Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: March 2019
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 12:58

Clash of civilizations (Part 2)

Islam, China and the Philippines
Part 2

IN the book, Huntington began forming his hypothesis several decades back by exploring the archetypes of global politics in the post-Cold War period, in an attempt to predict the future world order. The dominant thought surfacing then was that the West won the Cold War, therefore liberal democracy, capitalism and expansion of free markets, with the attendant Western values of human rights were the only remaining alternatives for other nations to adopt.

Western prismatic view of the clash of civilizations followed a logical trajectory of historical development from the struggles between kings and nation states and ideologies. But after 1991, non-Western civilizations, especially those behind the iron curtain and those co-opted by the West, began to shape the new world order.

Further Huntington postulates that historical antecedents produced his so-called “cleft countries” where a country contains two civilizations, example, Sri Lanka comprising Hindu and Buddhist. Conflicts appear in two forms: fault lines and core state conflicts. The former occurs between adjacent states belonging to different civilizations (Egypt-Israel), or within states that are home to populations from different civilizations (Ukraine). The latter are full-blown conflicts between major core states of different civilizations spilling over from expanding local fault-line engagements (India and Pakistan).

He also introduced “swing civilizations,” giving Russia, Japan and India as examples. These countries have the capability of taking sides, upending the power dynamics, dictated by their country’s self-interest. An illustration is Russia absorbing predominantly Muslim Chechnya while cooperating with Shia Muslim Iran to avoid Muslim-Orthodox encroachments in Southern Russia.

But several political scientists debunk Huntington’s take on the Western belief in the exclusive universality of Western values and political systems. Such insistence only further widens the cleavage between civilizations, further exacerbating the already untenable situation.

Critics have attacked Huntington’s position that nationalism, pluralism and democracy are alien to people in Arab lands and Muslim countries. This simplistic view is the biased Western assessment on the long dormant longings of a subjugated people. Countries during or after the Cold War act on the basis of their national interest and they will continue to do so in the new world order; although admittedly (Huntington could be half correct) national interest are likewise defined broadly and increasingly in cultural terms, perforce aligning themselves with countries of similar cultures.

With this insight, nations too are subject to a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome with multiple identities, one appearing when circumstances change. Fear, resulting in political passivity, is largely the stimulus wielded principally by fundamentalist Muslim regimes. But when fear is substituted for hope, as in the post-Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and post-Mubarak Egypt, a surge of heightened expectations and aspirations appear — which could be equated quite erroneously with an exclusive definition of Western values of freedom and democracy. The eruptions of the “Arab Spring” (Tunisia 2010) give the lie to Huntington’s Western-values premise. Islam in these countries were prepared to surface their own values of pluralism, democracy and freedom in exchange for their lives.

Having said all these, the book’s major corollary controversies are becoming more obvious. First, is the Chinese hegemon replacing America? My take is perhaps today we are still in a flux between the ideological Cold War conflicts towards a full-scale clash of civilizations. This is a slight departure from Huntington’s premises.

The world will not tolerate a power vacuum and a dangerous political vacuity opened up resulting from the withdrawal of the United States from world engagements. The unilateral abrogation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ominous bilateral trade talks with China and Trump’s naïve posturing towards its protegee, Kim Jong Un, allowed Xi Jinping a degree of confidence to flex his muscles, test the waters and encroach into the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), upsetting the countries in the periphery. This has altered the power equation in Southeast Asia. We can only surmise how the two major civilizations in the area, Japanese and Hindu, will react to the similarly ancient Chinese civilization.

And the impulsive withdrawal of US presence from the conflict in Syria allowed a possible resurgence of the IS and half-abandoning the hapless Kurds to their ancient foe, Turkey; all these despite Trump’s grandstanding and arrogant pronouncements of having won over Islamic terrorism. True, the Islamic civilization has no core states, but Islamic and Chinese are being driven into each other’s arms with the careless actions of America or at the very least, present an entente against the insufferable West.

President Duterte may have deduced certain negative elements of the Huntingtonian premises that propelled him earlier in his administration to pivot away from Mother America to Brother China. Any which way, the Deegong has led his country down an untrodden foreign policy path. We are a country heavily influenced by Western values, but scratch the surface and one finds a proud Malay race, a civilization once dominant in the region but long gone. Huntington in his book, doesn’t even mention such civilization. He erroneously lumps the country as composed of mixed civilizations, with the South (Mindanao) described as Islamic.

