Enjoy this 13-pages long exchanges and debate among members of pilipinasforum yahoogroups about the "Edsa 2 People Power Revolution" that occurred in January 2001. Being the co-founder and co-moderator of PF, also editor of the PF exchanges that I submitted to www.inq7.net (that site is now gone), I really learned a lot from the almost daily exchange of ideas from many members of the list then.
Debate on Edsa 2
Still Edsa II was a political moment with profound historical significance. What Edsa II evicted was a presidency supported by political dinosaurs, schooled in the comfortable cradle of martial law, accustomed to an uninformed, powerless and malleable citizenry, and given to governance which allowed a robust renaissance of the cronyism, patronage, and demagoguery. a presidency which failed to grasp the nature of its own obsolescence, and which continued to dabble in desperate conspiracies and maneuverings even as the forces of modernization were already literally closing in on it.
-- Raffy Aquino
My reservations about the world "people" and "broad section of the population" is that it is liberally construed to mean each and every Filipino (or even a majority of Filipinos). without being determined by Constitutionally sanctioned means to determine the world "people" (like referendum and general elections). I believe the danger lies in reducing representative democracy to participants in Edsa 2 and in other urban areas.
The logic behind the impeachment court is that since the Constitution will be removing a nationally-elected person out of his office, it should take a nationally-elected body to do it, and this is the reason why the Lower House cannot act as judges before the court, the Senate was the duly constituted authority to handle such cases. But the "people" went out of the streets and said that the Senate cannot do its job. How are we sure that Edsa 2 was the "sovereignty"? We thought it was, but what if it wasn't?
Institutions become weak when they fail to serve their purpose... in the crisis, their purpose was to determine the guilt of the president according to the articles of impeachment... and they were not able to execute this, ergo, institutional failure. The right to assembly is a Constitutional right, but it didn't say that we remove and replace Presidents with assemblies... so the senate compromised the process... okay, so who determines the "truth" now?
-- Poch Bermudez
As for the perception of the international community, I think, with the exception of a few, they have a positive perception with the installation of a new president. Why would representatives of different countries express their support to the administration of GMArroyo if they do not see the legitimacy of the new administration?
-- Jojo delos Reyes
-- Victor Limlingan Jr.
What we have is only a partial victory, victory in a battle -- but not yet the war.
Already, some players of EDSA are acting like spoiled brats or deprived street kids grabbing for the goodies. Too much expectations on gov't give politicians and bureaucrats the reason to raise taxes, transform them into "development funds", line their pockets and just have the left-overs and crumbs trickle down to the masses -- whose leaders, in turn, cry about graft and corruption.
-- Roy Picart
The impeachment process was intended as a mechanism to remove an incumbent impeachable official unfit to continue holding office, yet in the course of the proceedings we have heard arguments that the guilt of the president should be proven beyond reasonable doubt just like in a criminal case. Which led to the mistaken belief that the impeachment process should establish the guilt of the president. The main purpose of the impeachment process is to remove an incumbent president from office when there is reason to believe that he or she has committed the acts complained in the articles of impeachment and that his or her continued stay in office would be detrimental to the welfare of the country. The impeached official should be removed from office so that the criminal proceeding against him or her could be instituted as an incumbent president is immune from suit.
The people gave a chance for the constitutionally mandated process to take its course. But mid way through the proceedings, the weakness of the system was made manifest by the biased predispositions of the senator-judges who have yet to learn that when they sit as senator-judges in an impeachment case, they sit there as representatives of the people and not as representatives of their respective political parties. The manifest error of the senator-judges eroded the confidence of the people in one of the democratic institutions.
And when people's confidence in their democratic institutions are seriously eroded, this gives them a reason to seek other venues just as they did by turning to street protests and the prospect of civil disobedience, should their voice be ignored by the constituted authority who no longer enjoys the support of the people. When this happens, the people, as a collective mass, is said to be exercising their sovereign power which according to our Constitution and the constitutions of other democratic countries, is the source of all government authority. Thus, this is what clothes the Arroyo administration of the Constitutionality which others accuse as lacking in the events that transpired.
