Today's Punto
Today's Punto
People Power and the Filipino
By Bong Lacson

Feb 22, 2018

EDSA UNO gifted the world with “people power.” The phrase was readily accredited to Cardinal Sin after he went on air to call on the nation “to use your power as a people” initially to “save” the embattled mutineers led by Enrile and Ramos from sure annihilation by the Marcos forces.

I do not mean to pull the rug from under the now lamented Sin. Neither do I claim the gift of prescience or prophecy, but in the April 8-14, 1984 issue of The Voice – two months short of two years before EDSA Uno – the phrase already appeared in my Ingkung Milio column, thus titled:

IN THE annals of political struggles, war included, people power has long claimed its rightful place as the major determining factor in the outcome.

This power received its utmost glorification in the social philosophies of Marx as embodied in his Communist Manifesto and put to empirical application in the Soviet and Chinese revolutions and countless other uprisings in those moulds, as well as in the failed Allende experiment in Chile.

That great Asian, Mao Tse-tung, summed up the potency of people power in various quotations in his Little Red Book, most prominent of which was: “The people are the ocean, we are the fish that swim in that ocean.” There too was his stratagem of marshalling the people from the countrysides toward the encirclement of the cities.

With all these leftward tendencies of people power harnessing, populism has come to be identified with the communist prescription of wresting power from the ruling circle.

In its essence however, any move, be it parliamentary or revolutionary, has to mobilize people power to reach its successful or liberating end.

While we have seen people power in the collective anguish and indignation over Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, we have yet to see it in terms of concrete moves directed at our socioeconomic and political liberation.

Our history as a people is so replete with the kisses of Judas that they have become part and parcel of the Filipino psyche.

The betrayal of the Katipunan, Vicos to Diego Silang, the Macabebe scouts in Tirad Pass and Palanan (a still-debatable issue), the Makapili during the Japanese Occupation, not to mention the American boys and unconscionable cronies, are glaring examples of the quislings who have always sold their country and their people in exchange for personal gains.

More glaring even are the current events related to the coming Batasan polls.

The Opposition is united only in name – the first word in its acronym UNIDO. Beyond that, there is not even the finest thread that holds them together.

True, they all have an aversion to Marcos. Truer yet, they all draw “strength and inspiration” from the martyred Ninoy Aquino. Truest tough, there is no clear-cut, selfless and nationalistic ideological basis for all their actions.

Rather, it is a case of everyone to his own selfish motive and ambition.

Invoking guidance from the sacrifice of Ninoy, they aspire – conspire may be the apt word – to move the people to exercise their potency for change. Not for the people’s own welfare, in the ultimate analysis, but for the advancement of their personal political ambitions.

It is Robespierre and his manipulation of the French masses in the 1790s all over again. Nearer home, it is the Tejeros debacle restaged in a not-totally dissimilar setting.

The fault however does not solely lie in these opportunists. Much of the blame is traceable to the people themselves.

The people, in all naivete and perhaps due to their fatalism bred by colonizers, foreign and home-grown, have been so accustomed to their hapless state that they could not see a power greater than the gun or the peso, even the devalued one. Bonifacio’s walis tingting has yet to form from the countless coconut ribs lying for the picking.

For a mere pittance, even those who wailed the most at Aquino’s wake and funeral found themselves like sheep herded to provide an audience to some ruler’s folly.

We will see more of these idiocies until May 14. To impress the greater mass of voters, politicians would pay for every shout of “Mabuhay!” and for every wearer of a vote T-shirt, for every trumped-up attestation of love for a candidate.

People power? In many a Third World country, this is the new order of things. In the Philippines, it is seen more in the powerlessness of the people to rise, stomp their feet, and state that enough is enough.

Ah, yes, despite all these, there is people power in this nation of cowards, to quote Mansfield. To us, that power is the people’s strength in crying out in pain for years, and their power to bear all sorts of insults and injustice. And their powerful refusal too to transform anguish into a fiery zeal for their own liberation.

Ninoy, you may have been wrong. It seems the Filipino is not worth dying for. AND THEN came EDSA Uno.

And, as the cliché goes, the rest is but a repeat of history – a people dumbed, a nation damned.

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