The Parody of People Power

Five years ago on the 20th anniversary of People Power, I had just returned to the Philippines and was in a grim mood. On that day, an armored personnel carrier was parked outside ABS-CBN. This was the piece I wrote in 2006 – my attempt to understand how the Philippines squandered the potent energy unleashed two decades earlier. Next post will be about where we are today.

THE PARODY OF PEOPLE POWER (February 2006)

Last year, I decided to end nearly two decades working for CNN in Southeast Asia to come home to the Philippines. As it turned out, I was bucking the tide because respected polling survey Pulse Asia said that a third of Filipinos want to leave the country for good, part of an ongoing exodus of overseas workers who insulate the economy. Nearly eight million people, or about one-tenth of the population of about 80 million, send home an estimated $10 billion a year, or one-tenth of the gross domestic product. They are the country’s largest dollar earners.

It certainly didn’t seem like a good time to turn my dollars into the local currency, the peso. The Philippines again had become the sick-man of Asia. Political infighting had become so rampant little was moving in government. Although the currency and stock market have recorded gains in recent months, true economic reforms have yet to be accomplished while the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. The government says it will close the budget gap, but any economic gains are swamped by a population growth rate of 2.3% a year – one of the highest outside Africa – with a much lower food production rate of 1.9%.

Despite the statistics, I made the decision to come home – the second time I did so in the past twenty years. Although I was born in the Philippines, my family left for the United States after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. In 1986, I came home in search of roots.

Press freedom and the people’s network
As a fresh college graduate, I walked into the government television station thrilled with the possibility of helping turn this former propaganda machine into a true People’s Television network (reflecting the new name it adopted – People’s Television 4). From an instrument of repression, it became the voice of freedom. It was an exhilarating time full of endless possibilities, giving life to the literal meaning of people power. Excitement gripped our motley crew: potential anchors auditioning live, to be chosen by the people – who themselves were flush from an unimaginable victory ending the 21 year rule of Ferdinand Marcos. That was the birth of “people power,” when hundreds of thousands of people gathered to protect a military in revolt and faced down a dictator with nothing more than prayers and songs. The iconic images of nuns stopping tanks and children putting flowers in the barrels of guns powered democratic dreams globally – in South Korea, Pakistan, China, Burma, East Germany, Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia.

People power meant freedom of the press, something nearly forgotten for this generation of journalists, most of whom first labored under the outright censorship of martial law followed by something more insidious and damaging – self-censorship. In the government station, I struggled with the habits left behind – scripts so safe the words were devoid of meaning, but each word I rewrote was a death knell for the past. (That was part of the reason I cringed when the head of the national police recently repeatedly called for “self-censorship.”)

Without the media, people power wouldn’t have happened. After all, the call to help, to assemble in the streets were broadcast on radio and later, messages of freedom came from the former government station. Euphoria infused the entire society: it was a moment of redemption. Spontaneously discovered, people power was created by a failed military coup, the calls of the Catholic Church (in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation) to help the soldiers, the journalists who risked their lives to get the message out, alternative political figures, and the hundreds of thousands of people from all classes of this economically stratified society who rushed into the streets. In those moments of uncertainty, Filipinos took a stand and risked all they had. Victory created unrealistically high expectations and three primary national goals: reconciliation; rebuilding democratic institutions; and economic recovery and reform.

Faild expectations
Twenty years and four presidents later, those goals remain unfulfilled. It is painful to look back on those days and see so many ideals corrupted and dreams betrayed.

Instead of creating a meritocracy – leveling the playing field so leaders are the best and the brightest – politicians returned to the familiar: elite politics, giving economic and political power back to about 8 oligarchic families pushed aside by Marcos. That aggravated the gap between the rich and the poor and pushed more Filipinos overseas to look for greener pastures – draining the country of the vital middle class needed for regeneration.

Instead of professionalizing the military, soldiers empowered with a political agenda never really went back to the barracks – plotting at least ten more coup attempts in succeeding years. Instead of rebuilding institutions, corruption and patronage undermined democratic processes – leaving Filipinos powerless to effect real change.

Instead of an enlightened and professional mainstream media acting as the fourth estate, we have journalists corrupted by vested interests, some for sale to the highest bidder – with not enough attention focused on skills and ethics.

Through all sectors of Philippine society, the lack of transparency and accountability allowed back-room deals that hampered true development at every front.

What’s clear is that American-style democracy in the Philippines has largely failed. More form than substance, it has given back little to the people who flocked to the streets in 1986. Another survey done by Pulse Asia last January showed that only 36% of Filipinos now believe Marcos should have been removed by people power.

