Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why People Power III is taking its time

Philippine Daily Inquirer’s John Nery has put forth his interesting take on why People Power III is taking its time:
I get the sense that, for many members of the Arroyo opposition and even for some who did not support the calls for resignation in 2005 but now believe the President too politically damaged to be worth the trouble of saving, ‘outrage’ necessarily translates to People Power.

This is a serious misunderstanding.
After some analogous exposition of certain events that had preceded both People Power I and People Power II, Mr. Neri arrived at his denouement about why People Power III seems still unsettled or otherwise inchoate: “So, yes, we should take to the streets; we should repair to our churches; we should fill the public square. But we should let People Power take care of itself.”

On the other hand, Manolo Quezon believes, quite paradoxically, People Power “must at the same time be organized and yet spontaneous.”

Revolution is doubtless a complex subject. Scholarship on the causes and nature, gestation period and actual process, consequences and outcomes of a revolution is rich and voluminous.

A safe starting point toward a basic understanding of the meaning of the phenomenon is an explanation, acceptable to many, of the distinction between the so-called social revolution and political revolution. A social revolution, referring to the definition given by Theda Skocpol, a recognized authority on the subject, is one which occurs where there is a “combination of thoroughgoing structural transformation and a massive upheaval.” Whereas a political revolution results only in replacing a government or in altering its basic (or bureaucratic) form without transforming dominant value and belief systems, property relations or other institutions to which the people have ordinarily acquiesced, regardless of whether the change or changes were brought by the action, massive or small-scale, of a class conscious class or group such as a roused or outraged proletariat, a relatively deprived middleclass, a marginalized elite, a messianic or disgruntled faction of the military or a combination of any such class, group or faction.

The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution are often given as examples of social revolution. On the hand, military intervention or takeover, coup d’etat of the Thai or Pakistani variety or self-coup of the Fujimori or Marcos version is conceivably a political rather than social reordering.

If the events that have led to People Power I (EDSA Revolution of 1986 or EDSA I) are any guide, revolutionary uprisings go through certain levels (of consciousness): First, the underlying belief by a sizeable segment of society that the rulers and certain institutional arrangements have lost legitimacy; second, certain intense participants or change agents have gotten around their sense of powerlessness and come to realize they have the power or capacity to effect the needed changes; third, the disaffected members of society have more or less formed a consensus as to the nature and or scope of the changes they desire to occur in lieu of the illegitimated rulers or arrangements, whether be it about a total systemic overhaul, a “regime change,” an extra-constitutional overthrowing of a corrupt or immoral government, etc.

My sense is that People Power III has already reached the first and second levels of consciousness described above. However, before the Great Beast “could take care of itself” today it has yet to hurdle the third level of consciousness.

For one, I have noted even the reformists in the military and the progressives in the civil society are still tentative about the scope and the nature of the changes to be sought (note should also be taken for instance that the slightest suggestion during the Manila Peninsula “uprising” that a military junta was being contemplated has not sit well with potential supporters), while other veteran people power practitioners are apprehensive the next exercise “could again end up repeating a vicious cycle of simply ‘moving on’ in circle, and not leaping onward or to a higher ground” or a “new qualitative state.”

Recall that with the Left having marginalized itself during EDSA I, establishment figures, e.g., Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin, having positioned themselves at the helm of the movement and US stance having immediately switched gears (from staunch support for a dictator to a lavish tribute to the housewife in yellow), any serious expectations of radical restructuring, both in the political and the economic fronts, were effectively bridled at the first “people power” revolution. Where the Aquino government could have been regarded as having actually breached an implied promise was in the area of meaningful land reform.

The forces of old-school political economy in the domestic scene plus the external pressure emanating from Washington Consensus’ prescriptions for the many ailments germinated by the conjugal dictatorship dampened nascent aspirations for transformative reforms that had been gestating for decades. There’s however one change the participants of the EDSA I movement were in unison in bringing about – the end of the dictatorship.