The judicial activism which the Supreme Court took at the height of what was perceived as a Constitutional crisis when Pres. Estrada refused to resign despite the withdrawal of support of the military and his cabinet members is likewise a meta-legal factor that played its role in the settlement of the conflict. Taking judicial notice of the turn of events, the Supreme Court shed its conservative role in our democratic system and stamped imprimatur to the legitimacy of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ascent to the presidency.
The Arroyo administration derives its legitimacy not from the Supreme Court decision, nor from the best legal minds but from the very people who worked to topple Pres. Estrada from power. As the Supreme Court has aptly justified their decision: "Salus populi est suprema lex."
And it is this serious question that now poses itself: "Did EDSA II represent the people?" which shall be the subject of another piece.
-- Dan Adan
I believe if we will be very technical about the whole thing my answer to this question is No, and they didn't. The people of EDSA 2 (and in protests in different parts of the country) were practicing their Constitutional right and moral responsibility to protest what they believed is the failure of the Senate in seeking the truth by withholding evidence based on a technicality. When I believe that the Senate, my "sole Constitutional apparatus" to seek the truth has failed me, then I may use my Constitutional right to protest (not remove) since I placed my vote for those Senators and pay my taxes. Which is what everyone else at EDSA 2 did.
-- Gilbert Cunanan
The right to assembly is an integral feature of a healthy democracy. But to have street protests as the means by which we remove and replace presidents is very dangerous. Following your claim that EDSA 2 didn't represent the Filipino nation in general, then don't you think that a lot of people have been disenfranchised with what happened in EDSA 2? I mean, if this is the case, that people in EDSA 2 would now claim moral ascendancy over the many other Filipinos whose voices were not heard during EDSA 2, then there maybe something wrong with our perception of democracy.
Let me explain.
The Constitution was meant to protect the weakest member of society. Differences exist in what we think is good or bad for Filipinos. What if someone disagrees with you that Erap is a threat to him/ her? I am not offering a hypothetical situation, but a reality. Not all Filipinos felt or thought that Erap was a menace to him or her (be it due to blind obedience or some information asymmetry), but you and I (with our middleclass background) share a different opinion, obviously.
What you call "technical" goes to the very heart of our democracy and republican form of government, and it involves the very concepts of freedom and democracy. When we created this government and wrote the Constitution, we agreed that in the selection of our leaders, we would all be equal. That is why a person living in Forbes Park has the same, single vote as a farmer in the Batanes region. We did this because that in choosing the direction our country should take, we should all be equal.
Therefore, we agreed (through the Constitution) that we would elect presidents in a transparent and fair manner, with REASONABLE opportunity given to each and every individual (not just most, but each and every one) to participate in the selection process. Once the election is finished, we all agree to respect the results of the majority vote. Therefore, when we decide to remove Presidents, the process must possess substantially the same virtues. Why? Because when we undo an election, we are effectively undoing the sovereign expression of the people's will. We also agreed in the Constitution that removal would be done through impeachment--and we gave our elected representatives full leeway to decide on how to decide this.
Does an act such as EDSA satisfy this criteria? Does an act such as EDSA give the farmer in the Batanes region a reasonable opportunity to cast his OPINION on whether Estrada should have been removed? We violated his right to give that opinion when we removed the President after four short days at EDSA. Does that farmer's vote on this issue NOT matter (since we said that EDSA was a sovereign political exercise)? My concept of democracy says his voice matters and he should be given that opportunity. Otherwise we are being unfair and tyrannical.
-- Poch Bermudez
I didn't mean "EDSA 2 DID NOT represent the Filipino people" but that if you insist on being very technical about the whole thing, we CANNOT SAY for sure that EDSA 2 represented the Filipino people. The protesters at EDSA 2 technically did not remove him. It was his loss of capability to govern which the Supreme Court ruled on that transferred power to the Vice President.
Comparing EDSA 1 and EDSA 2 is not necessary since I think we all agree they are very different. Marcos was not Constitutionally unseated, that was a revolution and there was no real Constitution to speak of. I believe EDSA 2 worked within the Constitution from the protests to the VP's assumption into office.