Back to where we began
Twenty years later, this nation is right back where it started: questioning the mandate of its president – like in 1986. For President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the distribution last year of wiretapped telephone conversations, allegedly between her and an election official, triggered her latest and most serious political crisis. Allegations of vote-buying marred her victory and led to failed impeachment processes and an alleged coup attempt on the eve of the 20th anniversary of people power. This is where freedom without accountability, without responsibility leads – for the people, the politicians, the military and the press.

For the people, the mood has never been worse, not even under Marcos. According to Pulse Asia, Filipinos have hit their lowest point emotionally – at the end of last year, 77% of Filipinos surveyed said the quality of their lives had deteriorated – and that they expected it to get worse this year. According to Pulse Asia, Filipinos are at their most pessimistic point historically – even worse than 1983, a trigger year against Marcos, the year his political nemesis, Benigno Aquino, Jr., was assassinated. That was the spark which galvanized the anger and pushed Aquino’s wife, Cory, to power.

Cory’s mistake
In 1986, the situation was black and white: Cory Aquino was good, Ferdinand Marcos was evil. Those days are over, partly because Mrs. Aquino’s attempts to rekindle people power and repeat her extra-constitutional triumph challenged her primary legacy – democracy – and further weakened the fledgling institutions she left behind. The lines have blurred and grays now dominate the political landscape, starting with Mrs. Aquino herself who led mass protests against her three successors. She called people out on the streets against the first, former general Fidel V. Ramos, to stop him from changing the constitution in 1998 to keep himself in power. She helped push the second, popular movie actor Joseph Estrada, out of power in a repeat of her 1986 triumph, a bastardized version dubbed People Power 2, which brought Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to power. Now, Mrs. Aquino is demanding President Arroyo’s resignation.

She is not alone. According to another Pulse Asia survey, 65% of Filipinos say they want President Arroyo out. Most Filipinos say they have lost hope in the political system and in politicians. In fact, according to qualitative surveys, the rich and the poor have never been so separate and so distinct, with the rich insulated from the economic effects of an inefficient system and the poor reaching new levels of desperation. How did we get to this point?

Revisiting the past
In 1986 all the elements came together – giving Mrs. Aquino the opportunity to redefine this nation’s feudal and oligarchic past, but in the end, she failed to rise above her class. Although she freed the economy from many government-imposed restrictions, her policies reinforced existing inequalities, and economic and political power merely changed hands from one faction of the ruling elite to another. It gave new life to oligarchic politics – in pre-Marcos days, about 8 families controlled most of this country’s wealth. That reinvigorated a feudal political system, which takes advantage of social inequality to keep intact a mass base for patronage.

The return to elite politics not only constrained economic growth, it also aggravated mass poverty, setting the stage for the rise of Joseph Estrada, popularly known as Erap, a movie actor who played countless Robin Hood characters. He won the 1998 elections on the slogan of “Erap para sa mahirap” (Erap for the poor) and became a rallying symbol for the poor. But corruption became so flagrant under him that the middle class rebelled. He became the first Philippine president to face impeachment charges for corruption, and the trial – held by the Senate – was so flawed that, during the televised proceedings, when a decision was made not to accept key evidence against the president, some senators walked out and the people took to the streets.

It was history strangely revisited: the middle class and elite protested against Estrada while his poorer supporters held their own demonstrations in another part of the city. The military became the deciding factor, again reinforcing its kingmaker role and continuing its forays into politics. Less than a week into the protests, the military abandoned Estrada and threw its lot behind his vice president, Gloria Arroyo, who became a symbol of middle class aspirations for smart and good governance. She became the nation’s fourteenth president on Jan. 20, 2001 on the same spot where people power succeeded in 1986.

People power vs mob rule
People power 2 was tainted by a key difference from the first: the protests that brought Mrs. Arroyo to power deposed a duly elected president, not a dictator. That would haunt the first few months of her presidency as Estrada’s supporters tried to launch people power 3 against her on May 1, 2001, blurring the lines further between people power and mob rule. Filipino society split on economic lines: Estrada’s supporters came from the bottom rung, while Mrs. Arroyo was backed by the middle and elite classes. She survived the split, but the damage was done, and she said she was forced to compromise in order to hold her unwieldy coalition together.

Although she won her own mandate in the May 2004 elections, even that was questioned after wiretapped telephone conversations were released to the media, raising charges of election cheating, charges Mrs. Arroyo denies. But those tapes triggered impeachment processes which have kept her constantly battling. This is a presidency under relentless siege.

