Revolutionary Government


Francisco Nemenzo Jr., former president of the University of the Philippines, has said at a Diliman forum that the alternative to the present administration—facing a crisis of confidence—is a revolutionary government.

Francisco Nemenzo Jr., former president of the University of the Philippines, has said at a Diliman forum that the alternative to the present administration—facing a crisis of confidence—is a revolutionary government. He, in effect, says that any electoral change of government within the present framework would lead only to the continuation of the rule of the elites.

The last time we had a “revolutionary government” was after EDSA in 1986, with the downfall of the dictator and the swearing in of Corazon C. Aquino as president. The government was authoritarian: the Batasan Pambansa was abolished, and local government heads were appointed. She named a fifty-member Constitutional Commission to draft a charter to be ratified in a public referendum. President Aquino seemed to have full powers to correct the basic ills of Philippine society. But she didn’t or couldn’t exercise them.

Surrounding her were traditional politicians (“trapos”) and another set of oligarchs. Her defense secretary (briefly hailed as an EDSA hero) was one of those who enforced martial law. So did her military chief of staff who served as PC chief under Marcos (also hailed as a hero at EDSA). Intact was the repressive apparatus of the Marcos regime.

Other members of Aquino’s Cabinet included those perceived to be close to big business and American circles. Her close-in staffers were human-rights lawyers who had progressive ideas about governance (like having a fellow human rights lawyer appointed as labor secretary but who was immediately painted as a communist and subsequently fired by Aquino under pressure). In the long run the “revolutionary government” could not prevail over the powerful interests of a US-backed military and a conservative business sector.

Until the election of a new Congress under the 1987 Constitution, the period of the revolutionary government was anything but revolutionary. The period before and after was marked by coups, and the repressive executive orders issued by Marcos were not repealed. But happy days were here again for the “trapos” and new oligarchs. Reports of graft and corruption came from practically all branches of government. Patronage politics became the norm. Human-rights violations continued unabated and new massacres of peasants took place (in Lupao and Mendiola).

Plunder and corruption had no letup until they came to a head during the term of Estrada, now being tried by Sandiganbayan. Another People Power uprising took place in EDSA, with the vice president taking over. Now the President is embroiled in allegations of electoral fraud and illegitimacy and members of the First Family are said to be involved in jueteng scandals.

Now people are thinking about a snap (special election) or a transition council (junta) to take place if the President does not survive this crisis of people’s confidence. A special election for sure will not produce a revolutionary government but more of the same. A transition council (with members from the right, middle and left with conflicting interests) will also not produce a revolutionary government if, by this, we mean an administration to effect radical social change. Maybe, a few reforms.

The bourgeois-led revolutions like the French (1789-99) and the Philippines (in 1896-98) succeeded in toppling the absolute monarchy and ending monastic rule but new elites took over. In the Philippines another colonial ruler co-opting the native elites intervened. The broad masses continue to live in poverty and servitude. Not much has changed since independence in 1946. The local ruling class became the surrogates of the former colonizers. No Philippine president has won without US support. Any president who strays off the US path of interests is eventually given the boot.

Cuba’s history runs almost parallel to that of the Philippines. A former colony of Spain, Cuba gained its independence at the turn of the century while the Philippines had to fight off US interlopers. Independent Cuba was unable to shed its feudal society and became the playground of gambling casino owners and drug and vice lords until the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro managed to throw the rascals out and install a socialist regime in 1961. The US continues to harass Cuba with trade embargo and attacks by CIA-backed Cuban exiles. And the Philippines?

So, what does ex-UP head Dodong Nemenzo have in mind for a revolutionary government? Under what concrete conditions? How will it be formed? By whom and for whom? Who are its enemies and who are its friends? The idea deserves another forum.

Posted by Bulatlat

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