Framing of the Debate Debates in contemporary political science usually pit the idea of popular sovereignty against state power. For some, the state is established as an expression of popular sovereignty. Hence, individual citizens and groups need to surrender some of their rights to respect and obey the power of the state as it fulfills its purpose of safeguarding national security and social order. For them, it is better to live in a state with our rights curtailed than to weaken that state and live in perpetual chaos. They see those who agitate to question and oust governments as destabilizers, as anarchists. Meanwhile, others point out that state power is limited by the very sovereignty and rights of the people that it is supposed to promote and protect. Hence, for them, it is only right for the people to rebel against a state that they perceive as abuser of human rights and violator of the people’s sovereignty. They see those who defend what they would consider as a repressive state as tyrants, as authoritarians. This is how contemporary political debate is framed, and it seems that the debate won’t end under the current state of affairs. However – “Im Anfang war die Tat! [In the beginning was the deed!] And human action had solved the difficulty long before human ingenuity invented it.”1 Twenty-nine years ago, when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in the historic mass demonstration of EDSA, people power prevailed– or did it? Winning the Debate EDSA succeeded in ousting Marcos, yes. But it did not overthrow a state. Ousting a ruler in an oppressive state is like when you fix a flat tire by changing the exterior even when the problem is with the interior. Some say that there would be no EDSA if it weren’t for Juan Ponce Enrile’s and Fidel Ramos’ attempted coup d’ etat that weakened the Marcos’ police-military bureaucracy. Others say that it was the influential role of the church who called on the clergy, religious and the laity to swell the streets that led to Marcos’ demise. Still others say that it was the US’ decision to withdraw its support from the dictator that finally ended up his office. Cory Aquino, the “martyr’s wife,” the “icon of democracy,” was installed as the country’s president upon Marcos’ exit. There was no constitutional succession, there was no election that appointed her – it was mere public opinion, and, well, the conjunction of interests among the anti-Marcos elites. Hence, some frown at EDSA and say that it was itself a ploy of the elite and their foreign masters, a mechanism for one clique to replace another. Seen from this perspective, it would seem that EDSA is not the triumph but the cooptation of people power. Ironically, this is the same argument that the current BS Aquino administration uses today. The family that benefited from the demonstration of popular sovereignty during the First EDSA claims that only by maintaining the status quo would EDSA be best commemorated. Understanding the Debate Parameters The campaign for the removal of BS Aquino from office calibrated during the outpouring of widescale contempt to his lack of accountability for the botched Mamasapano operation, which resulted in the death of more than 60 Filipinos. His allies, however, claim that his resignation is tantamount to wavering from his daang matuwid. They say that the progress that BS Aquino has staunchly promoted would be obliterated when incompetent and corrupt leaders replace him. They warn us that attempts to force the resignation of BS Aquino are mere opportunistic plots by usurpers of power who use EDSA to further their selfish interests. The warning is not without basis. If constitutional succession is to be followed, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who now experiences allegations of many cases of graft and corruption, would replace BS Aquino. It would seem not worthwhile to oust a president to be replaced by another who is no different from him. Meanwhile, there are rumors of a coup d’etat plot that if realized and successful might establish a military junta, something that stands in opposition to popular sovereignty. Some politicians who back calls for a “national transition council,” on the other hand, insinuates going to EDSA to remove BS Aquino and grab power for themselves How are we to resolve this contradiction? EDSA has always been a symbol of the triumph for popular sovereignty, but it now appears to be a device for state power to maintain the status quo. Those who wish to maintain state power, to maintain the status quo, fan the popular desire to go to EDSA and oust the regime in power so that they can rule in its stead. Meanwhile, the defenders of the same status quo warn just against that! As if caring for popular sovereignty, BS Aquino’s allies advise that the best way to uphold the legacy of EDSA is to look beyond EDSA and not to go to EDSA at all. Aha! Eureka! The False Dillema Revealed The problem has just presented its own solution. Twenty-nine years ago, popular sovereignty has overthrown a dictator, and Cory Aquino was installed as the new president. Thirteen years ago, we have ousted a plunderer, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sworn in as president following the principle of constitutional succession. Two EDSAs have taught us that popular sovereignty finds ways to assert itself if state power represses it – and it can surely assert itself again. But now that another EDSA is brewing, concerns about replacement have been greater than ever. Current debate is framed by opposing state power with popular sovereignty, by letting us choose between the doom of social chaos and the perpetuation of social injustice, between ousting a hated ruler and replacing him with something that is no less evil. It presents us with a false dillema. The solution, therefore, is to throw this false problem altogether. We cannot look beyond EDSA if we do not go to EDSA in the first place, for looking beyond EDSA is not to tremble at the possibilities that lie ahead but to learn to do more than just going to EDSA. And if it means not merely replacing a tyrant with another one; if it means not opposing popular sovereignty with state power but establishing a new state power that serve the interest of popular sovereignty; then that let it be done. Two EDSA’s have shown us that popular sovereignty can be coopted by those who wish to maintain the status quo, the current state power. Another EDSA will show us that the merging interest of state power and popular sovereignty may not mean cooptation at all. That would happen if we do not just concern ourselves with replacement, but with total social renewal. Let that be the lesson of the third EDSA. In the end shall be the deed; and human action shall solve the difficulty that human ingenuity has long invented. [P] – – – – 1 – Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific quoting Goethe’s Faust
Looking Beyond EDSA
Another EDSA will show us that the merging interest of state power and popular sovereignty may not mean cooptation at all. That would happen if we do not just concern ourselves with replacement, but with total social renewal. Let that be the lesson of the third EDSA.
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