Thoughts on stillborn revolutions


What, Apolinario Mabini asked, is a revolution?

By political revolution I understand a people’s movement aimed at producing a violent change in the organization. and operation of the three public powers: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. If the movement is slow, gradual or progressive, it is called evolution. I say people’s movement because I consider it essential that the proposed change answer a need felt by the citizens in general. Any agitation promoted by a particular class for the benefit of its special interests does not’ deserve the name (of political revolution or evolution).

But let me suggest that it is equally valid to define a revolution as simply the replacement of one government, with another, against the will and in defiance of the institutional processes, of the government that falls. This means that whether that forced change is peaceful or violent, the process is the same: a the government that falls and by so doing, has its institutions repudiated.

Mabini said that by instinct and temperament, most people prefer change through evolution rather than by revolution, but that if development is blocked by the government, then a revolutionary situation arises:

But evolution is not possible where the social organization is not adjusted to it, just as a plant grows and flourishes only in suitable soil. When the government takes measures for the stagnation of the people, whether for its own profit or that of a particular class, or for any other purpose, revolution is inevitable. A people that have not yet reached the fullness of life must grow and develop because otherwise their existence would be paralyzed, and paralyzation is equivalent to death. Since it is unnatural for a being to submit to its own destruction, the people must exert all their efforts to destroy the government which prevents their development. If the government is composed of the very sons of the people, it must necessarily fall.

There continues to be a debate concerning public approbation of martial law. It is said Marcos himself was surprised by the docility of the public and the manner in which he successfully rounded up the opposition, padlocked the legislature, and cowed the courts. Metro Manila -his own political creation, a throwback to the Greater Manila established as a temporary wartime measure- erupted in protest by 1978, the famous noise barrage on the eve of the elections for the Interim Batasang Pambansa; yet 1981 would mark his apotheosis as dictator and his proclamation of a New Republic, officially burying the old Third Republic; by 1984, however, close to a third of the Batasang Pambansa was oppositionist, with bailiwicks in Batangas, Cebu, and places like Cagayan de Oro City. He was unpopular in large swathes of the sugar-producing regions, and the coconut-producing ones, where his efforts to establish monopolies under Benedicto for sugar and Cojuangco for coconut had spectacularly ruined those once-lucrative industries.

Still, opposition, perhaps, percolated upwards and not downwards until Marcos’ economic mismanagement eventually led to a pincer movement, with the majority and the elite both edging towards the same conclusion: the dictator had to go.

Marcos’ mistake was to galvanize opposition among those with a means to oppose him, by eventually seizing and engaging in extortion, the property of those who left well enough alone and had never engaged in politicking in the manner of his wealthy opponents.

To be sure, he’d already alienated the majority of people much earlier than that, as demonstrated by the noise barrage in 1978; but in 1983 he finally lost the middle class and in 1984, when he famously threatened the Makati Business Club, he finally lost the upper class as well. He lost major urban centers, too: Baguio, Cebu, Davao became even more firmly esconced as anti-Marcos bailiwicks of the opposition.

Over the past few years, I heard veterans of the Marcos era express the firm conviction that sooner or later (and sooner rather than later) it would duplicate Marcos’s mistake and start muscling in on the corporations of its enemies, then muscle in on the corporations of its critics, and finally, start gobbling up the corporations of the uninvolved; at which point, the tide would turn against the government. This is, incidentally, a mistake Estrada made, surrounding by many of the same crowd that had porsued similar tactics during the Marcos era.

This is significant because of how tightly intertwined our society is; the upper class relies on the middle class for its mananers and they manage the masses who are employed; and all are tied, up and down, by ties of church, club, and school, the whole compadrazgo culture strengthened by the rituals of births, graduations, weddings, and funerals. Declaring war on a so-called oligarch is a declaration of war on a cascade of families belonging to the middle class and the masses. Which is why the goings-on among the higher political and business echelons of this country are avidly followed by everyone else -each one having a stake, major or minor, in the outcome.


