Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, and it’s very clear that we Filipinos as a nation still have a long way to go in terms of political maturity. Up to now, we have not really progressed as a nation politically, as we continue to maintain the very insular beliefs that keep us from thinking of ourselves as Filipinos.
It’s also clear that this administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is getting paranoid about getting overthrown. Why else would President Arroyo announce last Sunday that the world would not tolerate another People Power revolution? Not only has she forgotten the means by which she came into power to begin with, she has repudiated the means by which we freed ourselves from two decades of oppression and tyranny. Of course, since she would be the target of a possible similar revolution, it’s understandable, if unacceptable, that she would make noise to prevent what happened to her predecessor from happening to her.
Still, she probably shouldn’t worry too much. Sad to say, Filipinos will not take the people power route to oust her, mainly because the opposition is perceived to be equally corrupt; ousting GMA will only bring in a regime that will be more of the same corruption.
The other problem is that, as I mentioned before, Filipinos are still politically immature, as it is too easy for our politicians to manipulate the masses. Taking advantage of the widespread poverty, our politicians provide palliatives and useless placebos to keep our countrymen in check. And our countrymen, used to being spoiled by our politicians, are more than content to sit back and sell their votes for a few measly pesos, not realizing that they have within them more power than those who buy their votes.
In a way, GMA is correct, in playing down the need to resort to people power revolution. Simply ousting the one in power is no longer enough, because that won’t bring about a change in the system; it will only change the one in power, and the same corrupt practice will continue.
No, what is needed is a paradigm shift in the minds of our countrymen, a paradigm revolution, if you will. First of all, we have to begin looking beyond the insular world we frame ourselves in, and start truly thinking as a country. I think it was Philippine Star columnist William Esposo who pointed out that one of our problems as a country is that we don’t demonstrate a love for our country, even in the small things such as not littering. Compare this with Japan and its people’s national pride, and we pale in comparison. It’s funny how our overseas workers are noted for their ability to abide by the laws of their host country, and yet, it’s difficult to get Filipinos to obey simple traffic rules unless there’s a traffic enforcer keeping a watchful eye.
Second, it’s necessary to get our countrymen more involved in the political process, instead of letting the politicians take charge of everything. There’s this thing called accountability, and, if we want to be able to take our officials to task for their corruption, we have to take an active part in the political process. If we can manage this, it’s possible that actual political parties, with clear platforms and programs can emerge, instead of all of these personality cults passing themselves off as political parties.
Finally, yes, there is a need to revise our Constitution, if only to make it more accessible and understandable to our countrymen. I mean, how many of us actually know what our rights are as Filipinos, according to the Constitution? Not me.
And what changes should be done? For me, it doesn’t matter what form of government we adopt, as long as the proper safeguards are put into place. If we maintain a presidential form, then mechanisms such as additional runoffs should be added to make sure that the resulting president is truly a majority choice. If we adopt a parliamentary government, then the structures that make that particular system work should be in place.
The necessary changes to the economic provisions are needed to be able to cope with an ever-changing playing field. Perhaps simply deleting them, as Prof. Alex Magno has suggested, is enough; let Congress pass the laws to govern our economy.
At the same time, I will reiterate that this is the wrong time to put Charter Change into motion, as the political atmosphere is simply too polarized for it to happen. There is just too much distrust in our government, that any move to revise the Constitution will be met with suspicion.
It should be pointed out that, as a nation, we are still a very young one, and it’s clear that it will take a lot of time to get where we want to be as a nation. But, the first step for us to take is to be more aware and participative in what our government does; otherwise, it’s not a democracy that we have, but an oligarchy, where power is concentrated in the elite. It is important for us to remind them that their shenanigans are not unknown to us, so that maybe they’ll be a little more responsible.