Funny when we recall how back in April 2001, Howie Severino wrote how just “months later” in the aftermath of a second Edsa ‘revolution’, deposed President Joseph Ejercito Estrada “was grimly posing for a mug shot in Camp Crame.”
Then he was shown lying on a cot inside a cell with wire mesh windows. The Philippine courts had actually thrown the book at a corrupt president and sought to punish him. It wasn’t just justice, but poetic justice.
Severino goes further to write “Finally, after so much self-flagellation, it seemed Filipinos had summoned the political will to put a big fish, nay the biggest fish, behind bars.” And;
[…] it seemed Filipinos had summoned the political will to put a big fish, nay the biggest fish, behind bars. Why, this could be the key moment when the Philippine state actually begins to regard citizens equally. This could even be the beginning of the end of Philippine-style, no-holds-barred political corruption, once politicians saw that even presidents could go to jail. It should have been a shining moment.
Within the same article, Severino’s elation turns to dismay relating the eruption (or shall we say Eraption!) of “Edsa Tres” — that infamous uprising of the Philippine underclass that is the chattering “civil society” class’s worst nightmare but from which Estrada derives most of his power…
To many well-heeled shoppers, the size of the crowd — estimated at various times to be between 5,000 and half a million — became scary. Stores in Robinson’s Galleria were urged by security to close early, fearing a violent rampage and looting.
It was a gathering driven by a combination of free meals, cash allowances and genuine outrage. Men in new T-shirts distributed packaged food from the backs of small trucks. Street vendors selling everything from snacks to hats followed the crowds and filled the Edsa underpass. The stench of urine was everywhere. The piles of garbage were beginning to rival Divisoria’s. Cardinal Sin cried desecration of a sacred shrine.
On the hot Saturday afternoon this correspondent mingled with the crowd, the numbers had thinned to a few thousand but were expected to grow as the day wore on. A long-haired rock band one would normally associate with more progressive politics was onstage trying to keep the audience worked up before the politicos would arrive later in the day. Some TV cameramen sported Erap wristbands, a new kind of anting-anting to ward off the vengeful mob.
Groups of cell phone-deprived people were disgorged by chartered jeepneys. Unlike the anti-Estrada protesters, there was little economic diversity in this crowd, no college students or office workers in evidence.
This was the so-called masa, but only a segment of it — the kind that would blindly vote for whomever their leader told them, or the kind Estrada and his allies would have few qualms about using as human cannon fodder to produce a martyr or two.
Certainly, they were a far cry from the masa belonging to militant labor unions or people’s organizations, who can usually articulate a moral and political justification for their actions.
Those interviewed at this Edsa farce simply insisted that Estrada committed no crimes, and incarceration was no way to treat their leader.
* * *
So Joseph “Erap” Estrada is back in the running, this time for the Mayor’s seat in Manila’s City Hall, perhaps emboldened by a not-so-surprisingly good showing in the 2010 presidential elections coming up an ominous second to winner-now-President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. Considering how so little about the lives of the Philippines’ enormous mass of impoverished people has changed since 2001, it is likely that Erap’s vast power base remains intact. Re-electionist Mayor Alfredo Lim is pretty much toast.
Erap at 76 fairly so calls this his “last hurrah” reportedly saying he wanted to end his career as mayor of the Philippines’ capital city.
“I was born in Manila, I first became a famous actor in Manila, so my career has come full circle,” Estrada told AFP in an interview before addressing thousands of supporters donning shirts in his trademark orange.
“But this is my last hurrah in politics. I just want to clean up Manila and put its affairs in order before retiring,” he said.
Erap from the perspective of the majority Filipinos is the real deal. Erap is the quintessential Filipino’s man we pretend no longer exists. The chattering classes and the “social media practitioners” who lead the cheer would like to believe that we have since “matured” as a democratic people. But they are wrong. The ascent to power of President BS Aquino is one half of the proof that debunks that peachy fantasy. The other half is now on the verge of taking the City of Manila. We are seeing today a resurgence of the tyranny of the masses — a tyranny of the real Filipino.
Back in 2001 about the same time Severino published his own lament, Joseph Santiago issued his on the Guerilla Information Network…
To say that these people in EDSA III are idiots and unschooled and gangsters and squatters means that we look down not only on their views… but on them as well. If their opinions are uninformed, if their sense of right and wrong is somewhat askew, then we all must owe up to the fault for letting them stay that way. Unless we acknowledge that the poor have been neglected for the longest time, unless we acknowledge that the poor have been lied to, stolen from, and used and abused by the very people who claim to have fought for them in EDSA II –u s, we will stay divided. One side indignant of the justice of their cause, the other adamant their champion is about to be martyred. The truth: we have failed the poor and this we must humbly acknowledge and rectify immediately.
These are the lies we “heroes” of EDSA I and EDSA II might be telling ourselves. We must face the truth. Then and only then will we be able to lead others to the truth as well. Once a genuine concern for the less privileged are expressed, then maybe we can start talking to each other. When a true spirit of nationhood, of compassion, of helping each other out is displayed, then maybe we can start listening to each other. Then, after working out our differences and saying sorry to each other, maybe, just maybe, we won’t even have to talk about Erap anymore.
But Erap and folk like him are here to stay in Philippine politics. A victory for Erap in these elections will be sweet indeed. He is pretty much the only guy who has a strong legitimate claim to the notion that his right to rule was stolen from him by what amounted to no more than a big angry mob in 2001.
Filipinos indeed deserve their politicians. They deserve their leaders as much as any democratic people who are empowered to choose their leaders do. In that fact lies the tragedy that is “the Philippines”.