This administration hasn’t engaged in Marcosian engulf and devour tactics with one exception, the Lopezes; with all others, it has bared its fangs in public while showing every inclination to reach a mutually-profitable accommodation in private. But what sets it apart from the dictatorship is that instead of engulfing and then devouring, it seems to have hit off on a novel scheme: to leave everyone pretty much alone, and instead, carve out new financial territories for itself and its friends. In this case it left only one traditionally entrenched opponent, the Lopezes, while leaving everyone else, hostile or not, alone. Transco, for example; and even its assault on Meralco has been better camouflaged by restricting most of the action to the boardroom, the use of government shares as a battering ram and when that was thwarted, the sale of those shares to San Miguel Corporation which then floated, for public consumption, the rather tantalizing possibility that San Miguel can lower electricity costs by engaging in data transmission through electrical lines: establishing a new monopoly on virgin commercial territory and incidentally, driving a wedge in the otherwise united front presented by the existing telecoms companies.

History is never repeated; circumstances neither emerge nor combine in the same way at different times; for this reason, one argument perpetually put forward as some sort of mitigating factor in judging the present administration’s political maneuvers has always left me skeptical: the President is no Marcos, the times aren’t at all like Marcos’s time, you do not see, for example, the outward manifestations of the New Society and its methods for thought and crowd control.

But of course. Every generation learns from the one that came before. And even the same players learn from the past.

According to some accounts, the Palace is hedging its bets and going slow on Charter Change, because of the public perception that it is in bad odor in Washington; one interpretation goes as far as suggesting the Palace is spooked by the possibility of Washington tacitly blessing a coup should any effort to prolong the President’s stay in office proceed. Others suggest that the Palace all along prefers to be in “legacy mode,” all the better to improve its chances in 2010, while maneuvering for a succession it can control.

The same accounts suggest that a modus vivendi between the President and Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. was ratified in Qatar, and that the President’s visit to San Miguel Corporation’s headquarters was the public manifestation of this agreement. At the very least, it kills two birds with one stone (knocking the Lopezes off their perch in Meralco, and placing the capstone in the carefully-built electric, power, and energy fiefdoms the administration’s made possible), while keeping all others, including Charter Change, at the very least on the back burner and in play.

Some links to past readings by way of a backgrounder on the Marcos years and the anniversary of the Edsa Revolution: Marcos in retrospect, part 1 and part 2; the enduring strength of the idea that one can create a New Society; and some observations on the Philippine political culture.

To come full circle, though, as the Inquirer editorial Veto power suggests, the ultimate lesson might be, that if a revolution, and its acceptable manifestation in our country, People Power, is to succeed, it requires, at the very least, the repudiation both of the government People Power topples, and of its institutions including its constitutional rationale.


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    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 3:32 am

    brian because you have to ask, who, exactly, is really interested in a no-frills application of anything?

    • Carl on February 28, 2009 at 6:29 am

    What bothers me about holding up EDSA as a model is that it was mostly, as Madonna points out, “surface level”. Surface level democracy, surface level rule of law, surface level wealth redistribution, surface level reforms. Nothing substantial.

    To me, EDSA is typified by Joker Arroyo and Teddy Boy Locsin – lots of high-falutin’ hot air, but no real substance. Even it’s centerpiece, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, was merely lip service. It didn’t target the problem at the source. No support services, no infrastructure.

    EDSA was a lazy man’s revolution. All “palabas” and motherhood statements. But it didn’t do the bricks and mortar work. It didn’t go to the nitty-gritty. In many ways, it was a big hypocrisy. Leaders exalting democracy, yet making backroom deals with warlords and private armies. Big programs with no follow-through. If I were to pick just one word to describe EDSA, I would have to go with EMPTY or HOLLOW.

    EDSA should not be held up as a model because it is a failed model. You cannot move forward and succeed if your very model is a failed one. We need to reinvent the wheel on this one.

    • Phil Manila on February 28, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I dunno.

    In political terms, revolution is classified as part of ‘politics by violent means’ along with war and terrorism. In this regard, EDSA was more of an evolution.

    The main cause of revolution is a crisis of legitimacy. A government facing difficult political, economic, or social problems would be perceived as acting ineptly and/or unjustly. Such government would lose the confidence of the elites of society and the latter’s ‘revolutionary’ leaders would mobilize the masses to overthrow the existing regime and create a ‘new political order.’

    • BrianB on February 28, 2009 at 7:11 am


    manuelbuencamino on Fri, 27th Feb 2009 6:36 pm

    Manuel that’s POLITICAl revolution, the one’s you’ve cited, i.e. change in government, political beliefs from conservative to liberal, from libertarian to socialist.

    • BrianB on February 28, 2009 at 7:18 am

    “brian because you have to ask, who, exactly, is really interested in a no-frills application of anything?”

