[OPINION] Countering the counterrevolution
What is currently taking place is a counterrevolution that seeks to destroy the nation’s restored democracy and replace it with an authoritarian regime that would work for the political redemption of the Marcos family and return to power. President Rodrigo Duterte leads the counterrevolution. He is being aided by two groups – those of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The counterrevolution has been initially launched as an anti-drug campaign in the 2016 presidential elections. Since then, it has expanded to include assaults on its democratic institutions, including the Supreme Court, Commission on Human Rights, and Office of the Ombudsman. It seeks to weaken democratic traditions too, including the adherence to human rights, rule of law, and due process.
The intention is to destroy the gains of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and its 2001 sequel, where the military withdrew support from then president Joseph Estrada, leading him to resign the presidency. The immediate objective is to prove that the two revolutions have been failures to improve Philippine society and only the reinstitution of a populist, albeit authoritarian, regime could save the country.
The political goal is to reinstall a new dictatorship, enabling Duterte, or his envisioned successor, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, to rule beyond his term in 2022. They want to revise history to favor the Marcoses.
The coalition of authoritarian forces composed of Duterte, the Marcoses, and Arroyo are pursuing their counterrevolution through two political routes: declaring a revolutionary government, or RevGov, to jettison the 1987 Constitution; or amending the Constitution to change the presidential system by a parliamentary system and replace the unitary form of government by a federal system.
Mr Duterte intends to establish a RevGov because it appears to be the way to discard the 1987 Constitution, which serves as the anchor of the 30 years of restored democracy. The democratic ideals and traditions embodied in the 1987 Constitution have tied his hands, frustrating his attempts to cut corners.
But he is not gaining ground. Major sectors, including the dominant Roman Catholic Church, the defense and military establishment, and the business sector have been sending cold signals, virtually rejecting his RevGov in favor of restored democracy.
The November 30 nationwide show of force by the authoritarian groups was a dismal failure. Several rallies were held in major cities, but they attracted only a handful of participants. They hardly created any impression in the national consciousness.
Two conflicting themes dominate the Philippine postwar experience: democracy and authoritarianism. This dichotomy of political themes is evident over the past 7 decades. Pro-democracy forces want the democratic institutions and structures to thrive and the democratic processes to flourish. They believe in pluralism, where various belief systems, world views, and advocacy have spaces for coexistence and growth.
Pro-democracy forces are represented by middle elements that supported two people power revolutions (EDSA 1 and EDSA 2), political parties and organizations adhering to rule of law, and institutions like Majority Church, or the Roman Catholic Church, and Minority Church, or Christian and non-Christian denominations, their clergy, and various Church-based organizations. They are dubbed as the “Yellow Forces” since they helped to catapult Corazon and Benigno Aquino III into the presidency.
The authoritarian forces live in the past, as shown by persistence to revise history, treat the two people power uprisings (EDSA 1 and EDSA 2) as historical flukes, and re-impose the failed authoritarian system. The modern-day populism appears to be their ideological anchor.
Mr Duterte’s remarks, showing a heavy tilt toward the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, declaration of martial law – either in Mindanao or nationwide, and the establishment of RevGov, have fanned widespread anxiety and fear about a return of authoritarianism. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, showing unprecedented independence, has said the Armed Forces of the Philippines would not support his RevGov.
Although Philippine postwar liberal democratic system was put in place in 1946, Ferdinand Marcos, elected popularly in 1965 and reelected in 1969, touched the nerve of history by declaring martial law on September 21, 1972, plunging the country into a political experiment on “constitutional authoritarianism” or dictatorship. He was to step down on December 30, 1973, but he prolonged his stay in power by taking advantage of a loophole in the 1935 Constitution.
By a stroke of a pen, Marcos wrote finis to the country’s democratic traditions and destroyed its democratic structures. He abolished Congress, closed down mass media outfits, arrested and jailed without charges tens of thousands of journalists, activists, labor and peasant leaders, religious workers, and opposition stalwarts. He invoked the national security doctrine for martial rule, saying he wanted “to save” the country from the “conspiracy of the oligarchs and the communist rebels.”
After declaring Martial Law in 1972, Marcos ruled for another 13 years, but brought the following: first, centralized corruption, where he earned under-the-table commissions from big ticket state projects and deposited proceeds in foreign banks; second, crony capitalism, where his cronies cornered fat state projects, formed agricultural monopolies, and grabbed monopoly contracts in the services sector; and third, wanton human rights violations, where tens of thousands of anti-Marcos elements were arrested and imprisoned without charges, tortured, and summarily executed, and disappeared involuntarily without trace.
In 1986, the Filipino people, in their exercise of sovereign power, kicked the Marcoses out of Malacañang, toppled his dictatorship, and sent them to a 5-year exile in the US. But it happened not without leaving a country destroyed by their kleptocracy, or the use of power to plunder and accumulate ill-gotten wealth estimated at between $5 billion to $10 billion.
Although the counterrevolution has hardly gained ground due to the constitutional provisions providing iron-clad guarantees to prevent future political adventure in authoritarianism, the country’s pro-democracy forces have to move fast and assume a democratic agenda to prevent the Duterte counterrevolution from succeeding.
For instance, they could press for the impeachment, resignation, or ouster of Duterte, whose bloody regime has claimed the lives of thousands of victims in extrajudicial killings (EJKs). They could press for his prosecution before the International Criminal Court, where a suit of crimes against humanity has been lodged against Duterte and 10 others. Or they could continue fighting against the assaults on democratic institutions.
For instance, pro-democracy forces have bonded to help and defend Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the junior magistrate, whom then president Benigno Aquino Jr named to lead the judiciary. She faces an impeachment suit perceived to have been concocted by the trio of Mr Duterte, the Marcoses, and Arroyo. There are indications she could weather it because the charges are weak.
Ousting Mr Duterte is not complete. The post-Duterte era requires a democratic agenda to erase authoritarianism. For instance, pro-democracy forces could press the creation of a new commission to investigate those EJKs, identify the culprits, and recommend their criminal prosecution. They could redirect the anti-drug war to complete adherence to the rule of law and due process. They could work for the reeducation of law enforcement agencies on democratic ideals.
The post-Duterte government could pursue a diplomacy offensive to regain support of allies like the US and European Union and press for a redirection of foreign policy to acknowledge, adhere, and implement those international and bilateral agreements, to which the Philippines is a signatory, and other binding decisions by international bodies. They could work for an economic diplomacy offensive too.
Moreover, it could reinstitute the anticorruption campaign of the Aquino administration and reimpose the anticorruption ideals sidelined by the focus on the anti-drug war. They could likewise work to erase all vestiges of authoritarianism.
Probably the most important is a common but sustained initiative of the pro-democracy forces to “demarcosify” Philippine society by explaining to the Filipino people the Marcos legacy, which includes massive human rights violations, crony capitalism, and massive plunder of the national coffers. – Rappler.com
Philip M. Lustre Jr is a freelance journalist. He specializes in economic and political journalism.