One thing I learned after being involved in politics for years is that the more politicians control the framing of an issue, the more people disengage. That is true here and in other capitals of the world. Being a politician these days is not something to be proud of. By default they are lumped as corrupt and the degree of which is dependent on one’s greed. They build their reputations across terms and one whiff of corruption, they are gone. Voters do not like touching a dead meat, right? And yet without them, voters are unable to get the system to move in their favor. Such is the case of EDSA, a promise gone bad because it was captured by one single entity who framed themselves as “sila lang ang matuwid” and the rest are pittance, left on the side of the road for more vultures to feast on.
32 years ago, I was in EDSA. A proud moment for a college student coming from the state university with a proud history of student activism. There was also that family tradition. When we mobilize, there was a huge throng. No promise of money, no food giveaways, no t-shirt and no gimmickry. I watched silently the so-called hashtag walkout nationwide (#WalkoutPH) by students and the tight shots of the gatherings were not something to be proud of. They were allowed to march, allowed to shout and I even heard the chant of my youth: “ang tao, ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban.” Trite. As if as a people we never learned to fight. I said to myself, yes we should fight but not to oust a duly elected leader but to fight poverty and corruption, the twin ills that retard the gains of our nation. To overthrow a duly constituted government is anarchy and truly unconstitutional. But feed the brat pack and you feed the hype of the narratives of 25 February. All centered on “reclaiming our democracy.”
Blame everything to government was the mantra of the day: Tokhang, jeep modernization, TRAIN, charter change, extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and “threat” to press freedom of a blog who chose to violate the constitution, among others. Two things immediately come to mind: free tertiary education and free health care. We seem not to value the two programs when these are the underpinnings of the future PH.
32 years after, who would join the celebrations? And the Yellows claim they will be able to mobilize a huge crowd to go to the rituals of what we now feel as a rejection of our shared dreams. A shared vision of a developed nation where Filipinos have jobs, can live well and send their healthy kids to school. Simple things and yet 32 years passed and it is only two years ago that we get to feel we truly matter.
32 years ago, we saw the likes of officers and soldiers defending the flag. Making that jump. Years after, 2001, we saw another set of officers and soldiers, moulded from the gray institution on the mountains, crossing again the line. Then again in 2003, young officers staged several coups against the incumbent administration. Given amnesty, they decided to enter politics and do their push from the legal arena. Trillanes is definitely no Honasan. Trillanes took an oath as a Senator only to continue destroying this nation, using public funds to go abroad and paint a canvass of lies. A Senator who was tasked to do 16 backdoors with China, under orders of BSA3. Who now owns Scarborough Shoal? Critics blame PRRD for the build up in the West Philippine Sea but it happened in the term of Aquino II and did the Americans do a thing?
32 years ago would have been the start of a political revolution in the country because Aquino I restored political institutions, a fresh start. But we still deal with dynasties and the same old names. The voters are blamed for being stupid in electing these names. While donors and survey firms game the system. Once elected, politicians veer away from the social contract and move to “what are we in power for?”
So how do you convince more Filipinos of the right mix to engage in electoral politics when running in this country means huge money simply because political parties are nothing? They are just good for the needed certificate of candidacy for one to run. How do you “smartmatic” your way to victory has often been the single most important requirement of some candidates. Yes, with a modicum of campaigning some candidates, national and local, would transact so the best laid plans are compromised because “it is economical to buy your way than campaign.” Then there are candidates who do not want to spend and just get everything for free or worst, run away not paying for service rendered. Talk about the political industry needing reform.
The day will come when EDSA will just be an ordinary public holiday. Our Camelot, lost. For there will never be a change in our politics if we do not pursue political reform. Six years ago, a lot of observers were saying Aquino II would continue the needed political reform Aquino I started. For six years, no political reform legislation was included in the legislative agenda as priority measures from political party reform, campaign contributions, state-financing of political parties, electoral administration, etc. Smartmatic remains the vendor despite of questionable decisions and interventions from 2010, 2013, 2016. Is our democracy better off because of Smartmatic?
As Susan B. King once said, “Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations…can never effect a reform.” I hope the mayor from Mindanao pursues the path least traveled when it comes to political reform. An outsider like him can do much to change the rules of the political game.