    No one has to manifest interest; o-frills enforcement is inherent in the law. Kung sa philosophy speak pa: contingent yan.

    • Carl on February 28, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I saw Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s excellent movie “Che – A Revolutionary Life”, with Benicio del Toro as Che Guevara. I was impressed by how the Cuban revolution paid so much attention to detail. How they made sure to lead by example and not just to mouth empty propaganda. How they made sure that the revolution paid attention to the bricks and mortar work that had to be done. Leaders went out to the fields and got their hands dirty. They didn’t just hang around in airconditioned offices.

    I am no fan of Fidel Castro, but that movie gave me an appreciation of why, despite being choked with embargos, penalized with sanctions and constantly facing threats of invasion by the richest, most powerful country in the world, Castro’s revolution endures. Yes, Castro probably has a tight-fisted hold over the nation. Surely, there is curtailment of freedom.

    But repression alone does not explain why Castro’s revolution prevails. With the tremendous odds against them, if Cuba’s government is not doing some things right, the dam would have burst by now. There is a lot of poverty, but health and basic services seem to be attended to. There is want, but not hunger. And their leaders seem to be attuned to the people’s needs, avoiding ostentation and leading by example.

    That’s what we don’t have. Our leaders hide away in airconditioned ivory towers. They don’t go out and lead by example, leading the way, instead, with bad example. They don’t do their homework nor get their hands dirty (unless we refer to sticking their hands into the public till). There is no empathy with the people they serve.

  1. Any agitation promoted by a particular class for the benefit of its special interests does not’ deserve the name (of political revolution or evolution).

    Many people think that edsa was just that “an agitation promoted by a particular class for the benefit of its special interest.

    Of course some of those who were there will say otherwise.Some might say I was there on my own volition I would not give a hoot about some group’s personal interest.

    Now as to what happened after a revolution, The French revolution for instance created Napoleon, some still respect him,some still want to spit on his grave. Same thing with Cromwell.

    Now as to the others say about economic turmoil’s link to revolutions.
    Because of the American war the world’s resources (at least Europe’s) were depleted, that made Antoinette allegedly say “let them eat cake”.
    Who ever took advantage of this situation among other things instigated the french revolution.

    In summary, Mabini may be have just been pissed off with the past revolutions when he said “Any agitation promoted by a particular class for the benefit of its special interests does not’ deserve the name (of political revolution or evolution.” But we cannot deny that there was always self interest by a particular group in any so called revolution or political evolution.

  2. Ramrod,

    I will beg to disagree with this. If we consider Darwin’s theory of natural selection – the organism will evolve to adjust to its environment, the weak of course will perish but the strong will survive and flourish.

    You reacting to Mabini’s example of plants only growing on suitable soil.
    Now going back to what the plant was compared to:”The Social Organization”
    Mabini did not say evolution cannot start without adaptation, Mabini said evolution cannot happen(methinks he is talking about the end result) without the social organization being adjusted to it.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Manolo, i’m acquainted with your description of the Old Philippines versus New Philippines but what i am unclear on is your conclusion that the former is more democratically inclined. I find apologists for the Administration in particular, and paternalistic dictatorship in general, among members of both categories (Old and New Middle Class).

    • Madonna on February 28, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Perhaps Pinoy sociologists should be given more say in the discourse to get more insights on how our people think, feel within the society in general, having undergone our own unique history. I think we should both distrust the liberal eggheads and the aloof leaders (but who cry for “people power” and manipulate the airwaves and the papers time and time again). Why? Just because they were found wanting of results during their watch or rule.

    I agree with Carl, Edsa I was all hot-air, a paean to American style individualism (our freedoms, our rights), but with the haciendero patron-client mindset and power relations back with a vengeance (which Marcos tried to destroy).

    The ideology of post-Edsa I was a combination of paternalistic Spanish style of leadership and American-style liberalism (with economic policies such as deregulation, privatisation).

    I recently read this piece by Michael Tan in the Inquirer — how to bridge in the two divergent thoughts, moral renewal (seen as a hypocritical ploy by the public led people and leaders who have not been really “moral” in practice) and the more radical solution (Pinoys are not war-freaks and are less inclined to outright violence). His proposal was how to connect our own people’s exercise of timeless principles (e.g. “mali yan”, eto ang tama) and how to connect this to society or to the public space. I’m not really sure if this would resonate with the public.

