The Long View: Showdown

The Long View
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:29:00 02/10/2010


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 Piñas; 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.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

31 thoughts on “The Long View: Showdown

  1. This article it would seem seeks to harness the spirit of EDSA I the anniversary of which is imminent to create a parallelism between the struggle then and now. The impression one gets is that only one person bears the mantle of that cause today, and those who oppose him will be on the “wrong side of history”.

    The ominous undertones of the piece being that if Noynoy is thwarted of victory in 2010 (electorally or otherwise) that the forces behind him will rise up as they did back in 1986 and install him-that any other result other than victory for Noynoy would be “impermissible”. Is this consistent with the spirit of EDSA, I wonder.

  2. More than two million? Seriously, more than two million? Really seriously.
    “when Cory Aquino led a mammoth rally of more than two million people at the Luneta”.

    I strongly disagree to this and will consider this statement if not the whole article as a history being written by the victors, in short, disinformation if you like or to put it in subtlety open for debate. One can easily see that the writer is obviously not a fair minded in short one sided. How true it is indeed that the ability to write in english or even to have a name or write an article does not equates to fairness, objectivity and all that good stuff equated with a gentleman.

    My ratings? Poor article sadly

  3. The ominous undertones of the piece being that if Noynoy is thwarted of victory in 2010 (electorally or otherwise) that the forces behind him will rise up as they did back in 1986 and install him-that any other result other than victory for Noynoy would be “impermissible”. Is this consistent with the spirit of EDSA, I wonder.

    Ha ha ha, I almost feel my seat after reading this. It almost identical to my feeling after reading the peice.

    But ist OK, If Nonoy supporters aka civil society will resort to the peopel power again, they know very well
    that they dont have the support of the people.

  4. Finally, an honest and decent man puts all these attempts to the restoration of the New Society in order! Congratulations MLQ3! Great piece.

  5. You mean to tell me this 2010 elections is all about that – a long and continuous, albeit protracted battle of who could care less that to this day is waged at the expense of the people? A tad bit too simplistic, I think.

    I don’t suppose you can reduce our collective history this way. It sounds too much like Conrado de Quiros. Please don’t go that way, you’re better than him!

  6. The odds are stacked in Villar’s favor in ridiculously lopsided proportions. By all intents and purposes Villar has won already…only an act of God will change the course of events…hopefully not another flood…

  7. Honestly MLQ3, no matter how you paint this war between “good and evil”, the only significant battleground is in CDE demographics. Unless you are clear with this reality you’ll remain deeply engrossed in a vain exercise.

    Can you try phrasing the problem with a context that includes the all important masa?

  8. I think I get it, Manolo.

    If Marcos of the Philippines is to Hitler of Germany and Marcos’ KBL Party to Hitler’s Nazi Party, the triumph of those whose political life forms are traceable to the Marcosian line as arrayed against the spirit 1986 could also mean the reemerging materialization in 2010 of the murky specter of Hitlerism in the Philippines.

    Unless of course we agree that Marcos and Hitler are handsome lexicons.

  9. Yes Ramrod, Villar seems to be the eventual winner.But I dont think the civil society will just take just like that . I am expecting more attemps for people power from you and you ilk…

  10. “So in the end what we are left with are permutations of previously failed or flawed experiments espoused by members of the ruling elite in the hope of vindicating the competing hypotheses adopted by their predecessors in addressing the underdevelopment problem of the country. It is not that one candidate is on the right side of history and the other is not. What each party is seeking at this point is a way to carve out a place in history that would suit their own personal narratives.”

    This is part of my extended response to this blog entry, found here:

  11. Yes Ramrod, Villar seems to be the eventual winner.But I dont think the civil society will just take just like that . I am expecting more attemps for people power from you and you ilk…
    – alden40

    At this point, personally, I am not for people power or any attempt to replace a duly elected leader unconstitutionally. If Villar wins, he wins, the message that he wanted to send to the people was heard, appreciated, and the people trust him, end of campaign…and we do the right thing, be good citizens, work hard and pray for the best…life doesn’t end here…
    One thing I learned is that politics is a constant struggle of groups of people with different agendas, each wanting to push their agenda to the front…and we cannot force people to change or to go in a direction they do not want to go (unless threatened, even then its difficult).
    If Noynoy wins, it still doesn’t solve anything, of course, although we’re in a better position to “clean up” and rebuild our institutions, its still a gargantuan task.
    If Villar wins, who knows, nobody can accurately predict what one person will do in the future, if we judge a person’s future deeds based on his past sins, whatever happened to “redemption?”
    …besides, I have friends in both camps, although I decided to support Noynoy eventually, after all the fracas, we’re still going to be friends…and we’re still going to contribute whatever we can from bringing up law abiding kids, nation building, and opening new frontiers of opportunity so that other Filipinos can follow…what are OFWs for?