-- GiLBerT Cunanan
WHY EDSA II IS A VICTORY WHICH SHOULD NOT BE DENIED THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
In a series of postings, my friend Poch Bermudez has presented the forum with the beginnings of an interpretation of EDSA II. According to this interpretation, EDSA II was an NCR-based conspiracy of certain power-elites to remove Estrada through rallies. He argues that EDSA II was not representative of the people since those who joined or supported it did not constitute the majority of the population. Not only that, EDSA II disenfranchised the poor, and overturned the electoral mandate they gave Estrada in 1998. EDSA II further weakened Philippine institutions and in turn, institutionalized rallies and demonstrations as a mechanism for the removal of Philippine presidents.
I take issue with these premises.
1. About EDSA II not representing the people:
There is no doubt that EDSA II was NOT a movement of a majority of the population, and no claim was made that it was. Its leadership and organizational backbone were provided by a front which included the Church, the mainstream left, business circles, civic and sectoral groups, and politicians organized around traditional political parties, and its mass base was carved out mainly from urban-based sections of the middle class and the intelligentsia. Still, EDSA II is rightly a victory of the ENTIRE FILIPINO PEOPLE.
History is made and that society progresses and develops only if that minority is able to successfully intervene in national life and lead the rest of society in pursuit of the objective national interest. And because the resulting change develop the entire social order, it is an achievement commonly and perhaps loosely attributed to "the people," rather than to the minority which originally spurred the process of change.
Thus, the American Revolution is claimed by all Americans as their victory despite the fact that it was really a limited confrontation centered around Massachusetts and some of its satellites, and led by a relatively small minority of plantation owners. Also, the French Revolution is recognized as the ideological Mecca of Western republicanism, despite the fact that the actual uprising was almost exclusively prosecuted in Paris and its environs and initially involved only a section of the French bourgeoisie, a few intellectuals, and Parisian students and workers at the barricades. The October Revolution which ushered in the USSR was no exception. It was led by the Bolsheviks who were perennially in the minority, only in St. Petersburg and Moscow and some other cities, and most definitely without the active support of a majority of Russian workers. Still, the Russian Revolution is acknowledged as the first real victory of the working classes in the 20th century.
The idea that EDSA II was a victory of the people should therefore be appreciated in this sense and should definitely not be challenged on the basis of a pseudo-positivist methodology which reduces the staggering complexities of social and political movements and upheavals to arithmetic of counting followers.
In sum, EDSA II was concededly not an undertaking of a numerical majority of the Filipino people. But because it fought for the objective interest of the entire nation, then there is nothing conjectural in the fact that EDSA II represented "the people."
2. About EDSA II undoing the results of the 1998 presidential elections:
EDSA II did not negate the mandate given the Estrada presidency in 1998 by "the people." It was already rapidly eroding late last year and early this year, as gauged by the surveys which reflected a rapidly growing disenchantment which has started to seep into the lower classes.
EDSA II would not have been possible except in conditions of relative presidential isolation; and had it been mounted just the same, it run the risk of being crushed by a broader and more effective loyalist counter-mobilization. That there was no such counter-mobilization is symptomatic of Estrada's eroded mandate, especially on the heels of the evidence of venality and corruption exposed in the widely publicized impeachment trial.
In sum, EDSA II was not a breach of the so-called social contract between Estrada and the people. It was a result of Estrada's wide-scale breach of his own obligations under that contract.
3. About EDSA II being conspiracy-driven:
Indeed there were conspiracies at EDSA II. In fact, there were major and minor ones, sub-conspiracies, conspiracies in the mainstream and at the fringes of the movement, at its left, center, and right, and conspiracies all over the ground, both under, above, and at ground zero. But the key questions are these: did these conspirators and their plots detract from the historical validity of EDSA II? Did they change the fact that EDSA II was in furtherance of objective national interests? Did they suddenly reduce the masses gathered by EDSA II to a mere mob of unthinking (albeit polite) pawns and cannon fodder, significant only to meet the numerical requirements of the conspirators' tactical dispositions?