Which brings us further to the Christian-Islamic undercurrents — which in Huntington’s thesis designates the Philippines as a “cleft country,”that is, one containing two civilizations. This is where Huntington’s hypothesis is on shaky ground. Added to this cauldron is a large influence of the Chinese and even Japanese civilizations. Would we then categorize ourselves as mongrelized?

The second corollary controversy: is Islam really at war with the West? And what are the implications to our country, particularly Mindanao? Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a critic has this to say: “… (Huntington claims) US, helped by European countries, has repeatedly invaded Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq…Facts! Since WW2 US invaded 30 countries: Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, etc. In South America, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Granada. These are not religious wars. US wanted to steal their resources, extend power and influence and fight against Soviet Union and communism.”

Dr. Hoodbhoy deflates Huntington further: “…why many Muslims want to migrate to the West? And why accept them? If there is war why Muslims born in the US become automatic citizens?

And his clincher: “…Muslims from Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh working years in Saudi Arabia or Gulf Estates can never be citizens nor their children born there. And these countries claim to be protector of Islam and guarantors of their prosperity.”

The notion of a clash of civilizations was not advocated by Islam nor by the Chinese, Hindu or Japanese but by the Westerner Huntington. Today, in all regions, the lives of Muslims are threatened not by the Western, Sinic, Hindu and ther civilizations, but mostly by Muslim themselves: Shite Iran and Sunni Iraq; Syria’s civil war; and Pakistan’s religious extremist violence are just among the few.

And perhaps, at the risk of oversimplification, I might add, these conflicts may be an offshoot of the acts of a uniquely ill-informed leader of an erstwhile “free world” who singlehandedly destroyed the legacy of his forebears and the residues of the Cold War. The current American President.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 20 March 2019 11:20

Clash of civilizations

The 8 civilizations
Part 1

THIS year marks the 30th year after the Berlin Wall came down. This was the beginning of the dying throes of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In two years, in the autumn of 1991, President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, passing on power to Boris Yeltsin of Russia. The Soviet Union was dissolved, the Cold War ended, and the West won. Liberal democracy and capitalism trumped communism. The former was meant to sweep across the world in a new order, with the Western powers led by the United States presiding over a new era of harmony. This did not happen. The euphoria of victory was short-lived.

By the end of WW2, with the ascendancy of America as the lone self-appointed global police, an Iron Curtain descended upon the USSR ,dividing Europe into East and West blocs. The Cold War broke out, delineating the world further into political spheres of influence: the US-led Western liberal capitalist alliance; the Soviet Union-led communist bloc and the non-aligned countries which were the ideological moving targets of the power dynamics between the first two and where conflicts took place. The nuclear arsenal on opposing sides guaranteed total world destruction if ever the Cold War turned into a shooting conflict. Strangely, this paradigm brought about a modicum of stability of “non-war and non-peace” under the threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD). After 1991, this pattern of history, uneasy at best, disappeared.

In 1996, Samuel Huntington, an erudite Harvard professor published his book The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order. His hypothesis is that in the post-Cold War world, future wars would be fought not between ideologies but between cultures. And the primary source of discord will be the people’s cultural and religious identities.

Accordingly, encounters fall along the faultlines of the world’s biggest cultural entities or civilizations. There is no universal civilization. Instead there are these seven or eight, each within its own set of values: a) Western North America and Western Europe with the US, Germany and France as the core states; b) Orthodox, with Russia as the core state; c) Confucian or Sinic with China as core state; d) Islamic but with no core states because of its heterogeneity; e) Latin American also with no core state; f) Hindu, India as core; and g) Japanese, Japan as core; and sub-Saharan Africa with no core state.

Two decades after Huntington’s book, empirical data suggests many nations did indeed align along cultural lines. Countries with similar cultures come together; those historically with different cultures broke up. Yugoslavia split up along cultural lines; Serbia/Bulgaria/Greece formed an Orthodox entente; Catholic parts of Yugoslavia/Slovenia/ Croatia came knocking on NATO’s door; Turkey resumed its role as protector of Muslims in the Balkans, Bosnia and Albania. Greece and Turkey are members of NATO, but with the post-Cold War ideological threat gone, Greece and Turkey are teetering on the edge of violence against each other. Sometimes civilizations go through boundaries of states. The eastern and western parts of Ukraine belong to different civilizations.