  12. …and whats all this hostility towards “civil society” (I hear that a lot especially from the Erap camp)?
    …from where I sit, no one should have a monopoly of the name “civil society” because WE ALL SHOULD BE civil. They’re not bad words really…

  13. Noynoy’s outright declaration that “he will not steal” is historical. Its the best move any leader can make, or anyone for that matter. whats wrong with that? only those who cannot honestly say it are afraid of it, or say something negative about it…
    Come to think of it, why not a challenge? Why don’t all the presidentiables say the same words in front of the people, on TV, while strapped to a lie detector test? Why not?

  14. Manolo, abe margallo, isn’t the simplistic view and the Marcos-Hitler-3rd Reich vs Aquino and 2010 analogy pushing it too much?

    This is “Reductio ad absurdum” — i.e. a logical rebuttal that takes a proposition to its logical extremes and examines the veracity of the conclusions the proposition implies in those extremes (wiki) Now taking it too these extremes is a
    a straw man fallacy because regardless of any incidental connections other presidentiables have it’s not properly represented or known whether their interests will remain the same as KBL or the first elements of your argument.
    In fact no one can say categorically what any of the presidentiable’s intentions really are.

    Further, this is oversimplification since your outcomes in present history and past have been caused by so many other things and it’s solely not about Marcos or Aquino. To think present the other presidentiables like this is to say they are running merely on a long-kept grudge, or that concluding that their tendencies will be toward the same sociological consequence of edsa I and germany. I don’t get it… there is something incomplete about your comparison.

  15. The odds are stacked in Villar’s favor in ridiculously lopsided proportions. By all intents and purposes Villar has won already…only an act of God will change the course of events…hopefully not another flood…
    Take heart, Ramrod, there are still many twists and turns in this election with Class D, the median voters, split between Aquino and Villar (40-34 in favor of the former). This despite heavy spending by the latter to court them.

    Winning over the Estrada support base (mainly in the D and E income groups where he registers 10 and 17% respectively) who were the primary anti-Arroyo groups at EDSA III will not be possible with the kind of rhetoric contained here.

    This kind of reasoning appeals only to the ABC income groups who were prime movers at EDSA I, II and in the Hello Garci protest rallies. Gibo who rates a mere 5% nationally actually garners a respectable 12% with them. I would wager his support comes from those primarily disillusioned with Aquino’s seeming lack of executive stature. They won’t be won over with romanticised appeals to light v darkness based on a Hello Garci rematch.

    I just wish pro-Aquino commentators would cease making such appeals. It is not helping their cause one bit either with the marginalised D&E sectors nor with the pro-establishment forces in the upper ABC classes. Aquino needs to unify all of these social groups all of whom were present at EDSA I not alienate them.

  16. An excerpt from Jose ma. Montelibano’s column at the inquirer today – “Our greatest tragedy is corruption, our greatest pain is the tragedy of the masses, our greatest shame is our cowardice to confront evil, our greatest challenge is to find an honest and courageous patriots to elect.” VERY TRUE.

    the central issue in this election is still corruption. We need somebody with sense of shame and strong ethics. For those who strongly believe in the pristine integrity of Manny Villar specifically in the c-5 controversy, then Solita Monsod’s analysis and the report of the senate’s committee of the whole are blatant lies and must be stopped! they should be the sheepish pimps on the wrong side of history and Villar the honest and hummble man to be honored and revered on the right side of history.

  17. The Spirit of ’86 remains an unfinished project.

    Take note for example the parallel in how easily the Nazis were de-Nazified and returned to business as usual in Germany and in how discretely the Marcos loyalists were de-Marcosified and allowed to restore themselves to their pre-EDSA statuses (think of Danding who fled with the dictator to exile and Marcos crony Lucio Tan who today are both kingmakers again).

    There are others, Manolo Quezon reminds us, who have as quietly reinvented (or recycled) themselves: the Aguilars (and Villars), the Estradas, the Teodoros, the Gordons, and the Escuderos, the Angaras, the Punos, the Cayetanos, to name a few more.