If these "conspirators" succeeded in generating critical mass and galvanizing a potent political movement, it was because their message faithfully mirrored the objective interests of the nation at that moment, and because the millions who responded also correctly perceived these objective interests. In short, there was a consensus broad and intense enough to spark direct political action.
In sum, conspiracies never played strategic roles in EDSA II, which was driven by a thinking mass of Filipinos, united by a consensual and informed commitment to end the Estrada presidency. It was this critical mass which enabled the civilian leaders of the opposition to maintain political ascendancy all throughout EDSA II, even over the military establishment which is the traditional nursery of conspiracies and secret plots.
3. About EDSA II disenfranchising the poor majority who are without access to information:
The overwhelming majority of Filipinos are poor, uninformed, and powerless. They are passive spectators in national life except when demagogues like the former president have use for their votes and their warm bodies in undertakings not really in their own interests or for their own benefit. The Filipino poor is, in fact, the strongest evidence of the historical failure of Philippine society to empower its people as active and responsible citizens. The poor in their millions, is the most eloquent proof that the nation has not truly developed.
EDSA II did not disenfranchise the poor. On the other hand, EDSA II removed a presidency which thrived on this disenfranchisement, and made possible the true development of the country which necessarily includes the empowerment of the poor. Indeed, EDSA II empowered some sections of the poor who, despite their poverty, participated in the movement "on the right side of history."
EDSA II may be said to have disenfranchised the poor only by using the concept of the franchise in its narrowest and shallowest sense i.e. the right to vote. Impliedly, the argument that EDSA II disenfranchised the poor requires those wishing for social change to defy the natural dynamic of political confrontation, and ceasing all political action in favor of holding a de facto referendum, consulting and taking the vote of every Filipino in every household in every hamlet in every village in every town in every city in every province, in every region across all 7,100 islands in this archipelago. Nothing could be more unrealistic, conducive to political passivity and surrender. Nothing could be more reactionary.
4. About EDSA II destroying institutions:
Our government institutions have been flawed and weak long before EDSA II not only because they were objectively defective, but more importantly, because they were perceived to be so. Still, the opposition gave the institution and the process of impeachment a chance. We should remember that it was the Estrada presidency who continued the tradition of systematically coopting, compromising, and undermining these institutions at every turn.
Did EDSA II further weaken these instutions? Probably. But what was the alternative? Deliberately sacrifice the historical correctness of the anti-Estrada opposition upon the altar of corrupted and coopted institutions? In other words, would we have the nation suffer the historical aberration which was the Estrada presidency for three more years just so we could argue that our institutions are strong? Are formal institutions that much more important than clearing the way for authentic and sustained national development and modernization?
This is not at all to denigrate the importance of formal institutions in any society. In fact, the new government should immediately attend to repairing the damage to these institutions, further strengthening or improving them, and to building new institutions appropriate to the demands of national modernization. And, perhaps, the first priority is to reform our electoral institutions and educating our electorate so that only the best Filipinos ascend to the ramparts of our institutions.
5. About EDSA II institutionalizing the removal of presidents through rallies:
In the first place, it should be clarified that Estrada was not removed from office directly by the mobilized masses of EDSA II. Malacanang was not stormed. He relinquished the post because he could no longer discharge its functions from a position of political isolation caused by the political mileage won by EDSA II. There is nothing remotely unconstitutional about this, and EDSA II, in fact, was a resplendent affirmation of the populist and libertarian principles of the 1987 Constitution, itself a creation of EDSA I.
How do we ensure that we no longer have to undergo another EDSA? By educating and empowering our people, by transforming them into vigilant, organized, and responsible citizens on a sustained basis, by strengthening our institutions and improving their responsiveness and credibility, and by modernizing governance and enhancing government's accountability and transparency. In short, we make the EDSA option obsolescent by developing and modernizing the Philippines.
In the final analysis, what matters is that what happened was for the good of the Filipino people, whether they realize it or not.
