(The following was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Commentary section yesterday, Feb. 17. The piece is actually part two of my two-part blog post on the calls for Aquino’s resignation. You can read part one here.)
A big stumbling block to the “P-Noy Resign” call is the anxiety of what comes after.
Some balk at the idea of Vice President Jejomar Binay taking over. On the other hand, there are those who are afraid that the effort to remove President Aquino might lead to either a military junta or a communist dictatorship. Faced with these two options, many would rather just wait for him to step down in 2016. “Pagtiisan na lang natin (Let’s bear with him till then), “they’d say.
So how about a third way: the formation of a popular, civilian-led, transition council for unity and reform?
Extra-constitutional, out of the box
From the right to the left of the political spectrum, there is a growing consensus that the existing political system—dominated and ruled by greedy oligarchs and political dynasties subservient to vested foreign interests—has failed the people. Despite the populist posturings of past and present administrations, no significant changes have been felt by ordinary Filipinos, especially the poor and oppressed.
The chronic problems facing the nation and the decades-long failure of our political institutions to produce much needed economic, political, social and cultural reforms have fueled the search for radical, out-of-the box solutions. Short of an armed revolution, what have
succeeded are urban-centric, popular movements aimed at removing particular leaders, resulting in some changes in government structure and policies. Sadly, Edsa 1 and Edsa 2 People Power uprisings, though showing great promise at the start, ultimately fell short of what was needed to really change the system.
Edsa 1 was the extraconstitutional route. It led to the establishment of a revolutionary government that dismantled the US-Marcos dictatorship but fell short of actually establishing a genuine democracy. Instead, it gave back power to the old oligarchs and political dynasties and their new set of cronies. Ironically, the institutions that remained the most intact were the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Integrated National Police (later renamed the Philippine National Police), both key instruments of Marcos’ tyrannical rule.
Corazon Aquino’s distorted policy of “peace and reconciliation” allowed the Marcoses and their cronies to escape justice and make a quick comeback. Equally disastrous was her decision to pay back even the most onerous and odious of the dictatorship’s debts.
Ms Aquino also quickened the pace of economic liberalization and deregulation that strengthened the hold of foreign banks and corporations on the Philippine economy. If not for the people’s clamor against the US bases, she would have convinced the Senate to allow the continued stay of those bases.
Edsa 2 followed the route of constitutional succession. Denying the extraconstitutional nature of then President Joseph Estrada’s ouster, the usurpers of Edsa 2 persuaded the Supreme Court to create the legal hocus pocus of Estrada’s “constructive resignation” to justify Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s assumption to power. It became business as usual for the cronies and crooks in government led by the Gloria-First Gentleman tag team.
Afraid of what befell Estrada, Arroyo and her advisers, led by her national security adviser, later defense chief Norberto Gonzales, tried everything to destroy People Power, to the extent of unleashing the likes of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan on activists and political dissenters, resulting in a spree of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other gross human rights violations.
Two lessons we can glean from Edsa 1 and Edsa 2: (1) Only through extraconstitutional change can we achieve meaningful change; (2) Who takes power after a president’s resignation or ouster is crucial because that will determine the kind of change that will happen.
If Mr. Aquino is removed from power, an interim body that could run the affairs of state at the same time initiate immediate reforms in preparation for a more permanent government may be formed. Such a body—a transition council has been proposed—can be composed of representatives of the various groups and forces involved in Mr. Aquino’s ouster plus personalities known for their integrity and competence. The council should exist for a short period, perhaps one to two years, to do the following:
- Ensure peace and order and continued government services;
- Introduce key economic policies to ensure food sufficiency, national industrialization and higher incomes for the poor and middle class;
- Pave the way for clean and credible elections by overhauling the Commission on Elections and dismantling the political dynasties and their entrenched cheating machineries;
- Clean up the judiciary to ensure the prosecution and punishment of criminals, corrupt government officials and human rights violators;
- If needed, initiate a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Charter; and
- Earnestly pursue peace negotiations with various armed groups.
This is a tough agenda for a temporary, transition government. Thus it should have the backing of a broad coalition of public interest groups, political forces and personalities that can influence public opinion and mobilize people to support the reform agenda. Without such wide popular support, the council will find itself relying more and more on the armed forces, eventually transforming into a military junta.
The biggest question, of course, is can it be done? Can we as a people unite to remove
Mr. Aquino from power, put in place a reform-oriented, transition government and, more importantly, sustain support for such a government? I don’t know.
But I’m willing to take that chance again. Sure, Edsa 1 was a failed promise and Edsa 2 a farce. But who knows, another People Power might do the trick? At the least, we will get rid of an incompetent, elitist, American stooge. What is certain is that doing nothing and
accepting the status quo would be much, much worse.#