If EDSA I had paved the way for the restoration of “old money” elites, the Estrada presidency just before being driven out power by EDSA II saw the return of the Marcos inner cliques and cronies (even Marcos right-hand man, General Fabian Ver who had dared to shoot down the EDSA crowd at the height of the uprising, was given a hero’s funeral when he returned from self-exile in a casket). Meanwhile Estrada was proving to be a disgrace to the hidden rules of the elite class (he was of course considered as one of them ex-officio) because of what’s thought to be as nickel-and-dime operations in jueteng payoff. But EDSA moment only took shape when the “politicized” impeachment against President Estrada (a Filipino replication of the proceeding against US President Clinton) permitted proceduralism to tamper with substantive democracy with ignominy and impunity.

The demand for a change during EDSA II therefore converged around a public awareness of a rather circumscribed issue, which was the egregious disregard by the Senate majority of the essence of Rule of Law because of callous partisanship. The gestation period of the Great Beast was then almost irrelevant since the “transforming” consensus was in fact in connection with a limited, albeit vital, goal: to make People Power democracy triumph over procedural democracy.

Now, the question once again: Why is People Power III taking its time?

My own take is: There is yet no general consensus among potential people power participants and activists, as has been in EDSA I or EDSA II, as to what change to aspire for and institute.

Arguably, proposals for reforms or transformations, at odds with each other for the most part, still abound. To cite a few: some who believe the two EDSAs were both a failure aim this time to act against a failed system and plan to overhaul it either according to some rigid ideologies or based merely on the “best practices” of ongoing successful experiments; other groups are just angry and frustrated because of “relative deprivation” (middle class weighed upon with a looming downgrade to the next class complain how come only their counterparts in other regions are having all the fun); still others are focused only on struggling for control of the state apparatuses and effecting “regime change” while keeping both the political and economic structures intact; and specifically, accused coup leader and now detained senator Sonny Trillanes is eager to transform the nation “without reinventing the wheel,” whereas Bishop Francisco Claver can only entertain the belief that “our problem comes down to this: how to correct the aberration that is the present administration without destroying the stabilizing structure that is our democratic system of government.”

Interestingly, conservative segments of Philippine society such as the Catholic Church that was a key collaborator during the two successful EDSAs have of late shown their true colors maybe fearful People Power III could spin out of control and end up challenging long-held values and myths. As a result, reactionary moves from old and once reliable alliances, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in particular, are silently taking place in the form of tokenism (a plea to President Arroyo to take lead in the fight against corruption) and diversion (a call for a new brand of People Power through “communal action”).

Ecclesiastics and the laity alike must not fail to remember that the continuing appeal of Christianity as a powerful religious upheaval and of People Power is due to the historical reality that both have given hope to the many who were once powerless.

__________

(NOTE: According to one organizer, Monsignor Gerry Santos, national capital region director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP-NCR), the huge “Interfaith” rally on Friday, February 29, 2008, at Makati City, made up largely by youthful participants and students, was supposedly a “communal action” at the height of which President Arroyo reportedly holed up in a military camp as a precautionary measure.)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Ano nymous said...

EDSA Tres has come and gone.

EDSA III (pronounced EDSA Tres) was a rebellion sparked by the arrest in April 2001 of newly deposed President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines. The rebellion was held for several days in a major highway in Metro Manila, the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, which eventually culminated in an attempt to storm the Malacanang presidential palace. Taking place four months after EDSA Revolution of 2001, the protests were asserted as a more populist and representative uprising in comparison to the previous demonstrations in the same location, in January 2001. The protests and the attack on the presidential palace, however, failed in their objectives. Participants continue to claim that it was a genuine People Power event, a claim disputed by the participants and supporters of EDSA II. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has acknowledged the divisive nature of the two terminologies by saying in one statement that she hoped to be the president of "EDSA II and EDSA III."