    Harping about our individual rights/freedoms is not futile but maybe just a little off in its approach and comes bizarre with how it seems in my personal observation we Pinoys are more inclined towards communalism (not exactly group-think), but a more consensual way of arriving at solutions or approaches. Certainly, we are not like the Americans, deep down in how we interact with each other and in arriving at political decisions. Another observation is that by now, our people are much, much wiser — less trusting of the old institutions or groups — of the Catholic Church, of Cory Aquino and her posse, the pols.

    • J_AG on February 28, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Once again everyone is getting confused with terminology. Private sector capitalism led to mixed capitalism with state capitalism the extreme end of the capitalist structure. The branding that is the use of the word communism is wrong.
    The Stalin model failed as it was built on a more severe from of capitalist imperialism. Direct control has given way to sphere’s of influence. Governments are about arbitrating the natural conflicts within a society. That would mean almost entirely economic conflicts.

    The premier capitalist country the U.S. still dominating. The last twenty years has seen the rise of three new players. India, China and Brazil. Russia is remaking itself after the breakup of the Soviet Empire. The world economy is still the G-7 plus the original EU before the inclusion of the Central and Eastern European states.

    When nation states moved to fiat currency systems they effectively gave management control of the economy to the government. The history of the 19th/20th century shows us a repeating story of crisis after crisis that has increased the role of the state in economic policy. It is no different in the 21st century. The role the U.S. has played in the global economy is coming under severe strain. Everyone and his uncle knows that if there was a severe and sudden collapse it would leave the world at great risk as the state that has provided for the international public good for security would retreat into itself. Hence in spite of its problems it remains still the safe haven.

    Destroying a landed based oligarchy is a political revolution. It is not an economic upheaval. You cannot destroy the landed oligarchic system without the political revolution. The landed oligarchy is the political economy.

    The Philippines still lacks the notion of nationhood. It may never come. Just like the likelihood of there becoming an African nation. The process of global integration cannot be held back. It would be most difficult to replicate the developmental model of the more advanced economies of the world. We are in essence products of their economic evolution.

    Note to all re Che Guevara…The effort to romanticize him is regrettable. He was totally immersed in violent struggle. His purges after the victory forced Fidel to send him away. He was not interested in building up society. He was good though in destroying the old one.

    Though sometimes one can fantasize of doing to certain sectors of Philippine society what he did. Simply exterminate them….

    But that would open more cans of worms unfortunately.

    Our process will be long and complicated. Joey Salceda recently said of our condition relative to the global crisis. We at this time have to be thankful for being poor. We are still in a cave so this storm will not affect us much.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    apologists indeed, but do they express a majority opinion, i think not, as the opinion polls even divided along income lines shows. you can look at the forces propelling the decline of the one party state and the imperial presidency here at home, it was staffed, expressed, and propelled in large part by the old middle class that actually took american democratic values to heart. when confronted though, by the end result of the changes they wanted, they left the country.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    No, Cuba had as we have: a pressure-release valve; there have been waves upon waves of refugees/escapees and that is what purged cuba of the democratically/entrepreneurially inclined.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    empty or hollow compared to what? and what sort of completeness do you want? a cultural revolution, mao style?

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Marcos tried to destroy? That seems a stretch. Tried to supplant, maybe, which is different. If you want to see what the Sociologists say, pick up “The vote of the poor,” published by the Ateneo. On another note, Tan doesn’t seem to have taken into account the big difference between contemporary society and all that’s come before: the breakdown in the transmission of culture. people are increasingly not learing what is “mail” and what is “wasto” from elders, they learn it, if at all, from each other and from media. And neither (peer pressure or media messages) are particularly effective at promoting anything other than consumerism.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    as the opinion polls even divided along income lines shows…

    Which opinion polls and what do they show?

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    when confronted though, by the end result of the changes they wanted, they left the country – mlq3

    Do you mean that when they realized that the beneficiary of democratic reforms would be the EDSA Tres crowd and the politicians like Erap and FPJ? If true, doesn’t that show that the ‘Old Middle Class’ are elitists at heart?