I'm not a big fan of GMA, the fact is, there is not a few of us. What is important is that i am willing to give her a chance to prove herself better than her predecessor. The fact that I can, if she screws up, rise up with my fellow disappointed citizens and demand that she leave is definitely a sign that in this democracy, i count. Is not true democracy having the right to say, "I was wrong, I thought he was going to be a good president but i find that i was wrong. now i want to change him."? under no stretch of the imagination can I conceive of a democracy that will make me say, " i was wrong, i thought he was going to be a good president but i find that i was wrong. still, since i already voted for him, i must learn to live with my mistake and suffer through more years under this inane and immoral president. Heaven forbid that i undo what has already been done.
-- Mayeen Magno
The negative comments about People Power II from foreign observers is similar to the negative comments made by Western colonizers about indigenous traditional knowledge on medicine, food and other practices. They labeled herbal medicine, quack and our practices as superstitions just because these are not within their realm of experience and education. Today, these foreigners are coming back, re-analyzing what they originally termed as quacks and superstitions with the intention of making money out of our traditional indigenous knowledge. In the same vein, people power is beyond their understanding. How can a great mass of people be so disciplined that chaos did not happen? Look at the violence in Seattle, Prague, or even European football games. But I think what kept us from behaving badly is not discipline but rather as a people we have a very strong aversion to violence and confrontation.
We have to admit, however, that our democratic institutions need maturing. The Senate as well as the Lower House need revitalizing not by simply putting in new blood but we need reforms that will ensure that our Senators and Congressmen can think and decide beyond their own selfish interests and will always consider that the welfare of the people is of prime importance. Perhaps we need to create an environment in Congress that promotes these type of individuals and prevent the opposite type to predominate. Until such time that we can put in place a system that ensures that the problems we have faced with Erap and the Senate will not happen again, I believe others looking in on us will not feel comfortable. We will be perceived as unstable.
-- Saturnina Halos, PhD
EDSA II is the voluntary cooperation of Filipinos based on personalities (different organizational identities - students, office mates, etc.) and mutual trust (indignation over the failure of the state and motives to make right what is perceived popularly to be wrong). The democracy movements that swept Korea, maybe Taiwan, also China - are proof that there is also a break to strong government-led fast growing economies. People demand more democratic space, while the market mechanisms are also rearing to be free, ripe enough to take the lead in developing the economies. (Obviously, there is such a thing as community failure, i.e. peoples' culture and practices that are hindrances to the
development of the market and the state.)
-- Joey Sescon
Just because 12 million people voted for Estrada, does that mean he must not be removed from office? After all, these charges of corruption and immorality had always been hounding him long before he became president.
Even if only a million people went to EDSA, there were those who could not be there: hospital workers who felt the same way but could not leave their patients for obvious reasons, students whose administrators wouldn't let them out of the school grounds, and of course, disadvantaged communities - farmers and workers, who cannot afford to miss out on even one working day since doing so would mean they would have nothing to put on the dinner table.
Disenfranchisement might happen eventually, when people realize that the change in administration did not result in better living conditions for them. When people realize that this government has not given them the tools with which to shape a better future for themselves, when this government finds itself at odds with people's concerns, then we can say that PP II did not speak for the people.
The movement to get rid of Estrada wasn't about a conspiracy by the rich against the poor, it was about an empowered citizenry passing judgment by the authority they have as the only source of state power. Sometimes you take risks, and that's what PP II basically is.
I wholeheartedly agree that there is a shred of truth in just about anything a person hears or sees. I'm a middleway-truth person myself. I'm even willing to believe that Erap really cared for the poor. He only had his values misplaced, and tragically and unforgivably so. He believed the best way to help others is to help his multiple families first. For Estrada helping consists of keeping a hundred pesos for himself for every peso he gives out to the masses.
The measure of the truth however, lies in its ability to withstand scrutiny in the open market of ideas. Estrada's innocence did not stand the test of public scrutiny. Anyway the truth of EDSA is that it was a welcome change, for ill or for good. Those of us who went there out of a sense of indignation, and not necessarily because we support GMA, still welcome this change. It is a truth that has been acknowledged by just about everyone else - except Estrada.
