by Alex Roldan
A national paper early this month wrote that “Unity is a rare thing in our country; we have it now; and adding to the feelings of grief is the wistful realization that it took the passing of Cory to reunite a divided nation,” (PDI, Editorial, Aug. 2, 2009)
In fact, in the past several days, the media has persistently repeated this contention, that the death of President Cory Aquino is something that has unified a country.
It is depressing to know that many believe that unity is a word that has eluded this nation for quite sometime. For almost two decades, everyone in most cases, had taken divergent paths, to each his own, as they say. We are described as a people that do not have a common philosophy as a nation, and obviously no common goal to talk about.
The 1986 people power revolution showed that Filipinos are capable of greatness. It was Cory, who showed us that path. She was not a visionary or a social reformer. She was not a politician but an ordinary housewife who suddenly became a leader of a democratic movement that was swept into power through her sheer determination and personal integrity. She had no army, no political party, no formal organization behind her, but she embodied the country’s hopes. And the people rallied behind her. The rest is history, as they say.
The years after the brief People Power episode were a period of adjustment for the country. The constitution was changed and programs to correct social inequities were ushered. It was far from perfect. She inherited a nation in disarray – corruption, poverty, weak institutions, and almost a civil war.
The Cory leadership attempted to unite a political coalition that proved fractious and soon fell apart. She survived six attempts mounted by rebellious military adventurists to oust her. And worse, the very people who once supported her were starting to question her capability to lead.
Her successor failed to follow up on the aspirations of the Filipinos which galvanized their unity and support for Cory Aquino. Instead, they reverted to their old ways, thus allowing the re-establishment of the influence and control of the government by the very same elite who gained fame and fortune by supporting the Marcos conjugal dictatorship.. The strength and dynamism of such democratic institutions like a strong legislature, an independent judiciary and a free press reestablished by the Aquino administration are on the verge of being dissipated in the manner of the dark days of our history.
Cory’s major legacy was the use of a peaceful, but massive, protest to topple a government that had betrayed the people’s trust. Indeed it remains, and still is, the default template for bringing about political reform and regime change in this country. But how?
Most Filipinos now believe that the present administration is beyond redemption, given that there are only ten months left in its ‘lifespan” no matter what it does to redeem itself. The fast approaching 2010 national election precludes the probability of another people power action to institute instant political reforms. The ballot, not the bullet, is the preferred mode of change. The popular Edsa revolt of 1986, thanks to the Cory magic, belongs to history. A kind of magic anchored on peaceful resistance and the power of prayer. Call it Divine intervention, if you will.
With her passing, we saw again the one-ness of the people. The Filipinos took to the streets to express gratitude to the woman who brought back their freedom and democracy. It was déjà vu. For me, this was undeniable proof of Filipinos’ capacity to react as one to show their gratitude to a simple, soft-spoken, humble woman who had led them from darkness to the light of redemption as a people on the strength of her faith.
Meaning, the force that toppled tyrannical regimes in this country is still very much alive, and thus surely can be replicated whenever the need arises. All that is needed is somebody who has the integrity and can identify with the aspirations and hopes of the Filipino people. Somebody who can lead the Filipinos to greatness.
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