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    not exactly. when they saw it was going to be at their expense. i don’t think one should underestimate how alienated the middle class felt when doctors, lawyers, teachers, the professional classes, in other words, who’d saved up and managed to buy 10, 15, 20, 30 hectares of land found themselves the first and most effective targets of land reform while the upper classes moved heaven and earth to dodge the law. same applies to the manner in which the lina law alienated property holders not wealthy or well connected enough to flout it by means of goons or the courts. since they could not fight, flight was the answer, considering the deterioration, as well, in law and order (rapes, carjackings, kidnappings, home invasions) in the 80s to 90s and resugent once more.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    most surveys on the president and her doings. i think tony abaya explains this well in

    • Bert on February 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    There is no need for any EdsA, or a revolution if you may, if it can be helped.

    What we need, to be able to reach a situation where there will be a modicum of self-satisfaction for everyone is an UNSELFISH leader, a driver who knows how to go through evading the potholes along the way, who can drive us to the desired destination without having to succumb to the temptations that befall others that took the wheel.

    People are people, put them into the shoes of the oligarchs and they will be as oligarch as oligarchs could be, and vice versa. This reminds me of one time I asked a jeepney driver who was cursing a policeman, after parting with his earnings for a purported traffic violation, if, by a good fortune, he becomes a policeman himself, will he not be doing the same thing? He just smiled and could not answer.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    ah i see, it’s land reform that alienated the old middle class, but doesn’t that mean that it is they who have ‘more in commmon with the warlords’ in terms of aspirations? By contrast, what did the ‘new middle class’ do to deserve such a comparison?

    • Carl on February 28, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Manolo, not a cultural revolution a la Mao, but EDSA should have gone much deeper than superficial reforms. Empty speaks for itself because EDSA fell far short of accomplishing what it promised.

    I have heard apologists for EDSA, such as Joker Arroyo, say that eliminating one-man rule and establishing democratic processes were achievements enough.

    I disagree with that thinking. It’s like saying that deregulating an industry or opening a sector to competition is enough. The markets will take care of themselves. That’s a lazy man’s alibi. Even Allan Greenspan will now admit that engagement and vigilance are the price of freedom.

    I believe that nothing should be left to chance and that there should always be support and monitoring. It wasn’t enough, for example, to simply enact a Land Reform Law. The law by itself would not fix the problem. The support systems should have been in place first. And, quite honestly, that law was not very well thought out and was shot full of loopholes.

    Despite much talk of recovering ill-gotten wealth and doing away with cronyism, the Aquino Administration left Marcos and his cronies largely untouched. Very little ill-gotten wealth was recovered from either Marcos or his cronies. The facts speak for themselves: the Marcos cabal is making a comeback and Marcos cronies have only gotten richer.

    Crony capitalism was never eradicated. All administrations after Marcos continued to have their cronies. Most, if not all, the Marcos cronies were able to wiggle their way into the good graces of the Aquino Administration and after.

    In order to succeed there must be vision and dedication. None was present in EDSA. And, as for Joker Arroyo and Teddy Boy Locsin, they sold out, and have taken cover under a jaded and cynical facade.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    hold on, what did edsa promise? an end to dictatorship, a return to democracy, the democratic space to initiate reforms without it being done by decree -that is, reforms within the context of compromise and consensus.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    (Re: 3:40pm) Yes, i do remember Rene Saguisag (then with the Cory Cabinet) saying, after the first Congressional elections in 1987, that ‘now it is all up to Congress’ which says that the Cory Admin really did not really set its sights on a goal beyond democratic restoration.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    which means that we are holding the EDSA actors to a higher standard than they set for themselves.

    • Carl on February 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Ganun ba? Then Cory Aquino shouldn’t have stayed on for 6 years. They shouldn’t have set up PCGG and made sweeping promises such as undoing the mess the dictator left. When Marcos left the country, just proclaim democracy, declare elections and then resign after Congress is established.

    Maybe we set higher standards than what the Aquino Administration set for themselves. The administration musn’t have been speaking with one voice, because there were other voices promising other things. And people within the administration certainly helped themselves to all the trappings of power. Para sa akin, cop-out ang excuse na hanggang tig-restore lang sila ng democracy. A revolution doesn’t work like that. The vision and the ideals have to follow, otherwise, like I said, it’s an empty revolution.

    • cvj on February 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Carl, you have a point. It was only in 1990 when they realized ‘oh sh*t, we don’t have enough electricity’ or ‘oh sh*t, we don’t have enough flyovers’. Also, she failed to set an example with Hacienda Luisita which would have prevented the cleavage between EDSA Dos and EDSA Tres crowds. That being the said, I wouldn’t use ‘lang’ when it comes to restoration of democracy.

