Thursday, 09 March 2017 06:49

What happened to EDSA?

Part 3

FOR each of the groups that participated in EDSA, the expectations, hopes and aspirations which motivated them were diverse. Thirty-one years, the survivors may now have a better grasp of the event and a better appreciation of whether these have been fulfilled in the light of current developments.

The Yellows- 2017

Some of us are no longer Yellows in 2017. Our perception of EDSA and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled, mostly by those of the recent past administration. For us, EDSA 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, EDSA was a decades-long seething anger against poverty, injustice and the emerging rule of the oligarchy not only in the economy but throughout the political structures. These were long exemplified by the pre-martial law Liberal and Nacionalista political parties; same faces of a political coin that held sway over the lives of the masses of Filipinos through their brand of traditional politics.

The final capture of the color Yellow was consummated upon the serendipitous exquisitely timed demise of the EDSA 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. 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.

His double standards overshadowed his advocacy of transparent governance, and what we all witnessed was a man who used his power to inflict his wrath upon his political enemies. The economic policies that put the country in the international map, which in essence were inter-generational and a carryover from past administrations, were never properly attributed; in fact, his predecessor was incarcerated for the duration of his term in office.

But the last straw that broke the people’s trust was his refusal to apologize and take responsibility for the Mamasapano massacre that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos.

Some of these Yellows who perceived EDSA to be merely a victory over martial law forces were left disenchanted when the expected change in the status quo and the restructuring of the old order did not occur. And this too is the perception of mostly the millennials with their harsh judgment of EDSA as they have no personal connection to or collective memory of it. The disgruntled former Yellows and the millennials found a common cause in bringing about this elusive change – Ang Pagbabago! – exemplified by a maverick whose language resonated. They found their voice and a champion in DU30, our Davao mayor, whom they catapulted to the presidency running under two main campaign promises of drastic change: the elimination of the illegal drug menace and the restructuring of the government into a parliamentary-federal form.

The Marcos Loyalist Reds- 2017

The hundred yellow ribbons “round the old oak tree” may soon be covered by red ones as Marcos supporters have slowly inched their way to political consciousness in the past few years from their solid base in the Marcos homeland in the north. This resurgence can be attributed to the tolerance and naivete of President Fidel Ramos, a cousin, who allowed the return of the dictator’s remains under strict conditions agreed to by the Marcos family, but which they have reneged on, perhaps with the quiet acquiescence of the FVR administration. This paved the way for the complete rehabilitation of the family by PRRD who has admitted to his own father’s debt of gratitude to the father, Ferdinand, and his own fondness for the son, Bongbong. The son also did his part by demonstrating filial love, a trait much valued by Filipinos. On his run for the vice presidency, the Filipino millennial responded in kind. They are a powerful and versatile force that has clearly distorted the equation—partially alienating the Yellows.

The Military- 2017

Many of the major players have long been put to pasture and some tucked into the recesses of the bureaucracy. But the institution has a long collective memory and it has left behind what could be a dangerous legacy; they were made the protector of a dictatorship and have tasted the license of shared power. And they applied that newfound prerogative a decade and a half later in a caricature of EDSA II, that small original faction of 1986 who once broke away from the traditional mainstream culture with convoluted motivations to fight a common nemesis. EDSA will be a reminder of how their force can either be a tool for hegemony or freedom. And that the military has to be guided by strong moral principles and must equip themselves with a discerning mind to only use their force to serve the people.

DU30’s Red, White & Blue

This clinched-fist symbol of defiance and rejection of the status quo is the emblem of those who populate this group who are mostly the vocal millennials – those who have barely a memory of EDSA 1986 and no experience of the circumstances, events and upheavals that led to it. Most were not even born yet at the onset of the Marcos regime and therefore have no awareness of the piquancy of the period. They were among the first to march the streets of EDSA during the 2017 commemoration. They could have been properly schooled on the history of the EDSA revolution, what dictatorship feels like and how their forefathers fought it. However, the passion and flavor of conflict cannot be imparted. They may have understood the dangers of an iron-fisted leader such as Duterte, but on the other hand, the man speaks their language of defiance of the old order. And his is the only game in town!

The millennials are a force to reckon with and they could be the gamechanger. They have the vigor, the ideas and technology to rally behind a certain political ideology, an advocacy or a cause. But only when properly motivated can they begin to fulfill the promise of their generation which is congruent to the hopes of the majority of the EDSA participants – to free the Filipino from the shackles of poverty, injustice and the grasp of the oligarchy and the traditional practices of politics.

Perhaps it needed the passing of a generation—31years from EDSA—for a new set of players to emerge to fulfill the important aspirations, expectations and hopes of EDSA, without being burdened by the conflicts and biases that brought about that same EDSA.

