A Leftist’s Reflection on the Death of Former President Corazon C. Aquino
By Emmanuel M. Hizon
This reflection/analysis was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its Talk of Town last August 9, 2009 with the title "Celebrate what Cory truly represents."
I will readily admit, when news of former president Corazon C. Aquino reached me, I couldn’t care less. Why would I sympathize with somebody who was given the unique opportunity to lead a revolutionary government, only to squander almost all the opportunities that came with it to realize the people’s dream of a truly transformative democratic transition? Whom instead of repudiating Marcos’ odious debts and thereby putting some closure to his nightmarish dictatorship, instead, chose to honor it to the last cent and in so doing prescribed the future generations to a life of poverty and forced indebtedness?
I have learned, then as a young activist, how Mrs. Aquino as President, sinned by omission on the issue of Mendiola massacre. In this case, would it be just to give my condolences when the martyrs of that fateful day are still without justice while the perpetrators are free and unaccountable – the foremost of which is now the mayor of Manila.
Why would I shed tears for her when the farmers and workers of Hacienda Luisita are still tied to the same grueling class conditions which her government had perpetuated? Clearly, as much as she was a symbol of liberal democracy, is an agent of, consciously or unconsciously, by flaw or by will, her own class compulsions.
And why would I mourn with Mrs. Aquino’s family when they did not even bother to express their grief to the countless farmers, unionists, activists and leaders who were summarily executed under the Aquino administration? How could I possibly identify to such interment, when ordinary people cannot even afford their own coffins much less have the attention and help they so badly need from the media, the church and the do-gooders?
Why will I then mourn the death of a reputed member of the oligarchy, a known cacique, a defender of elite democracy, an unrepentant associate of the landed and elite class which for almost all written history has treated the masses, “the great unwashed” as mere subjects, possessions and playthings to advance their whims and elite dispositions?
Who could forget the Aquino government’s pro-US military bases stance? Who could not recall her government’s US-backed low intensity conflict and total war policy against “insurgents” which in truth harmed the masses more than its perceived enemies?
Are we not entitled to our anger, to our discernment, to dredge up old yet throbbing wounds, to tell the people’s real stories which many of us have chosen to disregard? Why not? Because it’s rude? Because we are disrespecting the dead? How about our dead? Is it ill-timed or inappropriate? Then when is the right time? When will the time of the people come?
These are just some of the many questions that swirled on my head these past few days like confetti dropping wildly from some high-rise building in Makati. Nevertheless, I contented myself with the proposition that my current disposition is valid, politically correct and consistent with the masses’ interest and pulse. Cory will not have my sympathy.
But then again, as I was watching Mrs. Aquino’s funeral service, I cannot help but notice the continuing pouring of support and sympathy from many people. I am not talking about here of middle class people who we often associate with Cory but rather, of ordinary, everyday people; the labanderas, the obreros, the manangs, the urban poor, the probinsyanos; the very same masses we from the broad left movement have sworn to serve with utmost passion and dedication.
They have no anger in their eyes, no impassioned tirades on the Aquino government’s horrible mistakes, no finger pointing, no rage, no resentment. All I saw on television was a long yellow line of sad heart-broken faces waiting for their turn to view their president one last time; mourning as if they too have lost a loved one, grieving as if they too lost something important in their life.
My first reaction was sheer amusement and bewilderment which immediately turned into anger. How could the people have possibly forgotten? How could have they possibly forgiven Cory and her regime when they were never given any exoneration from their misery and poverty in the first place? How could they idolize her and identify with her?
I concluded this could be the result of the Filipino people’s overt romanticism, its legendary propensity to easily forgive and forget which inevitably fused with corporate media’s proclivity for creative spins and spectacles. I said to myself, this would quickly fade as it was quickly created with the people going back to reality; back to their wowowee dreams, back to our same old rubbish shitty lives.
However, each passing day was a revelation. Particularly, what struck me most was when people were asked why they were there. Almost all answered that they wanted to pay tribute to the woman who helped them restored democracy, who helped them reclaimed what was rightfully theirs. From the mother who brought her daughter all the way from Isabela to teach her about democracy, the students who were too young to even remember Edsa 1 up to the laborers and the poor who proudly claimed to have been participants to people power 1, 2 and even 3, all said it was because of democracy.
Then it finally dawned on me why this woman despite her regime’s numerous social and economic transgressions is so loved and cherished by a people representing three generation of Edsas. It’s not so much because she is religious, a mother-like figure to many, a glorified widow or simply a martyr; beyond the labels, our ideological flexing and the comfortable branding of pundits, Cory has been duly recognized by the people as an icon in their transition from despotism to rule of law, their struggle from tyranny towards a sense of freedom and democracy. Cory is first and foremost the representation of that ideal, of that difficult journey towards democratization, of that collective national experience.
