The Long View
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:29:00 02/10/2010
THIS MONTH IS HEAVY WITH MEMORY.
In 1986, on Feb. 5, Jaime Cardinal Sin warned that Catholics would employ civil disobedience measures if the election proved fraudulent. On Feb. 7, the snap election was held. The Commission on Elections claimed Ferdinand Marcos was leading while the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel, now denied accreditation by the same institution for the 2010 elections) reported that Corazon Aquino was winning.
On Feb. 8, Aquino, who was ahead on the Namfrel count, claimed victory. The next day, on Feb. 9, 30 computer workers at the Comelec tabulation center in the Philippine International Convention Center, protesting the tampering of election results, walked out and sought refuge in Baclaran Church.
On Feb. 13, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter condemning election fraud, essentially withdrawing the “mandate of heaven” from Marcos. Two days later, on Feb. 15, the Batasan Pambansa in stormy session proclaimed Marcos the winner, and opposition assemblymen walked out to protest massive cheating during the election.
On Feb. 16, the “Tagumpay ng Bayan” took place, when Cory Aquino led a mammoth rally of more than two million people at the Luneta where she launched a nationwide civil disobedience campaign and the boycott of Marcos-crony firms to force him to concede defeat. People gave up beer and ice cream, and stopped paying their electric bills.
On Feb. 22, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos revolted against Marcos and holed themselves up in Camp Aguinaldo. Thousands of people formed a human barricade against the expected advance of Marcos’ troops (but they were so tightly jampacked around the Palace that the troops ended up immobilized). Sin appealed over Radio Veritas for people to send food and help guard the barricades.
On Feb. 25, in separate ceremonies, Cory Aquino took her oath of office at Club Filipino as president of the Philippines while Marcos was sworn in at Malacanang. Later that evening, Marcos fled to Clark Air Base en route to Hawaii. The next day, President Aquino formed her Cabinet.
An entire generation has grown up after these events, but memories of those February days must be particularly vivid for those who are currently seeking the presidency.
In the great showdown of 1986, Benigno Aquino III’s mother was contesting the presidency; Manuel Villar Jr.’s father-in-law, Filemon Aguilar, was the KBL incumbent mayor in Las PiÃ±as; while Richard Gordon and Joseph Estrada were both KBL mayors and would find themselves refusing at first to vacate their post in the aftermath of Edsa. Gilbert Teodoro Jr. was a KBL provincial board member, after ending his stint as president for Central Luzon of the Kabataang Barangay the year before.
The Aguilars returned to power in 1987, with Aguilar becoming congressman, later bequeathing his seat to his son-in-law in 1992, who in turn bequeathed it to his wife in 2001. Gordon affiliated with Vice President Salvador Laurel and helped reestablish the Nacionalista Party in opposition to Aquino. Estrada joined Enrile in opposition to Aquino and was elected to the Senate under the Grand Alliance for Democracy. Teodoro re-entered politics under the auspices of his uncle Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. when the latter returned from exile and became leader of a faction of the Nacionalista Party, now known as the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Cory Aquino would end up clashing with Ramos when he tried to extend his stay in power. She clashed with Joseph Estrada during Edsa Dos, and then Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on a similar question of executive accountability. Ramos then took Arroyo’s side, but now seems to support Teodoro, who in turn abandoned his uncle’s party and joined the President’s coalition as its standard bearer, a distinction achieved after fighting it out for the coalition’s nod with both Gordon and the latter’s running mate now, Bayani Fernando, under their own movement, Bagumbayan. Villar was bequeathed the Nacionalista Party by Salvador H. Laurel and all, in turn, are arrayed against Aquino who has always been with the LP, the party that never collaborated with Marcos.
In the great showdown of 2010, you have Aquino on one side, and arrayed against him are those for whom an Aquino victory in 2010 would represent another repudiation on the scale they had endured in 1986. The ruling coalition has to contend with being in a position similar to what the KBL found itself in in 1986: entrenched locally and despised nationally for many of the same reasons that Marcos’ machinery was hated. The other contenders, in turn, belong to a political line that can be traced back to the showdown in 1986 and opposition to the Aquino administration and Cory herself over the years.
I don’t think the grudge-match aspect of the present presidential race should be discounted. Then, as now, the hallmark of official impunity was what Marcos himself, in his private diaries, dismissed as “technical legalism,” combined with brute force, electoral manipulation, the power of the pork barrel and a dismissive attitude toward public opinion, all the while insisting that national leadership is about credentials and not about integrity. It took a bar topnotcher, after all, to engineer a legal system that put a premium on the appearance of legality while ignoring the court of public opinion, substituting it with the blunt reality that possession is nine-tenths of the law.
The late Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, one of the traditional politicians who knew how dangerous Marcos would be and tried to derail his climb to power, once said, “In the long of time, we shall success!” Success is impermissible for those for whom an Aquino victory in 2010 would permanently consign them to the wrong side of history as in 1986.