Two corollary issues are bones of contention. Western civilizations’ unique values; separation of Church and state; rule of law and rights of individuals; pluralistic nature of Western societies; which has evolved and existed for a thousand years have been imposed on other civilizations even older than itself. Confucian, Japanese and Hindi civilizations have their own unique ethos contradictory to the Western concepts. These attempts, backed up by might and the Cross, did not bode well for these already complex relationships.

Which brings us to the second issue — that of equating westernization with modernization. Under the guise of the globalization mantra as the vehicle for liberal democracy and capitalism, greater interaction with other civilizations was the intent of the Western world, primarily to create and expand world markets. But global capitalism has over-emphasized its impact on the world. In Islam, Chinese and other Eastern cultures, there is resistance to Western values of human rights and democracy.

All societies strive for wealth, welcoming the influx of new technology, availing of the benefits of modern science; adopting some elements of free-markets. But they don’t necessarily want to embody Western values nor take on their religions. Predominantly Shinto and Buddhist Japan is the template which could work. It is thoroughly modern, has significantly adopted elements of Western culture in its drive for economic growth, but it is not Western in character. Japanese don’t think of themselves as Western. They recognize certain fundamental differences in their culture, society and in their way of life which are anathema to other cultures, especially the US and Western Europe.

What is disturbing by far is the emergence of Islam challenging American hegemony framed by the knee-jerk response after the Sept. 11, 2001 Twin Towers attack. America had to re-evaluate its policy on foreign intervention after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lessons of these debacles resonated on the current Trump administration’s fixation on domestic immigration and the outright use of the label radical Islamic terrorism, which Bush and Obama refused to do, emphasizing that America was at war with violent extremists, not Islam itself.

The predicate of Trump’s racist position on immigration may have been that of Huntington’s proposition that the US needs to partner with its European allies to limit immigration to the US and put a cap from an annual 800K after 1965 to 500K, a needed pause to better concentrate on assimilating the millions who are already in place. President Trump rescinded this recommendation and reconfigured the issue into a massive racist rejection of the inflow of Muslims from the Middle East and countries from which “Islamic terrorists” are sourced.

It is believed, however, that a clash with Islam will not lead to a major war. As a civilization, Islam has no single dominant core Islamic state; but it is so fragmented and occupied primarily with fighting each other.

Islam has sub-civilizations within — Arabic, Malay, Turkic, and they compete for Islamic leadership, posing a destabilizing force in their region and culture. Iran vs Saudi for a time were arming Bosnian Muslims, for example, supporting different Islamic groups fighting non-Islamic ones. Islam used to have the dominant Ottoman Empire which disappeared. The rise of IS is a parody of the Islamic caliphate.

The “clash of civilizations” also presaged the singular rise of the Middle Kingdom. After Deng Xiaoping unleashed its economic dragons, China has become increasingly assertive and if it grows economically at the same rate as in the past decades, it will establish its hegemony over Asia and reclaim its sphere of influence which historically endured hundreds of years until the mid-19th century. Its nine-dash line and expansion in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) does not augur well for the countries on its periphery. China has already declared it is their right. But how will Japan and, more importantly, America react to this? And how will this affect the Philippines?

This article borrows and quotes heavily from Samuel Huntington’s opus; op-ed columnist David Brooks, essayist Emma Ashford and Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 12:29

Dynastic kleptocracy

MY previous column discussed a “negatives list” of candidates who “must not be elected” to a Senate seat in May 2019. I mentioned three who are making a mockery of what is left of our fragile democracy and of the electoral process. I am expanding my list to include members of political dynasties (poldyns). I implore the voters, at least the readers of this column to a dispassionate scrutiny of the names and cull from the rest of the remaining 40 unknown candidates and dig deep into their qualifications and track records, perchance to excavate nuggets of gems of future senators outside of the discredited and tired branded names. Perhaps this is what the country needs badly, an injection of fresh qualified unknowns into the body politic whom we the voters will endow the honor to serve us. Polls are nothing more than a snapshot of an instant and subject to the dynamics of individual and collective choices. We can still alter the statistical regime.
 