And it did not stop there. She will also be remembered as a defender of that particular form of democracy flawed and wanting it may be in so many ways, not measuring up to our Marxist concept of a democratic archetype. From people power 2 which removed an incompetent and corrupt regime up to her participation in the fight to throw out the illegitimate Arroyo regime and its sinister plan to amend the constitution, Cory will be remembered and respected as a person who despite her privileged status joined the people in their most trying and important political junctures.
She will also be remembered for her seemingly incorruptible disposition and her lack of desire to cling to power more than what was bestowed to her. This is in sharp contradiction with the succeeding governments that followed her especially the current Arroyo regime which has shown its penchant to further its illegitimate rule through a combination of brute force and fake consent.
However, beyond Cory and beyond the mourning, the public must also be encouraged to use this period as a time of reflection and deliberation. We, the Filipino people and as a national polity must realize now more than ever that Philippine democracy and freedom must not only be celebrated and acknowledged as it is; it must be furthered, deepened and enlarged.
While leviathan icons may emerge in historic political moments, the people must become conscious of the fact that they themselves are their own icons. They are the real power behind the people power uprisings, they are the undeniable force which restored and have defended this young and fragile democracy; and yes, they are the image and symbol of the struggle for meaningful change. Once the people have realized and embraced this basic yet powerful fact, any conversation concerning the so-called poverty of icons will be naught.
Moreover, while the nation grieve Mrs. Aquino’s passing, let us also remember and grieve for the countless and nameless people that have been wronged, oppressed and in so many ways been deprived because of decades of systemic neglect and elite rule which unfortunately, Ms. Aquino’s government was a part of. Justice and accountability must be extracted from the “invulnerables”, the so-called privileged ones, the ruling class without any exemption to a particular regime or personality; even it means revisiting old yet unhealed wounds and/or bringing to the ground heaven-like reputations.
Let us not forget the martyrs and survivors of Mendiola massacre, the workers and farmers of Hacienda Luisita, our beloved Lean Alejandro and all the brave kasamas who were tortured, incarcerated and summarily executed before and under Aquino’s term as well as the succeeding regimes. Any celebration of democracy without the accordance of justice to those who thirst for it will not only be empty and meaningless, it will also be insulting and degrading to us as a people.
Hence, we as a people must undergo this profound process, a period of mourning and grief for the loss of a symbol as well as a time of contemplation and renewal of our national aspiration for genuine change, justice and equality. This is the only way to have a complete and truthful celebration of what Cory represents and symbolizes without the illusions, the frills, the romanticized concepts and wrong notions while remaining faithful and true to the people’s cause and interest. ###
by Sj San Juan
Instead of using her vast dictatorial powers under a revolutionary government to craft a genuine land reform program, President Aquino tossed the issue to a landowner-led Congress. In turn, Congress enacted a watered-down version full of loopholes that destroyed the intent and spirit of agrarian reform. But perhaps she cannot go against her own comprador roots, hailing from the landed Aquinos and Cojuangcos of Tarlac.
President Aquino could have made the transition to peace relatively easy by pushing through with a general amnesty to all political rebels. Instead, her military prevailed on her to continue with the all-out war. She even endured the Mendiola Massacre in 1987 when 13 farmers were killed and scores of other protesters were hurt, right at the doorstep of Malacañang.
For most of us, President Aquino represented subservience to the interest of the United States, with her unequivocal support to retain the US military bases in Subic Bay and Clark, only to be chastised by a nationalist Senate that rejected a new military bases treaty in 1991.
Amid all these transgressions done to the Filipino people under the Aquino administration, most are willing to forgive her inequities and omissions. Why?
Was it because she allowed herself to become the public face and icon for the fight to restore democracy?
Was it because of the good will and enormous amount of political capital invested to her Presidency by a grateful nation and a global order that is conscious of the demands of stable democratic institutions?
Was it because she reluctantly accepted the mantle of leading a torn and unstable nation, then eagerly gave up that mantle after six years of tumultuous rule?
Whatever the reasons are, the legacy of the Aquino Presidency is clearly spelled out: history clearly favors a brand that has a consistent and stable dominant image. Its flaws and insufficiencies have been masked by managing the message: a fledgling administration that has inherited a vast amount of trouble should be allowed to make mistakes.
