How to live the way of People Power
By Eugenia Duran-Apostol
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After 24 Years, People Power should already be an integral part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, it is not. Why is this so? To answer this question, we need to be clear about what People Power really is.
Our high school history text books do not have an exact definition of the concept of People Power. In fact in a number of instances, little context is given so much so that the high school student’s appreciation of Edsa People Power Revolution becomes truncated into just those four days in February 1986.
People Power is simply described as a historical event, and some books go on to say that it was a phrase coined by then Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos when he made a desperate call for help in getting his soldiers trapped in Camp Crame out before Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar’s tanks could close in.
Ambassador Narciso G. Reyes thought at that time that “People Power initiated a revolution. It was not in itself the whole revolution. This explains the prevailing air of transition, the sense of instability, of affairs being in flux. It reflects the reality that the Revolution is not yet fully formed.”
I think it remains so to this day.
Many of our youth associate People Power with images of an ailing Ferdinand Marcos boarding a US military aircraft, a distraught Imelda by his side. For them, People Power is all about how a dictatorship—with its tanks and soldiers—was toppled by more than a million unarmed and prayerful civilians.
Cory Aquino once described People Power as “damayan on a grand scale.” She recalled that at Sto. Domingo Church “the great majority of mourners had never seen Ninoy alive. They did not know me and in fact I had to introduce myself so I could enter the church. And yet, [around] two million people joined us in the 25-kilometer funeral march. For our pain and sorrow had become theirs as well.”
On the other hand, Amando Doronila observes that “People Power movements have been an Imperial Manila phenomenon. Their playing field is Edsa. They have excluded the provincianos from their movement with their insufferable arrogance and snobbery—ignoring the existence of the toiling masses and peasants in agrarian Philippines.”
Conrad de Quiros sees People Power as a “resplendent act by a people to end tyranny without bloodshed which other nations have been at pains to imitate.” De Quiros, however, goes on to say that “yet we were the first country as well to mount anarchic rule after that. Or one characterized by the same pillage that went before it.”
If we put all of the above together, it would be easy to form the impression that People Power is something that happened in the past and carries little significance today except as an innocuous holiday.
But it is not. People Power is—or should be—a way of life.
The Good Society
The framers of the 1987 Constitution saw this when they articulated a vision of “The Good Society” which is “free, peaceful, prosperous, egalitarian, just and humane.”
In the book, “The Philippines into the 21st Century,” Jose B. Abueva et. al say “the 1987 Constitution clearly implies that by themselves alone, the rulers and the ruling class cannot be depended upon to bring the desired changes toward ‘The Good Society’ without constant pressure from a politically conscious, informed, and organized citizenry.”
So you see, the argument that democracy gets in the way of progress is false. On the contrary, vigilance and active involvement in our part is the best way to level the playing field so to speak. In so many words, the 1987 Constitution says that People Power is the hallmark of good citizenship.
Duty to defend freedom
How do we then conduct ourselves as good citizens?
In the People Power way. This means that we fully accept that it is our duty to continuously exercise and defend our basic freedoms and rights (e.g. freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, and the right to fair treatment before the law).
If we become remiss of this duty, some petty tyrant could very well come along and take it all away from us.
Cory Aquino said: “We cannot allow evil and wrongdoing to go unpunished and unrepented. Responsible citizenship brings with it not only a right but also a duty to protest a wrongdoing, and responsible government is duty bound to listen.
“As for ourselves, the best we can do for one another and for the future is to unite in this struggle, and to expand and strengthen the ground for our common cause. We must continue on the road to peaceful change, and resist all efforts to divide us. All the power we need is within ourselves.”
That is People Power, and that is why we must commemorate it in our hearts every year, with conviction.
(Editor’s note: The writer is the founding chair of The Foundation for Worldwide People Power.)