President Duterte ran on three distinct campaign promises: the elimination of illegal drugs, reduction of graft and corruption and political restructuring through the revision of the 1987 Constitution. The first item is ongoing, but the collateral damage is incalculable. The officially accepted death toll from his draconian methods is more than 5,000 and counting. The figures on the streets and those counted by his political opponents and those by multilateral and international agencies have run up to almost twice the number, rendering his and the country’s reputation abroad in tatters. He is being threatened with his day of reckoning when he steps down from office before the International Criminal Court at The Hague for human rights violations. This possibility could be one of the reasons why he needs to be protected after he leaves office by anointing as his successor his daughter, Sara. The two previous Philippine presidents before him, Estrada and Macapagal- Arroyo have seen the insides of local jails; and PNoy may be next. But DU30 may also be a reluctant guest of an ICC penitentiary, albeit an international one. God forbid he ends up this way!
 
His fight against corruption is barely making a dent. And by the standards of his doctrine — a mere whiff of corruption — he has dismissed several of his people even those ostensibly close to him, some under questionable and unfair circumstances. But none of the big fish have been incarcerated — except perhaps one high-profile critic, a woman-senator, pending trial but currently languishing in jail. Dubiously, one plunderer-senator is now running under his PDP-Laban party, and the other under his daughter’s HnP.
 
But his third mantra, that of political-structural “pagbabago” through constitutional revisions, may have been derailed and out of the mainstream as some of the provisions contained in the 1987 Constitution have practically been scuttled in principle. I refer to the constitutional provision prohibiting political dynasties. Fully 11 out of the 20 or so leading senatorial candidates and those running for other elective positions are part of a “poldyn,” not to mention the President’s own — his daughter Sarah and two sons are all seeking elective public office.
 
But looking beyond Philippine politics, the creation of dynasties, business or criminal are simply the primordial urge to spread one’s seed and migration of power, influence and pelf to the next generation beyond the progenitor’s grave. From ancient to medieval periods, we have the pharaohs, emperors and kings expanding their progeny. After the age of kings, we allowed elected autocracy to reign supreme with absolute power and in some cases, vesting a plutocracy the license to reign and rule over all.
 
Even in criminal enterprises we have the same desires. An example is the Mafia families or the Cosa Nostra of Italy and the United States. Common to these families are the propensity for the capo di tutti capi (the family head) to train their children and close relatives at an early age on the art of crime. Nothing is more indispensable to protection from the law, the encroachment of rivals and the continued concentration of power and wealth than that of guaranteeing bloodline; though there are monumental failures as the breakdown of the sacred “omerta,” depicted by Mario Puzo in his Godfather novels.
 
Poldyns in the Philippine setting are much worse. Although constitutionally proscribed these past 32 years, no laws have been enacted to make the constitutional provision operative – not from the legislative body, majority of whom are themselves pillars of poldyns. And these dynasties now extend their tentacles to all facets of political and economic undertakings, attempting to expand their web of power to perpetuate themselves for generations. They are the rot and cancer to the body politic. They must therefore acquire the same guarantee mechanisms originally exclusive only to crime families through the legitimacy of the ballot. Their expected results are to keep corruption going and money flowing to the family coffers; consolidate their power and assume immense influence to protect family members from getting caught; or use its web to override prosecution. Thus, this crime network/political dynasty whose primary loyalty is to family has hidden this family business behind the cloak of public service, and psyched itself into believing in this solemn duty. True, there are decent individual members of dynasties, but our beef is with the collective malevolence of the concept, the structure and system itself. The biggest myth is the singular proposition that there are good and moral Philippine political dynasties. There are none!
 
These dynasts have almost succeeded in injecting themselves into the national conversation as sure winners. Let us reverse this dialogue and be more discerning.
 
There are 11 dynasts in a statistical striking position to make it to the 12 seats listed by the SWS & Pulse Asia in alphabetical order: Angara (Baler, Aurora); Aquino (Tarlac); Binay (Makati clan); Cayetano (Muntinlupa-Pateros-Taguig); Ejercito and Estrada (Manila, San Juan, Laguna); Mangudadatu (Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao); Marcos (Ilocos Norte); Osmeña (Cebu); Revilla (Bacoor, Cavite); and Villar (Las Piñas, Muntinlupa).
 
