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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œjust 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 hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 EstradaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s loyalists werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 -Ã¢â‚¬Å“After us, the delugeÃ¢â‚¬Â- 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 werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.