The excesses and failures of power
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of People Power, Mrs. Arroyo prevented a People Power 4 by declaring a state of emergency: she claimed that the political opposition, elements of the extreme right and the extreme left, and “reckless elements of the national media” were working together to mount a coup against her government. Police immediately banned political rallies scheduled for the anniversary, but not everyone followed. Some respected leaders continued their plans and protested the declaration. It turned into a parody of people power when police dispersed them with water cannons and carried out warrantless arrests on nationwide television at the site where people power had already overthrown two presidents. Then came the moves against media, starting with threats and the raid on the newspaper, the Daily Tribune.

I cringed when I heard government officials threaten to close print and broadcast media institutions, when I saw their efforts to divide and to intimidate journalists – all in the cause of calling for “responsible journalism.” That is the reason I joined a group of senior journalists and media institutions to file a case against government officials to prevent them from intimidating and threatening the media. This is the first time journalists have come together on this scale since martial law. Looking back to 1986, there is obviously fear on the government’s side – that people power could now be turned against the same politicians who took advantage of it to gain power. Regardless of motivation, freedom of the press is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, in the Philippine Constitution; it is not preconditioned on “responsible journalism.”

To be sure, Filipino journalists have failed to live up to our dreams in 1986. A few short years later, journalists with vision, who didn’t want to compromise on standards and ethics were forced to leave mainstream media and form their own small hand-to-mouth outfits: for print, there was Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Newsbreak, and for television, Probe Productions, Inc. Mainstream media fought its own demons of commercialism and vested interests, a battle that continues today. That is part of the reason I left CNN and returned to the Philippines: we are working on upgrading our skills, building in more context, adding analysis and a true understanding and appreciation of ethics. We are aware of the gap between local and international standards. It is certainly not up to the government to mandate bridging that gap under its specified “standards.” With its vested interests, that would be called propaganda.

My life is full of irony nowadays: I work in the same buildings I entered in 1986 with so much hope. Once the government station under Marcos, it transformed overnight into People’s Television 4. A year later, the buildings were returned to the Lopez family, the original owners, one of whom was jailed when the buildings were taken over by the government under martial law. Working here reminds me of the cycles of history, the excesses and failures of power, and the role media plays. As head of news for ABS-CBN, the largest Filipino television network, I see the daily search for meaning and hope. When politicians change alliances so often, you lose track of what they stand for. When symbols lose their meanings and when government after government fails to deliver, we have a nation in deep crisis.

Our life today
The daily and exhausting drama of real-life political theater and the repeated attempts by the military and politicians to replay the now tired script of people power – all this have only succeeded in trivializing its meaning. In the end, people power became a parody of itself. It prevented the painful but necessary growth of all sectors of a society that needed to learn accountability for its choices during elections and a government bureaucracy that needed to institute systems of transparency so it could be held accountable. In many ways, the politicians, the military, the Church, the press and the people needed to mature in perspective and tactics, to accept that democracy is about more than just elections.

People power should have never become a political tool; it was a once-in-a-lifetime act that should have been followed by the hard work of building democratic institutions. That never happened. That is the work that, twenty years later, desperately needs to be done.

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53 Responses to The Parody of People Power

  1. Alloys says:

    Do it better every day and built your health life.

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  3. mepcheng says:

    It's hard to accept but a big percent of the Filipino electorate are not yet ready for a democratic system to begin with. The weakness of our illiterate electorate are being used by the intelligent, selfish, corrupt, unethical leaders that we have nowadays. They remain corrupt and rich while the big percent of our population suffers poverty. It is true that the middle class are being drained overseas because they have long lost hope and frustrations never left us. And so the poor remains poor and even poorer; the rich becomes more selfish. Poverty creates more illiterate electorate and so dirtier politics won't stop and can still be much worse in the future. Even from the beginning of our history, the distinction between the elite and the poor was already there, but what was bad about our history was the fact that we had our tipping point in people power 1986. We had our chance of helping to rebuild our nation and be on the right path to progress. Democracy could have worked for us back then, only if everybody worked for it. If the selfishness didn't creep back in our government. But maybe it was being too ideal for us to hope. Anyway, people power 1986 was triggered because Marcos created a monopoly system that even the few elite can't get in, so everybody protested. But when the dictator has fled, everybody went back to our own niches of selfishness. The ideals used on the streets were left on the streets, the promises uttered remained just promises, they were not put into practice. It is true that the new leaders of 1986 could have started their work right, but when the people were less vigilant, they started being their old selves again- practicing their rotten acts of corruption.

  4. Chichi says:

    guys, disillusioned? join us at http://www.antipinoy.com…where as F sionil Jose wrote that real revolution starts in the mind…join uour rantings at our facebook group The AP Crowd as well..

