Friday, February 29, 2008

Pampanga and people power

by Robby Tantingco

The handsome coffee-table book “Luid Ka!” launched last Sunday in Betis, should remind us Kapampangans that, whatever they say about People Power-—that it is outdated, it won’t work again, it will hurt rather than help the nation—-and despite all the bad reputation that People Power has acquired through the years due to abuse and misuse, we Kapampangans did get a glimpse of it in its purest form last May 2007, and yes, it was beautiful! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

And thank God they made a book that captured the moment and preserved it for all generations, so that our children, their children and their children’s children will never forget that once upon a time, Kapampangans came together, created a piece of heaven on earth, and took a direct hand in altering the course of history.

That moment, unfortunately, is gone. All the heavenly glow that surrounded the key players and their supporters on that night at the convention center—captured so vividly in photographs—has evaporated in the harsh daylight of political realities.

I hope the book will remind us once again that doing good is more important than being right, and that we have the capacity to transcend our daily battles and create moments of miracles where anything is possible.

The book also made me ask why a people power movement succeeded so spectacularly in Pampanga last year, while the rest of the country today is failing so miserably in trying to organize another.

One possible explanation is that People Power is really the desire to install someone, not the desire to oust someone. The People Power in 1986 was fueled by the popularity of Cory Aquino, not the unpopularity of President Marcos, because had the presidential candidate been Doy Laurel instead of Cory, I don’t think millions of Filipinos would have risked their lives at EDSA.

In Pampanga, had the candidate not been as charismatic as Fr. Ed Panlilio, whose spirituality defined the election as a classic battle between good and evil, and whose inexperience made him the underdog against one candidate’s showbiz-style popularity and another candidate’s huge campaign funds—people power would not have happened in Pampanga.

I think People Power, in its purest form, occurred only twice in history: in 1986 at EDSA, and in 2007 in Pampanga.

The one that ousted President Estrada and installed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (now known as EDSA 2) was motivated by a desire to unseat a corrupt, uncouth President, not by a desire to install Vice President Arroyo. I remember watching on TV how wildly the crowd in front of the EDSA Shrine cheered when they heard the news that Erap had fled Malacanang; however, the moment a giddy Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was introduced as the new President, the crowd applauded only politely. That was the moment, I think, when Filipinos got disenchanted with People Power. The attempts that came after that (EDSA 3, EDSA 4, etc.) did not succeed anymore.

Today, as the political situation in the country continues to deteriorate, Filipinos remain reluctant to do another People Power because there is no overwhelming desire to install anybody, just an overwhelming desire to unseat the President. They’re probably thinking: Whom are we going to risk our lives for—Noli de Castro?? Why change a defective TV set when the replacement is another defective TV set?

Well, come to think of it, why not?

Just because President Arroyo is doing a good job at improving our economy doesn’t mean we have to turn a blind eye to a crime she might have committed. We want her out not because she is not a good manager (she is), but because she may have committed a crime, which leaves the nation no option but to punish her. Even the class valedictorian loses his medal if proven he cheated, and even the company’s best employee gets fired if caught he stole money. No amount of good behavior or excellent accomplishments can immune or rescue you from the consequences of one terrible mistake.

That’s what we call responsibility and accountability, and that’s what we should teach our children. Every time we say GMA should stay even if she may have cheated or stolen money, because she is doing a good job with the economy anyway and her replacement will not do as well—what values are we teaching the next generation?

If indeed she is guilty as charged, and she refuses to go, then the people will have no other option but to summon People Power. Don’t blame the people for resorting to it; blame Malacanang for forcing the people to resort to it.

Last Sunday, the book launching of “Luid Ka” in Betis reminded me how beautiful People Power can be, and yesterday, the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA Revolution reminded me how proud we all were then. People Power was “our gift to the world.” Today, they’re forbidding us to give that gift again.

Pampanga may have something to teach the rest of the nation.

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