THERE was this one shining moment in the Philippine Camelot —a rare show of solidarity with the young and the old, men and women, the rich and proletariat, the religious and secular, friends and enemies. They were all there sharing and caring.
Unforgettable scenes were soldiers behind the gates of Camp Crame reaching out to the sandwiches prepared by housewives in nearby residences; cars of all models piled up in Guadalupe Bridge to prevent the approaching tanks from reaching the crowds huddled in front of Crame and Aguinaldo.
Vivid in my memory where the heroic broadcasters hiding in some nook reporting the latest developments which were greeted by sighs and hurrahs; the nuns clutching their rosaries in front of tanks; the womenfolk unleashing their charm offensive in front of stoic, unimpressed and impassive loyalists soldier standing their ground.
Unforgettable moments were my youngest girl urging me to join the Edsa crowd as I sat before my TV set waiting for more announcements; passing by Villamor Airbase and watching rebel pilots aboard Huey helicopters blowing up loyalist aircrafts parked in the runway; following tanks coming out of Fort Bonifacio on the way to Edsa to reinforce loyalists forces.
The build-up towards EDSA I was a slow burn. The Ninoy assassination was not reported by media for days. I was one of the first to talk about it in my Business Day column – the title was “Death Where is Thy Sting.” At the National Defense College where I taught I sat in a huddle with some of the officers who were visibly disturbed.
As thesis adviser of a group in my class I approved their thesis entitled “Economic Saboteurs” which identified five groups—the Marcoses, Romualdezes, the Enrile-Cojuangco tandem and fellow coconut cronies, Roberto Benedicto and the crony sugar barons and finally the “Rolex” generals who were the dictator’s Praetorian Guards. Much later and closer to the EDSA 1 uprising, officers of the Makati Business Club, where I served as executive director, some board members met with the RAM putschist right inside the officers club in Aguinaldo.
In Washington DC I had met with State Department officials as a self-appointed emissary of the opposition to convince the US government to disassociate itself from the dictator. I was informed that the US was ready to disengage from Marcos and was only waiting for a clear affirmation from the power structures in the Philippines—civil society, the Church, the business community and the armed forces to breakaway from the dictator.
This they opined was necessary to prevent a vacuum in leadership which would surely be occupied by the left, as happened in many countries in the past.
One cannot forget the prophetic words of Cardinal Sin a month before the Marcoses fled. When inaugurating a church in Paranaque he exhorted the faithful to pray harder to the Blessed Mother—patroness of the Philippines—because he said that the prayers and fasting of the religious in his archdiocese will surely topple the regime very shortly. When the Marcoses finally fled I was hearing Mass almost thirty days after his eminence exhortation.
The swearing in of Cory Aquino by Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee at Club Filipino was attended by high drama. It was almost surrealistic – a breaking of a new dawn, nay an epiphany! But danger still lurked as the tenant in Malacañang was still around hoping against hope that his bosom buddy in the White House would allow him to extend his lease in the building by the Pasig. But it was game over as far as everyone was concerned. The dramatis personae of the final curtain were all there to claim the political spoils. It took a prince of the Church to oversee an orderly transition as the major players wanted to claim the important medals. But this pax politica was to be short-lived as events that followed would show.
With the intervention of the lady of EDSA a transitional government however fractious was able to survive long enough to draft a constitution which for a few cosmetic changes all but restored the ancient regime which ironically brought about the political upheaval in the first place. It was the great restoration with the political exiles—the political dynasties and warlords et al reclaiming their sequestered fiefdoms.
In sum the sweet fruit of EDSA was the restoration of Filipino style democracy, which with all its shortcomings can be said to be the worst except for the alternatives as Sir Winston Churchill would put it. The bitter fruits are obvious—elections marred by guns, goons, gold and PCOS machines; the emergence with a vengeance of political dynasties and not the least our underper—forming lawmakers’ unhealthy diet of excessive pork.
What does the handwriting on the wall say? For the seers, the cognocentes, political analysts and the common man with a 20-20 vision all is not well in the erstwhile pearl of the Pacific. The rentier class with their tendency for regulatory capture and monopolistic tendencies are already sowing the seeds of discontent among the mass base and the emerging middle class reeling from creeping inflation engendered by higher energy prices which will surely trigger a cost/price expansion down the line.
The longer line of unemployed amidst a background of consumer-led increase in GDP has not produced the trickledown effect and inclusive growth.
We hope to analyze these developments in future articles as we sail into the ides of March!