    • Maria Ressa says:

      I'm actually not disillusioned. Just looking for course of action. I think seeing and stating the problem clearly is the first step. Then we move. What's the goal of antipinoy.com?

  5. 1010gabriela says:

    How strange that we finally have a vote that counts for something (which we then must cast wisely) and a constitution that we must uphold.

    Why have we time and again tried to re-create poeple power? Because it is the only thing that worked! It is our only experience of success. The rest has been terribly difficult and messy because democracy is messy. Democarcy requires time and the patience of more than 25 years. It requires trusting the people's vote and the people's voice no matter how ridiculous it may seem to some. It requires we trust our institutions as we try to improve them and make them better. It requires that we participate, have opinions, critique ourselves as we do our government. It requires that we own our destiny as a nation nd remain hopeful and confident that we will prevail. Every decision made henceforth, every mistake, every success, everything will be lessons in democracy that will in time fashion that special brand of democracy suited for us, Philippine-style.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      I love the passion you have and your deep love of our democracy. You're right that people power may have been "our only experience of success." But if we don't let go of it, we will not be able to build institutions – because that's what governance is about. It is about patience, knowing that every decision our our elected officials will have ripples we will feel for years. That's really what scares me – I see so little of that awareness in our government. I see a lot of politics – all short-term, tit-for-tat political favors, decisions made because of the parochial battles important in the moment.

      I see it more as a lack of maturity. This is hard work. Once elected, officials ACTUALLY need to work. They need to choose qualified people, not those they owe favors to. Because if the people they choose don't know what to do or make mistakes, the whole barangay, city, government feels it.

      In studying terrorism, I've seen a phrase I wish we could clone. It's a call to arms of the Muslim world – something like 'if one Muslim hurts, we all hurt.'

      I'm looking for vision. For systems. For managers. For a strategic approach to nation-building. For the organizational plans to make it happen … And I will demand it.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

  6. 1010gabriela says:

    The work of democracy is a work of a people that is self-willed, self-directing and aware of the demands on each and every citizen. It is by the people. How strange a concept to a people learned in the lessons of abandoning their fates to the whims of a colonial regime or entrusting the well-being of their nation to one ruler or just a handful of them. How strange that we have become co-creators in nation building; that we can stand and ought to stand in defense of what is right and just; that we have a reponsibility to uphold truth and demand transparency from our government.

  7. 1010gabriela says:

    But did EDSA solve all that ailed the Philippines? Certainly not. For one this chance for democracy came to a people with very little experience of it, coming out of years of colonial rule and with very little time to fashion the kind of democracy that was right for this country. For another, the promise of democracy comes to a people very well-schooled in the pedagogy of the oppressed (to borrow Freire's words). The work of democracy is work enough to those familiar to it. It is extremely perplexing to those who are unfamiliar.

  8. 1010gabriela says:

    A university student in the 1980s, I had lost alll hope in a democracy or even to see a semblance or a shadow of the will of the people. I lamented and raged during the summer I spent in Smokey Mountain; that night at the wake of my murdered friend and mentor Leandro Alejandro; those sessions hearing about Macli-ing Dulag or about the regions that have become totally militarized and no-man's lands; that time Dr. Bobby de la Paz was gunned down in broad daylight for practicing Medicine non-profitably (and therefore subversively, in the regime's eyes) in the hinterlands of Samar.

    Then came People Power. There is no more powerful force than a people that has finally found its voice. There is nothing more vile than the dictator who bullied his people into believing that their voice is of no consequece. There was hope and freedom and opinions both agreeing and dissenting; there were voices,loud,audible,common. At EDSA, in 1986, I fell to my knees and wept, hearing ,finally, my people's voice for the every first time.

  9. 1010gabriela says:

    This article was quite thought-provoking for me and made me think hard about the questions raised here and in other articles about the 1986 movement. While I wax ambiguous on many points and vacillate between this opinion or that, there is one thing I am , in my own mind, perfectly sure about. There is no worse time in modern Philippine history than that time of the Marcos regime. It was the darkest, most hopeless, hapless, horrifying time where people were not only hungry, they were mute. They were not only poor, they were inutile. Many of those that were in relatively better posiitons were not only nonchalant, they were downright apathetic. Those times, in Lacaba's words, were "days of disquiet and nights of rage." For amid this impotence and muteness and apathy, there were voices of disquiet , raging spirits that oppression could not kill, lamentations in the form of music and poetry inspired by murder and the crushed spirits under the boot of the dictator.

  10. BongV says:

    Maria:

    This post has been a long time coming – ANTIPINOY.COM has been saying this for the longest time.

    Thank you for adding your powerful voice.