Given the relative silence of a huge majority of our people, the national mandate must then be left in the hands of the people who do have something to say, something to stand for, something to fight for. The 1 million people at edsa left their houses, stood at edsa for hours on end, chanted "ERAP RESIGN" at regular intervals and generally let the whole world know what it was they believed in - that ERAP was no longer deserving to be president. on the other hand, there were 10 thousand (i'm being generous here) people at mendiola who likewise left their houses, stayed at mendiola for hours on end, chanted "ERAP REMAIN" at regular intervals and also let the world know that they loved their president and feel that he should remain. the mathematics of it is simple - there were a 100 times more people who felt that ERAP should leave then there are people who didn't want ERAP to go. does this count as a national mandate?
-- Mayeen Magno
If we have truly institutionalized "people power" and this type of formulation is used, how then do we apply it in case of the following:
1.. What if Mike Velarde could rally 2 million El Shaddai members and they rallied day in and day out to have him as President? So does the military have justification to now withdraw support in favor of Mike Velarde?
2.. What if the Muslim population in one or two predominantly Muslim provinces rally and shout that they want to secede from the Philippines. Not enough people in their respective provinces rally. Should the military now withdraw support in those provinces from the duly elected government and recognize the free republic of, say, Lanao?
3.. What if 1 million people rally for 3 days, but those against them rally 2 million people, but only for 1 day? How do we count this? And if children below the age of 18 rally, do we count them? What if those in the rally are aged 8 or 5 years old, are they counted?
My point is that using formulations such as these as a way of institutionalizing people power is very dangerous. By its nature, street action is a very fluid, non-transparent, unpredictable process with very high levels of volatility and uncertainty. Ask any economist and that's a formula for an extremely unstable institution. And I guess that's what many of the foreign commentaries are telling us.
-- Bobby Herrera-Lim
I think you are very right. But also, you have to acknowledge that there was no other choices. That's the sad part of it. It is very difficult to admit that what the foreign media said about our own version of democracy is true. but they better be not referring only to the people power because going out on the streets to demand what is right is shameful enough. why, our government institution, specifically the senate, failed! can you believe it? It failed!!!they were the very persons we relied on to work on this. they didn’t even get to finish the whole proceeding. why? because they chose to. At that point they were really inutile. i think we have not really realized how much we are against the wall. what with those tales of lying senators. It is very difficult to trust anyone anymore. we can only rely on ourselves to make our country great again, even only in our hearts.
-- Genes Marquez
If our institutions have failed; if the administration is obviously blocking justice; if majority of the Senate has very obviously connived with administration in hiding important evidence; if the government, industrial and business sectors are ineffective; if our economy is going straight (not spiralling) downwards and the President is inutile to do anything about it; I think many people would have trooped to Mike Velarde's or INC's rally if it proves to be their only hope. Personally, given this situation and if Mike Velarde were our Vice President then we would be calling him "Excellency" by now and I wouldn't be sorry. I think the military would have backed the President in a situation as grave as this one if he called for emergency powers, BUT ONLY IF he were not the main problem. What happened before EDSA 2 was a failure of the Constitution, what happened at EDSA 2 and after was the spectacle of our Constitution repairing its own failure-- with freedom of expression and Constitutional succession. In fact, from the time Estrada was elected, things were already going wrong. The Constitution held sound concepts but since the electorate was immature, the execution was so flawed and many were elected based on popularity without regard for performance or character.
I believe EDSA 2 is not only about numbers but on the situation as a whole. We can do the numbers for the rest of our lives and hold a thousand People Powers, but the spirit and not the letter of the Constitution is what counts. When you sum things up, only EDSA 1 and 2 were both very clearly aimed at the people's welfare versus sticking with technicalities and waiting for government and economy to collapse.
-- GiLBerT Cunanan
HISTORICAL VALIDITY OR INSTITUTIONAL PROPRIETY, REPUBLICANSIM OR FASCISM: FURTHER ON EDSA II
The engine of history is technology and technological advancement. This technology is created by society, but society has to constantly chase after it. For it is only when technology is mastered and harnessed to the improvement of human existence that humanity itself is reaffirmed. History is the sum total of the changes in social relations necessitated by society's constant effort to reaffirm humanity amidst modernization.