Perhaps the colors, Yellow and Red, will lose their significance and everything negative attached to them. Perhaps, the rise of a leader who was himself a product of EDSA but tried to heal its wounds is what is needed in this time and age.


Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 02 March 2017 08:19

I am EDSA, we are EDSA

I WROTE last week in Part I of this series: “Today … 31 years after, I am again putting on paper my thoughts, a little bit more appreciative and perhaps a little bit more dispassionate about the events that transpired – given the distance of years and the dissipation of emotions and passion that propelled us then to bring about this ‘revolution’.”

My children, Lara and Carlo, then 12 and 8 years, respectively, may only have a vague idea of the significance of the four-day events in February of 1986; though they were certainly affected by the antecedents over the years leading towards these events. We all lived in Davao during the repressive Marcos regime and saw the rise of the communists in the city making it their “laboratory”.

We lived in the outskirts of the city near the infamous Buhangin circumferential-diversion road where “salvaged bodies” were disposed of. They certainly saw the many bodies covered with newspapers during our sorties downtown.

My wife Sylvia and I tried to protect them from these realities. Several times she had to gather the kids from their rooms and sleep in the master bedroom comforting them when the intermittent gunfire from around the area came dangerously close.

I was mostly away from home from the late 1970s to 1986, contributing my share in the struggle against the dictatorship. My absences and the strain inflicted on my family I’d like to think have long been recompensed, perhaps by my hopes then that things would revert to normalcy upon the “restoration of democracy” by EDSA.

And this is the point at issue. I was both wrong and right!

I was right in the sense that a certain amount of normalcy has descended on my personal life. I was recruited to President Cory’s government and relocated my household to Manila where we were again an intact family until the children came of age and “flew the coop,” so to speak.

I was wrong on my expectations about the “restoration of democracy”. What was restored came with it too the re-establishment of the rule of an oligarchy and the continued perpetuation of traditional politics, albeit with a new set of personalities.

Many of us in the decades-long struggle for real democracy from the mid-1960s, adherents of a parliamentary-federal structure of government, were enthusiastic in supporting Cory Aquino as she was our symbol in the fight against the repressive dictatorship. We understood that she was from the elite and her values were therefore of 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 with 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 Freedom Constitution. She then proceeded to embed her dogmas in her 1987 Constitution.

This is the Constitution guarded zealously by her son, PNoy, that President Duterte and we, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), the PDP-Laban and the majority of the downtrodden Filipinos want to replace with a federal-parliamentary system and a social market economy (SOME).

Those were our expectations. But what were the expectations, then and perhaps now, of the others who participated at EDSA in February of 1986? First, let us identify the dramatis personae.

The Yellows 1986

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 the ordinary folk, some 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 were welded together by a pent-up anger against the Marcos family.

The Military

This was not a homogeneous group. The EDSA uprising was precipitated by a small breakaway group of mostly mid-level officers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and their patron, Defense Secretary Enrile, whose plan for a putsch was exposed and nipped in the bud. It was the timely reinforcements of Gen. Ramos and his PC-INP and allies in the Army and Air Force that gave precious time for Cardinal Sin’s army to gather the people to stop the tanks and heavy artillery of Gen. Ver and saved the day. The putschists never did forgive the Yellows for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat—for saving their skin. Their revenge fell upon President Cory, who crushed seven coup attempts during her years in office.

The ‘Reds’

These were the people, foremost among which was the Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan (KBL), who supported the Marcos regime and his family sucking the country dry. We the “Yellows” then booted him out–for a time. But now his minions are back and his family is politically reinstated.

(Part 3 of this article will appear next Thursday, March 9.)
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 01 March 2017 11:17

Aquino tells LP members: Time to speak up

Former President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday urged his fellow Liberal Party (LP) members to “speak up” and make the party’s “voice heard again,” after four members were ousted from the majority in the Senate.

Aquino also asked party members to “be constructive and supportive” of the Duterte administration without sacrificing the party’s principles and ethics.

Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte, the LP secretary general, summed up Aquino’s guidance during a three-hour party caucus in Quezon City following the party members’ ouster from the Senate majority on Monday.

“I’d like to think the opinion of the [former] President [was that] we wanted to be constructive, we wanted to be supportive and we wanted to be helpful but not to the point that we give up our party principles and our basic positions and ethics on issues,” Belmonte said in a press conference.

“His basic guidance was: It’s about time we speak up, it’s about time that the LP voice be heard again,” Belmonte said.

Aquino wanted the people to “realize our good intentions for the country,” he said.

In an ambush interview, Aquino said he was keeping his self-imposed yearlong moratorium on being critical of the current administration.

“I want to keep true to my word,” he said. But the ouster of Liberal senators from key posts in the upper chamber on Monday “definitely” bothered him, he said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the LP president, told reporters that the caucus centered on the death penalty bill and the continued membership of the Liberals in the House supermajority.