    • Madonna on February 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    “Marcos tried to destroy? That seems a stretch. Tried to supplant, maybe, which is different.”

    Manolo, Look, I am referring to the quasi-social engineering that at least the old dictator gave a shot at in the beginning. It is not a coincidence that some of our younglings who were not even born when Edsa I happened are studying his texts — and agreeing with their ideas and goals.

    The supplanting came when he saw that he had such stiff opposition from the landed oligarchs. And I guess this was actually the real reason for declaring Martial Law — not the communist insurgency. The Lopezes had long maintained that they were the victims of the evil dictator. But lookit, the Lopezes are not exactly babies or innocents in the political arena. They are the very epitome of the oligarchical system — engaging in incestuous relationship between business and politics, and protecting their interests and turf. They are in the mass communication and public utilities sectors — and weld influence over the minds of the public — then and now — did you think the Apo Ferdie would just stand by as the Lopezes use the might of their public influence to counter the ideals of Marcos behind his back? Martial Law was declared to reign in the power of the oligarchs I maintain. The middle class was overwhelmingly supportive of Marcos in the early years.

    Compare the Lopezes with the Zobel de Ayalas — who are recognized as the closest to true aristocrats that we could have — one great reason to uphold our Spanish heritage — decent, socially-aware and averse to publicity. They have never engaged in politics directly. Only indirectly. Yes, they are behind the MBC, the big business posse of Cory Aquino. The MBC as a social force is mainly concerned with calibrating power dynamics — and of course defending liberal economic policies. They have been aloof, however in social policies (for example, have we heard them condemn the Catholic Church for directly opposing a population policy?). Cory’s main mistake is for letting the Catholic Church dictate to her many, many times.

    The crux of the matter is that liberal economic policies don’t mean shit: deregulation and privatisation was like throwing chunks of meat to a few hundred wolves while 80+ million sheep watch in the sideline.

    “If you want to see what the Sociologists say, pick up “The vote of the poor,” published by the Ateneo. On another note, Tan doesn’t seem to have taken into account the big difference between contemporary society and all that’s come before: the breakdown in the transmission of culture. people are increasingly not learing what is “mail” and what is “wasto” from elders, they learn it, if at all, from each other and from media. And neither (peer pressure or media messages) are particularly effective at promoting anything other than consumerism.”

    Transmission of culture: I think the great block here is the influence of the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Tan made a great point of differentiating the universal way people and across social classes could judge situations as “tama” or “mali” — versus exceedingly value-laden, moral-driven judgement of “masama” and “mabuti”. Masama and mabuti are prone to moralizing and thus, falling trap to the edicts of religious authorities and other self-interested groups.

    • Carl on February 28, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    You make a good point, cvj.

    • BrianB on February 28, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I think like most Filipinas, Cory is capable of managing her own conscience in such a way that the bad things she was responsible for get buried or thrown out with utmost efficiency. There’s a saying, There’s no such thing as an accident in the kitchen. So when a child gets “accidentally burned, that means his mother hates him.

    • mlq3 on February 28, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    recently i ran into someone who’d been in the aquino cabinet and he shook his head and said, you know, when we were discussing land reform, we didn’t know half the things people do now…

    the aquino government was an example of the perils of too much open dialogue and democracy, too many contending voices -but it’s what the public wanted. as for realizing all the things too late, well, see what they were up against in 1987-1989 and you’d go oh shit, too.

    revolutions never end up the way they were intended to end up, and if you are engaged in a democratic project the broadness of the vision and ideals will mean a lot of compromises and lost opportunities along the way.

    this is monday morning quarterbacking at its worst.

    • UP n grad on February 28, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    A worse form of monday-morning quarterbacking is Gringo Honasan-etcetera surging-the-gates instead of waiting for next-elections because they thought Cory failed to deliver on promises made.

