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CORA AQUINO - How the Politics of Reform Lost and Re-claimed

Cory -- CenPEG

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"Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation
are men who want crops without
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one
or it may be both moral and physical
but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and
Slave, 1817-1895)

(quoted in Fr.Salgado’s Philippine Economy: History and Analysis, 1985)

“As to the source of leadership, we Filipinos still look up and limit ourselves to the same
socioeconomic-political elite, the same prominent dynasties, many of whom were of the
collaborationist and mendicant variety. There is potentially good leadership, maybe still unknown,
OUTSIDE the selfish, morally bankrupt and oftentimes subservient elite. When we have done
away with our massive ignorance, we Filipinos can surely find and actively ensure that only
individuals -with courage and strong nationalism- earn respect; thus who will successfully propel
the people to fight, and finally win for the common good” – GADFLY(1947-present).

Ferdinand Marcos offered the 1986 Snap Election, which proved disastrous for
him and ended the Marcos Dictatorship . Due to his past successes, he was
overconfident about his ability to manipulate the electoral process but this time
he failed and was forced to flee, aided by his American supporter Ronald
Reagan. Just like several rulers of other countries, more faithful to their foreign
sponsors than to their own people, Marcos ran to the bosoms of his foreign
master despite his verbal bravado then to stay and fight.
Cory Aquino was used by practically everyone, by the "legal" opposition
movement comprised mainly of the pre-martial law politicians,
aristocracy/oligarchy, Catholic Church hierarchy and the middle class, all
comprising the so-called "civil society." We native Filipinos, being more
sentimental than rational, saw only her religiosity and forgot that Cory came
from and is part of that aristocracy and gave her the win.
Without belaboring the details of Cory's presidential rule, it was a complete failure
(some of my friends who were very active in supporting her were greatly
disillusioned; sadly, a few have expressed indifference to governance, withdrew
into themselves and to an escape to religiosity.) Her 6 years in the presidency
was the second wasted greatest opportunity for radical/fundamental changes in
our homeland (the first greatest opportunity was during Marcos' rule, shrewd
politicking and absolute power but we now know his real priorities). But in the
end, then and now, whether Cory or Marcos, Ramos or Estrada , or Arroyo, the
foreigners always win at the expense of the native majority.
I do not know why many of us saw, continually see and believe that the
facial change(s) in our homeland's ruling elite then as revolutionary when
no one acted/acts as a nationalist : when no one among our presidents have
questioned or raised the most critical issues of foreign dominance in our
homeland. I mean foreign economic (include cultural) dominance via the IMF
and WB, ADB, WTO and the punishments it continually brings, to include
military agreements JUSMAG, VFA, etc. that we natives practically do not know
and understand much about.and hidden from; when they sign
agreements/treaties and laws where more foreigners (resident Koumintang and
now-mainland Chinese varieties, Japanese, Koreans, Australians, etc. who
logically have their own personal and national interests amid their bribes and glib
talks) are given preferences in our homeland at the expense of our native
majority; when agrarian reform has been legislated and proclaimed several
times but never significantly implemented and instead allowed loopholes to
circumvent it (compare to Cuba's Fidel Castro who after his revolutionary
success, initiated real land reform beginning with his family's hacienda -
which made his angry sister run to America and be beamed/used by the Voice of
America propaganda radio to talk against him.)This foreign dominance is
essentially neocolonialism/neoimperialism applied and practiced in our
Until our rulers sincerely inform the citizenry and act against the neocolonial
blueprint that they have been perennially and religiously following, they and all
the contenders to public office demonstrate that they do not really care about the
native majority; that by continuously keeping and fostering mass ignorance,
these arrogant, slavish, salivating and thieving bunch only deserve to be put to
the wall or incarcerated for life for being grave crooks and traitors. They make all
our perennial "elections" a perennial charade -- a momentary venting of
frustrations and grievances, the sad, revolting historical and current
realities in our homeland.
Below is a short but fair article by CenPEG's Bobby Tuazon about Cory Aquino,
when she was our homeland's president and thereafter. [A comprehensive
analysis of the Cora Aquino regime from a nationalist viewpoint was made by the
late Prof. Renato Constantino, one of our great nationalists in his book/collected
essays "THE AQUINO WATCH', 1987]
- Bert

“There is no literate population in the world that is poor; there is no illiterate population that is
anything but poor.” – John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

“One of the major errors in the whole discussion of economic development has been the
tendency to look at the United States or Canada and say that this has worked here, and therefore
it must work in the poor countries.” – John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

(Corazon C. Aquino, 1933-2009)

