruent to hers.

"A few of us recruited to her administration implored her to continue to rule under the Revolutionary Constitution to give herself more time to dismantle not only the martial law structures but the unitary system of government which we then and still now believe perverted the principles of democratic governance. We were no match for the ruling class. Cory surrendered her prerogatives to real socio-economic-political reforms by rejecting the people's gift — the 1986 Revolutionary Constitution. She then proceeded to embed her dogmas in her 1987 Constitution.

Original Yellows vs Dilawans

"We were all 'Yellows' then, as this was the color we wore after the assassination of Ninoy, symbolizing our protest against this dastardly act, and our struggle to boot out the dictator Marcos from power and institute real reforms. The masses that congregated at EDSA were a motley crowd of Filipinos from all walks of life, from ordinary folks to members of the elite and some of the oligarchic families dispossessed by the Marcos cronies; members of religious groups, Islam and Christians prominently headed by Cardinal Sin and the Catholics. We all had disparate motives but wielded together by pent-up anger against the Marcos family."

"Some of us are no longer Yellows today. Our perception of EDSA1 and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled, mostly by those from recent past administrations. For us, EDSA1 is not an Aquino family franchise, nor just a mere booting out of the Marcos family. And it is not a narrative of entitlements of two families.

"For many of us, EDSA1 was a decades-long seething anger against poverty, injustice and the dominance of traditional politicians and their allies in the oligarchy in the economy and throughout the political structures

"The final capture of the color Yellow was consummated upon the serendipitous exquisitely timed demise of the EDSA1 icon when an opportunistic son rode on the people's residual love and nostalgia to win power. Yellow from then on came to symbolize his own vengeful and exclusive 'Daang Matuwid' regime, metamorphosing into Dilawans. PNoy, in his brimming arrogance, tried to exact from the people who once took part in the EDSA revolution, a certain sense of loyalty and adulation similar to that shown his mother. He failed.

"This May, we may have either the Marcos son or the Aquino successor at the helm of power...or another one instead. Poetic justice dictates then that at the very least "vice is punished and virtue rewarded in a manner ironically appropriate."

Choose wisely!

Published in LML Polettiques