    By some stretch, the Yellow Revolution was a sequel to the revolutionary narrative of Filipinos’ long struggle against oppression by foreign tormentors (or its many current forms) except that the focus then was the fight against the abuses of a locally grown tyrant.

    On the other hand, it is painful to imagine how by another twist of fortune some heroes of the EDSA uprising (my mentors, Jojo Binay and Rene Saguisag, come to mind) have seemed to have forgotten about (or abandoned?) the project.

    How could we ever gainsay or minimize the evil of the Marcos regime?


    The foregoing is part of my reaction to this blog entry.

  18. While Cory was alive she stuck to her guns as to her idealism. However when she decided the GMA government the so called idels that put her into power failed and failed miserably to galvanize the public.

    GMA simply spread the butter amongst the men with the guns and they did not budge to unseat their benefactor.

    This anachronism that is the Philippine style of feudalism prevails by the ability of the state to use public handouts directly and indirectly to maintain power. GMA’s example of expert management of keeping everyone happy to extend to the economic planning agencies the monetary authorities and the highest levels of the judiciary is unequaled in history.

    Marcos declared martial law at a time of revolutionary changes in the worlds monetary system.

    The country finds itself once again in the crossroads of global economic history that has seen the globalization of financial capitalism explode and is threatening to destroy old alliances and create new ones all along the lines of the role of the state and corporations that could swallow whole states in the world. The Philippines being one of them.

  19. correction to first paragraph..”she decided that the GMA government had violated the so called ideals that put her into power, failed and failed miserably to galvanize the public.”

  20. Abe M conveniently forgets to mention that Benigno Aquino, Sr and Manual Roxas were also considered “collaborators” of the Japanese Occupation and were just as easily rehabilitated politically after the Liberation. So it would seem the rigodon of prominent families who fall in favour and out of step continues.

    It’s just as Erap would say, “weder weder lang yan.” Many of the old warriors who fought the Marcos regime later fell out of step with the Cory regime because they couldn’t accept the revival of the old landed aristocracy from where the Cojuangcos and Aquinos had come and which Marcos had promised but failed to vanquish.

    Perhaps that is why they have become more pragmatic in their old age. It turns out, it is much easier to overthrow regimes and re-write constitutions than it is to overthrow the centuries old practice of patronage. I truly wonder with Abe, who among the present crop of politicians is up to the challenge of completing the unfinished business of ’86.

  21. benigno aquino sr. was never rehabilitated politically; he died too soon and was the focal point of much anti-japanese feeling. roxas was a different case, much less disliked than other leaders in the occupation government.

  22. Cusp, I notice that you enclosed collaboration with quotation marks.

    Anyway, it appears that the historical evidence are not wanting to indicate that during that critical juncture of our history a large swath of Filipino political elites of different persuasions, including revolutionary era general Emilio Aguinaldo, staunch nationalist Claro M. Recto and Orientalist Jose P. laurel, “played along with” the Japanese occupying forces under Quezon’s instruction and initially with the tacit knowledge of McArthur. (Although Roxas confided to an American intelligence operative that Aquino somewhat “overplayed” his bit to dupe the Japs.)

    For instance, in a proclamation dated January 29, 1942, Quezon stated that the “commission composed of well-known Filipinos . . . was for the safeguarding of the welfare of the civilian population and can, in no way, reflect the sentiments of the Filipinos towards the enemy.”

    Who would have taken care of the delivery of basic services in the country – drinking water, electricity, health and sanitation, not to speak of judicial administration, education, peace and order, etc. if all of them sailed with Quezon to Corregidor and then later left the country in exile?

    Collaboration could be a very ambivalent term depending from what perspective you are looking at it. For instance, would you consider certain remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party (a nationalist movement opposed to Western imperialism in the Arab World) that have continued to resist the American occupation of Iraq “patriots” since they have not collaborated with the occupying forces the way Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (lured by eventual independence just as the Filipino “collaborators” were then lured by an earlier independence than what the Americans had promised for more than 40 years) has collaborated with the occupiers?

    Lope K. Santos (as well as Camilo Osias) was prominent nationalist writer who became fascinated by the Japanese policy of encouraging the use of the national language and rejecting the wholesale indoctrination of the Hollywood culture into the Filipinos. Would that be treasonous collaboration?

    To your question “who among the present crop of politicians is up to the challenge of completing the unfinished business of ‘86” I have already given my opinion here – that Noynoy and Mar could be the bulls in the China shop.

