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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The harm of Edsa People Power

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President Duterte boycotted the 32nd anniversary celebration of Edsa People Power. And hardly anybody noticed the celebration, except for a few thousand Yellowtards.

Edsa 1986 did more harm than good to the people and the country.  It ushered in a flawed Constitution.  It gave us two Aquino presidencies lasting for 12 years and four months.  The Cory Aquino presidency and that of BS Aquino III should by now be viewed as among the worst regimes this country has ever endured.

Duterte is trying to rectify history.  One, by encouraging the Senate and House hearings on Dengvaxia.  The hearings should end up with BS Aquino being arrested and placed behind bars.  Noynoy senses the rising outrage and the maddening crowds.  He has asked his good friend, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista to put up barriers at the north and south entrances of Times Street where he has his house. 

Two, by seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution to install federalism, free the economy, and end the rule of the entrenched oligarchies.

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Last year, I wrote the Cojuangco-Aquino family of BS Aquino III has appropriated Edsa People Power as if it were their brand, their franchise, their business.   That’s a lot of BS.

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was in Cebu hiding in a convent during the first and most dangerous night of People Power, on Feb. 22, 1986.   Her son was too engrossed with many other things to have participated, too.  I was at People Power I as a foreign correspondent.

The Aquino family has been the biggest beneficiary of People Power.  They were awarded two presidencies.

And what did the people get for having two Aquino presidents? It was a bad deal.

In 1983, Cory had blamed Marcos for her husband’s assassination and launched a destabilization campaign.  Upon United States prodding, the strongman was forced to call a snap election to end bring the crisis, in February 1986. Marcos was confident he would win the election. In 1982, the President still had the support of US President Ronald Reagan.  The Philippine economy was stable, having weathered what could have been a crippling downturn.  Basic services were in place. But Ninoy’s murder turned things upside down.

Sensing Marcos was very sick (he was, having undergone two kidney transplants), Ninoy Aquino attempted to return in 1983 and grab power from the President.   The opposition senator was instead felled by a bullet at the airport tarmac.

The Aquino-Cojuangco family has no more right to claim Edsa as theirs than every Filipino, you and I. Their Edsa failed us, the people.

On the first day of Edsa I, Feb. 22, 1986, I was lucky to be both in Cebu, for Cory’s civil disobedience afternoon rally, and Manila, for the first night of Enrile’s breakaway coup. Enrile had no troops, just about two dozen RAM soldiers.  His shock troops were us, foreign correspondents, numbering about 40.

Not many people know it but Edsa I was triggered by greed and was won by a lie. The crowds that massed on Edsa on Feb. 24, 1986, Monday, and Feb. 25, Tuesday, were there not to stage a revolt but to hold a picnic. June Keithley had announced on radio at 7 a.m. of Feb. 24  that the Marcoses had left. It was a lie. In their glee and feeling that finally it was all over, people trooped to Edsa to celebrate.

The 1987 Charter was flawed for a number of reasons. 

First, it abolished the old two-party system dominated by the Nacionalista and Liberal parties.  The NP and LP had ensured regional balance in the choice of senators and competent and popular officials. 

For the NP or LP to capture the presidency, it must first capture the Senate, which had 24 senators, eight of whom had to be elected every four years. To control the Senate, both parties had to field the best and brightest and most popular candidates. One proof the old system worked is that seven Philippine presidents were bar topnotchers and first served in the Senate (or Congress) before being ushered into Malacañang. 

The lack of regional balance under the present system of electing senators led to a ridiculous situation during Aquino’s time where a small snooty village in La Vista in the Manila suburb of Quezon City had four senators in residence while the entire Mindanao island didn’t have a single senator.

Second, in lieu of the Senate Commission on Appointments, it created a Judicial and Bar Council (a small cabal of men and women actually who are very susceptible to suggestion) to screen judges and Supreme Court justices instead.  This resulted in a corrupt if not incompetent judiciary or both.

Third, the Constitution banned foreigners from owning majority of real estate and other key areas of the economy.   This turned off investors and the Philippines missed the flood of foreign investments that swept through Southeast Asia in three waves in two decades.

Fourth, the 1987 Charter banned nuclear power. This denies the Philippines the option to tap one of the cleanest and best sources of energy.

The multi-party system that replaced the old two-party system enabled communists to get seats in the 280-seat Congress.  

Because poll inspectors of the two largest parties were no longer paid wages by the state on election day, presidential candidates had to raise private money to man electoral precincts in 42,000 barangays or villages, making them vulnerable to vested interest and election financiers and crime syndicates.  The setup opened doors to corrupt elected officials and worse, incompetent administrators.

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