COMMUNICATION Secretary Martin Andanar, who has made a career of announcing all sorts of conspiracies and plots against President Rodrigo Duterte, has just announced the existence of a “grand scheme” by parties unknown to unseat the President. This contradicts the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that there is no such threat to the President. Is Andanar’s claim more solid than his previous assertion that members of the Senate media had been bribed $1,000 each to cover a former policeman’s press conference alleging DU30’s involvement in the bombing of mosques and killings when he was still mayor of Davao City? Or is it just as spurious? Why is Andanar the one saying all this when his credibility is perhaps at its lowest point?
Assuming Andanar had credible intelligence, was he not being intolerably amateurish in prematurely broadcasting it, while Lorenzana and Esperon decided to treat it professionally as a state secret? If the claim had any basis, shouldn’t the government have exposed it in all its details, after some of its alleged conspirators had been arrested, just like what happened after some rebel officers had penetrated Malacañang’s security perimeter, on the eve of the EDSA revolt in February 1986? Absent any proof or details, Andanar’s statement could easily be construed as an attempt to justify DU30’s decision to empty the 31st anniversary celebration of the “EDSA Revolution” of all meaning, by holding it away from public view, inside Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, rather than on EDSA itself, and to manufacture his own “event.”
What the world remembers
“EDSA-1” was one event that left our people in utter awe of what they could achieve without resorting to or enduring violence. It left the world breathless to see Ferdinand Marcos, who had held power for 20 years, stepping down without any resistance, despite the rabid insistence of his Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver to deal a crushing blow on the rebellious forces. People thought of us Filipinos better than we thought of ourselves, and for one brief shining moment we all seemed to have finally discovered that God and country, in their respective spheres, were infinitely bigger than anything else. But because we did not pay for it with our blood nor with any great sacrifice, it became so easy for us to throw our gains away, from the very moment “victory” was ours.
No administration after 1986 ever sought to invest the word “revolution” with the meaning it needed and deserved. So, year after year our EDSA celebrations progressively lost their spiritual, moral and patriotic fervor and content. But the backslide and the effort to rob it of its substance was there from the very start. On the day my neighbors’ families, including their young grandchildren, came to line up on EDSA, I literally climbed over the wall of Camp Aguinaldo to come to the office of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, who was holed up inside. We had been the closest partners in the Cabinet, but we had not seen each other since I left the Batasan in 1984, four years after leaving my Cabinet post. He gave me a big hug, and I felt reassured that he was on top of the situation.
But my heart sank when he sat down briefly for a TV interview, and when asked whether he had any plans of assuming the leadership during the transition, he said No, he would rather see Cory Aquino preside over the government. Thus, the first shouts of “Enrile, Enrile” were instantly muted, and “Cory, Cory, Cory!” welled out from the crowd. He was not answering an original question from the interviewer; it had been raised earlier on the same TV channel by former Senator Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, who was chairman of the National Unification Committee, of which I was a member, and which had fielded Cory as Marcos’s opponent in the February 7, 1986 “snap” presidential election.
Although I had broken with Marcos six years before and had voted for Cory, I thought that was a mistake. Enrile misspoke, that was his first mistake.
Cory had lost the election, and although the February 13, 1986 statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said, “In our considered judgment, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct,” this was not part of the reasons the military had mutinied against their Commander-in-Chief. Cory had gone to Cebu to avoid the “uprising”; her last speech at the Luneta after Marcos won the election and US President Ronald Reagan said there had been irregularities on both sides, was to call for a “boycott of the products of all crony corporations”—she did not have the heart to call for “civil disobedience” as suggested by her supporters.
Later evidence would suggest that much of the so-called fraud allegedly committed by Marcos had been staged by anti-Marcos forces, and made to appear as the handiwork of Marcos, for the benefit of the international election observers.
An appointive commission
I had assumed, correctly it turned out, that the victorious forces would establish a revolutionary government, and this was exactly what they did. They abolished the 1973 Constitution, and replaced it with a makeshift “Freedom Constitution”, effective on March 25, 1986. This provided that 60 days from that date, a Commission of not more than 50 citizens shall be appointed to draft a new Constitution. The popular expectation, mine too, was that since Cory had become President through “people power,” she would allow the people to write their own Constitution through an elective constitutional convention. I was on earshot range when she said, she could not imagine the people voting for Commander Dante (who was then present) as one of the delegates to draft the new Constitution. So, she decided to appoint them instead. But Dante was not among her appointees in the end.
