This is a repost of an entry published in my former blog last year:
In “A Call to Stop the Threat of People Power,” Onomatopoeia argues that the two EDSAs has not brought real change in the country but has only entrenched “more of the iron fist, more of the unexplained disappearances, more of the corruption, more of the hardcore nepotism, more of the illogical discipline, more of the mud-slinging, non-progressive government.”
Another such uprising, it adds, should be avoided “while most of us remain illiterate, …while 80% of us remain poor, …while we remain blinded by ignorance or arrogance.” The lesson from EDSA is that “a revolution is not the answer.”
To this I disagree. On the contrary, I believe the reasons cited are exactly why “people power” is all the more needed.
Legacy of EDSA
A “people power” uprising makes direct democratic action a reality. It is an option taken by an awakened people to shape the destiny of a nation by removing a government that has failed or worst – is working against the people’s interests, rights and welfare.
Both in 1986 and 2001, a broad alliance of people’s organizations, opposition groups, a faction from the military, and of course, the people in their hundreds and thousands who spontaneously flooded the streets nationwide, united to topple a dictator and an a plundering president.
Twenty-two years ago, “people power” deposed a corrupt dictator who deprived the nation and its people of human rights and civil liberties while plunging the country into a deep crisis that we are still reeling from today.
The 1987 Constitution, with its emphasis on human rights, its stressing of the importance of broadening the representation of marginalized sectors (labor, peasants, women, youth, etc.) in Congress, and other progressive provisions that try to ensure good governance, is a legacy of the first EDSA uprising.
The Real Lesson
The problem, I believe, is not that “people power” is wrong. What needs to be prevented is the waning of vigilance among the citizenry after the mass actions peak and the immediate goal (toppling the one in power) is achieved.
This is the time when the opportunists waiting on the wings reveal their ulterior motives and administration officials begin to defect en masse to the new government, all the while promising to morally revive the country.
They then exert all efforts to put off the fire, figuratively speaking that is, from the masses, expressing that its their turn to implement “reforms,” even as they go about restoring “business as usual.”
But lest we forget, real reform and change has never come from traditional politicians on their own. Not from the deposed speaker Jose De Venecia, not from his former colleagues in the administration, and not even most of their counterparts from the opposition.
The gains of the two EDSAs needs to be defended. And these cannot be entrusted to a discredited class of corrupt, insidious and moribund traditional politicians.
Social change comes only with the empowerment of a vigilant citizenry. This is the real lesson that has yet to be learned. ■