Sta. Ana is the Coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the BusinessWorld’s August 24, 2009 edition at pages S1/4 and S1/5.

The headline news of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), about a week ago, was “Cory Aquino buried martial law.”

The PDI headline referred to an analysis of Global Source, written by Romeo Bernardo and Margarita Gonzales. In gist, the massive outpouring of support for President Aquino and the revitalization of people power had made it harder for the camp of Gloria Arroyo to extend her power through emergency rule or martial law.

Of course, anything can still happen between now and the 2010 elections.  We can expect Arroyo and her thinning number of loyalists to continue plotting. They will try to create another opportunity to insert their power agenda.

But for the time being, their plans have been derailed.  And they have to contend with an objective situation most unfavorable to them—the people’s political reawakening and the rise of public indignation brought about by the death of Cory Aquino and the Arroyo party’s brazen, profligate spending of taxpayers’ money during the US visit, respectively.

In fact, the beginning of the election period, although informal, serves as another deterrent to an Arroyo power grab. The people are at fever pitch even before the campaigning commences. The election climate makes a much bigger segment of the populace more politically aware and active.

The 2010 electoral fight will serve a historical role similar to that of the 1986 snap election. The anti-dictatorship forces, without the radical Left, took part in the snap election in 1986 as a means to remove Marcos.  It is in the same vein that the 2010 elections should lead to the defeat of the vilest, most dangerous enemy.

The 1986 snap election was not merely a contest between Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos.  It was more importantly a struggle between democracy and dictatorship.

The 2010 election must likewise be seen as a struggle between democracy, decency, and clean government on the one hand and Arroyo’s illegitimacy, tyranny, corruption and greed, on the other hand.

The candidate that Arroyo and her party will endorse must be thoroughly rejected. For no matter how intelligent and hard working he is (think of Gilbert Teodoro), this candidate ultimately represents, shields, and serves Arroyo and her crooked interests.

The frame for the 2010 elections should be no different from how we framed the 2007 elections:  the people’s fight to punish Arroyo and her accomplices.

Surely, this will be a hard fight, given the resources—the whole State machinery—that Arroyo commands.  It is thus essential for the democratic opposition to form the broadest unity to defeat the common, most detested enemy.

In other words, the 2010 presidential election is not a contest between Joseph Estrada and Chiz Escudero, between Mar Roxas and Manny Villar, between Jojo Binay and Eddie Villanueva, etc.  Moreover, all the opposition candidates need to negotiate and unite behind a common candidate who is in the best position to throttle Arroyo and her candidate.  It is in the light that we can better appreciate the increasing clamor for Noynoy Aquino to run for the presidency.

We need someone to play the role that Cory Aquino triumphantly executed in 1986.

Whoever will don Cory’s mantle will likewise confront the same big challenges that she faced upon becoming president. The new Cory must do much better than Cory herself in building and strengthening institutions.

Cory championed the restoration of democracy, but what supplanted the Marcos dictatorship is the “illiberal” type of democracy, which Arroyo further bastardized.  Cory unshackled the economy from the clutches of Marcos and his cronies, but corruption has persisted, again steeply rising under Arroyo’s term.  In addition, the economy has not been able to secure equitable and sustained prosperity, frequently succumbing to a boom-and-bust pattern of growth.

The urgent tasks that await us are a minefield.  But the lessons have been learned. We should strive to align our individual interest to what is good for the people and the country. We should no longer be forgiving at the expense of accountability. We should vigorously resist anything that will reinforce the idea of forgetting the past and moving on.

Never again should we allow a Marcos or an Arroyo grab political power and destroy our institutions.