“Aquino shrugged,” so said his spokesmen and communications secretary, following the issuance of the Cebu declaration and the Lipa declaration by the assemblies of religious and civic leaders, which called on the 15th president of our republic to step down.
The spokesmen’s allusion to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is unfortunate and only digs a grave for the president. Rand’s 1957 novel depicts a dystopian United States, in which the country has a “National Legislature” instead of a Congress and a “Head of State” instead of a President. This will give angry citizens plenty of ideas.
If anything, the Palace statement is prophetic of what I am persuaded now has become inevitable. Aquino will bow to the will of the people and will step down and out of Malacañang. Sweeping political reforms will be passed and implemented. The scenario and program boldly advanced by the Cebu and Lipa declarations, and the proposed National Transformation Council, will slowly but surely become reality.
Am I, like President Aquino, hallucinating or being delusional?
Not at all. History, stretching over a hundred years, validates this forecast.
Why civil resistance works
A foreigner and regular reader alerted me to this verdict of history, in empathizing with us Filipinos in our ordeal and miseries under the administration of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd.
He directed my attention to a much-praised article in International Security quarterly, by two women authors and academics, who have done exceptional research and analysis on the subject of civil resistance movements in history.
The paper is “Why civil resistance works: The strategic Logic of nonviolent Conflict,” by Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth (International Security, Volume 33,no.1, Harvard University).
The journal article has since been published as a book. It’s been reviewed and praised by experts. There are multiple citations of it online. I found a picture of the volume (see illustration).
I have ordered a copy of the book through Powerbooks, and it will take about a month to reach me.
In the meantime, I had to content myself with a shortened version of the book by the authors, which was published this year in an issue of Foreign Affairs. What follows is derived from my reading of the shorter version.
But first, let us ground the concept of “civil resistance” in an easy-to-understand definition, courtesy of an Oxford book,Civil resistance and power politics. Its editors, Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash, define “civil resistance” as “a type of political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods. It involves a range of widespread and sustained activities that challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime – hence the term ‘resistance.’ The adjective ‘civil’ in this context denotes that a movement’s goals are widely shared in a society; and that the action concerned is non-military or non-violent in character…”
What Ms. Stephan and Ms. Chenoweth have done in their research project is both daunting and remarkable.
To assess the real potential of civil resistance movements, they assembled a historical data set of 323 campaigns that spanned the 20th century.
The global data set covered all known nonviolent and violent campaigns (each featuring at least 1,000 observed participants) for self-determination, the removal of an incumbent leader, or the expulsion of a foreign military occupation from 1900 to 2006. The data set was assembled using thousands of source materials on protest and civil disobedience, expert reports and surveys, and existing records on violent insurgencies.
Of course, Philippine people power in 1986 forms part of the data set.
Statling, incisive and cogent research findings
The findings of Ms. Stephan and Ms. Chenoweth in their research project are startling, incisive and cogent. Among these are the following:
1. Between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements.
2. Nonviolent resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of the dictatorship would lead to peace and democratic rule.
3. Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structure has systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding. From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of repression.
4. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve.
5.Civil resistance does not succeed because it melts the hearts of dictators and secret police. It succeeds because it is more likely than armed struggle to attract a larger and more diverse base of participants and impose unsustainable costs on a regime.
6. Civil resistance campaigns that work have three things in common: they enjoy mass participation, they produce regime defections, and they employ flexible tactics.
Mass participation –Historically, the larger and more diverse the campaign, the more likely it was to succeed. Large campaigns have a greater chance of seriously disrupting the status quo.
Regime defections –Broad-based support for a civil resistance movement can weaken the loyalty of economic elites, religious authorities, and members of the media who support the regime. When such figures defect to the opposition, they can sometimes force the regime to surrender to the opposition’s demands.
Flexible tactics — When large numbers of people engage in acts of civil disobedience and disruption, shifting between concentrated methods such as protests and diverse methods such as consumer boycotts and strikes, even the most brutal opponent has difficulty cracking down and sustaining the repression indefinitely.
7. Civil resistance requires more than just mass participation and defections; it also requires planning and coordinated tactics. One scholar identified 198 different tactics that nonviolent resistance movements employ.
8. The authors cite the Syrian case as an illustration of why violence is the wrong path to take in resisting a regime. Rather than illustrate the limits of nonviolent resistance, Syria’s path shows how devastating the choice of violence can be. It has played to Assad’s strengths while making the opposition wholly reliant on external armed intervention.
9. Civil society played an essential role in nearly every major social and political transformation of the last half century.
10. Civil resistance campaigns are and should remain homegrown movements. The international community has done much to undermine civil resistance by quickly and enthusiastically supporting armed actors when they arrive on the scene. Syria’s tragedy is a case in point.
The fierce urgency of now
This brings us back to where we began: the situation in our country today
The varied initiatives and programs that have recently sprouted with the avowed purpose of effecting political, economic and ethical change can be described collectively as civil resistance movement.
By gathering them together under this single concept, it becomes easier to analyze this growing phenomenon in our midst, to comprehend the spreading kaleidoscope of action ideas and the increasing clamor for results.
Impeachment, the constitutionally prescribed option, is dead, because it just plays into the hands of Aquino’s gangster politics. It only gives the President and his congressional allies an excuse to loot the treasury some more.
Constitutional reform is an even more risky enterprise, because it can be used to enable Aquino to seek another term.
The tide of public outrage is rising. Our people will no longer tolerate the looting of the public treasury, the failure of the administration to solve glaring problems and provide vital public services. They cannot understand why in Aquino’s government, officials do not resign, and are not fired.
It is to the ordinary citizen an abnormal state of affairs. And it reflects the man who sits on top of our government.
This is why the formation of the National Transformation Council as both an umbrella and a transition vehicle for political change – is potentially a game-changer.
Aquino’s apologists in the media have advised the president, “Just say no,” to the calls for him to step down. And so he has. He has blamed Gloria Arroyo some more for the failures of his administration. And he keeps muttering reforms that are only visible to him, and are enjoyed by no one.
But the clamor for him to leave has relentlessly grown. From Lipa to Cebu, the civil resistance movement is spreading throughout the archipelago; other cities will host their own assemblies and issue their own declarations.
Signatories to the transformation movement will reach millions.
When the Aquino Resign movement was first launched,, the administration tried to tamp it down by organizing its own support-Aquino movement, Kompre.
The group and its leaders have disappeared in shame. Now, two opportunists have unfurled the banner of yet another pro-Aquino movement – More2Come – promising to enlist millions of signatures. You can see the organizers as just salivating for the administration to fund them. They will disappear even faster than Kompre.
By the time Pope Francis comes to town, who knows how many will be willing to fly Aquino’s ribbon?
To President Aquino’s shrug, the proper response, as in Lipa, was and always is: “Step down, now na.”
It has the fierce urgency of now.