«

»

Jan 25

The Long View: Lodestar

The Long View
Lodestar
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:35:00 01/25/2010

JUNE 30, 2010 will mark 18 years since Cory Aquino stepped down from the presidency: there will be millions of first-time voters who reached maturity never having known her as anything other than an ex-president.

The problem confronting Cory Aquino and the country in 1986 was whether a middle path could be pursued, which required time for institutions and policies to be put in place. The challenge for those opposed to the middle path was to strangle our newly restored democracy in the cradle before it could even take baby steps. This could only be done, as the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization put it, “to systematically de-Marcosify society.”

Cory Aquino outlined her political program in a speech before Rotary Clubs on Jan. 23, 1986 in which she said: “I propose to dismantle the dictatorial edifice Mr. Marcos has built. In its place I propose to build for our people a genuine democracy.”

What was the edifice Marcos and friends had built, and that needed to be demolished? Its foundation, Aquino pointed out, “is the total destruction of the old system of checks and balances. I admit that the old system was not perfect. But at least it gave to the judiciary and to the legislature a generous measure of respectability.” Eliminating checks and balances allowed Marcos free rein “to fill the most sensitive positions of government with officials whose primary qualification is loyalty to the President.” It allowed him to rig the rules to institutionalize impunity by making himself exempt from any real scrutiny – by the press, the legislature, or the courts.

In contrast, she proposed a three-point program: “(1) We must break up the concentration of power in the hands of the Executive; (2) We must set up effective safeguards against abuse and misuse of power; (3) We must make the executive and all who follow his directives answerable for their misdeeds.”

This would be accomplished by fostering professionalism and accountability in the judiciary and the military, and by restoring checks and balances by means of the oversight that is a built-in function of an independent legislature. All made possible by our institutions being under the ambit of a Constitution democratic and not authoritarian in orientation.

For those who’d been arguing that extreme problems required extreme solutions, this transition had to be foiled. It had to be foiled from within and without.

Mussolini had editorialized that “[c]onsent is as variable as the sand on the sea shore… Posed as axiomatic that all government measures create malcontents, what will you do to prevent the disquiet from spreading and representing a danger for the solidity of the State? You will avoid it by resorting to force.” His political origins had been as a leftist though he ended up a fascist; which suggests the shared interest of both extremes in provoking the middle to shift one way or another, in the hope that out of the short-term desire to survive, the middle will foster its own self-destruction.

This would disprove, in turn, the Churchillian dictum: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Democracy – the kind put in place after Edsa, the kind that prefers compromise between contending parties, rather than a winner-take-all attitude for whoever wins (by whatever means) – if proven to be simply bad, would then reinvigorate the ranks of those who could then argue that their proposals couldn’t possibly be worse. What was particularly noxious was the idea that force should be moderated by restraint; that artificial order was preferable to the messy but organically entrenched interaction of sectors.

This is why those who never experienced what the days of Cory’s presidency were like —the relentless assaults, the constant provocations, the substitution of slander and innuendo for lack of any real evidence to the contrary, regardless of cost to the followers of the plotters or the country—may wonder, today, why it is that Cory’s being able to hand over the presidency to an elected successor, with our present institutions in place, was such an outstanding achievement. And why, to this day, those who did live through that era on the whole consider this a great achievement and why those who wanted our democracy to be stillborn have not only never forgiven her for it, but keep trying to cripple our by-now adolescent democracy.

The very first time I set foot on the premises of the Batasang Pambansa was when then-Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo went before the House of Representatives during its “Question Hour,” and almost as much time separates that event from the time Joker finally disgraced himself utterly during the NBN-ZTE hearings, as has passed from the time Cory left office to the time she died. Within that period, the Joker who’d embraced accountability and scrutiny by submitting, as executive secretary, to the House’s questions, became the Congressman Joker who combated President Estrada, only to surrender to impunity by being a cranky sword and shield for President Arroyo and Senate President Villar.

