The Center must hold

It is always constitutional to protest against government policy, or the government itself, provided the protests are conducted peacefully. It is perfectly constitutional to petition for the President, or any official, to resign. It is perfectly constitutional to demand accountability, and express a desire for a change because the incumbent has demonstrated unfitness for continuing in office. People even have the freedom to go beyond the bounds of law –just as those enforcing the law have the obligation to enforce it; if enforcing the law fails, then revolution comes, which then legitimizes all that came before the revolution began.

There are those who say, the President was elected for six years, and that her mandate hasn’t been sufficiently questioned for her to relinquish office. This may be so, if we lived in a country without predatory forces trying to demolish the entire constitutional and social structure of our country. My answer to this is that the normal expectations and assumptions that govern such a point of view, have evaporated. Just as the benefit of the doubt given the impeachment trial of Estrada was replaced with convincing proof that Estrada’s loyalists weren’t interested in even the appearances of a fair trial. The great lie, peddled by Ferdinand Marcos, the militant Left, and the Estrada loyalists, is that there wasn’t an iota of idealism, justice, democratic love for liberty and accountability, in the actions of those who trooped to Edsa in 1986 and 2001.

Marcos was resoundingly reminded in 1986, at least, that the middle forces would not be as gullible and cowardly as they were in 1972. Estrada and the Senators allied with him were shown that the public would not be a party to their manipulations. That both 1986 and 2001 were followed by less than perfect, in fact often flawed, compromises in politics and the law, cannot erase the validity of the motivations of the middle.

IF you leave it to the militant Left, we will end up like Cuba, which Crispin Beltran once told me wouldn’t be such a bad way to end up, in his opinion. Make no mistake, the kind of Socialism espoused by the National Democratic Front would be that of a China rejected by the Chinese of today, and not the prosperous China of today. We would be forced into a Socialist time warp.

If you leave it to the supporters of Joseph Estrada, they, too, would have us enter a kind of time warp due to their theory that regardless of human time, Constitutional time can stop, and then be made to start ticking again, the moment their great dream of restoring Estrada to the presidency is accomplished. This is an extreme proposition, one so extreme, that it boggles the mind and sickens the stomach.

If you leave it to those proposing a revolutionary government, whether composed entirely of the military, or a motley bunch of military and civilian adventurists, we would again be subjected to a situation where we go back to the Latin America and Indonesia of the 1970s, and most certainly, not, as they would hope, the South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore of the past; for having enjoyed liberties and a certain amount of freedoms, our people cannot be forced into a straight jacket. The only ones who would willingly confined are those farthest from enjoying any potential benefits from a dictatorship. The poor would remain poor, and be more actively oppressed; the middle class would leave; and having run out of qualified managers and supervisors, the extremely wealthy would devote their resources to businesses and investments abroad.

If you leave things in the hands of the President, you are accelerating the possibility of any of the above, and furthermore undermining any chance for the middle forces to prove to themselves, their poorer countrymen, and their wealthy employers, that regardless of the compromises we all make, there are certain defining points in our lives and history, when the principles that supposedly govern our relationships with each other are tested. The country faces such a test now: do we remain paralyzed by change, and thus condemn ourselves to a future defined not by our social contract, but the dogma of Maoists, Estrada apologists, or believers in a junta? Or do we face the consequences of our demanding accountability from the President, while risking a succession defined by the rules we ourselves have set?

Unless you want a Maoist Philippines, an Estrada kingdom that time forgot, a country under the heel and subjected to the bayonets of the military, or the continuation of the present dispensation under the principle that guided the stupid and ineffective aristocrats of 18th Century France -“After us, the deluge”- then things have reached the point where your choices are three.

First, for there to be an impeachment; second, for the President only to resign; third, for the Vice-President to resign as well, opening up the possibility of an election. The first has many advocates among those pushing for the rule of law, as if the other two weren’t legal options; the second appeals to the duty of a leader, however discredited, to salvage their standing before history, and grant relief from the great stresses being felt by our citizenry and our institutions; the third is a great gamble, considering how there are contending forces trying to overturn the existing constitutional order.