The remaining nine out of 20 statistical probables therefore are nondynastic independents or guest candidates of the PDP-Laban, Hugpong, LP and assorted wannabees, again in alphabetical order: Colmenares, Go, dela Rosa, Lapid, Pimentel, Poe, Roxas, Tañada and Tolentino. Among these too are subalterns of dynasties.
 
But there are names worth considering among those statistically outside of the winner’s circle. Take out the dynasties and unearth the remaining 40 to replace them. Among others in alphabetical order: Aguilar, Alunan, Alejano, Chong, Diokno, Gadon, Gutoc, Manicad, Matula, Montano, Ong, etc.
 
We love to blame government for the ills of society, corruption, stark poverty and suffocating despair. And every three years, we, the people are given the privilege to set our course — a path to change. Yet we waste it and indulge in self-flagellation over and over. And in our choices, we rely blindly on our leaders who are themselves members of political dynasties whose intentions and agenda are suspect.
 
This cycle let us take a risk on ourselves! Or once more, be damned!

MY previous column discussed a “negatives list” of candidates who “must not be elected” to a Senate seat in May 2019. I mentioned three who are making a mockery of what is left of our fragile democracy and of the electoral process. I am expanding my list to include members of political dynasties (poldyns). I implore the voters, at least the readers of this column to a dispassionate scrutiny of the names and cull from the rest of the remaining 40 unknown candidates and dig deep into their qualifications and track records, perchance to excavate nuggets of gems of future senators outside of the discredited and tired branded names. Perhaps this is what the country needs badly, an injection of fresh qualified unknowns into the body politic whom we the voters will endow the honor to serve us. Polls are nothing more than a snapshot of an instant and subject to the dynamics of individual and collective choices. We can still alter the statistical regime.

President Duterte ran on three distinct campaign promises: the elimination of illegal drugs, reduction of graft and corruption and political restructuring through the revision of the 1987 Constitution. The first item is ongoing, but the collateral damage is incalculable. The officially accepted death toll from his draconian methods is more than 5,000 and counting. The figures on the streets and those counted by his political opponents and those by multilateral and international agencies have run up to almost twice the number, rendering his and the country’s reputation abroad in tatters. He is being threatened with his day of reckoning when he steps down from office before the International Criminal Court at The Hague for human rights violations. This possibility could be one of the reasons why he needs to be protected after he leaves office by anointing as his successor his daughter, Sara. The two previous Philippine presidents before him, Estrada and Macapagal- Arroyo have seen the insides of local jails; and PNoy may be next. But DU30 may also be a reluctant guest of an ICC penitentiary, albeit an international one. God forbid he ends up this way!

His fight against corruption is barely making a dent. And by the standards of his doctrine — a mere whiff of corruption — he has dismissed several of his people even those ostensibly close to him, some under questionable and unfair circumstances. But none of the big fish have been incarcerated — except perhaps one high-profile critic, a woman-senator, pending trial but currently languishing in jail. Dubiously, one plunderer-senator is now running under his PDP-Laban party, and the other under his daughter’s HnP.

But his third mantra, that of political-structural “pagbabago” through constitutional revisions, may have been derailed and out of the mainstream as some of the provisions contained in the 1987 Constitution have practically been scuttled in principle. I refer to the constitutional provision prohibiting political dynasties. Fully 11 out of the 20 or so leading senatorial candidates and those running for other elective positions are part of a “poldyn,” not to mention the President’s own — his daughter Sarah and two sons are all seeking elective public office.

But looking beyond Philippine politics, the creation of dynasties, business or criminal are simply the primordial urge to spread one’s seed and migration of power, influence and pelf to the next generation beyond the progenitor’s grave. From ancient to medieval periods, we have the pharaohs, emperors and kings expanding their progeny. After the age of kings, we allowed elected autocracy to reign supreme with absolute power and in some cases, vesting a plutocracy the license to reign and rule over all.

Even in criminal enterprises we have the same desires. An example is the Mafia families or the Cosa Nostra of Italy and the United States. Common to these families are the propensity for the capo di tutti capi (the family head) to train their children and close relatives at an early age on the art of crime. Nothing is more indispensable to protection from the law, the encroachment of rivals and the continued concentration of power and wealth than that of guaranteeing bloodline; though there are monumental failures as the breakdown of the sacred “omerta,” depicted by Mario Puzo in his Godfather novels.