He said the membership issue would be taken up after the death penalty debates.
Published in News
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09:25

Character, opposition and change

MUCH has been said about Edsa@31, how we started finding our star and how we held on to each other to reach that star. Those were good times when being Filipino made us stand straight and hold our head high. Those were times where imperfect individuals, yes, they were implementers of martial rule, decided to stand against the rising tide and dared go with soldiers so accustomed to war. That there were no bombings and shootings were proof of the DNA of Filipinos—we are not an aggressive lot; more like a happy race, hospitable to most, close family ties and loves to entertain where food, song and dance are the thing. Yes, the fire is there, an ember perhaps, but it takes long before the combustion happens again and we will always stand tall despite the frailties of our leaders.

Our character defines us, not our reputation. And in defining moments we see in us and among our leaders that which we may respect or abhor. “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” And in the several events this past eight months, we have seen a lot in our leaders and celebrities that may not be to our liking.

EDSA@31 would have been defined by what PRRD said: “No single party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim credit for the bloodless revolution in EDSA. In the same way that no party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim a monopoly of patriotism.” Or the retort made by Davao Mayor Sara Duterte against a Catholic Archbishop: “I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else.” Or BSA3’s, “we would mark it with a celebration. Now, it seems like we need to do more than just remember the revolution. Maybe, this is a reminder for us that the fight continues, it’s not done yet.” And Vice President Robredo’s, “I hope we never forget that the people hold the power. Whatever we want to fight for, we can do it if we are united.” So, if the people are not with you, there will be no destabilization.

But in the end what appears top of mind was the public meltdown of a known celebrity, too yellow in color that he forgot decency and character. And then some even exalted what this celebrity did by harping on the Duterte Youth being also a BBM supporter. The slip showing is such that if one is Duterte and BBM that the group was planted to agitate the “owners” of the People Power Monument? That if the individual is pro-Duterte and later turned out to be a supporter of BBM, there was malice? And that it was all right to subject them to bullying. Worse, the celebrity went forth and proclaimed to the world that “it felt good.” All that EDSA stood for melted away and not one from among the Liberal Party called him out for being out of line and damn wrong. That is EDSA, 31 years after.

And so we go to our democracy that has been played out so many times that we do not know who is the real Opposition. Since time immemorial, our politics have often been transitioning from one monolith party to another, bringing everyone under one roof, setting aside the role of a true opposition party. We had monoliths like KBL, LDP, Lakas-NUCD, Partido Masang Pilipino, KAMPI, Liberal Party and today, PDP. The last time we had a real opposition was in 2007, under UNO and then it became a labor-management settlement, thus destroying altogether the role of an opposition in a democracy.

The Opposition is the check and the balance to an overreaching party in governance. A check on a dictatorship or insensitivity to the masses. Ideally, a constructive opposition, “would emphasize more on discussion, ask more questions, resolution of problems being faced, help in amendments and passage of important bills. Also, unite with the ruling government in issues of national interest. At the same time, the opposition must warn or bring in focus issues that government is not addressing effectively at its level.” A disruptive opposition—opposing everything for the sake of opposing—is not good for democracy (and taxpayers) for it simply avoids discussion. A strong opposition complements democracy. In the event of a weaker opposition, the ruling government and its representative may become complacent and insensitive for the duration of their rule. A party in opposition may be the next ruling party and the other way around. If we are to be governed by political parties and not personalities, we must be able to see a clear and distinct opposition. Voters would need to see their actions and how they will be remembered or forgotten. Super majorities are just that because there is no party behind it and when there are no parties, there are no policies uniquely defined by party ideology or plans, programs and activities formulated and implemented by the party at the grassroots level.

BSA3 never implemented any political party reform in his six years. The Duterte administration has not even articulated any political party reform save the change of form and structure of government. No institutional reform with COMELEC despite the leak as further pointed out by the Privacy Commission. No political party measure certified. So, it’s the same politics that governed from 2010 to the present, save for a change in label, from LP to PDP. If we do not have a clear opposition, we will be forever subjected to destabilization efforts by those whose ways are not embraced by the prevailing political disposition.

How can we push for change when we do not know who among the political players are just riding the carpet for political survival and are not really for the structural change that PRRD has been talking about. Three crucial points that PRRD promised: controlling illegal drugs use, fighting corruption and poverty alleviation. Launch the Build.Build.Build and the PPP approved projects and we will see in actuality if this administration walks the talk in fighting corruption and putting more jobs in the market. Continue with the illegal drugs campaign with joint efforts of the PDEA and the PNP but this time be cognizant of the lessons and the issues. Correct the line that 7,000 have been killed.