    • mlq3 on March 1, 2009 at 12:27 am

    i’d agree with you except for two things. if you look at coconut and sugar, what did marcos do, with an absolute monopoly on the police power? i’ve heard that what ariel querubin was dying to do, should a new government replace gma, was to be given authority to run after the warlords and their private armies and crush them once and for all. this happened once before, when fm crushed the private armies in luzon and the visayas -actually, just sent in the army and confiscated their arms, the only ones who resisted were the iglesia ni cristo in that famous siege.

    but he was more interested in establishing a coconut and sugar monopoly, not in expropriating the estates. the succesful land reform ,by all accounts, that he undertook was limited to rice and corn lands.

    marcos was faced with a situation where he not only wanted a third term, but was frustrated in his other efforts, such as shifting to a parliamentary system where he could continue as pm. then and only then did he embark on martial law to break the logjam and protect himself from persecution after leaving office. this is the original sin and everything else is a fig leaf to disguise the essential nature of the power-seeking effort at the heart of it, an effort that upset the entire direction of a predictable cyclical change in power and a loosening of the grip of the political class on power.

    • mlq3 on March 1, 2009 at 12:28 am

    did gringo et al surge-the-gates because of a failure on cory’s part to deliver on promises made, or rather because they felt she should never have embarked on the foolishness of democracy?

    • mlq3 on March 1, 2009 at 12:44 am

    it’s the dilemma of the new middle class having been exposed to best practices overseas and immediately dropping whatever they picked up the moment they come home, and preferring to live in splendid isolation behind their new gates. this is because they haven’t been acculturated into the whole sense of civic duty and responsibility that somehow could make the old middle class, from time to time but not all the time, go beyond their own interests and work for expanding the democratic space for all.

    • cvj on March 1, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Ariel Querubin wanted to run after the warlords? No wonder he’s locked up.

    • ramrod on March 1, 2009 at 1:15 am

    He’s disarmed a number of private armies in his time and stubbornly refused to give back the weapons back to these goons even with pressure from superiors.

    • Phil Manila on March 1, 2009 at 5:48 am


    From the link you provided, I was able to read the notes of the historian Leon Ma. Guerrero, another great patriot, on Apolinario Mabini’s La Revolucion Filipina.

    ‘Righteous, perceptive and farsighted beyond the measure of his contemporaries and successors, the very embodiment of the intellectual in a revolution, …. Among the Filipinos he was one of the few who knew what it was all about.”

    From Guerrero’s insights above, I say Mabini’s early death in 1903, robbed the Philippine revolutionists of a great thinker, idealist ideologue if you may, to guide General Aguinaldo in the 1900s and the young Philippine nation forthwith.

    We lost our way since then.

    • Carl on March 1, 2009 at 7:39 am

    While Gringo et al represented the right-wing outlook that the military is the best guardian for the country, Gringo and his cohorts had lots of ammunition on account of incompetence, lack of vision and disorderly governance of the Aquino Administration.

    Manolo, it would help if you confronted the reality that EDSA was, to be kind, revolution-lite, instead of a true revolution. It restored democracy in some form (superficial, in Madonna’s words), but it failed to bring about a truly democratic and egalitarian society. It failed to bring about a better life for the majority, and it failed to transform the feudal structures that continue to beleaguer our country.

    It doesn’t help to be too defensive about EDSA. It would be better for everyone to admit that, as a model, it was flawed. And that we can come up with a much better model in the future. I believe that glorifying EDSA is dangerous because it sets the bar at too low a level. Excellence cannot be achieved by setting mediocrity as the barometer.

    • BrianB on March 1, 2009 at 9:12 am

    “this is monday morning quarterbacking at its worst.”

    More like Black Thursday remembrance.

    Manolo, killing helpless farmer on Mendiola? If it was Erap, Ramos, Arroyo, Magsaysay, Garcia, Laurel, etc. that wouldn’t have happened.

    • BrianB on March 1, 2009 at 9:14 am

    “the aquino government was an example of the perils of too much open dialogue and democracy, too many contending voices -but it’s what the public wanted.”

    Really, Manolo, so why lsten to a few dozen hacenderos and not listen to 15,000 farmers right outside the Palace gates?

    • BrianB on March 1, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Besides, Monday-morning quarterbacking can’t apply to critical citizens like me. I wasn’t in congress during Cory’s time but a wee lil boy. I imagine even then I would’ve protested the massacre and the slowness of land reform. Even then, I imagine, I would’ve seen through her when she was talking too much with relatives of Luisita.

    But this one is real double-guessing: Joker Arroyo, as her Executive Secretary, roved to be of a weaker constitution than what people know of him. I guess now we know Joker is weak willed. Stubborn, yes, but he doesn’t have a strong mind.