Again, I must appeal: if we in the middle are bound by the Constitution, realize then, that neither the militant Left, nor the Estrada forces, or even military adventurers are bound by it. If we’re shackled to each other by the chains of constitutionalism, then those chains must be our strongest weapon of self-defense. A consensus, as I said, is what we need, and we don’t have the luxury of divisions and time. The center must hold. It must do so by holding fast to its ideals, and not fall prey to a fatal pragmatism. On trial is the ability of the middle class to save itself by living up to its values.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

14 thoughts on “The Center must hold

  1. This is a very good post, mlq3. May I have permission to copy and paste the whole text on my HS classmailing list? But will understand if you would rather it stays on your blog.


  2. wabbit, all posts here are under a creative commons license, you can distribute at will provided it’s unedited and properly attributed to me.

  3. Thanks. I’ll keep it whole and unedited, else it will lose its purpose and personality 😉 And all of your posts will be properly attributed to you. I’ll ask you beforehand, anyway 🙂


  4. your fears of this country turning into cuba once any of the factions of the left seizes power is to my mind unfounded. the left, as it is, is not a “monolithic” entity the way it was in the 1980s. i think the split in 1992 led to a “democratization” within its ranks, a realignment of political forces within the left (soc dem and ex-nat dems), with some elements espousing market socialism rather than the dogmatic approaches of sison and
    company. so i guess socialism as practiced by fidel, or even by mao, may be unacceptable to a significant portion of the left’s contituency. my two cents.

  5. ikong: granted, and i think i do make the distinction, you will notice my opposition is to the CPP-NPA-NDF. I have not had any reason to condemn Akbayan or other rejectionists.

  6. mlq3: medyo kinakabahan na nga ako kasi the roundtable was initiated by the Quezon City Chamber of Comerce and Industry and I was invited as a resource. They wanted a business professor like me to advise business people like them as to what to do in this political crisis. The problem is that I am not a typical business professor because I think left of center. Hehehe. Damn, I’m too young for this, I am only 27. :p

    off-topic: I liked your “Pagtitiis” speech in Tierra Bella. I was also there. I played the drum during the arnis demonstration.

  7. erwin- all the more dapat pagsabihan mo sila. kung nais iwasan nila ang class warfare, kailangan nilang patunayan na ang kanilang mga pitaka ay walang silbi kung ang masa ay mawalan ng pagasa at tiwala sa mga negosyante.

    buti naman kahit paano may nakinig nung nagsalita ako hehe

  8. Considering the role of the middle class in Philippine society the past 19 years it may be a premature conclusion to brand the middle class’s current silence as fatal pragmatism. I’ve friends and family who have joined 2 EDSA Revolutions and today many are planning to leave and have already left the country.

    The middle class is the key to progress for this country, but it is not without problems of its own. There is such a thing as day-to-day existence that we must worry about. We too get tired of being used as pawns by the perennially polarized elite even as we continue to pay taxes to subsidize the misguided priorities of the masses.

    You may be disappointed in your quest to solicit action from the middle class, because it is precisely in our collective silence on the issues currently being shoved down our throats that we find, even in “sachet” form, some solace on which our collective power should be focused on.

  9. anthony: i view it two ways. the middle class has been steadily voting with its feet, and leaving the country. as for those who remain, of course, an abstention is just as powerful a statement as a yes or no vote; my fear, however, is that if they choose to abstain, then it means a vote of no confidence in the country, which means they are abandoning the country to the elite and the masses, which means disaster.

  10. manuel,

    your fears are justified. but for those who still live here, they will just have to find ways to make it work, despite the negative environment.

    and if your fears ever come to fruition, then maybe even the elites and the masses should keep in mind that no member of a middle class that chooses to stay here will willingly go down without taking the elites and the masses with them. we’ll probably go down but we’ll try to take as many of them with us if push comes to shove. either way, it’s fair game.

    the question is – how far are these people willing to push things to the brink?

  11. Your title alludes to the famous third line of Yates’s poem “The second coming” (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”), but I have a feeling the seventh and eigthth lines are relevant too: “The best lack all conviction; while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity”. Or even (gulp) the fourth: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.

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