What democracy did Cory restored?

Thursday September 06, 2018 ()

Dictionary definitions of heroism, obviously, leave plenty of room for the imagination, which Ninoy's and Cory's followers can exploit. But if we interpose the qualification that a hero is someone who is worthy not just of admiration, but emulation, they'll be having real problems.

After all, what are heroes for, if not to serve as role models? Interestingly, Asuncion David Maramba herself observed that "our youth need heroes badly, for as almost everyone observes, they have no role models." Unfortunately for Maramba, this functional definition of a hero would reduce Ninoy and Cory to what they truly are: objects of fondness for some, rather than heroes for all. The plain truth is, they cannot serve as role models, except among the few who are situated as they were—born and grown rich among families with political clout, served by the poor. They cannot be role models, even for the middle class.

As to outstanding deeds that benefited the people, what do they have to show? Ninoy distinguished himself as a political entertainer, with his bombastic exposés on the Senate floor. He refused to operate against Huk rebels in Tarlac when he was the governor of the province. While claiming that he himself never advocated violence as an instrument for change, he admitted helping insurgents materially. This admission lent moral support to the insurgency as well:

"If I have gone out of my way to meet insurgents, if I have given them shelter and medical aid when they came to me, bleeding and near death, it was because I was convinced these dissidents were freedom-fighters first—in their own light—and if they were communists at all, they were communists last… If this is treason, if this is subversion, I am ready to be punished."

Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987
(The Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987)

Did his support for the communist rebellion benefit the Filipino people? Not during his lifetime, not to this day. The rebellion he nurtured once continues to bleed the Philippines today. Many of the "freedom-fighters" he supported, after being liberated from detention by Cory in 1986, have become free to fight the freedom of others, rather than for everyone's freedom. The atrocities they continued to commit have forced juveniles to join an insurgency that keeps our people divided and destitute.

Ninoy did have medals which, his fans would have us believe, were given in recognition of his courage as a war correspondent in Korea and as a government spy in Indonesia. Those who know Ninoy better doubt the quality of the courage he supposedly showed in these roles; Ninoy was notorious for liberally embellishing bare facts with fiction, as columnist Conrado de Quiros of the Philippine Daily Inquirer remarked in his 400-page addition to the hate-Marcos bookshelf, Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Philippine Democracy. But Ninoy himself had also clarified that these medals were for "services" rather than explicitly for courage:

"I was awarded three decorations by three Presidents: Quirino [the Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Officer, for services during the Korean War]; Magsaysay [the Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Commander, for negotiating the return to the government of Luis M. Taruc, erstwhile Huk supremo, in 1954]; Garcia [First Bronze Anahaw Leaf to the PLH-Officer, for services in the peace and order campaign; Presidential Merit Award for intelligence work in Indonesia, in 1958, ‘classified']."

Indeed, what courage was needed to cover the Korean War in the safety of the rear lines? What courage did Ninoy need to deal with the Huks, who had been his friends? How difficult was it to negotiate the surrender of Taruc, who was then already on the way out, having been demoted in the insurgency for advocating peace? And later as a politician, what courage did he need to raise any sensational accusations he wanted to, shielded as he was by parliamentary immunity?

Cory, too, has received awards, local and international, for debatable reasons. The most common credits are for having restored democracy in the Philippines. This presupposes that during the Marcos presidency, democracy disappeared. Well, who established the barangays as the country's official government at the village level? Who introduced the practice of frequently asking the people to express their will through plebiscites and referenda? Who allowed citizens as young as 15 to make their voices heard? Who introduced the barangay justice system, to bring the justice system down to the barangays? It was not Ninoy, and it was not Cory. It was President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Contrary to Ninoy's claim that Marcos strangled democracy in order to save it, President Marcos popularized democracy to give the masses a greater stake in defending it against the communist threat. It was in defense of democracy that President Marcos imposed martial law from September 21, 1972, to January 16, 1981, when the imperatives of democratic survival required the temporary curtailment of some civil liberties, which were gradually restored as the security situation improved.

What democracy did Cory restore? The question harks back to the democracy of the pre-martial law years. What kind of democracy was it? Congress was so embroiled in politicking and vested interests that its output came mostly in the forms of campaign-type privilege speeches and legislation renaming schools and hospitals. In the streets, anarchy reigned, with mass protest rallies and transport strikes taking turns in preventing the nonpartisan majority from going to school or work. In the regions, warlords with their private armies instituted a reign of terror.

Oligarchs, not content with their economic and political power, reached for the future by insidiously establishing mind control through their newspapers and broadcasting stations. If it was a democracy, it was so only in name and not in its dynamics. If it adhered to the system of checks and balances characteristic of liberal democracies, it was all a ritual made pointless by counterproductivity and paralysis; it made the pursuit of major reforms by the Executive confusing and frustrating.


  • Political idolatry, Part II, Cecilio Arillo, September 6, 2018, Business Mirror


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