CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – Citizen empowerment was the unfulfilled agenda of the EDSA Revolution, the unwritten hope of the multitudes that showed up during the heady days of February 1986. The hope that the trauma of Conjugal Dictatorship and Martial Law would end so that our society would finally see the flowering of the constitutional dictum: Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.
Alas, today, 27 years after the event, we, the community of sovereign citizens, have yet to be truly enfranchised or empowered. We are still left out, excluded from the mandated processes of citizen participation. We are ignored by officials (our public servants!) as they arrogate decision-making to themselves—and aggrandize power and pelf for their political dynasties. We are disempowered even as they accumulate power, and many of our neighbors are impoverished even as they take liberties with our tax monies. We are in a state of disempowerment. Marginalized!
And even as we seethe in discontent and chafe in anger from dissatisfaction, official insensitivity—and neglect arising from it—persists. This cannot go on if ours is to remain a democracy. It is inconsistent with the avowed policy of autonomy. It is a mockery of the principle of subsidiarity.
But officious governance goes on. Presumptuous officialdom reigns. Obsessive power in the traditional mode predominates. Oligarchy as Democracy!
Whether at barangay, municipal, or provincial level, there is no Development Council operating or constituted as required by law, no comprehensive development plan or investment plan as required and specified by law, no properly functioning sectoral committees, no up-to-date roster of constituents (in barangays) to ensure that every sovereign citizen is accounted for.
Is anyone surprised that with disasters striking regularly—with predictable results in terms of quantity or scale of havoc and casualty—nary a community manages to account for its missing or incidence of agony and privation?
Yet neither the DILG nor the putative sponsors of the law (who never fail to proclaim their alleged authorship) call attention to these and other shortcomings of governance and the governing process. It is a failure that manifests the worst of traditional politics and politicos. Trapo governance.
Politically, too many of us are in thrall to vested interests that manipulate or blithely take us and our community for granted. Instead of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, what subsists is a government of, by, and for politicos and their dynasties. Presumptuous governance. Oligarchy masquerading as democracy. Democracy violated in many places by Marcos-style kleptocracy.
Economically, the lower half of our society remains in the clutches of predatory interests, poorly paid, living hand-to-mouth, with no effective champions, the rest unconcerned as they go about business as usual.
And so our collective agenda remains pending, neglected, taken for granted.
All the jubilation and annual commemoration of “People Power” did not expand the democratic space so much as restore the traditional power holders, further entrenching their stranglehold on politics and economics. The generic, all-inclusive term “People Power”—which we all used to characterize the historic outpouring of citizen sovereignty somehow assumed a constricted sense—as just a convenient handle for a fresh round of power-grabbing and profiteering by the few that managed to aggrandize what took so many to snatch from the jaws of greedy dictatorship.
In that narrow sense, the Epiphany of EDSA now appears to have been only a spark of People Power—one that could have ignited the engine of citizen sovereignty for our republic but did not. It was powerful enough to jolt our republic and cause it to lurch a bit forward, but not enough to create the momentum needed for it to be institutionalized as our republic’s driving force. Like a momentary spark in a car’s ignition system that makes it lurch forward, it did not create enough energy or momentum to sustain the needed forward movement.
But EDSA was still a dazzling spectacle for humanity and a great Epiphany for Filipinos. It showed what awesome power an aroused though peaceable people can generate when provoked. If only we had pursued its logic…followed it through to its just conclusion… declared a closure to tyranny and authoritarianism…and stigmatized its perpetrators along with the remnants and stragglers… But we didn’t. We didn’t consolidate the nation. We didn’t even cleanse or exorcise it of the corrupt values spawned by the dictatorship. We didn’t harness nationhood and collective sovereignty to create momentum for reform and progress.
We should have known it wasn’t enough to defeat Marcos’s fascist forces. We should have insured against a return to power of his survivors and their dynastic heirs. Because we didn’t, because we failed to secure against infiltration and counter-offensives, we made it easy for the ogres of Martial Law to return and to reclaim their hegemony. How foolish and short-sighted we were!
And so we are summoned to the breach again. For which purpose we need leaders with a sense of mission, who are dedicated to empowering the people. Leaders committed to the proposition that the people must be in control of governance, not the politicians; that the power must be in the community, not in the bureaucracy. And we need everyone to recognize that this is what we need!
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)