Thus, the notions of freedom and progress are ultimately based on society's impulse to create the conditions where each man, woman, and child is able to realize their potentials as human beings, to the fullest extent possible, given the state of technological development.
But so long as technology advances, history proceeds independently of, or even despite, the institutions built by society at specific historical periods.
A defining element of Philippine history society was colonialism. Colonialism played a central role in the underdevelopment of the country, and was the original vehicle for the imposition upon it of public institutions which evolved in more developed societies. Colonialism thus played midwife to the duality of economic underdevelopment overlaid with the institutions appropriate to a more advanced stage of economic development.
It is a duality which endures to this day, because it remains dynamic. Thus, underdevelopment continuously impacts upon these institutions, distorting and corrupting them, and engendering "institutionalized" norms such as patronage, rent-seeking public behavior, cronyism, and warlordism. In turn, these corrupted institutions hamper or even obstruct the process of development at every turn.
In fact, every major historical stride of Philippine society, from the 1896 Revolution to the Fil-American War and the war against Japan, up until the 1986 EDSA uprising, occurred beyond institutional parameters, and to varying degrees, were actually destructive of institutions.
This then is the "snapshot" of Philippine society and government which confronted Filipinos at the eve of EDSA II, an underdeveloped society in the middle of one of the fastest growing regions in the globe, saddled with corrupted and weak institutions of governance which have traditionally failed as instruments of development.
EDSA II was relatively less destructive of existing public institutions. But it nevertheless occurred beyond them. The Anti-Estrada movement was composed of many segments, and underwent many phases. Some of its segments, in its earlier phases, participated in formal institutional processes such as the Blue Ribbon Juetengate hearings, the impeachment debate in the House of Representatives, and the trial itself on the Articles of Impeachment before the Senate sitting as the impeachment court . In the end, however, the movement culminated in EDSA II which was prosecuted in the streets of Manila rather than inside the hallowed halls of Philippine institutions. Again, these institutions proved to be impediments to the historical imperative of removing a president who perhaps personified the reasons for the abiding underdevelopment of his country.
Ultimately, therefore, EDSA II was impelled by historical forces at work within Philippine society. It could be understood, and it should be judged, primarily by determining its effects upon the ongoing development of Philippine society. Only in the most superficial sense could its legitimacy" or "illegitimacy" be measured against narrow and formalistic institutional criteria premised on the dubious assumption that our institutions are unimpaired and function according to our textbooks on government.
With these premises in mind, let us re-visit the five objections to EDSA II: (a) EDSA II did not represent the Filipino People because it did not conform to the institutional mechansims of representative democracy and republicanism contained in the Constitution; (b) EDSA II subverted the "national mandate" given Estrada in 1998 because it was not preceded by a nationwide process of consultation and referendum; (c) as a corollary to "(b)", EDSA II "disenfranchised" the majority of poor Filipinos who voted for Estrada and who continued to support him until his ouster; (d) EDSA II weakened Philippine public institutions; and (e) EDSA II established a dangerous precedent of changing presidents through street demonstrations, reminiscent of "mob rule."
1.. EDSA II did not represent the people because the people who supported it were a minority, and because it was preceded by legitimization through either executive, legislative, or judicial fiat. But EDSA II did represent the people because its aim of deposing Estrada was in the objective historical interest of Philippine society and the process of modernization and development.
2.. EDSA II indeed subverted the 1998 pro-Estrada mandate, assuming (without conceding and only for the sake of argument) that the said mandate had remained intact until February 20, 2001. But EDSA II did advance the objective national interest of removing a presidency which was so ridden with graft and corruption, that it could no longer muster the minimum efficiency needed by a society at the threshold of the global economic community.
In contrast, the 1998 "mandate" was nothing more but a wave of popular support for a demagogue, created through patronage, and sustained by the clever manipulation of an impoverished and uninformed electorate. It was a mandate possible only by the interaction of warped institutions and an underdeveloped economy.