  23. We might be splitting hairs here. It is true that the Aquino name only got rehabilitated politically through Benigno, Jr. And that Roxas was under instructions to make life during the War bearable. But then again, many of the technocrats and small town administrators who served under Marcos would claim the same.

    My point is that demarcating a point in time, i.e. 1986, 2001, 2005 or 1945 for that matter becomes arbitrary if not haphazard for these reasons. The one constant in all this since the early 1900s is the dominance of political families in milking the system to engage in patronage to retain power.

    It doesn’t matter which dispensation prevails. Mrs Arroyo is but the latest in a long succession of presidents since Quezon who have exploited the potential for centralising authority based on patronage. Electing a shiny white knight to replace her will not change the dynamics of this.

    It only took 18 months after the yellow revolution for the restoration of elite patronage based politics to occur. Under Aquino-Roxas patronage will have to be relied on from Day 1 in order to woo Lakas Kampi members who would otherwise form a majority in the House away from Mrs Arroyo.

  24. there is a distinction to be made for patronage as part of the processes of democratic government or even in building one kind of state: the question is whether the political process is nudged towards in the opposite direction, actually weakening the state as the government of the day tries to shore up its crumbling authority. the tug of war then becomes between those who’d prefer a system that allows for the orderly and predictable transfer of power, reinvigorating the system as required, and one clinging by all means fair and foul.

  25. Cusp (and mlq3),

    I’m not sure if there was even a need for Benigno, Sr to be “politically rehabilitated.” Manolo can confirm this but anybody who was anybody in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation was a “collaborator” with the exception of a handful, some paid dearly with their lives such as Abad Santos and Wenceslao Vinzons.

    The election in 1946 of Manuel Roxas as president effectively eclipsed the collaboration issue. (Roxas was himself accused as a collaborator, a bitter issue raise by his opponents during the presidential election). President Roxas later issued a proclamation of amnesty for the collaborators which was approved by a collaborator-dominated congress.

    Now, local administrators like Estrada and Nemesio Yabut of Makati served as Marcos lieutenants for survival, political or otherwise, and not to make the lives of his constituency bearable.

    Cusp, for allowing the pillage of the economy through booty capitalism, for one, some Marcos technocrats deserved to hang by the lamp post.

    Hair-splitting? More than 3,000 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims, and about 100,000 victims of arbitrary arrests when there’s neither a civil war nor a global war to speak of?

    Let’s get real, the power of persuasion and of setting the agenda, not formal authority, is the real power of any president, whether of a mature democracy or a Third World country. And cusp, you very well know that unless, a dictator, a president cannot monopolize policy making.

    “Electing a shiny white knight to replace her will not change the dynamics of this.” Are you then suggesting transformation by other than normal means?

  26. MLQ3, I don’t know what to make of your last point. What you term as an “orderly transfer of power”, the use of patronage to gain control of the house, would preserve politics as we know it and undermine parties as political institutions.

    GMA is within her rights and privileges if she wants to run for Congress. John Quincy Adams did so too. And if she engages in patronage in her bid for speakership, then that is no worse than if the next president attempts the same.

  27. Abe, so you for you, “all is fair in love and war” then. While in the absence of war, the same atrocities are considered “impermissible”. I don’t think you can have it both ways. An atrocity is an atrocity whatever the context it was committed in, be it in high intensity situations or low intensity ones, such as in Mendiola, Tarlac or Maguindanao, right?

    In this election, the knight of one is the knave of another. Let us not engage in romanticism excessively, that’s all I’m saying. We will be in for larger bouts of cynicism and despondency later on if we do.

  28. So Tatad was under duress when he became the youthful face of martial law, as with Lucio Tan when he “fronted” for the conjugal dictatorship (at least that’s what Imelda and Bongbong admit in court now)?

    Do you recall the funny vignette then: Ver was told by Marcos to jump from a building in Ayala. The dedicated general tried to clarify but without any hesitation: “From which from floor, Sir.”

    On the other hand, Laurel and company were always under suspicion, and successfully argued with the Japanese occupiers that they cannot be forced to swear allegiance to Japan under the Hague Convention.

    No, I’m not excusing Dubya for a war of choice in Iraq but I would for the Allied invasion of Normandy. You can kill or be killed for a just cause. But torture and extra-judicial killings? Can plunder be justified on national security grounds?

    Noynoy did not appear to be excessively romanticizing when he authored a bill to require business to share profits with workers. Neither his father, Ninoy, when he publicly professed: “I’m a Christian socialist.”

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