Filipinos mark today the 26th anniversary of toppling a dictator without bloodshed. That flower-in-the-gun-barrel model is refracted in Gandhi’s march to protest the Salt Tax in 1930, Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” of 1988 and Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolt” last year.
People Power never offered a one-size-fits-all pattern. Uzbekistan’s brutal suppression of demonstrators showed that. So does Syria’s continuing spilling of blood.
For 11 months now, Syrians have been holding “People Power” rallies, after mosque prayers. They seek freedoms that Filipinos have taken for granted since Edsa I. President Bashar al-Assad’s response is to send in his tanks. Over 5,000 civilians have been killed.
“They call it the widows’ basement,” wrote Marie Colvin of London’s Sunday Times before a shell killed her Wednesday, along with French photographer Remi Ochlik.
“Over 300 huddle in this wood factory cellar,” Colvin wrote. “[One] is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and home to shells. ‘Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us stay in one room,’ she recalls as daughter Mimi, 3, and son Mohamed, 5, cling to her. ‘We had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to find food.’”
It was the last time Noor saw Maziad, 30, a mobile phone repairman. “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.” For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side. “Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of death.”
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,” US President John F. Kennedy warned in 1962. Fast forward to Russia and China’s veto of an Arab League peacekeeper plan. That emboldened Assad to slaughter even more.
“Those who take by the sword will die by the sword.” Assad need not look far to see his future. Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi was pulled out cowering in a gutter and then shot to death. Bosnia’s Radovan Karadzic is detained in Scheveningen, accused of war crimes
In contrast, democratic space broadens, albeit jerkily, in a Burma where, only three years back, its Tatmadaw smashed the peaceful “Saffron Revolution.”
Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and 651 other political prisoners were released. Ceasefire agreements with ethnic minority rebels have been signed. Restrictions on campaigning were scrapped after the National League for Democracy complained.
“Reforms leave many disoriented by the pace of change,” the United Kingdom’s Guardian noted. Crowds in Rangoon “clapped as they watched images of monks demonstrating and police baton charges on a big outdoor screen. Incredible,” said a journalist. “Only months ago, [this would have led] to a lengthy prison sentence.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed that Burma chair the regional body in 2014. Asean observers will monitor the April 1 elections for 48 parliamentary seats. The European Union and the United States whittled down sanctions.
This schizophrenic international context is the backdrop for a 26th Edsa anniversary debate on whether “People Power” would be hijacked. Why? To extricate from the impeachment bog a Chief Justice who cannot get his math right, whether on glitzy condos or statements of assets, liabilities and net worth?
Chief Justice Renato Corona’s defense counsel repeatedly threatens to end the impeachment process on grounds of “mistrial.” Some 7,000 Iglesia ni Cristo demonstrators, waving identically printed posters, have rallied for a teary-eyed Corona and wife.
INC says its Feb. 28 rally at the Quirino Grandstand would be “a Bible exposition.” “We take their word for it,” Malacañang said. But “leaks” say otherwise: The pro-Corona INC will air “demands” on the impeachment, foreshadowed in its “dry run” rally. That’s speculation—for now.
An INC rally cheek-by-jowl with the Edsa I anniversary differs from historical patterns. The INC was a “no show” at the two earlier People Power revolts, since it backed Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada.
INC adherents make up 2.3 percent of the population, the Philippine Demographic Profile 2012 shows. But that small base is parlayed into political clout by bloc voting. Between 68 and 84 percent of INC members vote for candidates handpicked by its leaders, ABS-CBN surveys reveal.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment trial, slammed the door on the threats of mistrial, noted the Inquirer’s Amando Doronila. “He’d not allow a disruption that might lead to another People Power Revolution…” “The collapse of the Estrada impeachment trial in 2001 haunts everybody…” “People watch if the impeachment court ends up in the streets…”
“Corona’s supporters want to rally in support of him? Fine,” wrote the Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros. “There’s People Power to show what the rest of this country thinks about him, about justices who … circle(d) wagons around him…” “People Power needs to be confined to ousting tyrants and usurpers… It can always be used to right wrongs.”
After the Edsa anniversary rites, the trial resumes its plodding pace. Corona has ignored the Black & White Movement’s call: Issue “a simple letter of consent that will allow the court to open [his] dollar accounts.”
Is July 15, 2003, too far to remember? That was when the Supreme Court (GR 152154) flayed the Marcoses for secreting loot in Swiss accounts and shell foundations. Ferdinand and Imelda signed as “William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan.”
The high court ordered $658,175,373 from the Marcos stash forfeited in favor of the government, over objections by Imelda and now senator-judge Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The decision ponente? Justice Renato Corona.
( E-mail: [email protected])