Build in the rural sector first and we touch the poorest. With the agricultural produce, ensure that pricing is not dictated by the middlemen so the farmers and fisherfolk earn a decent keep. If we hit the poorest in terms of agriculture and infrastructure, we hit the poor provinces of the country. If we connect them to the center, we build corridors and break paths in ecotourism. Then with moral suasion, PRRD should ask the 40 families controlling the PH economy to settle in one of the poorest provinces and revitalize the local economy, even just being a spoke in the wheel.

Change should be focused on the economy, that growth is inclusive. Change should be grassroots-centric so that Filipinos feel the change. Strengthen further frontline services because that is what defines a Duterte-brand service. One does not need a revolutionary government. One needs to think in revolutionary ways to change the status quo but that would need a lot of patience and reaching out because you cannot shock the system all at the same time.

How would Duterte want to be remembered is how it should refocus and re-engineer a year after being in office. The social welfare/poverty cluster should be the face of a Duterte administration while the economic cluster should be the engine. The rest stabilizes the ship of state. Don’t look at destabilization as paralysis. Make it the reason to move faster, the people are still with you.Politicians must remember, “where there is no shame, there is no honor” and “men and women of genius are admired, men and women of wealth are envied, men and women of power are feared; but only men and women of character are trusted.”
Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09:16

LP booted out of Senate majority

LIBERAL Party senators were kicked out of the pro-Duterte Senate majority coalition on Monday in a surprise knockout instigated by neophyte Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

The majority bloc led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd stripped the Liberal senators of their positions, with Sen. Franklin Drilon losing the Senate president pro-tempore post to Sen. Ralph Recto, who switched to the majority from being the minority leader.

For months, Drilon’s Liberal bloc managed to remain in the majority while being critical of the Duterte government’s moves such as the push for the death penalty bill, the war on drugs and the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Liberal Party interim president Francis Pangilinan said their expulsion from the majority was not unexpected, adding: “We saw the writing on the wall.”

Senators Drilon, Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Risa Hontiveros joined Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th in the minority.

In Monday’s plenary session, Pacquiao moved to declare vacant Drilon’s Senate president pro tempore post, the second highest perch in the chamber.

Drilon did not object. “I will not interpellate Senator Pacquiao. I second the motion,” he said.

Pacquiao, after a brief suspension of the session, nominated Recto to replace Drilon, which was supported by a majority of senators.

Those who voted for Recto as the new Senate president pro tempore were Pimentel, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Recto said his position as minority leader would be given to Trillanes.

Pacquiao then moved to declare as vacant the chairmanships of the committees on health and demography; agriculture and food; and education, arts and culture.

The Senate committee on health was chaired by Hontiveros, the agriculture committee by Pangilinan, and the committee on education by Aquino.

They were replaced by Ejercito, Villar and Escudero, respectively.

‘Price to pay’

Pangilinan said the Liberal bloc discussed a looming Senate revamp over the weekend, believing the Duterte administration would not tolerate anyone who opposed it on issues such as the death penalty and the drug war.

Aquino agreed, describing the incident as a political move. The Liberals, he noted, were also adamant on other issues like the lowering of the age on criminal liability and support for their party mate Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading critic of the drug war who was jailed last Friday on drug trafficking charges.

“If this is the price to pay for my independence, then so be it,” Aquino said.

Hontiveros said that if staying with the majority meant supporting a regime that does not respect human rights, then she would willingly join the minority.

“This new development will not hinder me from pushing for universal healthcare for our people or intimidate me from defending democracy and human rights,” she added.

‘Obsessed with power’

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Monday deplored the Senate revamp and said the Duterte administration was obsessed with power.

Robredo, the interim chairwoman of the Liberal Party who was herself stripped of her Cabinet post in December after opposing the Marcos burial, said the Duterte administration was incapable of tolerating dissent, “no matter how constructive.”

“What happened in the Senate today is characteristic of an administration obsessed with monopolizing power and intent on marginalizing those who have opposing views. This has happened before. In the past, this paved the way for a one-man rule,” Robredo said, referring to the Marcos regime.

“Democracy demands dissent. We will not be silenced. Our nation deserves no less,” she added.
Published in News
The proposed coalition between the Liberal Party (LP) and the incoming ruling PDP-Laban may not materialize, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.

Belmonte said he could not accept the plan of the group of Davao del Norte representative-elect Pantaleon Alvarez to reduce the LP membership that would coalesce with PDP-Laban to just 20.
Published in News

Third among 22 most crony-ridden economies, Philippine GDP went four-fifths to firms owned or favored by the ruling party.

Crony capitalism is under attack globally, but worsened in the Philippines in the past two years, The Economist magazine reports. India and Brazil have jailed billionaires who made piles from repeated sleazy government contracts.

Published in Commentaries