Poldyns in the Philippine setting are much worse. Although constitutionally proscribed these past 32 years, no laws have been enacted to make the constitutional provision operative – not from the legislative body, majority of whom are themselves pillars of poldyns. And these dynasties now extend their tentacles to all facets of political and economic undertakings, attempting to expand their web of power to perpetuate themselves for generations. They are the rot and cancer to the body politic. They must therefore acquire the same guarantee mechanisms originally exclusive only to crime families through the legitimacy of the ballot. Their expected results are to keep corruption going and money flowing to the family coffers; consolidate their power and assume immense influence to protect family members from getting caught; or use its web to override prosecution. Thus, this crime network/political dynasty whose primary loyalty is to family has hidden this family business behind the cloak of public service, and psyched itself into believing in this solemn duty. True, there are decent individual members of dynasties, but our beef is with the collective malevolence of the concept, the structure and system itself. The biggest myth is the singular proposition that there are good and moral Philippine political dynasties. There are none!

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These dynasts have almost succeeded in injecting themselves into the national conversation as sure winners. Let us reverse this dialogue and be more discerning.

There are 11 dynasts in a statistical striking position to make it to the 12 seats listed by the SWS & Pulse Asia in alphabetical order: Angara (Baler, Aurora); Aquino (Tarlac); Binay (Makati clan); Cayetano (Muntinlupa-Pateros-Taguig); Ejercito and Estrada (Manila, San Juan, Laguna); Mangudadatu (Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao); Marcos (Ilocos Norte); Osmeña (Cebu); Revilla (Bacoor, Cavite); and Villar (Las Piñas, Muntinlupa).

The remaining nine out of 20 statistical probables therefore are nondynastic independents or guest candidates of the PDP-Laban, Hugpong, LP and assorted wannabees, again in alphabetical order: Colmenares, Go, dela Rosa, Lapid, Pimentel, Poe, Roxas, Tañada and Tolentino. Among these too are subalterns of dynasties.

But there are names worth considering among those statistically outside of the winner’s circle. Take out the dynasties and unearth the remaining 40 to replace them. Among others in alphabetical order: Aguilar, Alunan, Alejano, Chong, Diokno, Gadon, Gutoc, Manicad, Matula, Montano, Ong, etc.

We love to blame government for the ills of society, corruption, stark poverty and suffocating despair. And every three years, we, the people are given the privilege to set our course — a path to change. Yet we waste it and indulge in self-flagellation over and over. And in our choices, we rely blindly on our leaders who are themselves members of political dynasties whose intentions and agenda are suspect.

This cycle let us take a risk on ourselves! Or once more, be damned!

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 12:53

Of colors and symbols of EDSA

FROM a historical perspective, a lapse of 33 years after an episode is still much of a current event stretched out over a contemporary period. It is a photograph of a moment still subject to alterations. Volumes have been written about EDSA, what happened on Feb. 22-25, 1986 and their consequences on the country and the lives of its people.

My piece today is an attempt to shed light on current political realities and ongoing conflicts using EDSA as a backdrop, consequently contributing to the literature that future historians may ponder on. The current animosities between the Yellow army and the DDS are derivatives of the conflicted interpretations of EDSA. These are not merely a grudge fight between two political families, two sets of traditional politicians or two camps of the oligarchy, as they were framed then, nor are they a classic struggle between the forces of good and evil. It’s more complicated than a simple delineation of political fault lines between protagonists.

First, just the facts as I recall them. Those euphoric days of February are the Reformers’ version by those installed to power in the aftermath of a dictator’s ignominious exit. Victors have the prerogative to write their account for history — thus this was called and celebrated in subsequent years as a Revolution. It was then unpopular to contradict the appellation lest you invite the wrath of the millions who made it happen. Only much later, when the air had sufficiently cleared, emotions abated, expectations unmet and the “tradpols” and the oligarchy crawled back and were allowed to assume their places in the new order, that another version was proffered.

Academics and those indignantly left outside of the power structure were emboldened to pronounce this as merely a “local uprising,” not a revolution, since EDSA was confined only to the capital region and there were no structural changes, blah, blah, blah. This narrative disavows the people’s seething anger towards the dictatorship and all that it stood for. These pockets of rage epitomized by the weekly Friday protest were replicated in cities, towns and villages, building up towards the climax — our Edsa People Power Revolution. It was indeed a start of the revolution. Whether unfinished, aborted or captured, we leave that to future historians to judge — perhaps centuries from today.

Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ defense secretary has another interpretation. “…EDSA People Power 1 should be commemorated on February 22, not February 25. That was when we bet our lives. That was when we gambled our lives for the benefit of the country.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Hogwash! Enrile and his cohorts indeed gambled their lives to save their hides. It was a cold-blooded attempt at a coup d’état that failed. Were it not for the masses of ordinary citizens, some of whom were clueless, and the intervention of Gen. Fidel Ramos and the forces loyal to him, the carcasses of these putschists would have been quartered and drawn. FVR, who had been loyal to cousin Marcos and a professional soldier, took the side of the masses and thus became a hero — all transgressions and past faults and his role during Martial Law forgotten and forgiven. He was later anointed as Cory’s political successor.

The Marcos minions have a revisionist take. There was no revolution, but an uprising precipitated by a faction of the armed forces with the connivance of the American government; whereupon, they boarded an American plane and were kidnapped to Hawaii, not flown to Paoay.

So, after three decades, these changing versions reinforce my premise that unless all the participants have said their piece and to a man have gone to their graves — including this columnist — all these are still current events. One can’t accelerate history’s judgment on whether EDSA was a revolution, uprising or a coup d’état. We must await a longer passage of time.

What is certain is that EDSA polarized our country and the schism is deep. For one, Yellow was ardently adopted as the color of hope by the anti-Marcos forces, including the Liberal Party, PDP-Laban and some segments of the politicized Catholic Church hierarchy for the singular promise of a housewife to simply reinstate her limited concept of democracy and freedom and seek justice for the assassination of a husband and return the wealth stolen by the conjugal dictatorship. There was no clear strategy for systemic socio-economic-political restructuring as this was beyond the ken of a housewife-turned-politician. Later, it was a perception by the progressive allies that the cabal of traditional politicians in cahoots with a new set of oligarchy captured the revolution and established a new order protected by the 1987 Constitution.

President Fidel V. Ramos succeeding Cory had progressive programs of government but was likewise stymied by the same 1987 Constitution. Cory and Cardinal Sin collaborated to frustrate FVR’s attempt at constitutional revisions. Although the rift between Cory and FVR opened, Yellow and what it symbolized continued to be FVR’s color. But FVR dropped the “L” of Cory’s Laban sign and substituted his Lakas “thumbs-up.” FVR stopped wearing Yellow and tried to reach out to his friends and colleagues among the “Marcos pa rin diehards” whose martial law colors were Red and Blue. FVR truly wanted to bridge the gap between the Yellows and Red & Blues. He failed.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of a respected President and a protegee of President Cory, fared no better revising the Cory constitution.

The 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) was constituted to initiate efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution to shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government with a liberalized economy. She failed.

Arroyo’s administration was fraught with accusations of corruption, leading to her plunder case and subsequent incarceration. At first supported by the Cory people, the Yellow members in cabinet abandoned her en masse over an election anomaly questioning the legitimacy of her presidency. This marked the final break between the Yellows of Cory and Gloria’s administration. This cleavage was further exacerbated by the subsequent assumption to power of an incompetent son and buried whatever good was left of the legacy of a once popular mother — resulting in her vilification. Cory’s death propelled the son to victory. In return, her son hammered the final nail to her good memory. Cory’s Yellow of hope worn by millions morphed into the pejorative Yellow of PNoy. Such is one of the tragedies of EDSA.

Today the forces of EDSA in several permutations are arrayed anew; PNoy’s Liberal Party Yellows with their “L” symbol, faced against the expedient alliance of the Red and Blue of DDS, the PDP-Laban and remnants of the Marcos Loyalists, cemented by the formidable DU30 “fist pump” that mimics the powerful “Sieg Heil” of epochs past; and on the sidelines are what remains of the memory of Cory’s tattered army. The latter lost its franchise over the Yellow and is no longer identified by any color; perhaps White, the presence of all colors; perhaps Black, an absence of.

So, 33 years after the EDSA People Power Revolution, nothing has changed; yet everything has changed. A conundrum!
Published in LML Polettiques