by Prof. Randy David

(A speech read at a public forum organized by the Initiatives for
International Dialogue (IID)on 19 April 2006 at the Grand Men Seng
Hotel, Davao City)

I am pleased to be here in Davao City, the country’s most dynamic and
most productive city in the South. And I am happy to be invited by the
Initiatives for International Dialogue to speak and engage you in a
dialogue on the national situation.

In various parts of the country today, social activists are being
ruthlessly murdered. The more we allow this to happen, just because we
do not share the social class or ideology of the victims, the more
brazen the use of the state’s coercive power becomes. Some middle class
marchers recently found out to their dismay that simply by wearing black
shirts with Patalsikin Na slogans, and walking along Roxas Boulevard
is a violation of the law. There will come a time when attending a forum
like this would be an act of sedition.

Those who run the present government have a way of keeping track of our
personal vulnerabilities regardless of who we are. They know where to
hit us where it hurts. It could be an old case, an unserved warrant of
arrest from the distant past, a decade-old tax deficiency, or, if you
are a government employee, an inaccurate Statement of Assets and
Liabilities. It could be a pending application for a business license,
or a collection case for unpaid obligations pending before a government
agency. It could be anything. Of we allow the Arroyo governmental power,
we will soon find ourselves terrorized into silence.

There is no way we can fight power of money except by holding the face
of truth before it. And there is no way we can fight coercion except by
acts of solidarity with its victims. We have to tell the power-wielders
who rule our country today that not everyone is for sale, and that we
are ready to bear witness to the abuses of power.

Does this sound like a weak response? At the beginning, maybe yes. But
bear in mind that the regime is methodically drawing us into a brawl we
can only lose. If we use violent means, Ms Arroyo and her minions will
feel even more justified to deploy the coercive powers of the state
against us. We have to respond non-violently to the extent that we can,
using what is left of the avenues prescribed by the law. But more
importantly, we must begin to tap the moral resources that belong to us
as a community.

We have done what is necessary and possible by appealing to the courts,
challenging the legality of the calibrated pre-emptive response or CPR
which Ms Arroyo’s police has used to stop all demonstrations. We have
petitioned the Supreme Court to declare EO 464 and Proc. 1017
unconstitutional. Our colleagues in media have gone to the courts to
press their case against the police. I and other victims of 1017 and CPR
have filed criminal and administrative cases against officials of the
police before the Ombudsman. Various Senate committees have been
conducting their own investigations of the issues against Ms Arroyo. A
new airtight impeachment complaint is being prepared by the opposition
in the House of Representatives. Former Sen. Loren Legarda is pursuing
her petition before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to re-open the
election returns in the 2004 election.

But the Arroyo administration must have realized that the best defense
is offense. And so Proclamation 1017 was announced at precisely the time
when the government was least capable of enforcing it. After one week,
it was formally lifted before it could be challenged before the Supreme
Court. And while everyone was still preoccupied with 1017, the
government has launched the Charter Change Express via People’s
Initiative. It is now forcing everybody to engage in the great debate on
charter change, whether we like it or not. What this tells us is that at
every point a new game is being initiated be the government, to which
the fragmented opposition cannot effectively respond.

I think the opposition’s disunity has prevented it from doing much to
challenge the moral standing of the government. For example, it has
failed to tap the moral capital that belongs to every community. A
Citizens Congress to hear the complaints against Ms Arroyo led the way
last year. That was the last time. There hasn’t been any follow-up.

We are citizens of a state. But we are also, in our daily lives, member
of communities. We belong to kinship networks, to neighborhoods, to
churches, to schools to civic organizations, to residential villages, to
social clubs. We are consumers of goods and services. Our children
attend in the same schools, and we go to the same social functions. We
even live in the neighborhoods and shop in the same places. In short, we
sare the same social spaces. Those spaces are governed by one law alone,
but by moral norms of acceptable behavior. These are the sources of our
moral identities, and they are far richer and older than the wellsprings
of our common citizenship. We have not consciously mobilized the power
inherent in these moral identities. We continue to regard and receive
those individuals who cheated massively for Ms Arroyo in the last
election and who participate in the continuing plunder of our economy as
if their actions were the most natural in the world and do not bother us
at all. I hope you are getting the drift of what I am saying here. If we
want to stop corruption in our national life, we must begin to show
outrage over the loss of decency in our public life.

We have underestimated Ms Arroyo. She has been more clever and more
systematic and also more brazen on her quest to replenish her
rapidly vanishing social and political capital. I am sure all of you
have noticed that in the last two months alone, the newspapers have
reported her every social visit to Catholic bishops and archbishops all
over the country. Photographs of these visits have been published in
major newspapers. In some instances, the leaders of the various churches
have been unveigled into giving her the pray over. I am sure they are
aware that this formal display of peity is part of a systematic attempt
to prop up a troubled presidency.

If religious leaders allow themselves to be used like this, sooner or
later they will find themselves being confronted by their flocks, who,
while they may accept their bishops’ silence on political issues, would
feel revolted by their uncritical anointment of a politically
beleaguered president. Ordinary priests and nun themselves may call
their bishops to account for their actions. Parishioners themselves, the
laity who constitute the core of the church as a community of the
faithful, may one day whisper to their parish priests their own misgivings.

What may begin as misgivings could soon ripen into an explicit resolve
to avoid any contact with persons who seem in mindful of the imperatives
of decent behavior. Such avoidance may soon translate into open
ostracism. This is the extreme form of assertion of the power of a moral
community. Its intended effect is social isolation. It is the equivalent
of a consumers’ boycott in the realm of social relations.

Any holder of public office, especially at the highest level of the
state, basically relies upon three types of powers. The first is *moral
power,* which draws both from the importance of the position and from
the charisma and legitimacy of its occupant. The second is *remunerative
power,* which is the power to dispense rewards and favors. The third is
*coercive power * the power to punish, to intimidate, and to use the
exact submission and conformity. Together they roughly constiture what
is sometimes calles :political capital of a leader.

The best type of power is moral power. The compliance it secures is
normative. The leader appeals to values and to shared goals, and the
people comply and cooperate as an act of duty. Where moral capital is
lacking, the next preferred form of power is remunerative power. There
the appeal is to personal interest. It is a less preferred form of power
because the compliance it secures is calculative. There is no commitment
here. People comply or cooperate only for as long as it directly
benefits them. The least preferred, of course, is coercive power. It is
the last resort of leaders who have lost almost all moral standing in
their community. Rulers know that when you use coercion too often, you
breed alienation. No political order has been known to survive over an
extended period of time solely on the basis of coercion. In this sense,
the use of naked force to keep oneself in power is a demonstration of
weakness rather than of strength.

This is how i see the issuance of Proclamation 1017. Ms Arroyo wasn’t
very sure she could call upon the armed forces to enforce the harsher
measures provided by the Constitution, i.e. The suspension of the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the declaration of martial
law. She wasn’t sure that the public would support any of these. Thus
she chose relatively lighter measure of calling out the troops in the
light of a declaration of a national state of emergency.

As we now have seen, 1017 had two basic objectives, namely, to create an
atmosphere of urgency to justify extreme police measures and thus
produce a chilling effect on the public, and secondly, to test the
public acceptability of the use even more coercive measures in the
future. Hardly anyone outside of her usual supporters welcomed 1017. it
had been lifted, at least in name, after one week. But extreme police
action against dissenters, especially those openly identified with the
legal Left, has continued. The idea is to isolate them from labeling
them communist, and ultimately to crush them. We must hope that the
courts will stand up to protect the rights of citizens and not allow
this to happen. If the courts fail to do so, ordinary citizens will
increasingly be forced to defend themselves by any means available to them.

