The debate that is raging in the aftermath of the INC-Aquino government standoff at Edsa would be less stressful and confusing if we desist from imposing a verdict on who won or who lost, on whether there was a deal or no deal, and focus instead on understanding the complex issues and stakes in this affair.
I do not agree with those who say that the crisis dissipated without an agreement being reached.
I do not agree with those who say that the Iglesia Ni Cristo blinked first in this face off with the government, that President Aquino beat INC, that justice secretary Leila De Lima has triumphantly survived the crisis, and that INC has been taught a memorable lesson of humility.
I do not agree either with those in the INC community and those sympathetic to them who believe that INC prevailed in this face off, that it won on its position that the church was not given due process under the law, that government retreated in the face off by calling for dialogue, and that the prospect of formal charges being filed against the church group is now remote.
The fact is that a good resolution was reached. And we should all be happy with it.
Parallels from Cuban crisis
From my equally limited perspective, I submit that everything becomes easier to comprehend if we look at the entire standoff as significantly similar to the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. They are analogous not only for the intensity of the differences of viewpoints, but also for the employment of compromise as the key to resolving the crisis.
The United States and the Soviet Union did not come to blows in 1962 because cooler heads in the leadership of each side saw the grim reality before them and allowed what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” to rule decision-making. Both Nikita Khrushchev and John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not insist that his side must come away from the face-off as the victor. They permitted the negotiations to come up with a solution that was acceptable to both sides.
When the solution was finally found, the Cuban crisis quickly passed. The whole world was able to breathe a gigantic sigh of relief.
The Cuban missile crisis played out over a period of 13 days – from October 16-28 in 1962. The Iglesia ni Cristo-Aquino government standoff played out for five days from August 27-31, 2015.
There is no comparison, of course, in the danger posed by each crisis. In the Cuban crisis, world peace literally hung on the balance. In the INC crisis, there was a danger that the protest action could mutate into a full-blown attempt to topple the Aquino government.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over Soviet ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba.
On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of the missiles in Cuba..
He described the administration’s plan this way:
“To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back.”
The quarantine was successfully enforced, as Soviet ships were turned back. But it was not the end of the crisis.
In response to the US demand that the Soviet Union dismantle and remove its missiles from Cuba, the USSR demanded that the US reciprocate by removing all its missiles in Turkey and southern Italy.
On October 27, after much deliberation between the Soviet Union and Kennedy’s cabinet, JFK secretly agreed to remove all missiles set in southern Italy and in Turkey, in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles in Cuba. But the quid pro quo would not be made public.
On October 28, Khrushchev announced the agreement.
Because the withdrawal of the Jupiter missiles from NATO bases in Southern Italy and Turkey was not made public at the time, Khrushchev appeared to have lost the conflict and become weakened. The perception was that Kennedy had won the contest.
The compromise embarrassed Khrushchev and the Soviet Union because the withdrawal of US missiles from Italy and Turkey was a secret deal between Kennedy and Khrushchev. But the fact is that the US also made a significant concession to defuse the crisis.
I believe that it was through a similar compromise that INC and the Aquino government were able to defuse the crisis at Edsa.
What the terms of the compromise are have not been revealed. But sooner or later they will be known.
I see three key points of agreement as already surfacing:
The agreement of INC to end the protest action at Edsa and abort any action elsewhere.
The agreement of the government for Secretary De Lima to leave her post after a decent interval of time. This is plausible because she plans to run for the Senate.
The agreement that the Justice department will not file charges of illegal detention against top INC officials. The complaint has not moved forward anyway.
The Cuban missile crisis was turned into a gripping and powerful film, entitled Thirteen Days, starring Kevin Costner in a pivotal role and Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy. It was a huge success.
I mention the film for study by readers and public officials, who may want to get a feel of how high-stakes decision-making and diplomacy are carried out effectively.