Only the beginning

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the March 4, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

An opinion column in another daily made me reflect on EDSA 1.

The column, “GMA wasn’t the only one missing at EDSA rites,” outlined what many believe to be the reasons why EDSA lost its glow.

“The most evident reason is that People Power removed only Marcos but not the rotten system in which he thrived…. What it actually brought back was the old oligarchy,” the columnist said.

He compared then with now. “As in Marcos’s time, a rubberstamp Congress allows the powerful executive to get away with murder, figuratively and literally. So long as they are sated with pork slabs, lawmakers will look the other way as Presidents illegally amass wealth. And as in Marcos’s time, the judiciary can be bought. Today jurists uphold not the spirit of the law but the ability to bend it to suit moneyed interests. The military is as politicized as ever,” he wrote.

It’s true much is to be desired post EDSA but those who are disappointed that People Power did not bring about the downfall of the oligarchy must nevertheless recognize a revolution occurred.

People Power replaced one-man rule with a system based on a democratic constitution ratified through a free election. Corazon Aquino didn’t have to do it. She could have kept the Revolutionary Government until “the danger of a counter-revolution passed and necessary reforms were put in place.” But she did not. That was a 180-degree turn from what used to be.

That we still do not live in a country where the rule of law reigns supreme is no reason to say the ultimate goal of EDSA was a restoration of the oligarchy and not the return of the rule of law as the bedrock of our society. If restoration was the intent then why did Aquino rush the 1987 Constitution?

The conflict between those who see EDSA as a revolution and those who see it as a restoration comes from a divergence of political approaches.

On one side are those who believe that the introduction of the rule of law precedes all development.

They say the rule of law is the tool with which to correct perceived inequalities in our society, that it makes possible an equal opportunity society where people can rise through sheer luck, intelligence, and hard work.

On the other side are those who start with the premise that the overthrow of the oligarchy is a prerequisite to the establishment of the rule of law. They say we need to start from scratch.

I see the transition of political systems, from autocracies to representative governments, as an evolutionary process. As each succeeding generation becomes less ignorant and more cognizant of their capacity for self-determination and governance, the movement towards government of, for, and by the people becomes inevitable.

Revolution is the recourse of a people who, having outgrown the status quo, find themselves up against a government unwilling or unable to change with the times. In other words, when governments fall behind, they fall.

Before People Power, revolutions were always marked by violence – before, during, and after. People Power changed all that. It proved non-violent revolution was possible.

The goal of EDSA, the establishment of a society under the rule of law, is the challenge of our time. It requires dedication, hard work, and patience. We still have a long way to go but that is no reason to turn cynical.

People Power was not the end of a process. It was only the beginning.

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