    - BongV@antipinoy.com

  11. Mj says:

    Sad.

    Corrupt Lang talaga ang gobyerno kahit sino ang lider. But then, alisin sa posisyon ang mga elite na pamilya siguro may pag-Asa pa ang bayan. Kelan pa? Kapag may bagong “edsa”. ??

    God bless us all Filipinos!

    (I enjoyed reading your article)

  12. leededios says:

    Filipinos are not ready for democracy. We lack discipline and nationalism, two ingredients to make a nation great. What we need is a benevolent dictator similar to Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore who can cement our fractured society and spur the economy. We need stability and continuity. Changing leadership every 6 years is not democracy, it is tragedy. The big question is do we have a Lee Kuan Yew? The state of our nation is so sad it makes me cry.

    As the song goes: "Where have you gone Joe di Maggio (in our case Jose Rizal), the nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

  13. J_ag says:

    The Persistence of Underdevelopment, Institutions, Human Capital or Constituencies.
    Raghuram Rajan (IMF & NBER)
    Luigi Zingales (Harvard, NBER, CEPR)

    “Why is underdevelopment so persistent? One explanation is that poor countries do not have institutions that can support growth. Because institutions (both good and bad) are persistent, underdevelopment is persistent. An alternative view is that underdevelopment comes from poor education. Neither explanation is fully satisfactory, the first because it does not explain why poor economic institutions persist even in fairly democratic but poor societies, and the second because it does not explain why poor education is so persistent. This paper tries to reconcile these two views by arguing that the underlying cause of underdevelopment is the initial distribution of factor endowments. Under certain circumstances, this leads to self-interested constituencies that, in equilibrium, perpetuate the status quo. In other words, poor education policy might well be the proximate cause of underdevelopment, but the deeper (and more long lasting cause) are the initial conditions (like the initial distribution of education) that determine political constituencies, their power, and their incentives. Though the initial conditions may well be a legacy of the colonial past, and may well create a perverse political equilibrium of stagnation, persistence does not require the presence of coercive political institutions. We present some suggestive empirical evidence. On the one hand, such an analysis offers hope that the destiny of societies is not preordained by the institutions they inherited through historical accident. On the other hand, it suggests we need to understand better how to alter factor endowments when societies may not have the internal will to do so.”

    “Plus que ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The development literature used to be focused on endowments, especially on the role of education in development. (See for example, Easterlin. (1981) This approach, however, had a hard time explaining the persistence of underdevelopment.”
    “Cameroon more than doubled its rate of adult literacy in the 3 decades after 1970 (from 30% to 71%) and Libya was able to do even better in absolute terms (from 36% to 80%). Why was India, a flourishing democracy that started in the 1970’s with 33% of adults literate, still lagging behind with a rate of 57% in 2000?”
    Our paper suggests the persistence of underdevelopment is not necessarily due to the existence of bad political, and consequently economic institutions. Institutions may often be only the proximate cause. The deeper reason is the existence of self – perpetuating interest groups. Changing the institutions without changing the constituencies backing them is likely to be a futile exercise, for the constituencies against change will find a way around the constraints imposed by the institutions.
    “The main message of this paper is that rather than focusing on institutions, we should focus on the constituencies that demand them. Such a focus shifts the debate, we believe back to factor endowments and the following question. How do we change factor endowments in a poor society, especially if dominant interest groups oppose such a change. From the perspective of development, this may be a more fruitful question than the question of how we change institutions.”

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Very interesting. But that's still just framing the question when we should already have a plan of action. Perhaps that's my frustration. That's also part of the reason I chose to live in Singapore now – to understand how a society can recreate itself for the future.

      • J_ag says:

        All neo-classical economists similar to Raghuram and Zingales do not dwell on the abstracts of political economy. However their piece is loaded with the implications for the political economy of countries.

        Liberal democracies arose from liberal economic ideas. All rooted in the natural rights theory of humans. That philosophical belief was the basis for the West's rise to power politically and economically.

        John Locke and Thomas Jefferson were both the apotheosis of liberty. That set the U.S. apart from all other countries then that accepted a government accountable to its people.

        That philosophy was carried forward by the economic philosopher Adam Smith.

        The main basis for social interaction of human's is through markets primarily. It is the primary organizing mechanism for societies and are bound by natural rights and civl rights.

        The revolutions in Europe in 1848 are testament to this idea. The process spreading ideas continues and this will change the way people will look at their governments. They will demand their natural rights to life, liberty and property.

