The oppressive outcomes of the 1986 counterfeit revolution: A Lenten reflection

Tuesday April 11, 2017 ()

EDSA revolution

Somebody accused me of being confused when I claimed that revolutionary governments are outcomes of violent seizures of governmental power. I was told to look at Cory Aquino's government after the EDSA uprising in 1986 as a "peaceful" revolutionary government which was a product of a non-violent "revolution".

I almost fell out of my chair.

The oppressive outcomes of the 1986 counterfeit revolution: A Lenten reflection

For a person and her cohorts who lament the current malaise infesting our social and political fabric to miss the bitter lessons of EDSA is simply discomforting.

EDSA was peaceful precisely because the revolutionary logic was aborted when the elite pre-Marcos oligarchs hijacked the natural course of the revolutionary moment that was already unfolding. The rebellion waged by students, urban poor and peasants that was threatening to uproot the foundations of power and authority was undermined by the oligarchy that took advantage of EDSA.

And it is this interruption, this hijack of the revolutionary momentum that enabled the pre-EDSA oligarchs, joined later by their pro-Marcos class cohorts, to return to pre-martial law structures of privilege and power. It is this so-called peaceful revolution, which led to what we label as a "revolutionary government" of Cory Aquino that caused much of our frustrations and suffering. Imaged as a return of democracy, it became a powerful ideological blinder that misled people into believing that fundamental structural changes would happen.

There were no meaningful structural shifts that occurred in this "revolutionary government". Land reform was tepid. Our system of governance remained elitist and exclusionary. The old oligarchy was reinstated when Cory Aquino freely returned to the Lopezes, her political allies, their business empire which they had earlier sold and was not forcibly taken away from them.

And we continue to suffer the effects of this so-called "peaceful revolution", things that piled up for three decades, and contributed to the causes of the people's anger and frustration that eventually led to the election of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Thus, it is simply unnerving for people who celebrate President Duterte's electoral success, and see this as driven by the oppressive outcomes of the 1986 counterfeit revolution, to also celebrate Cory Aquino's counter-revolutionary transitional government.

These are the people who are now confronted with a dilemma. Faced with structural inertia, they are proposing that President Duterte declare a revolutionary government, but are confronted with fears of violence. They are now trying hard to justify their use of the label "revolutionary," even to the point of using the EDSA model as a template, to assuage such fears.

However, theories and empirical cases of real revolutions, and the revolutionary governments that are anent to them, clearly show that violence is a necessary element. People die during revolutions. Blood spill on the streets. After all, a revolution uproots and destroys traditional institutions of power, privilege and authority. This is necessarily a violent process. It is wishful thinking that those who enjoy the benefits of these arrangements will simply whimper away like scared dogs. Even if appearing as a minority, these are social classes that can mobilize resources, and they have powerful allies abroad. Sheer popularity of the revolution will not stop them from fighting back.

You do not simply order the closure of Congress, and the sequestration of private wealth, without bloody resistance from those who will lose their power. It is not a matter of being afraid of them. It is to realize that they will resist.

If one has to take a tour back in history, Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed a revolutionary government when he declared Martial Law, and he even dubbed it a "revolution from the center." This did not quiet the people. Instead, it planted the seeds for a protracted defiance and resistance at the grassroots. And what enabled it was an equally defiant oligarchic class plotting their own agenda to take back power. What made Cory Aquino's so-called "revolutionary government" relatively peaceful is that she did not threaten the interests of the oligarchs. In fact, she embodied these.

Revolutions are always bloody and violent. You have to suffer first before you can gain your redemption.

In the final analysis, you could not have your peaceful revolutionary government just because our President is honest and popular, and is not a Marcos or a Cory. It is not because we do not trust him. It is simply because we could not trust the elites and oligarchs in this country. Some of them are in fact currently supporting the President but can stab him in the back.

As we face the season of Lent, one has to reflect on Jesus Christ as a revolutionary. He challenged the religious institution of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and threatened the secular power of Herod and the Roman Empire. He came at a time when there was an active rebellion. And he was persecuted and crucified for it.

If even the Son of God was not exempted from the brutal effects of challenging established institutions of power and privilege, what makes us think that President Duterte and the Filipino people would have our post-revolutionary redemption without suffering the revolution?


  • We suffer the revolution before we get our redemption: A Lenten reflection by Antonio P. Contreras, April 11, 2017, The Manila Times

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