History favors a brand that has shown consistency and stability. History frowns upon brands that says one thing but does the opposite. And no amount of press release and message management can cure an already damaged brand. ###
Cory after death
by Herbert Docena
Funerals are not so much for the dead as for us who have to go on living.
The dead have passed on; they can no longer hear us weeping. It is we—we who must scatter the flowers over their graves—who have to be comforted for our loss and who have to confront what lies ahead.
Cory has left but it is we who now have to come to terms with her contradictory legacies. Contrary to the impression conveyed by the media’s almost hagiographic coverage of her passing, the burst of emotions that followed Cory’s death has not simply been that of bereavement and pure adulation.
Indeed, how many of those who queued for hours through the cold raining nights nursed a deep disappointment at Cory’s presidency but walked up solemnly, full of gratitude, to her coffin nonetheless? Of those who walked out of their offices to bid goodbye as Cory’s coffin passed, who did not harbor a lingering sense of waste because of what Cory has squandered—but flashed the “Laban” sign without hesitation? How many prayed for Cory’s soul—but also prayed for the souls of the farmers mowed down with bullets in Mendiola in 1989?
Losing someone is not easy; more so when our conflicted feelings towards the departed could not be so easily reconciled, even by death. On the one hand, Cory inspired us to believe—by leading the movement that toppled the dictatorship—that what we often come to accept as impossible may actually be possible through our actions. On the other hand, Cory also demonstrated—by squandering a historic opportunity to push for meaningful social reforms—how power can make the possible impossible by fiat.
In ending tyranny and, later on, foiling right-wing militarists from taking power, Cory averted the worst. But, by pursuing policies that restored the power of oligarchs and that abandoned society to the whims of the powerful, she also prevented what could have been better alternatives for millions of Filipinos. Cory ushered back democracy but, at many critical moments, she stood in the way of freedom.
After the EDSA revolt, when the passage of a land reform program became a real possibility, Cory instead chose to exempt her family’s hacienda, thereby fatally weakening a program that could have freed millions of farmers from generations of bondage. Corruption is not something usually associated with Cory but if corruption is to be objectively defined as the use of state power to further personal interests, then Cory’s action towards land reforms ranks up there as a monumental, if less obvious, case of corruption. Today, tens of thousands of peasants remain consigned to a life of poverty and misery as a result of this historic decision. Charity is not what they need, but it is a basic Catholic virtue of which Cory proved incapable at that moment when it could have made a lasting difference.
At the height of the negotiations over the US bases in the late 80s, Mt Pinatubo erupted. Zambales residents pleaded with the US military to allow them to pass through the Subic base in order to expedite their evacuation. But the US military refused, thereby cementing growing opposition to the bases, already fired up by cases of abuse suffered by many Filipinos at the hands of US soldiers. And yet, on whose side did Cory march—in one of the rare instances when a sitting president actually joined a public mobilization? On the side of those pleading with the American troops to stay on.
Cory’s failings were historic but her choices, it must be said, were far from easy. Indeed, few have been burdened with a cascade of difficult choices: A widow given the choice to lead an uprising against an entrenched dictator or to continue living in comfortable anonymity. A haciendera challenged to give up her family’s landholdings to set an example. An embattled president who had the choice to pander to the right-wing or to face them down. If we are judged not just by what we do but by what we have to give up, then some of Cory’s choices could readily qualify as acts of heroism. Her other choices, however, have only raised the need for even more of it.
And yet, despite our disillusionment, no other death has moved us to spill out into the streets in such great numbers in recent years. Perhaps it’s not just to say goodbye but to partake in a collective act of grieving—not so much for the dead but for ourselves. Cast between the tyrants and thieves that preceded and succeeded her, Cory’s virtues—her simplicity, her sincerity—seem even more precious and her faults minor—maybe even forgivable?—for a people who are now left to deal with so much worse.
Pity the nation that needs heroes, goes the cliché; pity the nation that has lost one. We weep because we know that our continuing dependence on and continuing need for heroes speaks of our continuing tragedy as a people.
But as we pick up the pieces, just as we did after we buried Cory’s murdered husband Ninoy, we are left with no choice but to confront what lies ahead. In so doing, we are reminded of what Cory herself has demonstrated in those days at EDSA that changed hers and our country’s destiny: that she wouldn’t be there, that it all wouldn’t have happened, if the people weren’t there with her. Without Cory, we may be on our own and yet, as we kept assuring Ninoy, we are not alone.
Funerals are not so much for the dead as for us who have to go on fighting.
Herbert Docena is a former Benigno S. Aquino Jr Foundation scholar.
