Monday, December 18, 2006

People Power, part of the rules of the game

The banner stories: The interfaith rally at the Rizal Park (Luneta) last Sunday (Dec. 17, 2006) failed to draw the organizers’ expectation of half a million crowd.

But did it fail?

The rally was organized (by various civil societies with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines at the helm) to thwart the efforts of majority pro-administration lawmakers in the Lower House (of Representatives) to rewrite the constitution via a constituent assembly minus the participation of the Upper House (the Senate) of the two-house or bicameral Philippine Congress. The House move, which was in clear violation its own Rules interpreting the provision of the Constitution on the matter, generated nationwide public outrage. As the indignation threatened to ratchet up to a people power proportion, the congressional leadership spearheading the administration-backed Charter change undertaking promptly capitulated. So did Malacañang.

Nevertheless, upon modifying their protest action to a “thanksgiving” mass or a “watch and pray” gathering, the organizers proceeded to hold their rally anyway although the true purpose could be to highlight larger issues than Charter change and/or to prove that the main organizer, the Catholic hierarchy, is still relevant to the people power movement in the tradition of the leadership of Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Beforehand, the forecast by one civil society group, the Black and White Movement, of the “gathering storm” was quite optimistic: “It has all the markings of storm signal number 3. It may even be codenamed ‘EDSA 3’.”

Veteran columnist Amado Doronila, who once called people power as “a source of political instability that has undermined the strengthening of political institutions and democratic legal process,” had a volte-face on “people power fatigue” and loudly confirmed that that “people power movement is far from dead.”

The turnout was a “highly respectable” crowd of 40,000, according to Manolo Quezon of One Voice, another civil society group, almost apologetically; but Doronila the morning after was cynical again and wrote that by “Luneta standards” it was “a poor conveyor of the political impact of the messages of the rally.”

One should not lose sight of the fact that the mere warning snarls of People Power had already resulted in deterring the duplicitous scheming of the majority in the Lower House and some Palace operators before the celebratory rally. As a form of external checks and balances, the resurgent movement not only cut through the illogic of blatantly numeral ratiocination of the people’s representatives that had attended the two abortive impeachments against President Arroyo but also preempted the slow if measured pace of the power judicial review when invoked in the normal operation of procedural democracy. In this recent exhibition, the successful check was external but not extra-constitutional, which means that the institution of People Power has proven that it can operate within the rules of the game of the system in place.

It is well understood that the rules of the game allow political competitions of many sorts such as among political parties, and even inter-chamber contests. But often, these competitions do not guarantee the political choices of the majority although they have the effect of stimulating the vibrancy of the minorities (civil societies).

The preferences of the intense minorities, when communicated in an organized way, must be taken into account by the minority (the political and economic elites) in making political decisions. For, when People Power is institutionalized (and I do believe that since the Spirit of ’86 that had ended the Marcos dictatorship, People Power has ensconced itself as an institution in Philippine politics) the elites may only ignore at their peril the choices of the intense minorities.

This is my ideation of People Power democracy:
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.
In my view, in a true democracy, the people (the multitude) and the minority (the oligarchy) do not rule; the minorities (civil societies) do.

On another breadth, former President Ramos’ observation in February 2006 may still be valid in terms of the Great Beast fully rising to its feet:
Still absent from the convergence of anti-government forces at this time is the involvement of significant elements of the Armed Forces and the National Police – which, as admitted by the opposition leaders, is the crucial component needed to topple PGMA. What most analysts overlook is the fact and the historical reality that, during the period 1986 to 1991, the Armed Forces (which then included the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police), effectively supported the Aquino government in defeating 9 coup attempts that were shoot-to-kill military encounters . . . The steadfastness of the present chain-of-command in defending constitutional authority and protecting the safety of the people should be gauged from the loyal support they (as junior officers) and their forebears gave the Aquino government, and not from their possible defection to the opposition today – as what happened during the Marcos and Estrada administrations . . .
My own take in the foregoing regard is as follows:
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.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When all is said and done, the latest Luneta rally failed.

December 20, 2006 4:50 PM  
Blogger cvj said...

"In my view, in a true democracy, the people (the multitude) and the minority (the oligarchy) do not rule; the minorities (civil societies) do." - Abe

A very provocative statement. I would need some time to digest that.

