The Middle faces extinction

A complete revolution is my column for today. It’s my appreciation of what Edsa really meant and accomplished.

Today, I will be participating in a full-day retreat by the so-called “middle forces,” to reflect on where it has gone since 1986, and where it is headed. This is the outline of the remarks I’ve been asked to deliver:

How did we come to this?

Alran Bengzon, 1986: where have the the middle forces gone? Chasing privilege in the corridors of power.

Complicity in martial law never examined; absolution assumed in 1986

No purge was undertaken

No reeducation took place –confused children with propaganda textbooks suddenly outmoded, but never fully purged

The gains never went beyond the rhetorical, there was a lack of self-sacrifice

Middle Forces did not recognize their rejection by the people not once, but thrice:

In 1992, Danding & Imelda
In 1998, with Erap
In 2001, with Edsa Tres, when the middle forces were reduced to fleeing to San Beda, and a hollow re-occupation of the Edsa shrine took place

In all the above, the middle forces forget a central lesson of the efforts from 1983-1985: unity; there was a proliferation of candidates, but only one candidate for the other side.

We are here because a central attribute of democratic self-governance is self-control. The lack of self-control brought Marcos and Estrada down; it led to Cory foregoing historic opportunities, but has salvaged her post-Edsa reputation; it meant Ramos for all his defects, can live in a residual afterglow to his presidency –a presidency in which the middle forces had nothing to do.

What are our options?

A wider gulf exists between the middle and the people; the debate indeed, involves whether the middle even really exists anymore. Cory Aquino and Tito Guingona have apologized to Erap, who is more than a person, he is a constituency. It has not done so to the broader public.

In the public’s eyes, we are a faction, merely one of many competing in the same traditional way for the traditional spoils. Because of this, we lack the ingredients for seizing the imagination of the people: credibility, the ability to communicate, a leader.

We are faced with wanting reforms, without a national consensus existing for those reforms. Or even recognizing that a national consensus, for it to be effective and thus, acceptable, requires the consensus to be broad.

We are flirting with what we rejected during martial law, opposed during the 1987 and 1989 coups, what we shrugged or laughed off in 2003. We are making accommodations, rationalizations, because we are faced with what the traditional political class faces: extinction.

I submit we have not learned from our history since 1986, because the lessons are too painful. I submit that in desperation we are embarking on adventurism. A simple issue has been complicated by us; the painful and probably unsatisfactory solution, because it would mean only the beginning, and not end of our labors, is to give the people what they want: a president they themselves chose. We have so many problems with this, because we have proven an incapacity to influence that process since 1986.

Our option? Pull back from the brink, cease and desist flirting with the idea of change through armed might; but to do so requires our consecration to the idea that we are not in this for power or its perks.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

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