The front page of Inquirer reads as thus in monolithic block letters: CORY SAYS SORRY TO ERAP. Apparently this leading icon of popular democracy is regretting her involvement in the second people power uprising that unseated tycoon president Joseph Estrada, for the reasons being Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s 7-year festered grip on state power.
It is understandable that dissidents go to such lengths to express their distaste of the ruling power, what with Mar Roxas’ credibility going down a few notches by way of publicly speaking expletives out of place in an attempt to bolster votes with the grassroots. Aquino’s statements are obviously used as ammunition in the battle of the broad united forces rallying against GMA’s legitimacy, economic and corruption crises. It is understandable that she would attempt to reconcile Estrada’s clout with the masses with her laity of midde class and elites.
A few key contexts, however, ruin the spirit of it all. Remember that Estrada was deposed because of money laundering, duly ousted by the people and convicted by the Supreme Court. By pandering to Estrada’s favor, Aquino has foregone the simple fact that Estrada’s actions were against the law and thus required due punishment, one way or the other. Estrada deserves no vindication as his case(s) of corruption strips him of any legitimacy as president. If Aquino had any remaining symbol of popular democracy, this would be the end of it. By refuting her links to the people’s mass movement she has fortified her class interests as of the elite, aligning herself with an oligarchy of fellow landlords, businessmen and bureaucrats. Her selective memory that conveniently forgets Estrada’s past transgressions is indicative of the collusion among the elite.
There is also the context that people power, although inherently flawed as its thunder was stolen still by the ruling class, is still a proper exercise of the people as the nation’s sovereignty. As leaders are duly elected by the people, so should the people have the capacity to make wayward leaders pay for betraying public trust. People power, far from being a weapon, is simply an exercise of the people’s rights. If it wasn’t for this, Estrada’s impeachment would have been blocked by his senatorial bloc in the hearings, and there would have been no need for a GMA with Estrada continuing to wave the banner of traditional patronage politics.
There is then no wonder why every regime in Philippine history faced opposition from the people. With constitutional checks and balances like impeachment, people power, the judicial process and parliamentary reform being subverted by the elite, there can be little faith left in the system. Such is the vindication then, that, in the final analysis, it is the grassroots movement that still holds the power to enact genuine social change. For it to succeed, however, lessons must be learned from past mistakes.
The mass movement must look into systemic reform this time around, as the leader is simply the tip of the iceberg of the systematic corruption of bourgeois elite democracy. We need a council of voices from the basic grassroots sectors, not a congress of landlords and bureaucrat capitalists, to take charge of government, only then will charter change be truly democratic. And so attempts by traditional politicians (and military chieftains, for that matter) to rise in power from the aftermath of the people’s revolution must be prevented by the people. These stopgaps are of minimum, and alternatives to government have long been presented from various factions of the political spectrum. The remaining question then, is “What is to be done?”
It has long been spoken that a radical revolution is what we urgently need to do. A hundred schools of thought in the methodology of revolution has bloomed in the rising question of “What is to be done?”, but only in one where the broad masses are united in struggle against the ruling class and the system it propagates could genuinely stop another “I AM SORRY” from ever occurring again.