Monday, January 23, 2006

More notes on People Power

After a brand new constitution, two people powers, one EDSA Tres, and a score of military coups, there are a number of great lessons Filipinos should have learned from realpolitik, such as -

1) A triumphant multitude may govern, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t rule;

2) When the prerequisites for democracy do not exit, even a well-written constitution is meaningless;

3) Political competitions do not guarantee the policy choices of the majority but they stimulate the vibrancy of the minorities (civil societies) whose choices when communicated in an organized way, the minority (the political and economic elites or the oligarchy) must somehow take into account in making policy decisions;

4) In a true democracy, the people (the multitude) and the minority (the oligarchy) do not rule; the minorities (civil societies) do;

5) In the Philippines, people power notwithstanding, neither the multitude nor the minorities rule; the minority does.

But first, on advice of Dean Bocobo, let us take on the claim by Pulse Asia to the effect that the multitude that sought to govern either in People Power I or People Power II was neither a majority nor a plurality. Only 10% of Filipinos favored the People Power that ousted Estrada while a plurality of 42% did not favor such or any other People Power, hence it was not even close, Pulse Asia points out. So, was the Aquino government or the Arroyo government illegitimate assuming that the Philippine Supreme Court in either case did not say anything to affirm or disaffirm any claim of legitimacy by both governments? My position is: if you are a Filipino and you are not one of those one or two million protesters who rallied on EDSA to exercise the ultimate political decision, then your voice does not count. And if you are a supporter of the regime sought to be removed but you are too intimidated to come out and stage a counter rally at the critical time, then your choice doesn’t count either. For, as soon as the public acquiesces in the new order, it would be all over including the counting. Therefore, it is too late in the day for Pulse Asia to come up with some tally sheet that could have no other meaning politically than to denigrate People Power.

The Quezonian dilemma (of mlq3, I mean) comes into play at this juncture. “(W)hat is decisive in a People Power event: is it the people, or the military? Or: what makes a coup different from People Power?” Manolo answers himself: “the military, by themselves, can never decide the issue, just as the civilians, when it comes to toppling a government, cannot do it by themselves. A fine balance is required . . . .”

I suppose a military coup without the support of People Power will have legitimacy issue and People Power without the support of the military will have lesser chances of success or of succeeding peacefully. But People Power must be both “intense” and “legitimate” enough to earn the military’s support in the first place. It seems that by experience one million protesters meet the requirement of intensity. And to be credited with legitimacy, I surmise, the multitude should be sufficiently representative so that any fair-minded observer could regard it as a cross-section of the various components of the Civil Society.

Now, triumphant, why would a multitude still fail to rule? Randy David finds some answers. He writes:
. . . to have any enduring force, it must resist the temptation of giving up its advocacy-be it human rights, good government, or social equity-when the regime it is criticizing has collapsed. Protest must become a system of its own; it must ceaselessly recruit its own supporters, and continue the analysis and criticism of society from the standpoint of its chosen value.
The chosen values underlie the political system to be formed. They serve as the prerequisites for a democracy. But what are these values and prerequisites? Maybe, the rhetorical questions posed by former senator Ernesto Herrera will give us some ideas about them:
Does anyone remember the events in June 2004 when the objections being raised by opposition lawmakers during the canvass of votes in Congress were dispatched simply and expeditiously with nothing but the “noted, noted” replies of then representative and now Justice Secretary Gonzalez and Senator Francisco Pangilinan?

. . . even former President Cory Aquino wanted Congress to just get the congressional canvassing over and done with so that GMA could be proclaimed president, and that Senate President Franklin Drilon found nothing wrong with the canvassing procedures . . . .

In the end, none of the due process measures were applied to challenge the votes of Mrs. Arroyo in the congressional canvass. . . .

If Congress simply acquiesced in to this power grab, then you might say, the Supreme Court also did nothing to stop it . . . .

No wonder the GMA administration can be brazen enough to ram Charter change down the people’s throats, hand down dictatorial edicts like E.O. 464, and stifle legitimate protests without batting an eyelash. Who is left to check its powers when the legislative and the judiciary can do nothing but approve what the executive proposes and demands?
Indeed, who needs a constitution as part of the social contract when those whose example really matters only pay respect to what it says when it suits them?

Next, to the suggestion that the multitude is incapable of coordinated action as amply demonstrated by the failure of EDSA Tres, my question is: who then is, if somehow it succeeds as in removing an unwanted regime, at least in certain matters of basic policies? The various components of the multitude, having found their common grounds on other matters than a regime change, do have the means for action, I believe, that the power holders cannot simply ignore. But first, these various minorities must discover their commonalities and then form consensus around them and on the effective methodlogies for enforcement. When civil societies assert their primacy, the result could be their collectivization into Civil Society.

I have also writtten:
People Power democracy . . . is the exercise by the people—the Civil Society—of the republican principle of the last say which may result to replace (as in People Power I) or keep (as in People Power II) the existing system. It does not decide particular issues for that would notionally be direct democracy. The triumph of People Power democracy should be measured not upon its physical manifestation that successfully brought about the immediate change desired, which is an end in itself, but when the consensus formed by civil society or civil societies—those politically informed, active and diverse minorities groups such as the business sectors, political alliances, labor unions, religious organizations, and the like—is brought to be reckoned with by those formally vested with policymaking. It is thus a continuing transformative citizenship. Whenever civil societies are marginalized in the governance process, the result could either be the rule by the privileged minority (or the oligarchy) or by the multitude, irrespective of the agreed upon formalities of governance.


8 Comments:

Blogger Rizalist said...

I really must read more of Red's Herring. Interesting thoughts here Abe. Will have to send some people your way to have a look at this. MOre Power!

January 24, 2006 5:33 AM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

Thanks Dean. I’m probably just trying to catch up with prolific bloggers like you. I'm one of your avid readers as you know.

Well, I hope to squeeze more time to improve on my blogs.

January 25, 2006 10:17 PM  
Blogger Amadeo said...

Very incisive observations! No shrill, just well-thought-of obversations and logical deductions.

More power and will resolve to visit often.

January 26, 2006 2:30 PM  
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