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10:29 PM August 28th, 2013

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By: Conrado de Quiros, August 28th, 2013 10:29 PM

The rally last Monday could be the start of something big. I’m personally excited about it for a couple of reasons.

Not least are the possibilities it presents for pushing back corruption, if not stopping it altogether.

So far of course, the public outrage has been concentrated on the pork barrel, which is just a detail in the panorama of corruption stretched out before us. Though focused, though unrelenting, though heroic, it is also limited. The march showed so, a good deal of the exchanges in the social media shows so. The expostulations have been directed mainly, if not exclusively, at the legislators, or the senators and congressmen. But the corruption clearly goes beyond them to include the executive and judiciary as well.

P-Noy’s own tirade against the Bureau of Customs in his State of the Nation Address must suggest so, reminding us that in the past the thrust of the complaints against corruption has been against the secretaries and their departments and not the senators and congressmen. And just as well, as Renato Corona, who materialized at the rally and was roundly booed, reminds us, the justices themselves have distinguished themselves far more for their supreme waywardness than for their supreme wisdom. There is no Supreme Court ruling “with finality” that cannot be reopened with Ali Baba’s famous exhortation, “Open Sesame.”

I suspect though that it will just be a question of time before new directions are charted and the vigilance extended to other forms of corruption. The social media have shown themselves to be an exceptionally dynamic agora, or public square and could very well be the new Plaza Miranda. It used to be said in this country that nothing was law that couldn’t be defended at Plaza Miranda. Who knows? Maybe it could soon be said that nothing is right that can’t be defended before the “netizens,” notwithstanding the demagogues and meron among them.

“This is just the beginning,” several people vowed at the rally last Monday, and I’m at least bullish about it. You can sense the nascent awareness, you can sense the boundless enthusiasm, you can sense the growing power.

More than this, I’m excited about the possibilities the march last Monday poses for reshaping governance. That is by far the more important significance of the march, or the furor in the social media that sparked it, but which is the one that is little appreciated, or seen.

From the start, I’ve always asked why P-Noy, the one president after Cory that held the mantle of Edsa, that held the power to throw People Power behind a righteous cause—and the “daang matuwid” is as righteous as they come—wouldn’t summon, or conscript, or wield People Power to push his reform agenda. People Power meaning the volunteer groups that flocked to his campaign with the alacrity with which people flocked to the Luneta last Monday. People Power meaning the unorganized public that rose spontaneously to aid those who had been ravaged by storms and other calamities in magnificent displays of bayanihan. People Power meaning the people themselves who listened raptly to his Sonas, who wished him well, who believed not in what government could do for them but in what they could do for the country.

I was astonished when instead of this he seemed more inclined to support moves that discouraged the public from expressing themselves, from registering their protest against perceived injustices. To this day, he hasn’t pushed for the Freedom of Information bill the way he did for RH, his spokespersons instead arguing against it on the ground that some secrets were necessary for national security. An argument the previous regime had clung to desperately. Just as well, he did not dissuade the efforts to criminalize libel in the Internet, imposing stiffer penalties on those found guilty. On the contrary, his spokespersons again defended it on the ground that it was necessary to ensure responsibility in verbal or written utterances. In any case, the innocent need not worry, an assurance Marcos himself gave in the past about jailing the seditious.

I have little doubt P-Noy has been good for the country. I’d even say he has been the best president since Cory, or probably well before that. But what this means is that while he has founded a government for the people, amply evident in his enumeration of accomplishments in the Sona, he hasn’t done so a government of the people and by the people. His is a government based on the principle of “Trust me, I have your best interests at heart.” While arguably he does, it is not full-blown democracy, or even less the kind of democracy Edsa represents, or has the potential to be.

It is paternalism. Benign maybe, but paternalism nonetheless.

The march last Monday was People Power, in its basic, elemental, pristine form. It was spontaneous, it was (largely) leaderless, it was driven by the people themselves. It is all the luminous for being so. It is no small irony for having happened in great part because of cyberspace, over which the nastiest restrictions were being contemplated. It is no small irony that it happened because people had been given to know the P10-billion scam, and having known it had been stoked to fury and moved collectively, purposively, responsibly to correct it.

More than the wondrous awakening the country has experienced this past month or so, culminating in the rally last Monday, it is the unleashing of new possibilities in governance that excites me. It is the people themselves saying they may no longer be removed from the equation, they are not just passive objects of government action they are initiators of change too, they are shapers of their destiny too, they are pavers of the daang matuwid too.

It could be the start of something big.

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