Some three decades ago I left EDSA with a daughter in tow to go home and watch the coronation of President Cory at Club Filipino. I thought to myself that this was the beginning of a new era for this country – a period of political stability and economic development. I was wrong.
Today we are witnessing the slow death of democracy and its place taken personality politics and a boom and bust economic development that has left behind about a third or more of the population wallowing in poverty. The electoral process sans a competitive party system has given rise to a party-less, issue-neutral political exercise characterized by scandalous spending of people’s money.
So far, no candidate for president has presented a coherent, sustainable economic agenda that can guarantee high levels of employment, income and productivity. What we see is an ill-designed quilt that goes by the name of programs of government.
In the face of deteriorating social conditions in the metropolis with its drug scene, sporadic violence in the localities perpetrated by secessionists and leftists, and land grabbing activities offshore by hegemonist superpowers, all that the politicians have to offer is the continuation of a mythical “matuwid na daan” and quickie solutions that claim, within three to six months – whatever these be, to eliminate poverty and criminality.
How did we get here? First of, the EDSA Revolution, if you can call it, and many call it the Edsa Revolt, was not a national uprising. It was simply a Metro-Manila phenomenon whose leaders came from the same ranks of those they had deposed. In other words they belonged mostly to the politically entrenched economic elite. Carried on the shoulders of the people – the middle class who wanted genuine change–these reneged on their promise to overhaul a political, economic and social system that only benefitted Forbes Park and not Poors Park.
The Cory Constitution merely restored and even reinforced the powers and privileges of those at the top of the totem pole.
A flawed agrarian reform program restored the land to the hacienderos and made agrarian reform communities, deprived of support services, even more miserable. Indeed, agricultural underdevelopment can be directly traced to the above and so is the unacceptable level of poverty in this country despite the much-ballyhooed GNP growth, one albeit that is badly distributed, which has been fuelled mostly by the blood, sweat and tears of our overseas workers who have to pay the high price of single parent homes with all their adverse social consequences.
This is not by way of minimizing the heroism of the patricians and plebeians who locked arms to provide a human shield for our cornered armed forces holed out in their camps, who were willing to lay down their lives, the nuns and priests who stopped the tanks armed only with rosaries and statues of the Blessed Mother, the broadcast journalists holed up in secret safe houses who continued to relay to the public the true events of the day.
These were the heroes of EDSA who did not take center stage in the celebrations which was occupied by the politicians quite a few of whom had betrayed the spirit of EDSA. They the heroes will simply sit in their living rooms for those who are still around and watch the celebration happy in the thought that if only for one fleeting moment they were ready willing and able to offer life and limb to save democracy.
Jose V. Romero, Ph. D., is a former ambassador of the Philippines to Italy. He is the chairman and president of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a founding trustee of the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc. A graduate of Cambridge University, he has authored books on Philippine economics and is a professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific.