Another People Power Revolution In The Making?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

After a presidential spokesperson uttered the words “military takeover” in the context of a missing Supreme Court Chief Justice, all sorts of reactions were uttered in response. Since the spokesperson was Charito Planas, a senior citizens and a veteran of Philippine affairs for five decades, her words were not seen as a slip of the tongue. They could have been, but Charito knows better than to provoke unwanted speculations in one of the most partisan moments of the country. Besides being such a contentious period, today also experiences the most unpopular president in Philippine history, and one of the least trusted among known personalities in Philippine society. What, then, prompted a presidential spokesperson to mention the possibility of a military takeover should no presidential candidate be declared as the winner in the coming elections?

Senator Enrile immediately said there would be no basis for a military takeover because other constitutional dynamics can be taken to declare a winner among the candidates. COMELEC Chairman Melo says there will be no widespread election failure. Senator Noynoy Aquino said that he would call for people power if there would be a concerted effort to rob the people of their true will. And from these remarks came a new thread of reactions, one of the the latest coming from Senator Gringo Honasan who said that people were tired of people power.

It is funny how most of those who commented are right, and so wrong at the same time. It is possible, even maybe a secret desire, of key military leaders who have just taken over the senior leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, led by the former chief security office of Gloria. The current AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Bangit, wasted no time putting his trusted friends and classmates in the most strategic places. It raised more than just eyebrows, and resentment is growing among other officers who consider themselves not part of the Bangit-Arroyo circle and, consequently, lost rightful claims to those key positions. As changes in the military leadership shift strongly in favor those largely seen as close to Gen. Bangit or to Gloria, a Supreme Court of Gloria-appointed Justices overturn an earlier Supreme Court ruling on overnight appointments. The context of Supreme Court Justices who are suspected to please Gloria more than pleasing the Constitution upset experts of jurisprudence and gave basis for conclusions that Gloria will use the Supreme Court to perpetuate control.

It is but natural that many will remember the controversial Hello Garci controversy, the “I am sorry” statement of Gloria whose voice was recognized in taped phone calls to Comelec’s now famous “Garci,”and an even earlier promise of Gloria that she would not even run in the 2004 presidential elections. It is but natural that many shudder at report after report of international corruption watchdogs keep ranking the Philippines number one or number two most corrupt in our region. It is but natural that many are ashamed of their religious membership and their Filipino citizenship when reminded especially by outsiders that poverty and hunger haunt tens of millions of fellow Filipinos.

In the context of the above, aggravated by the supremacy of corruption and embarrassing neglect of the poor by Congress and the Senate, why is it improbable that a military takeover in the event of a proclamation hiatus coupled by a Supreme Court with only an acting Chief Justice can actually take place? And if a military leadership with Gloria’s favorite generals finds the faintest excuse to take over and install Gloria as interim president until a new Constitution can be drafted and approved, why would that scenario be an impossibility? Why would a shift to the parliamentary form of government be unthinkable when our country is in turmoil under a presidential system – and Malacanang, the AFP and Congress take the lead in offering stability by simply changing the Constitution?

Senator Enrile is right, that is is no basis for a military takeover under the law because other remedies are in place without resorting to such a takeover. But Senator Enrile is wrong to say that there is no basis when people in power seek to stay in power beyond what is moral, ethical and Constitutional. Lust for power is a strong though immoral basis. And as a lawyer, Senator Enrile must know that all sorts of legal gobbledygook can make almost anything legal – if the military allows it and the people do not risk their lives to resist it.

COMELEC Chairman Melo is right when he asserts that widespread electoral failure is “pure fantasy” because the COMELEC can also imagine that a priest can cheat the most powerful political forces in Pampanga, that a disabled journalist can cheat a political dynasty in Isabela. When the COMELEC can fantasize that an Among Ed and a Grace Padaca can steal election victory from a Lilia Pineda, an incumbent Governor Lapid, or the Dys who have ruled Isabela for decades, then most Filipinos can more easily fantasize about a widespread failure of elections managed by a mistrusted COMELEC.

Senator Noynoy Aquino is right when he says he will call for people power if he believes that widespread cheating has violated the people’s will because that is something he can do. Noynoy can be wrong, though, because people might initiate a new EDSA initiative in all the key population centers in the country ahead of any call by him or any national leader. After all, polls have already tracked the belief of at least 40% of Filipinos that such a popular uprising can happen if they are cheated.

Senator Honasan can be right when he says that people will not support another people power because they are tired of doing so without any visible progress for them and country. But he might be blindly unaware that the discontent of people at the current leadership and horrible situation of corruption and poverty can override their hesitance for another people power.

I myself believe that anything can happen because the Filipino is primed for change. May he not lose that fervor for what is right to defeat what is wrong, for what is true to overcome what is false, and for what is brave and heroic to conquer fear and apathy.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

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