Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Analysis on People Power

February 26, 2008
Series of 2008

Arroyo was installed to the presidency by people power; people power may also unseat her.

People Power

The outpouring of outrage generated by the abduction and expose' of Rodolfo Jun Lozada, former president of state corporation Philippine Forest, in connection with the $329-million ZTE-NBN telecommunications scam speaks volumes. It can be likened to a spark that has triggered a vast field of fire, so to speak. The abduction of Lozada allegedly by presidential agents and police and his surfacing at De La Salle-Greenhills in Quezon City two weeks ago has unleashed a storm of street protests, prayer rallies, and public assemblies by tens and thousands of individuals from various sectors. These mass actions which are expected to peak to hundreds of thousands of souls along with coordinated protests in the provinces in the coming weeks have been sharpened by a renewed call for Gloria M. Arroyo's resignation or removal from the presidency.

From our vantage view, the momentum for Arroyo's resignation or removal could increase in velocity and reach a denouement in a brief period. Even if there are differences among the various sectors who have expressed their indignation over the broadband scam and against big-time corruption in general, the current political atmosphere offers opportunities and venues for such differences to give way to a concerted political action. The important thing at this point is to see the whole controversy as essentially an issue between the Arroyo regime and the people in general, in which only the latter – possibly acting with one voice though with different nuances – can resolve.

First year

The trouble with the Arroyo regime is that its credibility had begun to crumble right in the first year of its ascendancy – in 2001 – when people's expectations of reform and clean government were quickly dashed by a series of big corruption scandals linking the Arroyo couple and their cronies. This first stage of the Arroyo presidency was followed by a longer stage where it practically lost its credibility and earned the wrath of multitudes of people.

This second period – 2004-2007 – set the stage for calls for the president's impeachment, resignation or removal, owing to electoral fraud, fiscal crisis, unprecedented corruption scandals and bribery cases, and the self-serving charter change. Bribery and repressive measures were enforced against impeachment complaints and investigations such as EO 464; critics and activists were persecuted through emergency rule, the anti-terrorism law, as well as extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. None of the monumental cases of plunder and shame – which pointed to presidential accountability - has been resolved and government response brought about by domestic and international pressures has been largely for show.

Six years of the Arroyo presidency have seen the putrefaction of the institutions that was begun under the Marcos dictatorship: the presidency as a tool for private gain and its abuse – through repression and coercion – in order to perpetuate illegitimacy; Congress as mainly a rubber stamp where dissent is suppressed through bribery, threats, and executive orders; the mangling of the Party-list system; the predominance, especially in security issues and human rights cases, of the military over civilian authority and the justice system; and the subversion of the electoral system with Comelec as a key player.

Against oligarchy

Thus it can be said that the torrent of outrage seen today is a response against not only conjugal greed and systemic corruption but also a government ruled by a faction of the oligarchy who use corruption to monopolize and perpetuate itself in power. Overall, as a result, poverty and unemployment have worsened while access to social services like health, education, and housing has grossly diminished.

Many of those who have either gone to the streets or supported protest rallies calling for Arroyo's removal have long been enlightened by the truth about the use of naked power and greed to prop up a government led by crooks and lawbreakers. The bigger truth that is unfolding is that the victories in two people's uprisings – Edsa I and Edsa II – ended up being hijacked into the revolving door of elite rule thus depriving the people of democratic governance, genuine reform, and a better life most especially for the poor.

The bigger truth likewise is the increasing realization that when people coalesce with a collective voice in order to oust despotic rulers they can have the potential of doing the same in order to overhaul an entire government system and break the monopoly of political power held by oligarchs. People power is the exercise of the people's sovereign will to replace tyranny with democratic governance as a means of bringing about a lasting peace, social justice, and equality before the law.

Arroyo was installed to the presidency by people power; people power may also unseat her. The short-term trajectory of the build-up of indignation rallies and communal action-oriented prayers is toward increasing the public pressure for the incumbent president's resignation or removal. However, a more resounding voice and collective force may need to rise up from this political exercise to struggle for the long-term goal of installing democratic governance by and for the people in the future.


Bobby Tuazon
Director, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA)
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
TelFax +63-2 9299526; mobile phone: 0915-6418055
E-mail:; info@cenpeg. org
http://www.cenpeg. org

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