The difference in fundamental attitudes have less to do with the individual choices of one man, and more to do with the approach of those at the top to power. The Joker Arroyo of today cannot possibly be really different from the Joker of yesterday; but it would seem his disgrace and those of the institutions in which he once served and in which he now sits, could only have been made possible by the realization of how powerfully personal example can influence behavior up and down the line. Cory, as the antithesis of Marcos, left people no choice but to try to live up to her example. Arroyo, on the other hand, liberated Joker to be himself.

And this is why Cory will forever be missed.

25 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. Brian Brotarlo

    What about those little choices like agrarian reform and showing tolerance to the farmers at Mendiola?

    “This is why those who never experienced what the days of Cory’s presidency were like—the relentless assaults, the constant provocations, the substitution of slander and innuendo for lack of any real evidence to the contrary, regardless of cost to the followers of the plotters or the country—may wonder, today, why it is that Cory’s being able to hand over the presidency to an elected successor, with our present institutions in place, was such an outstanding achievement.”

    Aren’t you also describing the Arroyo term of office? So the only measure now of her success is passing the baton to the 2010 winner?

    This is really the Philippines in the point of view of important protagonists. RP is not made up of these few personalities alone, Manolo. Whoever was provoking Cory were only few, too few to be of any consequence besides their threat to peace and order–a police problem, in other worlds. It shouldn’t have dictated policy. Democratic policy should look at the entire population, listen and understand their needs. What’s needed in your article is a sociological point of view not a biographer’s point of view.

  2. Brian Brotarlo

    in other words, for sure, not in other worlds. But a Freudian slip has its causes… in other countries?

  3. SoP

    Well farmers and salesladies make up a majority of Philippines’ employees. But it’s just insane to give lands to farmers just because they worked there for so long. If we’re gonna do this, why don’t we just give the salesladies in SM shoemarts the section of the mall they worked in if they worked there for decades too?

  4. SoP

    Maybe if the salesladies of SM can mass organize and put up an resistance army they can bully the congress, judiciary, and president into getting Henry Sy to give certificates of land ownership, er mall ownership, to the salesladies.

  5. SoP

    Why did you call your article Lodestar? Manolo, often times your titles border on the ridiculous/cringe worthy. You might wanna tone it down a little.

  6. ramrod

    Well farmers and salesladies make up a majority of Philippines’ employees. But it’s just insane to give lands to farmers just because they worked there for so long. If we’re gonna do this, why don’t we just give the salesladies in SM shoemarts the section of the mall they worked in if they worked there for decades too?
    ————————————-

    Hahaha!!!

    I never could figure out this “the world owes us a living mentality” and the “rich vs poor” and “take from the rich give to the poor” commie weird ideal of Utopia…

    Probably why the country stayed third world…

  7. The Equalizer Post

    Just like all of us, Cory Aquino was not perfect.For instance,
    during the administration of President Cory ,Hacienda Luisita was exempted from CARP distribution by placing the 6,453-hectare sugar estate under the SDO, a non-land transfer scheme, which converted sugar workers into stock holders and daily workers receiving P9.50 per day without any share in the gross sales.
    However,when her term was over, she stepped down in favor of an elected successor.That was her true legacy.

  8. mlq3

    No, because Arroyo for some time now has not wanted to hand over power to anyone.

    And things then went beyond “mere police problems,” precisely because the government was trying to listen to everyone and trying to understand their neeeds, in a country long unused to listening or understanding either from the governors or the governed.

  9. mlq3

    The SDO scheme was consistently proposed since the 1960s and explored as an alternative to the breaking up of large estates into smaller parcels which was opposed by some because it would eliminate economies of scale.

  10. SoP

    Let’s not forget farmers in Luisita had access to free medical and free housing for the last 30 years, on top of the recent P9.5 a day, which is the only thing the media and leftist pundits and bloggers constantly emphasize.

