Revolutions are periods of history where individuals count most…..Norman Mailer
We are always reminded about the man who rode the tiger and ended up mortally afraid getting off. Ferdinand Marcos toyed with it and became a hostage to his creation. General Ver and company was a tough pack to mollify. Marcos ended up monkey-grooming the then voracious tiger.
GMA, from day one, has her own club of cubs. She has Leandro Mendoza, Reynaldo Berroya, Hermogenes Ebdane, Angelo Reyes, and Hermogenes Esperon. With these retired generals on board, that includes their mistahs from the Philippine Military Academy. GMA gladly accommodated them in low-key agencies whose top honchos don’t require confirmation from the brokerage called the Commission on Appointments.
Balancing these testosterone-laden PMA alumni with no combat experience, GMA recruited Jovito Palparan as a consultant, an outsider with a reputation that precedes him. Palparan was the first military general openly acknowledged by the President in her speech before Congress, congratulating him about his administering the local communists a dose of their own brand of medicine. His watch saw the disappearances of hundreds of suspected enemies of the state.
Soon thereafter, Justice Jose Melo submitted to the Office of the President an embarrassing report pinpointing Palparan to having a hand in the disappearances of activists critical of the government. The Melo Report was downplayed. Her unabashed admiration of Palparan, a virtual acquiescence to his search and destroy tactic against the insurgents, expressed in no less than the halls of Congress made the President anti-revolutionary in the eyes of the local communists. She was the only President who made her quarrel with the NPA and its aboveground fronts a personal one. By siccing Palparan on the leftists, it was tactical error on GMA. Her latest effort on appeasement with Joma Sison does not mean anything. By her failure to substantiate the Murder charges against Sison in the Netherlands in the assassination of his erstwhile comrades, preliminary to extradition, she thought was enough to placate the local insurgents. With less than 12 months in office, the lame duck Chief Executive wants an assurance from her Cabalen Sison that all’s well in her retirement.
Then came the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston Report implicating the Philippine police and military as responsible for the crimes. Alston charged in his report that Arroyo’s propaganda and counter-insurgency strategy “encourage or facilitate the extra-judicial killings of activists and other enemies” of the state and that “the AFP remains in a state of almost total denial… of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.”
It looks like the President is surrounded with military morons who are only interested in the continuity of their privileges. In the dying hours of the Arroyo regime, these useful idiots are up to another mischief: the Charter Change. But this too has been scuttled.
How about an Autogolpe?
The next viable option is staging a self-coup (autogolpe), a la Alberto Fujimori of Peru. But this was made possible only because of a hostile Peruvian Congress controlled by the opposition. The ensuing gridlocks made Congress more unpopular than the newly minted Presidency of Fujimori who campaigned under the banner Cambio ’90 (Change, very much like Barack Obama’s). GMA got what she wants from her mendicant Congress assured of crumbs from project costs cuts.
Unlike Fujimori’s Peru, GMA suffers subterranean dissatisfaction ratings. But a majority of her ex-military factotums are one in saying that an autogolpe would not trigger a new EDSA. From her Garci confession, they chorused, and the series of her husband’s interference in government contracts that made her family exponentially rich, the people allowed her to rule undisturbed. Cory Aquino is sick, the Cardinal is dead, the CBCP has been bought, and the opposition are peopled with clowns.
Finally, the Pinoys suffer from rage fatigue. What prevents GMA and her military minions from embarking on autogolpe is the fear of international condemnation. With her reeking corruption reputation, Barack Obama refuses to meet his Philippine counterpart. Obama’s telephone call delay to GMA speaks of volume. This was compounded by his virtual snub on her in one American conference, the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC attended by US allies.
Remember, it was the Democrats who gave us moral support when Ronald Reagan commented that “cheating was reported on both sides” during the 1986 snap elections. Stephen Solarz, a dyed-in-the-wool NY Democrat, stood by Cory in the aftermath of what was described by the CBCP as an “election unequalled in fraudulence.” With their sad experience in the 2000 presidential elections which went down in US history as the “election decided by the Courts,” the Democrats have enough of election cheats.
