Reboot and recover
First as tragedy, then as farce. That is how history repeats itself, according to Marx, and that is how recent Philippine history would have repeated itself had the gaggle of dubious personalities lately hogging the headlines and airwaves and urging the public to head to Edsa succeeded in generating critical mass to unseat President Aquino.
Asked if the group was aiming for another Edsa People Power Revolution, one of the instigators, the Arroyo-era national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, said: “Yes, what’s wrong with that?” But that hardly anyone turned up or listened to the group’s fulminations—the reactions to which ranged from indifferent shrug to derisive laughter across much of the country—testifies to the capacity of ordinary citizens to discern what is truly at stake in this critical time. Mr. Aquino’s presidency may be floundering on the shoals of its largely self-inflicted blunders, but the alternative being offered by those itching to replace him in Malacañang with an ersatz uprising is not only worse, it’s also the stuff of nightmares.
The people know well what happened the last time they took to the streets to unseat a plunderer. Once Joseph Estrada was booted out of Malacañang in a reprise of the original People Power uprising, much of the nation’s hope had rested on his successor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s promise to be “the steward of the people’s victory,” as she put it during her first television appearance as head of state. But the nine-year presidency that followed would turn out to be anything but. It was riddled with shocking cases of plunder and corruption, with the various institutions of government conscripted into the overriding mission of protecting GMA’s political survival (hence Benjamin Abalos in the Commission on Elections, Renato Corona in the Supreme Court), and, worst of all, her second term itself apparently the product of election thievery that was even caught on tape.
“Everybody cheats, anyway” was how Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, one of those now connected to a so-called National Transformation Council that is being pushed to replace the Aquino presidency, dismissed questions on Arroyo’s moral legitimacy to lead.
That was the tragedy of Edsa II. Can one blame people now if they’ve had it with knee-jerk, band-aid solutions to bad presidencies, and are holding their noses at the farce being proffered by the likes of Vidal and other GMA bishops, egged on by such characters as Gonzales and Marcos mouthpiece Francisco Tatad (hilariously now hectoring Malacañang on morality and integrity in government)? And then there’s the disaffected Cojuangco wing of the Aquino clan, led by the late Cory Aquino’s brother Peping and his wife Tingting, who have slammed their nephew for his handling of the Mamasapano operation and made noises about regime change.
The call for accountability regarding the bloody fate of 44 elite policemen, among other fatalities, in Mamasapano is a fair one. But the call for resignation from the Cojuangcos and the likes of Tatad, Gonzales, and their cohorts strikes many as crassly opportunistic, and only serves to remind the public of one unassailably good thing that Mr. Aquino has done: He has not appointed his uncle, widely perceived as the “kingmaker” during his mother’s time, to public office.
The 29th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted the Marcos dictatorship is an opportunity not only to learn from hindsight, but also to acquire context and perspective to unfolding events. The President has much to answer for regarding the problems and pitfalls of his administration, but it is only right that he complete his term and be succeeded by his duly elected successor. It’s time the Philippines seriously trekked the road to becoming a modern and democratic society.
But Mr. Aquino must do his part. He needs to reboot his last year in office and recover his political capital—to talk candidly about Mamasapano, among other things, and fully address the issue of accountability, to overhaul his style of governance and do justice to his claim of being “father of the nation,” to focus on uplifting the lot of the poor, generating jobs and further improving the economy, and, not least, to pass the freedom of information bill. Then perhaps his presidency would not itself be written off as another farce.
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