Monday, February 07, 2005

“People Power I” Revisited…

In a few days, the Filipinos will be celebrating the 9th anniversary of the first People Power in the country. It was a benchmark in Asia that was replicated in many countries in the region, including Indonesia and the unsuccessful attempt in Tiananmen Square in China. It was a hallmark of democracy and for some, the true representation of rule by the people, for the people and of the people. IT MEANT THE END OF DICTATORSHIP, the beginning of democracy again and the peaceful resolution to an otherwise potentially violent end of the Marcos reign.

It was sparked by the anger, dismay and disappointment over the many injustices committed during the Marcos Era and the human rights violations flagrant during Martial Law. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended and most opposition leaders were imprisoned for their contrasting political stand. Many politicians, journalists, and oppositionists who questioned Marcos mysteriously disappeared, were tortured and some were forever silenced. The people had had enough.

With the defection of then Marcos’ loyalists, Juan Ponce Enrile (who later became Senator) and Fidel V. Ramos (who later became the President of the Republic), began the outpouring of support for the newly proclaimed administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino. It was 1986…and the wife of the assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Sr. was sworn in as president of the Republic. The people had taken to the streets to proclaim this. They had risen from fear and nuns, clergymen and common citizens put roses in the mouths of the tank with their barrels aimed at the people. They hung sampaguitas on the soldiers and acted as human barricade. The army at the behest of Marcos was to stop the people. But the people had come out in full support of Aquino and there could only be peace. The People Power Revolution passed with no bloodshed.

And almost ten years on…have we learned from our new democracy? People Power has been replicated in 2001 to oust yet another president, Joseph Estrada. But have we truly learned?

In our presidential elections, have we chosen the right candidate and was not blinded by the bribery of money? Have we diverted from corrupt officials and avoided being the “grease” in under-the-table deals? We were offered a new beginning in People Power I. But it seems to have lain in waste…

Our economy is slowly picking up now with new presidential initiatives but we still lose about $20 billion in corruption. Officials still funnel public funds into their private pockets. And we elect these officials…and we tolerate them. The lifestyle check was instituted by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but it seems to have lost steam and many anomalies are left unchecked.

Where is the Philippines going to? How long will it take for Filipinos to wake up and to actually devote time and money to rebuilding the Philippines? We are sometimes called “ningas cogon” meaning “good at the start, but never finishing.”

We are constantly plagued by problems that can be solved with a slight, or that maybe too kind, a MAJOR attitude change! Eighty million Filipinos survive each day, making a living out of nothing. And there are those that make a living by taking from others. What’s wrong with the picture? Of course, everyone should work for success, and everyone deserves their reward. But let’s not be greedy!

The Philippines was the first democracy in Asia. Have we lived up to that privilege? Have we learned from democracy’s rebirth in 1986? How many People Powers must occur? Wasn’t one enough? Let’s try to learn from our mistakes and try to make the best of what we’re given. Put selfishness aside---put love of God, country and fellowman at heart!

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