By BENJIE OLIVEROS
MANILA — The mass outpouring of love and grief, admiration and support for former president Cory Aquino from people from all walks of life — from presidents of other countries to current and past government officials, businessmen, employees, students, vendors, workers, farmers, the urban poor, among others’ from different generations including those who were not yet born when she challenged the dictator Marcos; and from different sides of the political fence: the Marcoses, the Estrada family, former coup plotters, the allies of the Arroyo family, the opposition, progressive organizations, and the Left — speak a lot about how she conducted herself when she was part of the anti-dictatorship struggle, when she was president, and when she was a citizen fighting the threats of tyranny.
This also highlights how isolated the Arroyo government is. While people came in droves and offered their hand of support to the Aquino family, including those she helped oust — the Marcos family and former president Joseph Estrada – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family could not help but feel awkward about the situation they are in.
Cory Aquino is the most popular president the country ever had. On the other hand, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is turning out to be the most unpopular president the country ever had. Arroyo’s long-running unpopularity rating is rivaled only by the dictator Marcos. Clearly, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has a lot to learn from Cory Aquino.
First, no one could not keep himself or herself in power forever. Marcos committed massive electoral fraud, declared martial law, and tinkered with the Constitution to keep himself in power for 20 years but was still ousted in the end. Cory Aquino could have instituted measures to entrench herself in power after she declared a revolutionary government to be able to dismantle the vestiges of martial law and override the 1971 Marcos constitution; she had a second chance to ensure that she could keep power for a long time when she appointed the members of the constitutional commission; she could have also used the numerous coups d’etat launched against her government to declare a state of national emergency; and technically she could have also sought another term because she became president before the 1987 Constitution was in effect. However, she chose to peacefully relinquish power when her term ended in 1992.
In contrast, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sought another term in 2004 after taking over the presidency when former president Joseph Estrada was ousted in 2001, even as she promised not to do so. There are strong suspicions that she is behind the moves of her allies in Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly to allow her to run as member of parliament and prime minister to extend her immunity from suit. There are also strong suspicions that Arroyo is considering declaring martial law if all else fails; and contrary to the announcement of her press secretary, she never categorically stated in her recent State of the Nation Address that she would not seek to extend her term or declare martial law. Thus, it is not surprising that people are calling for her resignation or ouster.
Second, no president could claim that there is no one who is fit to replace him or her and that he or she is the best and the only person for the job. Marcos was known as a brilliant lawyer who was able to defend himself and won in a celebrated case before becoming president. Aside from using brute military force, his political acumen enabled him to keep power for 20 years. He belittled Cory Aquino as a mere housewife when she challenged him for the presidency during the 1985 snap elections. The rest is history.
Third, an ounce of integrity is a better protection against suits once one relinquishes power, more than having the best lawyers and a coterie of sufficiently bribed politicians. Development aid poured into the country after Marcos was ousted; massive aid also poured during the 1990 killer earthquake and the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption; the assets of the Marcos family were frozen and sequestered; and major rehabilitation, as well as infrastructure improvement and modernization projects, were implemented, such as the LRT 1. However, Cory Aquino was never involved in any corruption scandal. Thus, when she relinquished power, she was never charged with any corruption case and was able to live a normal life as a citizen.
Fourth, to earn the love and respect of the Filipino people, one must continue fighting the threat of the return of tyranny. Every time the Aquino administration was confronted by a coup d’ etat, the people supported her. When she was no longer president, every time Cory Aquino rose to the occasion to fight the threats of tyranny, the people heeded her call and respected her more.
In contrast, every time a president moves toward tyranny, the people act collectively to oust him or her.
Fifth, the militarist solution could not put a stop to the armed conflict raging in the country. It would only result in numerous human-rights violations. The Aquino government also tried the militarist solution when it implemented the US-inspired Low Intensity Conflict strategy in its counter-insurgency program. But it failed and only resulted in the displacement of people and the commission of human rights violations.
For a lasting solution to the armed conflict, its roots must be addressed. To achieve peace, the centuries-old problem of landlessness, as well as the worsening poverty, hunger, unemployment, and the lack of social services, among others, must be addressed.
Cory Aquino has secured her place in history as a fighter of tyranny. If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not learn from the life and struggles of Cory Aquino, she will be relegated to the dustbins of history. (Bulatlat.com)