Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Transition Government?

It is gossip material; it is also media material. Reportedly the person who has been fronting for it is National Secretary Adviser Norberto Gonzales. But, of course, MalacaƱang says that Gonzales is on his own! Curiously, Gonzales is still in good standing with the current government.

What is being advocated is an extra-constitutional government to replace the current government. What is purportedly the rationale behind it is the conviction that “The forthcoming election will not be sufficient to satisfy the nation’s cry for fundamental change. Its aftermath could easily lead to violent confrontation and further fragmentation of our society. As it appears, the election of 2010 will simply be a continuation, in fact a perpetuation, of the kind of politics our people abhor.”

In plain language, what is desired is revolution. But, as I have always maintained, a revolution becomes legitimate if it succeeds. If it fails, the revolutionaries go to jail. Remember the Oakwood mutiny and the Peninsula Hotel caper.

But what of the EDSA Revolution of 1986? A good question that, because, as a matter of fact, the current advocates of a transition government purport to model their movement after the Revolution of 1986.

Their "strategy" papers point out that the EDSA Revolt consisted of three steps: (1) the wresting of power from the Marcos government; (2) the establishment of a transitional government; (3) the establishment of a new constitutional government. Hence, the steps they hope to take are (1) the takeover of power, (2) the setting up of a transition government, [under whose leadership?], and (3) the establishment of a new constitutional government.

The first thing, perhaps, that should be noted about the EDSA Revolt is that it wrested power and managed to keep that power. Hence, the leaders did not go to jail; they assumed power in the new government. Last week the people gave the highest honor to the leader of that Revolt.

Where does the current movement stand now and how does it hope to emulate the first stage of the EDSA model?

The “strategy” papers circulating indicate that the advocates are at a recruitment stage preparatory to the first step, that is, the wresting of power from the current government. To this end, various elements are being wooed to support the enterprise. A select group of bishops have been approached and the reactions, I am told, have been mixed. Chief Justice Reynato Puno reportedly is being tempted but there has been no indication that the Chief Justice is prepared to junk the Constitution. I do not know who else are being lured.

There are three important elements to remember about the EDSA Revolt.

First, it arose in the context of a dictatorial martial law regime where power was concentrated in one man. The legislature was merely a rubberstamp. The revolt followed a number of nationally disturbing events, among them being the assassination of Ninoy Aquino and of Evelio Javier, reported violations of human rights and serious efforts to boycott elections.

Second, the revolt was immediately triggered by the walk-out of computer operators who were manning the electoral count at the Cultural Center. This was spontaneously followed by the massing of citizens in front of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame.

Third and most importantly, the revolt succeeded because the military abandoned President Marcos. (For that matter, it will be recalled that the overthrow of President Estrada became possible only when he was abandoned by military and police.)

Several questions may then be asked about the current movement for a transition government. Since they purportedly are modeling their movement after the EDSA event, how do they hope to wrest power from the current government? Do they have the pulling power and motivating argument to be able to attract mass following? With what sort of event do they hope to trigger the revolt? Finally, how do they see the role of the military both before and after their intended coup?

As to the possible role of the military, it will be good if we can hear from the Secretary of National Defense, from the Armed Forces and from the Police.

But what will happen should the movement succeed with the support of the military? An interesting question is whether, as in the past, the military will willingly hand over the reins of government to civilians. Shortly after the EDSA event there already were intermittent moves by military elements to take back what the civilians were holding. Later military adventurism -- the Oakwood mutiny and the Peninsula Hotel incident -- were also military expressions of dissatisfaction with the way civilians were running government. I see the current movement towards setting up a transition government as tantamount to a confession of civilian incapability and an invitation to permanent or at least a protracted military rule.

Finally, as I mentioned above, bishops have been approached. So far they have been silent. But it is interesting to note that bishops have not been silent about the involvement of Father Panlilio in the electoral process. We should hear from the bishops about how they stand with respect to a revolutionary transition government, especially if it should involve some leaders of the Church.

10 August 2009

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