    • cvj on March 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Manolo, it would help if you confronted the reality that EDSA was, to be kind, revolution-lite, instead of a true revolution. – Carl

    The danger of dismissing EDSA as ‘revolution-lite’ are the following:

    (1) it may lead us to take for granted what it has achieved and increasing the chances that we may lose even that;
    (2) More importantly, this i could do better than that mentality could lead us to underestimate the difficulty and unpleasant side-effects of implementing more fundamental changes (like wealth redistribution). After all, based on Manolo’s account of middle-class resistance to land reform, isn’t the middle class also to blame for the failure of this program?

    So while it is just right to highlight what EDSA failed to achieve, it is for our (aka the Middle Class) own protection to respect what it did achieve.

    It restored democracy in some form (superficial, in Madonna’s words), but it failed to bring about a truly democratic and egalitarian society. – Carl

    After EDSA, the Left did refuse to use the word ‘democracy’ and preferred ‘democratic space’. Maybe they have been, once again vindicated and this is now conventional wisdom (i.e. commonly held belief). For me, one lesson learned is that if we should have listened more to the Left.

    • UP n grad on March 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

    My perception is that EDSA1 is perceived a failure because it failed to reduce cronyism, graft, corruption and thievery and larceny. And the instances of graft and thievery occurred at all levels, from the highest levels down to the baranggay; from congressman-and-above, mayor-and-above, local-judge-and-above, government-clerk-and-above to the kotong-cop or the DMV-clerk and even the elementary school teacher.

    • UP n grad on March 1, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Corruption and thievery participation by the Left —- extortion (power-line or cell-towers bombed; buses and places of business set ablaze) making a mockery of the call for the GREATER-GOOD. ….

    • BrianB on March 1, 2009 at 11:18 am

    “My perception is that EDSA1 is perceived a failure because it failed to reduce cronyism, graft, corruption and thievery and larceny”

    It failed not for any lack of law, because we have it, and not for any lack of evidence to prosecute, we have it too. It failed because someone powerful refused to inconvenience her relatives or have been brought up to fear some of them.

    • cvj on March 1, 2009 at 11:49 am

    BrianB (at 11:18am), spot on!

    • BrianB on March 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Madonna, just read your comment. My thinking exactly. Probably the reason why many old people still has a fondness for Marcos and blamed everything to the influence of Imelda. I guess Marcos was such a man who lacked depth as a revolutionary and lacked sophistication as a leader. First thing he did was become a monster worse than the ones he was trying to kill. Just couldn’t resist the temptation, and once he had it all found himself utterly lacking in concrete vision.

    Really one of the first things I learned in college and they were truly keen on injecting to our sense: don’t be a revolution for you will only be a worse monster than these… [old landed class]

    • Carl on March 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    cvj, the attitude of being overprotective (some may even say being overdefensive) about EDSA is not without merit, especially when placed in the context of what could be the alternative. And much more so when the basis of comparison is Martial Law under Marcos.

    But that’s somewhat of a negative conditioning of the mind and doesn’t take into account more positive alternatives, such as instituting genuine reforms and addressing the gross inequality of wealth. It’s like talking down expectations in order not to come up short.

    My problem with glorifying EDSA is that it could be delusional. It seeks to make people oblivious to EDSA’s very real shortcomings. How can we change and improve on EDSA if we sweep its failures under the rug?

    EDSA did have to contend with many difficulties. But they weren’t any more daunting than those elsewhere.

    Spain, after Franco, had to thread the needle between the military, the different ideologies, fierce nationalistic aspirations and the clamor for payback from those who suffered under the dictatorship.

    South Africa under Mandela had a very difficult balancing act contending with racial and class struggle, making sure these did not destroy the economic base of the country.

    Lula of Brazil, a lifelong union organizer, had to balance wealth redistribution with growing his country’s economy.

    They were, by most measures, successful and surmounted the odds.

    I do agree that bringing about democracy is great. But to say that democracy alone is enough, without evaluating what real gains it brings about, I think, shortchanges the people.

    I’m confident that the people will no longer tolerate dictatorships. But I’m also aware that people will not take anything at face value anymore, after several disappointments. Henceforth, they will first evaluate what’s in it for them before they commit to anything.

    • UP n grad on March 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    A serious problem with EDSA (and this romantic aura around metro-Manila’s “surge-the-gates” to impose a new order on the entire country) is the disrespect of the points of view of the non-Metro-Manila citizenry.

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