GMA as House Speaker
GMA toys with other options. If Hillary Clinton can run for a Senate seat right after her husband’s tenure, why can’t Gloria be a congressman in 2010 and enjoy parliamentary immunity? Her bayaw Iggy Arroyo escaped a Senate inquisition when he wrangled a congressional seat from their Negros hometown district. The senators were stymied when the presidential brother-in-law dropped his “right to privacy” and was never bothered again.
As Pampanga congressman, GMA may represent her party in the powerful Commission on Appointments and use her influence as leverage in the appointment of Supreme Court justices. With immunity from arrest, she can manoeuvre in the selection of the Ombusman’s replacement. She can even be the Speaker of the House, holding the purse of the Republic. As member of Congress, she recasts her awesome presence there enough to soften a recalcitrant President out to satisfy the cry for blood from his allies who were wronged when GMA was President. Up her sleeve is another Ace, the power of impeachment that only the House of Representatives can exercise. Any attempt to railroad a forest of criminal cases against her right after her term would be derailed once she marshal her aging lieutenants in the House with the likes of Louie Villafuerte, Edcel Lagman, Girlie Villarosa, and Danny Suarez.
In other words, what we’re saying is that nothing much could be achieved by the new President, after GMA. Whatever he promised in the campaign would just go for naught and again we are mired in endless politics where impeachment cases are filed year after year disconcerting the incumbent. With the new President busy warding off imminent impeachments while simultaneously prosecuting another ex-president, the affairs of government are relegated in the backburners. We achieve nothing but stagnation. While the rest of our Asian neighbours gallop outside the paralyzing economic burnout. Why allow another six years of stand-off? Is there no alternative other than predictable elections? Something has to be done or we’re done.
It happened in Thailand. Under the pretext that the popular Thaksin Shinawatra was out undermining the monarchy, the Thai military ousted him in a sweeping coup.
In the evening of 19 September 2006, while Thaksin was visiting New York City, USA to attend a United Nations summit and speak at the Council on Foreign Relations, the army took control of Bangkok. At Government House, some 50 soldiers ordered approximately 220 policemen in the complex to lay down their weapons. Troops also surrounded the Thaicom satellite receiving station and state-run television station Channel 11. By the morning of 20 September, tanks and military vehicles armed with machine guns were stationed at Government House, the Royal Plaza and government units along Rajdamnoen Avenue.
This was met with widespread protest among the people who have found comfort in a democratic system. TIME reported:
Protests against Thailand’s ruling junta spilled onto Bangkok streets over the weekend, with an estimated 13,000 demonstrators calling for the resignation of the military leaders who masterminded a bloodless coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last September. The marches were the largest show of dissatisfaction to date against coup architect Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin and junta-appointed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. While the bulk of the protesters came from within Thaksin’s followers, they also included a wide range of other interest groups, a worrisome sign for a government already under scrutiny from overseas investors and businessmen worried about the kingdom’s stability. The fear is that the tensions between civilian protesters and the military government could explode in violence and even further damage Thailand’s image and prosperity.
Martial law was partially revoked in January 2007. The ban on political activities was lifted in July 2007, following the 30 May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution has been approved by a referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to democratic elections on 23 December 2007.
The People’s Power Party (Thailand), led by Samak Sundaravej formed a government with five smaller parties. Following several court rulings against him in a variety of scandals, and surviving a vote of no confidence, and protesters blockading government buildings and airports, in September 2008, Sundaravej was removed from office by the Constitutional Court of Thailand. He was replaced by PPP member Somchai Wongsawat. As of October 2008, Wongsawat was unable to access his offices, which were occupied by protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy. On December 2, 2008, Thailand’s Constitutional Court banned the ruling Peoples Power Party.After defections from smaller parties the opposition Democrats Party was able to form a government, a first for the party since 2001. The leader of the Democrat party, and former Leader of the Opposition, Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed and sworn-in as the 27th Prime Minister, together with the new Cabinet on the 17 December 2008.
It was a brief flirting with martial power. The military top brass who engineered the coup graciously relinquished power by calling new democratic elections. Asian military have learned from the lessons of history. By holding on to power, they might turn into a Myanmar. The past has given them a glimpse of what it was like under martial law. Park Chung Hee, Chang Kai Chek, and Ferdinand Marcos did it and toyed with it, and failed.