(c) EDSA II did not "disenfranchise" the broad backward sections of the lower classes which had provided the Estrada presidency with its mass support. These sections have been "disenfrachised" throughout history, and their vote for Estrada in 1998 could be considered an excercise of their democratic franchise only by mangling the true meaning of the term. Besides, the so-called "democratic franchise" as used in election law, presupposes an electoral exercise, and no such excercise coincided with EDSA II. As earlier discussed, political confrontation has been known to occur outside the electoral arena, and it is absurd to expect the dynamics of these confrontations to miraculously cease and give way to a nationwide census of opinions.
What EDSA II did was to introduce a powerful dimension to the concept of the "democratic franchise." EDSA II has afforded the nation yet another opportunity to "enfranchise" or "empower" its citizenry. It has been said that EDSA II has raised the standard of governance, and it is precisely because government now has to govern before a relatively more "empowered" (as opposed to a "marginalized" or "disenfranchised") public.
(d) As EDSA II did not disenfranchise the poor, it did not destroy republicanism; and as EDSA II made possible the future empowerment of the citizenry, it made possible the emergence of a strong republican state in our country.
The republican concept of representative democracy implies that political self-determination is, to a significant degree, delegated by the public to their "representatives" acting through institutions and institutional mechanisms. What republican representative democracy does NOT imply is the TOTAL surrender of political self-determination to these representatives. In fact, republicanism operates on the EXPRESS premise that "sovereignty resides in the people." "Sovereignty" is, in fact, the operative concept for the right of the people to rescind or withdraw whatever powers are delegated to their representatives.
This bedrock republican principle is, in fact, magnificently reflected in the general contours of modern liberal democratic constitutions. At the heart of these constitutions are not the provisions on the institutional branches of government and their respective powers, and the checks and balances between them, not the provisions on the constitutional commissions, and not even the declaration of state policies, but the bill of rights. This bill is the very wellspring of popular sovereignty, fenced-off and protected from any intrusion by the state. It is a preserve no public authority may enter uninvited, in recognition of the primordial function of the republican constitution which is to LIMIT state power over the citizenry and to leave with the citizenry the residual powers of the soveriegn (in the same way that federalism leaves residual sovereignty with the states and merely delegates certain powers to the
In short, the sovereign people are governed by their leave, and their leave though once given, may at any time be withdrawn. Needless to say, in mature republics, even this withdrawal is "institutionalized" - through elections for instance. But in soft, underdeveloped states, this withdrawal of the delegated authority to govern, may or may not be confined within formal institutional mechanisms.
EDSA II was a republican excercise not in any strict and formalistic sense but in a profound historical sense. It was a direct excercise by a significant number of citizens of the sovereign right to withdraw Estrada's authority to rule, and it was excercised in representation of the rest of the people because, again, Estrada's ouster was in the objective interest of national development.
In addition, EDSA II has once again underscored the importance, and provided some of the political preconditions for, renewed initiatives in the ongoing effort to strengthen Philippine republicanism and its institutions.
(e) EDSA II did not set any precedent for removing presidents through direct popular political action. Philippine soceity established that precedent in EDSA I. In fact, to a large extent, EDSA II was merely a sequel renedered necessary by the failed reforms instituted at the heels of EDSA I, by the continuing inability of government to modernize the economy, by the continuing weakness, corruption, ineffectivity, and cooptation of our public institutions.
It is undeniable that EDSA II has increased the historical chances of EDSA III precisely because society failed to fully exploit the opportunities for reform and development opened up by EDSA I; Still, EDSA II has re-opened these opportunities and the country may ignore them only at its own peril. Indeed, precisely because EDSA III is more iminent than EDSA II ever was after 1986, the difficulty of modernizing our economy and reinforcing our public institutions and the urgency with which we should do both, are likewise intensified.
What is insidiously precedent-setting, is the seemingly profound idea running through the objections earlier discussed, that EDSA II was not historically valid because it did not conform to notions of institutional correctness and propriety. The idea dangerously forecloses the direct exercise by citizens of their sovereign political rights even as it forcibly confines all political initiatives to the formal institutions of governance and state power. And because the idea is prescribed within the framework of an underdeveloped society with corrupted and inutile institutions and a marginalized and powerless citizenry, it actually operates as a very cordial invitation to fascism.
See also Pilipinas Forum 5: Edsa 3 Aftermath, September 01, 2011