The use of coercive powers of the state by the Arroyo government should
not lull into thinking that her other powers have completely run out.
She continues to enjoy residual support from sections of the mass media,
from the business community, as well as from church leaders. She knows
this support is dwindling every day. That is why she is doing everything
to preserve what remains of this presidential visits or treating them to
a dinner in Malacaang. We must find ways of telling these presidential
props that they cannot play the game without being accountable. If they
wish to remain politically neutral, they must manifest that neutrality
both in respect of Ms Arroyo as well as of her opponents.

My own personal view of Ms Arroyo’s political strategy is that she will
be increasingly relying on her remunerative powers to remain in the
presidency in the coming days. We have already seen this in the generous
dispensing of awards and promotions to officials of these police and the
military who have zealously carried out her orders. The latest
beneficiary of this reward system is no less than the reputed butcher
of the left, Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has distinguished himself by the
number of dead dissidents he leaves behind in every place where he is
assigned. Perhaps unknown to many of us, every public demonstration is
welcomed by a section of the police as another opportunity to earn
reward points for future promotions or to compensate for demerits
incurred in the past. Of course, this system cannot be operated at will.
It eventually runs over professionals, resulting disenchantment weakens
the chain of command and further fragments what is already a severely
divided institution.

The enormous remunerative powers of the Arroyo may also explain the
support she continues to get from local government officials the
mayors, governors, and congressmen who most of all rely on the manna
dispensed by Malacaang to jeep their constituencies satisfied. Because
she does not need to draw from her own pocket or family fortune to fill
the feeding troughs of the patronage system, the resources virtually
unlimited. They are taken from the carious public funds at the disposal
of the office of the president the president’s social fund, the
intelligence fund, and many other off-budget items over which the
president enjoys wide discretionary powers. We saw the maximum use of
this power during the impeachment proceedings last year. It is being
deployed again today in the form of Cha-cha express via people’s initiative.

The Cha-cha plan has something for everyone. The crucial concessions are
hidden in the so-called transitory provisions. They include the
cancellation of elections in 2007, thus rewarding all incumbents an
extra term without having to spend a single cent. All term limits will
be lifted. But the biggest beneficiary would be GMA herself. She will be
rid of the Senate. Impeachment will be made even more difficult under
the new rules to be promulgated. If worse comes to worse, money, as in
2005, will again be deployed to ensure a favorable note.

The only way to restrain the use of such power is by employing the
system of checks and balances inherent in Congress. But, with EO 464,
this congressional power is effectively checkmated.

What options are left for us? Plenty, i believe. But all of them depend
on the kind of popular support that can be enlisted to make them work.
Gloria’s government is bound to collapse sooner or later beneath its own
weight. This may happen soon, or it may take a little longer. What is
important is that we have to think beyond her.

Sometimes our dislikes or hared for a particular condition can be such
that we become exclusively preoccupied with getting rid of the
condition, rather than thinking clearly of what might actually be done
not only to get rid of the condition but also to prevent it from
recurring. We lose sight of the bigger goals we should be pursuing.

How we should act depends a lot on the way we view the present crisis. I
think this is a crisis that did not arise overnight. It has a long
history. It is a crisis that goes beyond Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It has
many sources.

To go beyond this crisis, to be able to resolve it in a meaningful and
enduring way, we must go beyond simply overthrowing GMA from the
presidency. We have to start thinking of the options we must put in
place. More importantly, it involves a re-statement of our fundamental
goals as a community.

At the most basic level, a solution must revolve around what is feasible
i.e., what has a good chance of being carried out in this imperfect
world. It has to include a basic agenda of realizable objectives or
goals, complete with an operational plan for carrying out within a
reasonable time frame. Such an agenda is necessarily the product of a
particular analysis a particular way of making sense of the present
situation we face. Let me elaborate.