Today, notwithstanding civil unrest, Thailand is in the hands of a civilian government.
The Pakistan Experience
In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, the head of Pakistan Military staged a coup d’ etat against the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif. Mujsharraf assumed executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf became President after the controversial resignation of Rafiq Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly-elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 prime-ministerial election by Shaukat Aziz. On 15 November 2007 the National Assembly completed its tenure and new elections were called.
The exiled political leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were permitted to return to Pakistan. However, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December during election campaign led to postponement of elections and nationwide riots. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won the most number of seats in the elections held in February 2008 and its member Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as Prime Minister. On 18 August 2008, Pervez Musharaff resigned from the presidency when faced with impeachment.
The threat of impeachment against Musharraf was a neat subterfuge to give the General a graceful, yet honourable exit of which he was never denied. With the ascension of Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as President, Pakistan tiptoes on political, social, and religious eggshells.
Applying the Thai and Pakistani Experience
Nonetheless, these two countries not too distant from the Philippines in temperament and history (we have approximately the same number of population) survived the stigma of recent military adventurism all in the spirit of ironing out their democratic kinks.
Certainly, “democracy is imperfect but it has room for improvement”, and going thru the crisis of military involvement to fast track vital reforms in nationhood is not too bitter a medicine to take.
The military in the region has found a new role: that of a catalyst in the immediate untangling of paralysing impasse. And that becomes a welcome development.
If it can happen to the Thais and the Pakistanis, a military ironing out becomes a strong possibility here. Perhaps it is the ultimate if not the perfect solution to our rambunctious democracy pejoratively described by Lee Kuan Yew as “Philippine type-democracy”.
True, much of our system is copied verbatim from the American mold. Our press is the freeiest in the world if not in Asia. Our Rule of Law, a fundamental American concept is a myth. Our idea of Due Process of Law is skewed as it meant delay in our queer judicial system, manned by personnel steeped in cultural quirks of the Filipinos.
A Philippine Coup
With the likes of Prospero Nograles and Luis Villafuerte trying to make a fast one on us, will just set us back in the dark ages. Their formula of transition from presidential form to parliamentary just won’t stick. Their corrupt mucus is all over their gluey agenda. Let us not leave our salvation to the politicians alone.
What we need is a short-lived coup or a Pronunciamento managed by credible current and former military figures tempered with respected civilian counterparts. A Pronunciamento is the Spanish and Hispano American analogue of coup d’état; golpe de estado (coup d’état) is the usual, Spanish phrase. The Pronunciamento is the formal explanation for deposing the regnant government, justifying the installation of the new government that was effected with the golpe de estado). Edward Luttwak explains how a coup d’état and a pronunciamento are different; in the former, a military faction deposes the civilian government and assumes power, in the latter, the military depose the civil government and install another civil government.
The sitting Army Chief of Staff, General Alexander Yano comes across as an acceptable counterpart of Thailand’s General Surayud Chulanont and Pakistan’s General Pervez Mussharaf. His sterling military record is enough to give him the credentials to initiating a Pronunciamento. Yano’s overall ascendancy in the Army is the main component of the Pronunciamento.
From 2001, we have seen the quick carousel of army chiefs barely warming up the post. After their tour of duty, they were promptly appointed to some high-profile government agency with opportunity to feather nest. Look at Narciso Abaya, Generoso Senga, Hermogenes Esperon and a host of others who opted to tread the conventional route and faded into oblivion.
Given our familiarity with People Power, Yano shall be backstopped by FVR, Jovito Salonga, Bishop Oscar Cruz, and Frank Drilon (or Justice Antonio Carpio). FVR shall give direction and leadership to the putsch. While Salonga and Drilon or Carpio shall clothe it with legal documentation or facade. Drilon and Carpio have enviable background in government. Drilon initially worked in the Executive department and transitioned to the legislature. Carpio on the other hand started in the Office of the President and currently a justice of the High Court. He was the ponente of the Supreme Court decision scuttling a nascent Charter Initiative bankrolled by the Palace tenant. In trashing the amendment move via People’s Initiative, Carpio said, “an initiative that gathers signatures from the people without first showing to them the full text of the proposed amendments is most likely a deception, and can operate as a gigantic fraud on the people.” Justice, now Chief Justice, Reynato Puno, in a quid pro quo, vigorously dissented in that case. The good Bishop, a soft and gentle texture of the coup. With these statesmen, the international community will go easy on the coup leaders. The US might even be immediately in the background given the reputation of Ramos as an American Boy, to fortify the ranks of the putschists. With US sympathy, this coup gains international recognition.
