With Due Respect

The what and why of a RevGov

Ordinarily, a revolutionary government (RevGov) is installed by the victors in an armed rebellion. They scrap the existing constitution, oust all the officials owing allegiance thereto, appoint their own, and punish their perceived enemies without much ado.

Power grab by outsiders. The rebels rule by actual might, not by legal right. If it ever succeeds in its uprising, the New People’s Army will establish a RevGov, or so declared recently by Jose Ma. Sison from his asylum in the Netherlands.


Sometimes, the rebels themselves need not be armed. But once supported by the people and the military, they could wrest the reins of government, trash the existing constitution, set up their own version, and replace all officials.

That was what happened when Corazon Aquino ascended to the presidency not because of the governing 1973 Constitution but because of the bloodless 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution supported by the military.


True, she was a candidate in the 1986 snap presidential election. However, she was not proclaimed the winner under the then constitutional processes. She was able to take actual power only after the military pledged allegiance to her, and after Ferdinand Marcos, the then incumbent president, abandoned his office and fled to the United States.

In that sense, she and her supporters were outsiders who were able to gain control of the government through a method not recognized by the 1973 Constitution and laws.

Power grab by insiders. A RevGov could also happen if the insiders—the people in actual and constitutional control of the government actively assisted by the military (or the military officials themselves)—set aside the constitution, sweep out the incumbent officials, install new ones, and run the government according to their will and ways.

This is the type of self-coup that President Duterte probably had in mind when he warned destabilizers and critics that he would declare a RevGov. (But he has since backpedaled, saying that the military did not agree; thus, he desisted. For how long, I cannot say.)

Such an internal revolution would have meant the abrogation of the 1987 Constitution and the dismantling of the governmental systems it created. The president, vice president, senators, congressmen, justices, judges and other high officials would have lost their terms of office.

To succeed, a RevGov—whether installed by outsiders or by insiders — needs the firm support of the people and the might of guns and guts. Without either, it would fail.

Why take risks? Clearly, a RevGov led by the incumbent President is quite risky for him, because he would automatically lose his constitutional mandate and term. With no constitution to be loyal to, military adventurers would be free to launch coup attempts. Corazon Aquino faced several of them.


If indeed risky, why even think of it? President Duterte provided the answer: to crush destabilizers and to propel his promised reforms more speedily and effectively.

Businessman Enrique Razon said it more pointedly in a forum during the Asean 50 Summit: “The best infrastructures are in the countries ruled by dictatorships.” Indeed, a RevGov is a dictatorship, no more no less.

Under our present system, ousting officials with constitutional terms is tedious. Passing laws demands compromises. Infighting for official turf, debates over petty issues, and destabilization schemes derail reform timetables and foment gridlock. Worse, Charter change may not happen within the President’s six-year term.

Yes, the 1987 Constitution castrated the powers of the president and strengthened those of Congress and the Supreme Court. Even with actual rebellion and invasion, martial law cannot prosper without their support. True, these two institutions gave President Duterte what he wanted to defend Marawi; nonetheless, martial law has not accorded him even a quarter of Marcos’ clout in 1972.

Still and all, a self-coup is quite risky for the President. But if he is successful, the risk shifts to the defenders of the 1987 Constitution and of its aspirations and ideals. Will the President take the plunge? When? Will the military and the people support him?

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, Corazon Aquino, People Power, revolutionary government, Rodrigo Duterte, With Due Respect
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