        "In his own time, he was famous for arguing that the divine right of kings is supported neither by scripture nor by the use of reason. In developing his theory of our duty to obey the state, he attacked the idea that might makes right: Starting from an initial state of nature with no government, police or private property, we humans could discover by careful reasoning that there are natural laws which suggest that we have natural rights to our own persons and to our own labor. Eventually we could discover that we should create a social contract with others, and out of this contract emerges our political obligations and the institution of private property. This is how reasoning places limits on the proper use of power by government authorities." On John Locke, Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  14. J_ag says:

    It took centuries for other countries to develop a culture of statehood. Nation is simply defined as a shared history of community. That is sorely lacking in this country. Even the educational institutions of family and academia have failed to define this aspect of nationhood. The state itself is rudderless forgetting that it is the State that promotes the idea of societal development. The elites of this country who are ultimately responsible for promoting the idea of nation state do not have allegiances to the state. These constituencies have hardened themselves impervious to change.

    A country that merged an imposed theocratic feudal culture with the antithesis of a liberal democracy can only result in mass confusion.

    Europe went through the reformation and the enlightenment age and unfortunately we are stuck in the limbo between the two.

    In essence we have a captured government that makes economic war on its own people.
    That has resulted in what Amartya Sen called distress migration, which is now being held up as a successful state policy rationalized by globalization.

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  16. quicksilver says:

    But I guess until these things happen, we hang on to the last words from Shawshank Redemption. Morgan Freeman’s character says in the end, “I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I HOPE.”

    P.S. Thank you for your excellent and thought-provoking articles, and for letting me share my thoughts on your blog. :)

  17. quicksilver says:

    Some people say that P-NOY’s not incompetent, the people under him are. But that’s the point. YOU’RE the president, the buck stops with you. Get better people. Make better decisions. I guess the only real way I will know we have “The One” is when MY own quality of life improves. When the site of a policeman no longer scares or frustrates me. When I go to a government office and I no longer have to line up for hours, or wonder, “Will someone ask me for a bribe?”. When I can really see where my taxes go. When I can watch the president speak, and be truly inspired, and say, “Yup, that guy works for me.”

  18. quicksilver says:

    At this point, I think no, he’s not yet THAT guy. Not to say, he can't be in the future – but he's been doing a mediocre job so far. Like many people, I know P-NOY as Cory and Ninoy’s son , but other than that, I didn't really know what else he had achieved. But I understand why people voted for him. We were ending a difficult Arroyo presidency- and here’s this likeable guy, who stood for integrity, who gave people hope – I get it. People said, “Never mind that he doesn’t have all the skills, at least he’s not corrupt.”. But why can’t we have a president who’s both skilled AND not corrupt?

  19. quicksilver says:

    Before I answer, let me just share that I’ve been watching guys outside tying yellow ribbons around lamp posts (Happy 25th Anniversary, EDSA 1). I keep hearing the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree in my head. :)

  20. Nite Writer says:

    wow. i agree with you ma'am maria. as i also said to my friends who have tagged EDSA as a failure, i said to them EDSA did not fail, we Filipinos failed the promise of EDSA. we have failed to utilize the democracy that we gained that time. We failed to worked together to achieve democracy's greatest potential. We have failed to make the democratic institutions work. It's sad that after 25yrs later we're still stacked to poverty that could have been solved a decade ago. :-(

  21. Jude T. says:

    Isn't it not only sad, but bad at all, that the only change we were able to achieve from these 2 People Powers pertains to the hands who will dip their dirty fingers in the cookie bowl of national coffers. Before, we only have the Marcoses and his minions to worry about. Now, corruption is free for all — press, politicians, military, lawmakers, and the judiciary. The ideals that we thought we have fought for — and won—- 25 years ago has now become more elusive to win. The millions of people who were driven out of their homes to the streets of EDSA to stake their lives had now too frustratingly licking their own wounds that wouldn't heal.

  22. edward says:

    "Wow! Truly, we did waste a great time. We have just denied this country and ourselves of the greatest opportunity for progress. I think this is the time for us to revolt again, not on the streets and against our political leader but a revolt against ourselves – changing our attitudes and principles in life. Maybe, through this, we could vindicate the lives of those who have sacrificed theirs for us."

  23. Beston says:

    Here is a Quote of Manuel Luis Quezon:

    “I prefer a country run like hell by Filipinos to a country run like heaven by Americans. Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.”

    The hell is what we got and we're living it ! ! !

  24. @houzat says:

    People Power is a voice that cries "I want change!" The power though stops there, It doesn't have the influence nor the power to make the change and the overhaul our nation required or requires.
    Celebrating People power is celebrating the voice ..

    During Marcos regime, we only saw one problem- that is the President being the dictator and the brain of all Government agencies.

