Sunday, February 17, 2008

Post-People Power III: Let's hope and let's hope not

For the elites at the command center in the Philippines, the “grand” design is simple and simplistic: encourage the migration of a substantial portion of the burgeoning “relatively-deprived” middle class which the local economy is incapable of absorbing.

Temporarily or permanently self-exiled, curtailed somehow are the chances for the adventuristic being homegrown into radical elements coming to full consciousness of a flawed system designed to favor only a few and therefore largely indifferent to their interests. But for these professionals, intellectuals and skilled or semi-skilled workers - as productive workforce abroad instead of idle ideologues or potential street parliamentarians at home (unless they are card-bearing members of the “move-on” horde) - demanding a systemic change becomes less of a preoccupation, to the relief of the elites.

On the other hand, the foreign exchange the heroic expatriates remit to the families they left behind (which is three times more than the much-heralded foreign direct investments (FDIs) of the pro-liberalizing Washington Consensus recipe) greatly enhances the buying power of the recipients and in turn eases up the pressure upon the domestic wealth producers, who have access to productive capital and other institutional means and sources of power, to take greater or more vigorous entrepreneurial risks. Preferring to shun less than “sure bet” ventures that create value-added, the economic elites are self-content to play it safe in the securer havens of mega malls, real estate, public utilities and paper entrepreneurships, i.e., banks, insurance, etc., offering more or less captive markets.

Pursuant to the design, the economic wheel is supposed to keep on grinding but business activities, decisions, and goals are narrow, calculated and short-term, individualistic rather than nationalistic, and the framework of competitiveness is local instead of global or at least regional.

The brutal irony of it is that wealth distribution, defying conventional economic gravity, proceeds in reverse, that is, trickling upward rather than downward to those who need it most. The gaping chasm of inequality, if not simply taken for granted or patched up with palliatives, is ultimately blamed to the victims through the imageries warped by the media power of suggestion that the elites control, which the uninitiated or the uncritical easily buy into.

What’s the relevance of these musings to another “people-powered” call, following the Jun Lozada revelation, for President Arroyo to step down?

Well, during the first shock wave of the NBN-ZTE scandal, I posted (Nov. 8, 2007) the following comment at mlq3’s blog:
My sense is that both the “reformists” in the military and the “progressives” in the civil society are somehow constrained by the possibility that even if People Power III succeed, the movement could again end up repeating a vicious cycle of simply “moving on” in circle, and not leaping onward or to higher ground. Take note for example that even rebel leader and now swashbuckling senator Sonny Trillanes has said he does not want to reinvent the wheel. But if the system or part of it is not working, shouldn’t the flawed facet be allowed to die away and make way for that which is budding and promising?

After two upheavals, the expectations are greater . . . that the next exercise of People Power would propel the transitioning into a “new qualitative state.”

The new state may be approximated by answering a few questions such as, off the top of my head, the following:

On the economic front (and this is directed more specifically to the country’s wealth creators): Why are we exporting people - teachers and young mothers like Marilou Ranario [working as a domestic helper the former teacher has been meted a death sentence in Kuwait for killing her employer who mistreated her] - instead of producing competitive goods and services that create value-added? Why has the Philippines been lagging behind its peers in the region or why a war-ravaged Vietnam is poised to overtake America’s first empire, once a regional powerhouse in the 50s and 60s?

On the political sphere: Should the process of building a working democracy be bottom-up or for the most part brought into being by the wise, the learned, the elites by the process of re-entrusting? If our borrowed democracy were redefined, should it continue to be based on some preconceived foreign notion or principally upon our own unique experience? How much power the sovereign people should retain and not delegate until public servants prove their worth?

And ultimately, the fundamental question: How much do we love our country?

So, People Power III should not just arrange to force a sitting president from power, it must “press on” to graduate from the same retrograde state the country is in.

A crucial part of the initial dialogue is the question of representation in governance where various interests should adequately be given a voice. So is the “to do list” during the first 30 – 60 days of regime change.

On the other hand, justice to those who breached the public trust should be swift, predictable yet humane but only after appropriate charges are substantiated by due process of law.

There’s plenty of work to do. Indeed, as the experience of People Power I and II tells us, removing someone from the seat of power could be the easy part.

No, EDSA is not dead. On the contrary, to borrow from Salud Algabre, each EDSA is “a step in the right direction.”
EDSA I (or People Power I) had a limited goal: to end the Marcos dictatorship that had essentially dismantled the traditional inner circles, the “old money” elites. The new trustee, Cory Aquino, thus represented the restoration of the old power. But the rise of Joseph “Erap” Estrada, a Marcos lieutenant, and of the “Binondo intsik behos” threatened anew the old elite power structures. The command center could not possibly permit an “outsider” to wield too much political power or for Erap’s midnight buddies to consolidate considerable economic power. Hence, through the media of mass communication the higher circle controls, the demonization of Erap: sugarol, babaero, lasengero at bobo. Consequently, Erap was ousted from the presidency by the EDSA II stratagem of “withdrawal of support” and “constructive resignation.”

Make no mistake about it: during both EDSAs people power and elite power rode upon each other’s back, with the latter keeping as expected the reins of the command center. There’s one notable contrast. Whereas Cory Aquino of EDSA I, at the inception of her administration, was open to a wider spectrum of meaningful reforms, GMA of EDSA II was quick to announce on the first day of office her deep-rooted conservative agenda: conserve the system for the “market-dominant minority” of economic elites.

Necessarily a part of a larger problem, Arroyo is not the economist she claims to be who sees a problematic political economy she is willing to solve. She comes out first and foremost a politician adroitly capable of being Marcosian sans martial law, prematurely thrust into power as the elites’ best wager to protect their interests and power structures. Now, as Arroyo shows signs of waning, the elites are again ready to double-bet on the People Power III crowd, hoping to package a surrogate as the people’s next champion.


Anonymous Ano nymous said...

I was taken aback you revealing anti-Chinese prejudice... now I realize I should not have been.

February 20, 2008 5:31 PM  
Anonymous ano nymous said...

Old man of Philippine journalism Amando Doronilla writes:

In 1986, the call of Jaime Cardinal Sin sent more than a million people to the streets to protect the forces allied with Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos from the troops that remained loyal to Ferdinand Marcos. In today's setting the Roman Catholic hierarchy is less unified than during the time of Cardinal Sin. The Church also does not have a leader as influential as Sin.

The strongest statement of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines called on the religious rank and file and the people to take "communal action" in the search for truth. It was hardly a call to arms for street activism by the faithful, led by priests and nuns who spearheaded the Church's involvement in mass action in 1986.

Although there are signs of increasing public outrage over the NBN scandal, a higher state of outrage is needed to send huge numbers of people to the streets. The military is watching the size of the crowd before it makes a move either to remain loyal to the commander in chief or withdraw support, like it did in 2001, when the general staff dumped Estrada.

February 26, 2008 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Ano nymous said...

But really... the military should just take over and be done with the charade. For years is probably all the time that is needed for a Lee Kuan Yew dictator to be caretaker in Malacanang to whip the Filipino population into shape!!!!

Bring back FVR!!! Ping Lacson will be okay by me, too!!!!

February 26, 2008 12:07 AM  
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