(First part of a series on ‘Retaking EDSA’)
A WEEK from now on February 25, a small minority of Filipino society will again congregate at EDSA to celebrate what was labeled as a revolution.
It is about time to burst the bubble and tell these people that what they are celebrating is not a revolution.
A revolution is defined by Jeff Goodwin as “any and all instances in which a state or a political regime is overthrown and hereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extraconstitutional and/or violent fashion.”
He further avers that “revolutions entail not only mass mobilization and regime change, but also more or less rapid and fundamental social, economic and/or cultural change, during or soon after the struggle for state power.”
A more structuralist definition is provided by Jack Goldstone, who defined revolution as “an effort to transform political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine authority.”
One has to ask the following questions.
What are the rapid and fundamental changes that occurred after Marcos fled to Hawaii? What are the fundamental transformations in the political institutions that were triggered by EDSA? Did the justification for political authority ever significantly change as a result?
A closer look at recent history will tell us that oligarchic power is very much around. The Philippines has not become any less conservative or any more progressive because of the revolution. There is no cultural revolution. As we speak, the Filipino language remains to struggle despite the fact that it was enshrined as the national language.
In fact, if there are shifts engendered by the post-EDSA Constitution that had structural political implications, these were those that enabled the return of oligarchic politics. The abolition of the two-party system hoped to bring about the dissolution of the dynastic and centralized power of the elites. But instead of dissolving the base of local political elites, a multi-party system has only provided more spaces for oligarchic political structures to thrive. Indeed, if there is one fundamental transformation that EDSA provided for, it was the further weakening of the capacity of political parties, already co-opted by Marcos, to aggregate political interests, and has turned parties into personalistic and opportunistic havens to nurture not ideologies, but political careers.
The representation of marginalized sectors is not even an original idea, but was copied from Marcos and took the form of the party-list system that we have now. Far from becoming the sole domain for the marginalized, the system became the breeding ground for just anyone to become a marginalized sector.
Revolutions do not happen just because we plan it. In the same manner, political events do not become revolutionary just because we kick out a dictator in a dramatic fashion.
EDSA does not become a revolution just because political and intellectual elites decided to call it one. Euphoria of the moment can generate a discourse to call what we had a revolution, a people power one, one that was peaceful and non-violent.
But revolutions are not named solely because of the feel of it, or the looks of it.
An important element of revolutions is the outcome.
If one makes a serious examination of the structural changes that happened after EDSA, one will be faced with the difficulty of unearthing patterns that can be considered as truly revolutionary outcomes.
The biggest proof of the failure of EDSA to achieve becoming a revolution is the absence of terror striking the hearts of the elites that benefited from the old regime. Physical terror does not even have to be present, but only structural terror, where classes were made to undergo rapid transformation, and where political actors were forced to acquire a new ideological perspective, enough for a transformed justification for political authority to take root and thrive.
What we saw after EDSA can be labeled many ways, except revolutionary.
Politicians from the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), that monolithic party which Marcos created, just changed their party hats, reinvented themselves, and migrated into the post-EDSA political alignments. A true revolution would have sent these people’s heads crashing into a basket, or at the very least, sent them to re-education camps.
The fact that the Marcoses never left our political imaginations is enough evidence that EDSA was not a revolution.
EDSA was a military revolt led by men out to protect their personal interests who took advantage of people’s anger towards a discredited regime, and later used them as shields to escape its wrath. The whole narrative was completed by political elites who took advantage of the situation to push for a political coup of seizing power through an extra-constitutional opening.
EDSA was all personal. There was no ideological grounding. And the people were just used.
No wonder it ended up the way it did. EDSA was, for all intents and purposes, bereft of the necessary ingredients to make it truly revolutionary.