EDSA III (pronounced EDSA Tres) was a rebellion sparked by the arrest in April 2001 of newly deposed President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines. The rebellion was held for several days in a major highway in Metro Manila, the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, which eventually culminated in an attempt to storm the Malacanang presidential palace. Taking place four months after EDSA Revolution of 2001, the protests were asserted as a more populist and representative uprising in comparison to the previous demonstrations in the same location, in January 2001. The protests and the attack on the presidential palace, however, failed in their objectives. Participants continue to claim that it was a genuine People Power event, a claim disputed by the participants and supporters of EDSA II. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has acknowledged the divisive nature of the two terminologies by saying in one statement that she hoped to be the president of "EDSA II and EDSA III."
EDSA III (pronounced EDSA Tres) was a rebellion sparked by the arrest in April 2001 of newly deposed President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines. The rebellion was held for several days in a major highway in Metro Manila, the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, which eventually culminated in an attempt to storm the Malacanang presidential palace. Taking place four months after EDSA Revolution of 2001, the protests were asserted as a more populist and representative uprising in comparison to the previous demonstrations in the same location, in January 2001. The protests and the attack on the presidential palace, however, failed in their objectives. Participants continue to claim that it was a genuine People Power event, a claim disputed by the participants and supporters of EDSA II. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has acknowledged the divisive nature of the two terminologies by saying in one statement that she hoped to be the president of "EDSA II and EDSA III."
APRIL 30, 2001
The crowd of an alleged several hundred thousand people (although according to Iglesia ni Cristo-owned broadcast network Net 25 and to Senator Sotto, a high of over 3 million in the evening of April 30), most of whom were members of the urban poor and devotees of the Iglesia ni Cristo which institutionally supported Estrada, gathered at the Roman Catholic EDSA Shrine, the site of the January EDSA II revolt which had toppled Estrada from the presidency.

News organizations aiming to cover the rally were advised not approach the area, as there were reports of stones being thrown at cameramen, particularly those from ABS-CBN.

The protest was led by members of the political opposition of the time, most notably Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Vicente Sotto III.


May 1
The rebellion aimed to remove Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the presidency and to reinstate Estrada. The rebellion came to a head on the morning of May 1, 2001 most of the people left specially the Iglesia ni Cristo members as an agreement of their leaders and the government. Still hundreds of thousands of protesters stormed towards Malacañang Palace, the presidential residence; government soldiers and the policemen dispersed the marchers, causing violence. Several broadcast vans of ABS-CBN were torched by members of the crowd, while others attacked the police and soldiers with rocks, sticks, and pipes. The police and military responded with force after implementing a "maximum tolerance" policy, which led to the injury of many of the protesters. [1] President Arroyo declared a State of Rebellion in the National Capital Region pursuant to Proclamation No. 38[1] and arrested leaders who participated in the said rebellion like Senator Juan Ponce Enrile but released on bail.[2] On May 7, 2001, President Arroyo lifted the State of Rebellion.[3]

March 01, 2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

Anonie,

In terms of establishing a public and institutional space for the “liberty to participate” (which to me is the essence of republicanism), I have approached EDSA Tres this way: all parties are a giver and a receiver of information in that freedom space and the discourse if guided by mutual respect is expected to result in reciprocally beneficial terms, possibly in consensus-driven proaction.

People Power II and EDSA Tres should be distinguished on the basis of what should govern the exercise of fundamental political capacities. Whereas I have noted “People Power II coalition made a judgment call only after thoughtful deliberations and reflections among the various groups and individual participants, EDSA Tres was sired through manipulation and instigation by some people who had no intention of treating themselves as co-equal partners in their contrivance.” Hence, empowerment was to People Power II as disempowerment to EDSA Tres.

Note that having spent its steam during the Malacañang siege, the EDSA Tres hothouse fizzled out unceremoniously. The horde then became as “rudderless as a decrepit craft liable to blow up at the whiff of a gust” (as I have described it in an exchange). The EDSA Tres rebellion, waged in the tradition of the powerlessness, cannot therefore be considered as an exercise of People Power.

March 02, 2008 1:05 PM  
Anonymous ano nymous said...

ex-POW McCain has clinched the Republican nomination.

And it looks like the Democrats will select Obama. Which is a shame. Hillary's edge --- the women vote --- gets frittered away and the Republicans will step back into the White House une fois de plus.

March 04, 2008 11:31 PM  

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