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
August 8, 2009
There may be icons
and there may be
symbols but real
transformation can only
take place by giving
flesh and blood to
people power. Only the
masses can truly
represent “people
power” and it is high
time that it is re-
claimed by the people
Corazon C. Aquino
became the country’s
seventh President on
the crest of the first
People Power that
ousted the Marcos
dictatorship in February
1986. She faced at least seven coup attempts but she stayed on until a peaceful
transition of the presidency in 1992.
Tita Cory – a term of endearment used by many Filipinos – came from one of
the biggest landed elites but those who knew her personally attest that she
lived a simple and ordinary life.
The people power, that began to be associated with civilian uprisings unseating
dictators in the Philippines and other countries, had its roots during the Marcos
rule (1966-1986) with the upsurge of the nationalist movement and student
radicalism of the late 1960s-1970s through the underground anti-dictatorship
struggle until it rose as a giant wave following the assassination of Cory’s
husband, former Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. on August 21, 1983. Since then she
became a rallying figure that coalesced disparate forces, from the Left to the
moderate forces with the multitude of millions aching for the restoration of
democracy as well as social and economic reform.
At the end of Aquino’s term, the people power forces who celebrated the EDSA 1
anniversaries dwindled to a few thousand and became less visible in the
succeeding years. What went wrong?
Sequestration of political power
The broad democratic force that toppled the Marcos dictatorship may have
installed Mrs. Aquino to the presidency but the reforms that the historic
moment needed were swept aside with the sequestration of real political power
from the authoritarian regime to its own remnants and a section of the elite.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government, which had earlier backed Marcos, admonished
the Aquino administration to reconcile with remaining key figures of the Marcos
dictatorship so that policies pursued earlier, such as on the U.S. bases, would
continue. The reconciliation tack, coupled with pressures arising from coup
attempts that brought more power to former Marcos generals, disabled efforts
by reform-minded members of the Aquino Cabinet to institute reforms in
the political system, security structures as well as in the labor and peasant
fronts. One after the other, they were eased out from the Cabinet.
Mrs. Aquino fulfilled her promise to release political prisoners of the Marcos
regime but at the same time she issued a proclamation giving immunity from
lawsuit to all perpetrators of human rights violations. She tried talking peace with
the National Democratic Front (NDF) but military hawks in her government
brought the peace process to collapse. With militarists gaining the upperhand,
Cory unleashed the sword of war against the revolutionary forces. The brutal
counter-insurgency campaign began by Marcos continued under the
Aquino government’s “total war” policy that was inspired by the U.S.-
designed low intensity conflict (LIC) doctrine.
Moreover, she reversed a covenant with progressive leaders during the last
years of the dictatorship calling for the dismantling of the U.S. bases by
endorsing for Senate ratification a proposed bases renewal treaty. She signed an
agrarian reform act but rendered it unpromising amid legislative acts to
emasculate it and by exempting Hacienda Luisita, the largest sugar plantation in
Southeast Asia owned by her family, from land reform. The critical collaboration
that many progressive sectors offered was further pushed back by the series of
massacres of peasants and other military atrocities committed under her
watch. Toward the end of her term, Aquino’s popularity rating plunged tragically.
Historical role
Cory Aquino’s place in history is her role as a figure that brought hope for the
removal of strongman rule and the restoration of civil liberties as well as the
trappings of bourgeois democracy. Whether that hope gave birth to effective
reform in terms of addressing poverty and bringing about substantial change in
the lives of the peasants, workers, and other oppressed classes was a dream
shattered – and remains unrealized today or 23 years later. Cory had
democratic leanings but failed as a social reformer.
This appraisal can be explained by the fact that hope transforms into real
change only if the people are empowered. Democracy works when the
political leadership truly represents the patriotic and democratic interests of the
people. Elite rule was unscathed even with the exit of Marcos. Today the
trappings of restored bourgeois democracy such as Malacanang and
Congress remain effectively under oligarchic hegemony.
Divorced, however, from the constraints of traditional politics and aware of her
own historic role as an “icon of democracy” private citizen Cory lent her still
influential voice in various struggles against plunder, moral bankruptcy,
corruption, and politically-motivated charter change. Hers became a voice in the
constant search for good governance asking, for instance, Gloria M. Arroyo to do
the “supreme sacrifice” of resigning in the social unrest triggered by the “Garci
tapes” scandal and the NBN-ZTE scam. In many ways unlike her, most of the
so-called Edsa 1 and 2 leaders and beneficiaries went back to their old
ways figuring in plunder, cronyism, patronage, corruption, and human
rights violations – the very same evils that trigger people’s revolts.
As the lives of many people including military reformists, whistleblowers, victims
of forced disappearances, and simple folk were touched by her gestures, it is as
a private citizen that Cory can truly be said to have made her true mark. Her
presence in protest actions helped keep the flame of people power burning
unfazed by Mrs. Arroyo’s efforts to douse it off by claiming that people power is
dead. Had she lived on, Cory should be a force to reckon with in the most
disquieting period of power transition from the present unpopular regime to the
Flesh and blood
There may be icons and there may be symbols but real transformation can only
take place by giving flesh and blood to people power. Only the masses can
truly represent “people power” and it is high time that it is re-claimed by
the people themselves.
A fitting conclusion to this appraisal is this quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe, a
19th century American novelist who stood against Black slavery: “The bitterest
tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
Neocolonialism - The dominance of strong nations over weak nations, not by direct political
control (as in traditional colonialism), but by economic and cultural influence.
“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Prof. Renato Constantino (1919-1999)


For reference:

Bobby Tuazon
Director, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA)
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
TelFax +63-2 9299526; mobile phone: 0929-8007965
For your comments/suggestions please send your email to

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