I believe that what we confront in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not just a
ruthless and amoral person who does not mind plunging the country in a
civil war if that is what it takes for her to avoid being removed from
presidency and being prosecuted for crimes committed during her
incumbency. What we confront in Ms Arroyo is a shrewd politician who
personifies the logic and imperatives of a political system based on
money, patronage, political remuneration, and the strategic use of
administrative, financial and coercive powers of a pre-modern state to
further vested interests. If we get rid of Arroyo but retain the system,
we will surely get another one like her in no time at all. I know that
many hate her so much that their idea of bliss is simply a world without
Gloria. Lest we forget, that is how many of us used to think of the
Marcoses. We have to start examining the system that gave birth to a
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and begin to cut its roots and clean out the
soil that has nurtured it.

This is a system that traditional politicians, who alternate between
being administration and being opposition, know very well, and whose
vulnerabilities they are able to exploit at will of their own respective
purposes. This system has basic rules, and the politicians who operate
within it know these rules, and abide by them in a manner tolerated or
deemed acceptable to every player. The system expects all its
participants to exercise some restraint, and avoid abusing prerogatives
in such a way as to endanger the whole system itself. Let us examine
some aspects of our recent past.

Of the nation’s past politicians, I guess it was Ferdinand Marcos who
had the boldness to deviate from the cycle of elite politics by taking
advantage of the martial law provisions of the existing constitution to
monopolize political power for an indefinite period. Instead of quietly
finishing his unprecedented second term as president, Marcos embarked on
an offensive program of sweeping changes that required a shift to
authoritarian rule.

Instead of being able to smoothly pass on political power to his
anointed successor, however, as was the case in Singapore and in
Malaysia, Marcos was overthrown by a middle-class-led peaceful revolt.
The peculiar contingencies of this revolt thrust the non-politician Cory
Aquino into the presidency. Edsa People Power, as the event came to be
called, started off on a revolutionary footing but gradually found
itself coming back to the mode of governance that Marcos had tried to
break in 1972. This mode of governance was based on elitist patronage
politics, that for the most oart could only be played by the rich and
moneyed families.

Cory Aquino herself was far more comfortable with this form of politics
than with the revolutionary impulses that thrust her into power in 1986.
She came from a powerful landowning family; her husband, whose
assassination put her in the political limelight, was a whiz kid in the
realm of traditional politics. Without a background in reformist or
revolutionary politics, Cory became the instrument for the restoration
of oligarchic politics under the guise of re-democratization.

The middle class that played a key role in overthrowing Marcos and
putting Cory in the presidency were concerned with basically two things:
(1) the return of constitutional democracy, and (2) the
institutionalization of good governance, which was basically synonymous
with anti-corruption.

The euphoria surrounding Cory’s rise to the presidency and the need to
support her against the successive coups mounted against her somehow
made the public less demanding and less critical of the Cory government.
Filipinos became quite content to have their freedoms back. They did not
pay much attention to the pair of issues that historically troubled the
Filipino nation, namely, corruption and mass poverty. These two issues
are actually two sides of the same coin.

Mass poverty produces a large army of dependent voters whose urgent
short-term needs defined the mode of exercise of their political rights.
Politicians respond to these needs through a highly developed system of
patronage, that can only be subsidized from the proceeds of systematic
corruption. This is a system that was almost completely controlled by
the country’s traditional political clans until the 1980’s.

In the 1980’s and the 1990’s, the rise of mass media celebrities, as a
result of the phenomenal spread of television, began to pose a challenge
to the supremacy of the political clans. Money still played a crucial
role in determining electoral outcomes, but now winnability became
equally important in choosing candidates. This new factor paved the way
for Joseph Estrada’s bid for presidency in 1998. Estrada won by a
landslide, and his victory taught the country’s traditional politicians
the important lesson that left to themselves, the masses would
henceforth vote for media celebrities rather that any one of their own.

The decisive victory of Erap at the polls shocked the country’s elite
and educated middle class. While he clearly enjoyed the mandate of a
relatively honest election, the fun-loving movie actor seemed to mock
the expectations of the educated population. The elite and the middle
class could not wait for Estrada to finish his term. Edsa !!, mounted on
a platform a good governance, exploded and triggered a military
defection or a passive withdrawal of support. The traditional
politicians who brokered and made this even possible had actively
courted the military and succeeded in replicating the romance of People
Power 1.