Cory Aquino and the Filipino People
by Prof. Roland Simbulan
This is being written the day before Cory Aquino is finally laid to rest. Widow of our martyred national hero Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Cory as she was was fondly called, was suddenly thrust into her destiny of uniting the Filipino people against the Marcos dictatorship, and succeeded in toppling the dictatorship. She was the only person who could do this, since there were several leaders of the opposition who had not gotten over their personal ambitions. Cory perhaps embodied and represented the Filipino people who were victimized by the Martial Law dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos. Her husband, Ninoy was put in prison for seven years by the dictatorship, and Cory endured the humiliation and suffering inflicted by the repressive regime like the rest of the Filipino people.
When her husband was assassinated, she was called upon by the people to challenge Marcos in the 1985 snap elections but the unpopular dictator used all the machinery of fraud and state terrorism to snatch away Cory's victory and rob the people of their true choice. Some of us thought that it was useless to challenge the dictator in any election. But Cory believed in the people. Cory summoned the people to recover their sovereignty and their government from the clutches of a corrupt and brutal dictator which had killed, disappeared , tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of Filipinos.
Cory and the Filipino people triumphed in what is now known as the historic EDSA 1 People Power Revolution of 1986, thus ending the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship. The EDSA 1 People's Revolution would soon become an inspiration for the rest of the world in the bloodless transitions to dismantle any form of tyranny and restore democratic institutions and the power of the people.
Cory Aquino led the transition from dictatorship to the restoration of constitutional democracy. This was highlighted by the drafting of the 1987 Constitution, a constitution that contained strong provisions on the protection of civil liberties, recognition of people's organizations and civil society and a government with a system of checks and balance. Yet, Cory's six year administration (1986 - 1972) as president was still seriously threatened by a segment of the military that believed that only a military junta could effectively govern the country.
The Cory administration was threatened by military adventurists who thought that the EDSA 1 Revolution was their (the military's) victory, not the people's, especially when the military eventually shifted their support away from the Marcos dictatorship. They thought Cory was weak because she was a woman, was a mere housewife, and that she was even coddling Communists by releasing all political prisoners including known Communists who fought the dictatorship.
The military adventurists even accused Cory of appointing Communists in her government when she appointed known human rights advocates like Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag, Jose Diokno, Augusto Sanchez in her cabinet. But Cory proved them all wrong, for she was really deeply a strong woman , tempered by adversity during the Marcos dictatorship. She crushed all nine coup attempts during her administration, and succeeded in consolidating the threatened democracy.
The Filipino people again, rallied to her cause to prevent the restoration of repressive military rule. We in the people's organizations and social movements may have had differences with Cory on the issues of debt servicing, genuine agrarian reform, and U.S. military bases, but we were always sure that she meant well, was uncorrupted by power, and also supported us in critical issues like the mothballing of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Together with the rest of the Filipino people, we supported to the very end her valiant defense of democratic institutions against military coup plotters inside and outside her government. We knew that if these people in uniform gained power it would spell the restoration of even a more repressive regime that would not tolerate any form of criticism or opposition.
Though Cory became even more popular by 1992 and could still run for president under the 1987 Constitution, she humbly chose to step down and hand over the reign of power to other Filipino leaders whom she believed were more prepared than her in governing the country. This was Cory.
Cory did not stop being involved in many causes of the Filipino people. As citizen Cory, she took up the causes of the Filipino people like the campaigns against corruption and the illegal threats, again , to extend the rule of ambitious and corrupt politicians.
Cory Aquino now joins the list of heroes and heroines of the Filipino people, etched in their hearts forever. Her spirit and example reminds us that state power is there to be used for good. State power deserves to be held by people who are selfless like her, who do not aspire for state power, and who believe in the power of the Filipino people. And like most Filipinos, Cory believed in the power of prayer.
Thank you, Cory.
Reinventing Cory and the Dream of Democratic Nationhood
by James Miraflor
When Corazon Cojuangco Aquino died on the first day of August 2009, she as the Philippine symbol of liberal democracy did not die. Rather, she was sealed forever; and as things sealed forever, she was sealed with utmost and absolute purity of image.
I wanted to post here Ed dela Torre's reflection but I think his is more of a recount of his personal experience but he mentioned about his two causes, which gave way to the passing of two major policies during the Aquino administration - Literacy for All and Participatory Local Governance. I feel the need to mention this so that I can be reminded and therefore give an objective look of the real legacy of President Aquino in the eyes of an ordinary citizen. I want to give an undistorted view of the Philippine History to the "masa" especially those who witnessed personally in the funeral.
More videos on Cory's participation in post-Edsa struggles like Charter Change and GMA Resign call.
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