A New Constitution or Amendments to Existing One
The New Order shall of course have to suspend the Constitution, and naturally the basic freedoms under the Bill of Rights. Congress is dissolved and the dyed-in-the-wool clique of GMA incarcerated pronto and shamed in public. This will give the people some kind of catharsis denied us during the previous couple of People Power. Whether the New Order allows the first family to escape or sent in exile is a business decision for them to wrestle on.
In the mean time, and faithful to a Time and Motion Study, an FVR forte, the new government should start convening a constitutional convention. Whether assembled thru appointment or election is again a business decision dependent on the ground temperament. A 6-month contract time is enough for this assembly to draft a new constitution whose centrepiece is a parliament. In it, Anti-Dynasty is defined and is self-implementing without need of legislative refinements. After ratification, a general election is announced. We’ve been thru this, with a difference however.
With a new constitution in place the Pronunciamento calls for simultaneous general elections attended and observed by United Nations representatives. With the results out, a new civilian government is formed and inaugurated. The Pronunciamento transfers power without reservation to the new civilian government.
What to do before elections?
Cruz should by then has barnstormed the countryside and marketed the new government’s agenda. Using the network of the parishes would make the job of Cruz a breeze. His approach is on reconciliation and ecumenism. His previous media exposure as a crusading religious makes his persona a familiar one.
FVR, with the help of his former public works secretaries, embarks in a frenzy of public works. We tap his experience in solving our energy problem in just twelve months in 1992. Perhaps by this time he has already learned his lessons by avoiding the equivalent of “take or pay” escape valve adverse to the national interest.
The North and South Rails are laid down and made operational without delay. The South and North Expressways are extended to Gumaca, Quezon and Baguio, respectively, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s Autobahn. A new Pacific Highway is inaugurated connecting Manila to Infanta and Atimonan, Quezon as the new gateway to Bicolandia and the rest of the country. The water resources of General Nakar are tapped for National Capital Region’s water requirements. The Visayas is crisscrossed with state-of-the arts maritime vessels cum international-standard ports. Mindanao gets its new circumferential railway system.
Doubting Thomases will question the likelihood of these impact projects done in so short a time. On the contrary, with the advent of civil engineering marvels and globalization, we can avail ourselves of technology transfer and the latest equipment to initiate these impact projects. It now takes a little shy of 3 years to build a city. China has taught us that it can erect cities after cities in its vast territory in just a wink of an eye.
Does this sound ambitious? Marcos did this before on commission basis regretfully. But Cruz and Salonga at the helm, project grafts are avoided. Gear up on mining and stimulate job creation. Blunt the atavistic obstruction of the religious and the communists on the mining industry. Or initiate state take over of all mining companies and stockpile on metals anticipatory of increasing world demand.
Prior to handing over power to a civilian government, issue a Pronunciamento decree banning turncoatism and imposing stern penalty with perpetual disqualification to hold public office. Approaching 40 years after Martial Law, we have in our archives sound and wiser presidential decrees issued by Marcos which we find useful today. The short-lived Junta should attempt to regulate our behavior, like no-smoking in public, car color coding, and loading/unloading in designated bus stops. These regulatory policies were unheard of 50 years ago.
Land reform is zealously implemented by breaking century-old landed estates like the Hacienda Luisita, a bitter-taste medicine indeed. Squatters are uprooted and relocated in self-sustaining relocation communities with convenient access to the cities. Sidewalks are restored to pedestrian use.
In just a wink of an eye, we transport ourselves to a less stressful form of government where consensus is zealously sought, the parliament. By merging the executive and lawmaking, we make the art of government smooth and productive. All this becomes possible when our military truly performs its role as protector of the people.
The new civilian government picks up from where the Pronunciamento left whose members showed extraordinary patriotism shall forever be in the hearts of a grateful people.