The Supreme Court ignored the extra-constitutional route taken by the
removal of Estrada and tried to constitutionalize it by alluding to the
novel concept of a constructive resignation. In short, the SC
eventually legitimized Gloria Arroyo’s succession to the presidency. But
the damage is done. Military withdrawal of support, which, in normal
times would be punishable as an act of mutiny, was passed off as an
acceptable prerogative of the military. Some of the SC justices had
critical words for the civilian face of people power (calling it a
hooting throng), but they remained silent about its military component
the withdrawal of support.

Edsa 3, largely composed of the urban poor, which exploded in May 2001
tried to take back power from Arroyo. It did not succeed because it
failed to trigger a military defection. What is clead from this is that
since 1986,the Armed Forces of the Philippines has become a decisive
fulcrum in the survival of any administration. Much as we wish for
contingencies that have shaped the AFP. It is a reality we must take
into account, whether we like it or not.

Ms Arroyo has shown how much she factors in the military imperative in
every move she takes. She has succeeded in turning the internal weakness
of the institution into her own advantage. Thus, when she asks that we
insulate the AFP from politics, she means that the rule applies only to
the rest of us, not to her.

How should we respond to this dilemma?

I think we should bear in mind that whether we, ordinary citizens,
choose to act or remain uninvolved, enough damage had been done to the
professional ethos of the military and the police that could trigger
dire consequences. The AFP and the police are living institutions; they
have their own corrective and self-healing mechanisms. When these fail,
the outcome could take the for, on an unending cycle of mutinies and
coups. The activation of these options does not really depend on the
extent of popular mobilization against an existing regime. It is easier
to restore professionalism in the military and the police when the
government of the day is strong and enjoys popular support. It is almost
impossible to repair the damage in these institutions if the government
of the day itself is the main source of institutional fragmentation.

Therefore, the solution of the political crisis takes precedence over
the solution of military fragmentation. So as not to exacerbate the
institutional damage that has already been wrought, we must exhaust all
popular and legitimate means to effect a transition to a new government.
Ultimately, we must rebuild our institutions on the basis of the
outcomes of a democratic and honest election.

The Arroyo government is sidestepping all these urgent issues by
offering charter change as a cure-all for our problems. It is a clever
ruse that attempts to bolster Ms Arroyo’s political legitimacy without
risking anything. If she succeeds. She remains president till 2010, and
possibly beyond. This is to me is not a viable option. It keeps the
trapos in place, starting with the queen of trapos herself, GMA, while
promoting the illusion of system change. If charter change through
people’s initiative becomes a reality,then we will have a government
without an effective opposition. This situation is not sustainable.
Sooner or later,the government will be engulfed by an even more radical
crisis. This may hopefully pave the way to a new political era of
modernist governance led by an awakened middle class. Or it may spawn
fresh demands for revolutionary transformation.

Whatever happens, we need to prepare ourselves by nurturing even now a
new breed of leaders, in addition to the handful of existing ones who
have not been corrupted by the system. More importantly, we must begin
to examine all facets of public policy which have so far governed the
routines of our everyday lives. Some groups have already begun this
process, and the products of their work are now available in different

If we must rebuild this country, we must start by rebuilding the nation
in ourselves. We must get organized, we must prepare ourselves for a
long fight, a fight beyond Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a fight that will
take us to some election, and beyond, to a future we can all be proud
of, to a nation we can proudly bequeath to our children. That nation has
to be free, prosperous, just, decent and competently governed. We can
start building that future here and now.

Thank you.

(Prof. Randy David is a veteran street parliamentarian since the Marcos
dictatorship days. He is a University of the Philippines sociology
professor and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He also
co-hosts with Atty. Katrina Legarda a tv talk show called “Off the
Record”. Prof. David was among one of the first ones arrested after the
issuance of Presidential Proclamation 1017 on Feb. 24, 2006)

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