December 20, 2006 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The President is behaving as a true leader in wanting to see the enactment of changes to the Constitution which (to her perception) are impediments to good governance. GMA is among many who has recognized that there are provisions in the Constitution which results in government gridlock.
My perception is that the Opposition oppose because they fear that their ability to impede the Executive Office will be hindered. My problem with the opposition is other than their anti-GMA position ("impeach!!") or stating the obvious ("more law and order", "freedom of the press/protect the media", "lower food prices/more water/more electricity") they offer no programs, just platitudes. They offer the politician's tease --- "details to be provided once they/the opposition have occupied Malacanang".

December 21, 2006 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 21 -- Raul Castro has set a surprising new tone for Cuban politics, telling university students in Havana that they should debate "fearlessly" and bring their concerns directly to him.

Castro's remarks, published Thursday by the Communist Party newspaper, Granma, are the clearest indication yet of how he might reshape Cuba after the death of his ailing brother, Fidel Castro. Raul Castro told the students that his brother is "irreplaceable."

=============
I hope the Cubans know that this is exactly what Marcos did... allowed free speech, so that Marcos could better identify his enemies.

December 21, 2006 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next FLU PANDEMIC is expected to kill 50 to 80 million, with over 90% of the deaths to occur in developing countries. Metro-Manila (with extraordinary high density population) will have its share of deaths.
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The new work is published in Saturday's issue of the journal The Lancet.

December 21, 2006 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Protect the media and you protect the people." This sounds like a truism that that all the various groups and shades of the opposition can agree to cooperate on. But the Philippine opposition appears unable to do it --- to cooperate on this single issue. Is there an umbrella-group (to which One Voice and all the Opposition-groups belong to) that is dedicated to providing financial aid to media who, in pursuit of truth, had become victims of violence? Is there an umbrella Philippine lawyer-group who provides legal support (meaning actually appearing in court) when freedom the press and freedom of expression are threatened?

December 22, 2006 4:50 PM  
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December 22, 2006 6:02 PM  
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December 22, 2006 8:01 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

“I would need some time to digest that.” cvj

With these comments in Manolo’s blogsite, you just did I guess:

“For the middle class to flirt with ‘the end justifies the means‘ type of Machiavellianism is dangerous since this is a game involving power and as i said . . . , we neither have the resources of the rich nor the numbers of the poor. Any ‘power’ we have comes from doing what is right, which is why we need to play things straight.”

----

“My problem with the opposition is . . . they offer no programs, just platitudes. They offer the politician’s tease --- ‘details to be provided once they/the opposition have occupied Malacanang’.” anony

Don't you think the ball still remains on GMA’s court having been in Malacanang longer than her father who produced the Land Reform Code?

December 23, 2006 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes an inability to pay attention for anyone to still be confused by GMA's programs. One should already know that she follows a US-republican-party-like economic policy, e.g. she believes in trade. She is protectionist with coffee trade and has high tariffs on guns/rifles/ammunition, also on luxury cars, but she'll import medicine from India and rice from Thailand (choosing to serve the consumer population over the (much-lesser in number) farmers or pharmaceutical workers); likewise, she is unwilling to raise minimum wage. She supports Intellectual Property Rights (with the Phil government has periodically conducting raids to find/destroy counterfeit jeans/DVD's/watches). The Philippines says "no to drug trade" be it cultivating marijuana farms or operating shabu factories. Her strong pro-US stance does not, however, prevent her from entering into trade treaties with Japan, China, France, others. She does have an anti-terrorism/anti-communism streak but will stand her ground as a college graduate hurls insults at her in a college graduation ceremony.
The charter-change is not an exception --- she has said many years ago that she (also) considers that provisions in the Constitution result in government gridlock.
pro-WTO; pro-trade; anti-communism/anti-terror; changes to Constitution.
The Opposition opposes... but has no "proposes".

December 24, 2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger cvj said...

Abe, Merry Christmas to you and your family!

December 25, 2006 2:20 AM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

Anony, about certain alternatives, you may for starters perhaps check my musings here.

cvj, thanks, a joyous and blessed Christmas too and a peaceful New Year to you and your loved ones.

Happy Holidays to you likewise, anonie.

December 25, 2006 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abe (and cvj)... May the blessings of Christmas fill your household with peace and happiness.
..
Abe... my discomfort with "lack of proposals" (in contrast to statement of complaints) is in regards the opposition-organizations and the mayors, congressmen, senators (the personalities that attract the voters) that belong to the opposition and much less with not the mlq3's and the Dean Bocobo's and the bloggers.

December 26, 2006 8:21 PM  

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