    After that, we created a three headed monster – THe office of the President, the judiciary and the house of representatives..I shouldn't call it a monster but the failings of the 3 working together for a better Philippines is what we have to deal with now.. PP 1 has also awakened the power and influence of our Military adding to the 3 headed monster.. The Military became like babaing impakta (nasa likod ng kuba) In DARNA…

    Hope is the only thing Filipinos can hang their hat on to.. A nation that has been under the power of the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans and now the Politicians and Judiciary running the country.. Have become used to oppression and suppression and is always begging for justice.

    "makita kang sakdal laya.. " is a song i can only sing and pray and hope

  25. Jean Rey says:

    Still so much hope for our country ; the one thing that kindles the fire of patriotism amongst Filipinos , but with more than amount of work to do.

  26. Christopher says:

    I do not know Cory's people power at heart, being born 2 months after it happened. What I witnessed is Arroyo's version of it however. Both gave so much hope for a better government and a better life – and both failed to do so.

    We have so much to do, to correct, and to be disciplined at.

  27. quicksilver says:

    People Power is like a movie with a sequel, isn’t it? You know what they say, the first move is usually the best? EDSA 1 was the real thing. The “EDSA sequels” were just poor and diluted versions. By EDSA 3, I had become jaded. (EDSA again?!?!) EDSA was becoming less of a true force for change, and was becoming more – dare I say it – more of nuisance? You just wanted to get it over with. I was thinking, “We can’t keep doing this. We can’t just keep throwing these emotional outbursts, taking to the streets like a child throwing a tantrum. We’re never going to get anything done this way. What do we hope to achieve?” But I guess like you, I hope. And in my own way, I couple my hope with action. (Although sometimes it feels like we’re Sisyphus pushing a rock that just keeps rolling back down. But maybe if enough people pushed we can get that rock to stay put? Maybe all Sisyphus needs is someone to get his back. ) Because the Philippines that EDSA 1 promised? That’s the Philippines I’d like to see in my lifetime.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      I think it depends on our leaders. Many people say that's not all true, but I've seen first-hand how organizations and bureaucracies work. In the Philippines, it's top down. If we get one good leader, we stand a chance.

      • quicksilver says:

        Then we need another type of people power revolution? Not necessarily another EDSA. But a revolution of the mind, of will, of action? If so much depends on our government leaders, then we need a voting public that is informed, critical and brave (and I know your news team worked very hard to encourage that during the last elections). We have a right to demand more of the people who lead us. I want a leader who will say, "Enough. The. Buck. Stops. With. Me." I hope you're right. When that good leader comes, the tides will change.

  28. quicksilver says:

    One of my favorite documentaries is Batas Militar. I like watching it because it allows me to catch a glimpse of the greatness I want to believe we are capable of. I first saw Batas Militar in college – because our teacher (who fought Martial Law, and was out there in EDSA in 1986 using her body as a human shield) – wanted us young people to understand a bit of what they went through, what they risked, what they fought for. Perhaps she could sense the apathy. She knew that younger generations didn’t really understand. We were beginning to forget, to become indifferent. Perhaps because we grew up in a place and time where freedom was no longer bought by life and blood, but just came to us as a free gift. Or maybe we were beginning to forget because fewer and fewer people were taking a stand to help us remember.

  29. quicksilver says:

    I have a friend who was a college student during Martial Law. She told me that because student journalists then couldn’t really write anything anti-Marcos, and because they couldn’t gather for meetings, they would write in code to communicate with each other. They disguised their words of protest by leaving seemingly innocuous flyers or newsletters in school bathrooms. People would go inside the bathroom, do their business, and pick-up a copy on their way out. If you knew what to look for, you could see the “real” message. Sometimes you could decipher the message by extracting the first letter of every word in a paragraph, or by only reading every third word, or something like that. How very spy-like, noh? :) Those students paid dearly for their act of defiance, though. Soldiers brandishing guns “raided” their campus. They were blindfolded, hauled in military trucks, and detained. I know those were dangerous times, but I still think it’s cool how they raged against the regime. :)

  30. Christensen Servas says:

    Why not open your eyes Madam Maria Resa, people power will never result to something that is good, you claim that it was an act, but It was a reaction to a deceitful church, to a hero from an elite family with a questionable history of their riches , to a reckless media and to peolple like you who will never understand this country until you have lived the life of the very poor filipino. I am sad that this nation continues to be ruled by hipocrites, elites and the heroes of our reckless media.

