In marking the 29th anniversary of EDSA-I today, we could inquire, what happened to the Filipino nation which “people power” rescued from the Marcos “dictatorship” and returned to “democracy”? Under mounting pressure to step down because of his failed command which led to the massacre of 44 Special Action Force police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, President B. S. Aquino 3rd has downgraded the celebration for reasons known only to himself. But Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, will be presiding over a solemn High Mass at the EDSA Shrine at noon, to “celebrate 29 years of freedom,” according to the church announcement.
I felt something run inside me when I heard that sound bite at the Shrine yesterday. Obviously, not much thinking had gone into it; but perhaps an innocent parish clerk had composed it: we sometimes use words because they sound good, without bothering much about their real meaning. But for those who know the meaning of words and what goes beyond words, our freedoms and democracy have been savaged these last four years by the very forces that were supposed to protect them from harm.
Not even at the height of martial law did the State impose its will on the most intimate private lives of Filipino couples. But that is now Aquino’s gift to the nation, and the Supreme Court can only say it is “not unconstitutional,” despite its occasional stab at courage.
From 1986 to the present, we have had five governments. The first and the fifth were presided by mother and son, both surnamed Aquino. The jury is still out on who was (who is) the more disastrous of the two. Neither Ferdinand Marcos, the most maligned after he fell, nor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who was removed after two years, nor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was hounded by questions of corruption and illegitimacy and has been jailed by the incumbent, is any longer in competition; the contest now seems limited to just the two Aquinos.
Corazon Cojuangco Aquino rode on the crest of the people’s grief over the 1983 assassination of her husband, Ninoy Aquino, and the euphoria over the people’s victory at EDSA. For six and a half years she sat in the presidency with neither vision nor mission nor art nor science, first as revolutionary president for the first few months, and then as unelected and non-performing president for the next six years.
She discarded the Constitution and issued a new one, restored the old oligarchy which Marcos had tried to abolish, presided over a crooked 1987 senatorial election where only two opposition candidates, instead of nine or ten, were allowed to win, scrapped the national energy development program and nearly everything else that bore Marcos’ name, and sent the country to a new Dark Age with ten to 12 hours of daily power blackouts. Under her successor Ramos, I had to sponsor the Electric Power Crisis Act in the Senate to bring back the electricity supply, at such punishing cost to the consumer, which we are still paying for to this day.
Although physically absent from EDSA, Cory became the most important “beneficiary” of the restoration of democracy, which was the handiwork of all Filipinos. But in a very short while, she was marketed by her propagandists, without any objection on her part or from her crew or choir, as the one who “restored” democracy to the Filipinos. This has remained part of the official propaganda, which is regurgitated in the media every once so often, particularly during Aquino-related celebrations.
Non-performing senator becomes president
Upon her death, B. S. Aquino 3rd was machine-elected as president, despite his utter lack of program or evident fitness for the office. He was on his third year as a non-performing senator, after having served three unremarkable terms as congressman, representing his district in Tarlac. He had never been mentioned as a presidential possibility before, but when Cory was on her deathbed, his political handlers decided to use her death as a staging point for his candidacy, just as they had used his father’s death in 1983 to propel Cory to the presidency.
It was necropolitics at its best (or worst), true to what one British statesman once said, “that in politics, so long as there is death, there is hope.” Indeed, it turned out to be so much undeserved (and also unused) opportunity for Aquino, and so much misery for the Filipinos.
Using his sister Kris Aquino’s hold on the ABS-CBN celebrities and the showbiz media, the propaganda polling firms controlled by relatives and friends, and the usual pillars of our well-known inanities, Aquino quickly managed to become a presidential candidate, after persuading the long-declared presidential wannabe Mar Roxas to become his running mate instead.
In the ensuing debates, he performed rather poorly beside his own cousin, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, the brightest of them all, and the Arroyo administration’s official candidate. On the campaign trail, he failed to draw as big and enthusiastic a crowd as the former movie star Estrada.
But he waged the most vitriolic and toxic campaign against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom Cory had unsuccessfully tried to oust from office after the infamous “Hello Garci” tape-recording of her conversations with the former Comelec commissioner Garcillano during the 2004 presidential elections had surfaced in 2005. He promised an “incorrupt” government through his brainless slogan “kung walang corrupt walang mahirap,” (the poor would not exist if corruption did not exist), which none of the other players exposed as nonsensical and bankrupt.
Then he propagated the audacious claim, supported by paid propaganda surveys, that he would win by a plurality of five million votes over his closest rival, but that he would be cheated by Arroyo, so he would have to stage “people power” to claim his due. This so intimidated Arroyo and her top supporters that they were forced to negotiate a “modus vivendi” with Aquino.
They assured him of his five-million vote plurality, without having to resort to “people power,” provided he would not go after Arroyo. So Smartmatic took over and all the security features and accuracy mechanisms of the precinct count optical scan machine were disabled to guarantee the desired results. Then US Ambassador Harry Thomas and other Western diplomats extended diplomatic recognition to Aquino as president-elect, by visiting him at his residence, even before the official count could be completed and he could be proclaimed officially elected.
The “modus vivendi” appeared to hold until some critics started asking rudely about Aquino’s program of government. He obviously had none, but to show that he had one, he decided to go after Arroyo with plunder charges, and moved for the impeachment and removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona by physically bribing Congress to implement his project. This became his entire program of government.
He has since jailed three opposition senators on charges of plunder while extending absolute protection to his political sycophants and cronies involved in various anomalies, beginning with the manipulation and misuse of the humungous pork barrel system, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.
He has committed all the impeachable crimes mentioned in the Constitution. But because he has committed most of them in complicity with the members of Congress, who hold the power of impeachment and removal, he has remained unimpeached. The Mamasapano massacre , however, has changed all this. They are talking of impeachment, but demanding that he “step down” to pay for his crime.
This was first raised by the National Transformation Assembly in Lipa on August 27 last year, because of his numerous constitutional violations. But it has intensified after the massacre. Malacañng and its Congress allies are trying to do everything to perfect the cover-up, but not all the lying that has come out of the Palace and the Senate hearings has succeeded in diluting Aquino’s unexplained accountability for the massacre.
Lone official left in command
Aquino was the lone official left in command of Operation Exodus, after he had removed the Interior and Local Government Secretary, and the Philippine National Police Chief from the chain of command. From his monitoring station in Zamboanga City, he alone was in a position to order the reinforcement to the fallen 44 to “stand down,”or to reverse and cancel such an order if it had come from somewhere else. So the 44 were killed under his watch, no matter how you slice it. Aquino may not agree that he has committed treason, but the least he can do is to apologize to the nation and step down.
This has been the call of the NTC, which has been echoed by so many others. But in an unexpected turn of events, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has warned members of the NTC that they could face criminal prosecution for demanding that Aquino step down. They have not violated a single letter of the law in calling for Aquino’s “stepping down;” Aquino on the other hand has totally destroyed the Constitution, and the ties that bind a president to the police, the military and his own people.
Because of its absurdity, De Lima’s warning does not strike terror into our hearts. But it threatens to replicate the image of that Nazi beast whose proud boast during his reign was that all he had to do was to draw his German pistol every time anyone tried to reason with him. Is this our “freedom after 29 years?”