  11. ramrod

    This would be accomplished by fostering professionalism and accountability in the judiciary and the military, and by restoring checks and balances by means of the oversight that is a built-in function of an independent legislature. All made possible by our institutions being under the ambit of a Constitution democratic and not authoritarian in orientation.
    ——————————————–

    I wonder if this is “doable” now when we have another Gloria appointee coming in the Supreme Court and most probably Gen. Delfin Bangit (a known Gloria guard dog) a logical appointee for Chief of Staff after the current one retires end of first quarter…and who knows what other strategic and tactical machinations the “powers that be” have in place?…again, Gloria is 10 moves ahead in this game of political chess…

  12. thenextdish

    You’re mistaken Mr. Quezon. The Joker Arroyo of today is exactly the same as the Joker Arroyo of President Aquino’s time. As Executive Secretary, he was able to amass a fortune so much so that most of the people who idolized him, got very disappointed w/ him. This is a well-known fact in Malacañang. Try asking those in PCA’s administration.

  13. First NameJuancho

    The Long View says it all. She laid out the goal but unfortunately the axctual plan would have to depend on men unfortunately who did not have a clue what the hell to do do buil a broad based participatory democracy.

    The economy was relegated to the orthodox masters of the universe.

    They beggared the state and without the necessary material base the state was relegated into oblivion.

    The private based constituencies who rule the land now have a stranglehold on the policy making apparatus.

    Now an incomeptent person in the person of GMA can find it so easy to attempt to rule forever.

    We are truly a country of dumb people.

  14. mlq3

    What’s worrysome is not that it will unfold according to precise plans, or succeed if attempted, but rather, that it represents a kind of nuclear option the President can seriously consider and quite possibly attempt. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil has called her a “nihilist,” in that she believes in nothing and will stop at nothing.

  15. mlq3

    And yet he managed to keep this under wraps and it would be 20 years before what you suggest was explicitly matched by what he did to erode our institutions.

  16. The Equalizer Post

    Manolo:

    Do you support the move for a Cory Aquino beatification?

    EQ

  17. First NameJuancho

    The question now is this, will the Philippine State survive in the medium term? The institutions though immature from Cory’s time have almost all been marginalized under the GMA regime.

    The next president will have a tough time repairing them (state institutions) while trying to move unorthodox policies through the the whole system of governance (three branches) that have all but been gutted by private interests.

    The Iraqi government is in a better position. They are starting near zero.

    We have a state that is ready to fall like Humpty Dumpty.

    Economic political reality is a mix of complex parts and different layers of complexity. The causality of all this leaves one to wonder if it would be better to see everything simply collapse.

  18. Brian Brotarlo

    Luisita “owners” are under contract to give up their land for agrarian reform, in case you’ve forgotten.

  19. mlq3

    yes, it becomes a collective.

  20. thecusponline

    In 1998, the Philippines fulfilled the last requirement of Freedom House to be classified as a stable democracy, which was to have two orderly successions of power with at least one of them being to a different party from the incumbent. So from that perspective, it was a remarkable achievement.

    However, the Estrada presidency demonstrated how prone they were to manipulation, particularly with the Senate hearings over juetengate. The necessity of resorting to EDSA2 demonstrated the failure of the process to resolve these basic rule of law questions.

    The Arroyo imbroglio over the last 10 years has put further strain on these institutions with scandal after scandal. Yet she survives to taunt her opponents and lay booby traps for her would-be successors such as the Chief Justice appointment and the possibility of an election failure (she must know in her heart at this point that her candidate cannot win).

    After 18 years, the legacy of the democratic movement in the country is in total disrepair. Many of its former stalwarts seem to have gotten too cozy in power.

  21. Brian Brotarlo

    The best presidency was Ramos’. Straightforward leadership without illusions about the realities of this country even though there was evidence he stole the elections and money as well. Do we deserve better? Yes. Was it Cory? No. Her son should take note.

  22. mlq3

    not really practicing my religion, it’s not really my concern.

  23. nick

    Thecusponline is very on the spot. PGMA is the anathema, the very antonym of ‘Loadstar’ mlq3 is talking about.

  24. pinokie62

    Excellent post MLQ3. Lesson: we can’t be arrogant and think we can’t turn into a Joker ourselves.

  1. Manuel L. Quezon III | EDSA: Memories and Meanings, Timelines and Discussions

    […] Manuel L. Quezon III | The Long View: Lodestar The Long View Lodestar By Manuel L. Quezon III Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 00:35:00 […]

Leave a Reply