  31. CDG says:

    Since I was not yet around during the Martial Law, your article had given me a bird's eye view albeit substantial information about what happened in the past. I may not have learned all of these from my History subject but thanks to your article, Ma'am. Btw, I have subscribed to your blog.
    All of these People Powers have placed our country into the limelight as they are being imitated by some countries but looking into the side of it, or twisting the coin so to speak, we'll find the detriments they have caused to the country and to its citizens. I don't know what to feel as regards the nearing celebration of Edsa People Power but there is still this feeling of hope that one day Philippines will be the best place for Filipinos to live in.

  32. Jonathan says:

    Good evening Ms. Ressa,

    I admire the work you have been doing for ABS-CBN and Have seen some of your work as a correspondent for CNN. I was particularly impressed with how you handled the senate proceeding following the August hostage crisis. How do you think networks can do away with the issues of vested interest? In my opinion it is rampant particularly during campaign season. Following the debates and news on television, i noticed that abs was leaning and sending subtle messages of support for noynoy through the way they were reporting and questioning other candidates. Just my opinion. I would really like to minimize the amount of bias in reporting news because many of our country mates are easily swayed by the way things are phrased and said through the media.

    Thank you and God bless.

    • Maria Ressa says:

      Thanks so much! I think the way to fight it is to be aware and educated. Remember that media mirrors society, and in last year's elections, the highest number of people to vote for a president chose Noynoy Aquino. It's hard for me to defend ABS-CBN credibly because I led the team (so I have a vested interest), but it also shouldn't stop me from giving you my view. I can only tell you an anecdote: during an international conference in Bali, a key campaign strategist for Gilbert Teodoro told the audience that in internal meetings, many on their team believed ABS-CBN was biased. He said they were preparing to go on an all-out media campaign to "expose" that – but they wanted facts. So they commissioned a survey, and it stopped their actions completely. Why? Because their own findings showed them Filipinos did NOT believe ABS-CBN was biased. I always used to say – if all the political parties complained to me – including LP and the Aquino camp (remember Kris called the News "evil"?) – then we're doing the right thing. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  33. Mark Pere Madrona says:

    Good day, Miss Maria Ressa. You still probably remember the sophomore UP journalism student who asked for your autograph last 2007 (when Che-Che Lazaro received the Gawad Plaridel award). That's me po. :)

    I have read "Seeds of Terror" several times and I can't wait to read your coming book. More power to your endeavors, Ms Ressa. I am truly a big admirer of you. :)

  34. Vincent says:

    It's really sad that things have turned out like this. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to the taxi drivers whenever I take a cab all of them had told me that life during Marco's regime was better compared to the life they have right now. Even my mom sings the same tune.

    Being a kid born at the end of martial law I can't really see the diff. from their viewpoint. However what I can say is that hearing from their complaints my view on Martial Law as the "darkest" in PH history has been tainted with doubts and questions since it would seem things are worst off today.

    My once optimism on the country is starting to really waver seeing how Filipinos are these days. I just hope that we get our act together and really do something about our part in the country's improvement.

  35. DenduA says:

    Spot on.

    It’s like we are stuck in a perpetual revolving door. We could never get over the proverbial hump, so to speak. However, most of my US based friends are heading back here, so that must mean something. I hope.

  36. Fred T says:

    how many times have the Filipinos dreamed only to have their (our) dreams of a better coutnry destroyed by the very institutions we hoped would make a better life for us. Our leaders keep on promising to uplift the lives of our countrymen. Why then is our country in the situation we are in now?

  37. mjfmct says:

    I almost cried reading the article and it gave me goosebumps not because the a/c is right in front of me. I was only 4 years old when People Power was staged, but it has remained forever in my blood as a Filipino immortalized through countless discussions in history subjects and stage presentations singing "Handog ng Pilipino sa mundo". I'm no political analyst whatsoever, but growing up, one can never fail to notice how poor the Philippines have become when we have already been given the chance to make (exceptionally good) reforms. We just talk about People Power and celebrate it every year, but the people have failed to capture, learn from, and act on its essence. We're proud that we have set an example, but people don't need to hear about the labor pains: they just want to see the baby. And now, Bongbong Marcos will be running for presidency? That's a joke, right? Tsk tsk. History doesn't repeat itself, it's people repeats history when we, as smart and resourceful as we are, should have learned something from it.

  38. Marco says:

    Yeah, I keep on asking that to myself. 20 years after EDSA, where are we now?

  39. lourdes says:

    how do i get a regular doze of m. ressa's articles ?

    • Maria Ressa says:

      That’s the realization of the time we’ve wasted, but we need to take that knowledge and do something about it to make the next 25 years much better. That’s how I remain optimistic.

      • john says:

        "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

        I am 48 years old, and I remain optimistic.

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