Article V of the Freedom Constitution specified that the members of the Commission should be natural-born citizens, of recognized probity, known for their independence, nationalism and patriotism, and chosen after consultation with various sectors of society. A couple of friendly bishops wanted to nominate me as one of the commissioners; I graciously declined—I did not believe in the appointive commission. Forty-eight members were appointed, without adhering strictly to all the criteria for appointees set by the President. A political officer of the US Embassy diligently sat daily with the commissioners as an observer and became known as the 49th commissioner. Forty-six delegates voted for the draft Constitution on October 15, 1986.
I accompanied Enrile in his campaign against the draft Constitution, after Cory had sacked him as her secretary of national defense. We covered a lot of ground, but I travelled with him as a newspaperman. When we came to Tuguegarao, his home city, though, he asked me to speak. There I pointed out the various flaws of the document. Toward the end of my speech, I took a sheaf of newsprint, and ripping them apart, said, “This is not a Constitution, this is but a scrap of paper!” (Which was literally correct.) The mammoth crowd rose as one and gave me a prolonged ovation. One commissioner who recalls this in his book, says I tore his heart with my symbolic gesture. The Constitution was ratified in a plebiscite on February 2, 1987 despite our opposition, and Enrile and I became among its staunchest defenders. Without being blind to its defects.
Cory’s term extension and self-interests
But either the Constitution is erroneously framed or Cory committed a serious violation of one of its transitory provisions. Section 5 of Article XVIII provides that, “The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice-President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992. The first regular elections for President and Vice President under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1992.” This was erroneously interpreted to mean that Cory Aquino and Salvador “Doy Laurel,” who became revolutionary President and revolutionary Vice President, respectively, after losing the election, could remain in office until June 30, 1992. Strictly construed, the provision refers to Marcos and Arturo Tolentino who were proclaimed “elected” by the presidential canvassing body and whose proclamation was never revoked, even though they were not allowed to sit because of the EDSA uprising.
This was a grave offense to the “revolution.”
Now, Presidential Proclamation No. 3, issued on March 25, 1986 authorized the sequestration of all known Marcos assets by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. This meant all assets, whether held by the Marcoses or by their cronies. The PCGG, not any particular individual or family, was to be the repository. And yet a group of corporations originally owned by Cory Aquino’s Cojuangco family, which her brother-in-law, the late Ricardo “Baby” Lopa, had asked his boyhood friend and Imelda Marcos’s younger brother, Gov. Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, to acquire in a legitimate business transaction during martial law, were returned to the Cojuangcos, reportedly without any consideration, without going through the PCGG, contrary to law. In like manner, Hacienda Luisita, the country’s biggest agricultural estate, was exempted from land reform by direct action of the President.
This, for me, was a great setback for the “revolution.” The Supreme Court tried to correct this error during the term of President B.S. Aquino 3rd by finally awarding the rights to Hacienda Luisita to its farmers, but this decision cost the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona his position, his honor, his peace, and finally, his life. Aquino literally bribed the congressmen and the members of the Senate impeachment court to have Corona impeached, convicted and removed. He died broken-hearted, not long after that.
What happened to courage?
To most Filipinos, the EDSA revolt “restored Philippine democracy,” as they knew it, and Cory and her family were its very first beneficiaries. She did not have to have trolls in order to rewrite history and say that she restored Philippine democracy instead of being simply its primary beneficiary. She did it in any case. When we see how deeply entrenched the political dynasties and the old oligarchy have remained, despite the political acoustics generated by some ideological propagandists, we have to ask, what exactly had we won at EDSA which we have not yet lost?
Despite all that, none of the previous administrations ever suggested that the nation’s well-being and the President’s political health could be put to risk by a more vibrant celebration of what happened on EDSA 31 years ago, which made Filipinos the darlings of the world. What makes the toughest mouth and the quickest draw among all our Presidents so afraid of a simple commemorative event? Does DU30 need a million people, simultaneously marching at the Luneta, to provide support for his globally advertised and supposedly legendary courage?