Edsa Revolutions: Wasted Opportunities

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

EDSA REVOLUTIONS: Wasted Opportunities by Ernesto B. Posadas Jr

EDSA 3 is looming in the horizon. Like EDSA 1 & 2, it will not solve the bigger war on poverty. We have a dysfunctional society with 10% of the people working abroad and a great number would like to acquire foreign citizenship. Neither will the adoption of the British parliamentary system of government solve the problem nor will vaunted economic gains narrow the great divide between the rich and the poor. Culture, “part-time citizenship”, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the messy system Filipinos are in are only ramifications of the basic defect which is government structure.

The presidential and parliamentary forms of government are winner-take-all systems which encourage the “cheating culture” that creates an elitist society. The structure motivates the monopoly of power.

Perceived Problems

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and James Fallows agree that the damaged culture of Filipinos is the problem, and scholars would specifically point to that beautiful family ties (clannishness) “brought to the extreme” as the culprit. Surveys among eight Asian nations however showed that the closeness of Filipino parents and children ranks near the bottom. South Koreans did not diminish their familial bond despite industrialization. Thailand is progressing with its closer filial ties than Filipinos. Furthermore, culture to be the problem negates the efficacy of the Church as the moral shepherd of the flock with its 1,300 schools spread throughout the country.

Culture is behavior which is highly influenced by the environment. It is inconceivable for a Fulani to lie down in the Sahara Desert like Juan Tamad waiting for nature to deliver the guava into his mouth. Juan was blessed with abundance in his tropical island which has turned into scarcity due to overpopulation. A culture must be exposed to other cultures in order not to remain primitive. This makes “damaged culture” a misnomer. Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life” said that little habits determine personality, which also applies to culture of a society.

Part-time Citizenship

Former President Fidel Ramos would blame the people’s “part-time citizenship”. Michael Ignatieff in his “The Need for National Belonging” has this to say on nationalism and patriotism. “NATIONALISM: (Patriotism or National Pride) Patriotism can be understood as the love of a country that you can call your own. Nationalism is the love of a country that is not yet your – a country that you feel is being occupied or oppressed by another group. This is why nationalism can be a dangerous emotion; it asserts a claim to territory on behalf of one national group that may be resisted by another group that believes it has an equal right to be theirs.”


One senator of old passed a bill changing the name Philippines to Maharlika so that Filipinos would take pride in the royal status of the country to evoke patriotism. We have added the prefix “Gat” to Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and who else to highlight their noble status and prod Filipinos to emulate their examples to no avail. Heroes become irrelevant on empty stomach. The overachiever American is simply called Thomas Edison. Rousseau, in his advice to the Poles said: “It is the national institutions that form the genius, the character, the tastes and the mores of a people…which inspire in it this burning love of the fatherland.” This is an approach from the bottom and will require generations to change society.

Leaders as the Problem

Former President Corazon Aquino, Senate President Franklin Drillon, the Black and White Movement and the Magdalo mutineers have similar belief that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the major and immediate problem. The question however is; do we have a viable mechanism to address the grinding poverty after President Arroyo?

The opposition does not make public any alternative blue print on how the country will proceed after President Arroyo. After the American Revolution, Thomas Paine noted: “All the revolutions till then had been worked within the atmosphere of a court, and never on the great floor of a nation. The parties were always of the class of courtiers; and whatever was their rage for reformation, they carefully preserved the fraud of the professions.” This includes EDSA 1 and 2.

President Arroyo points to the “system” as the root cause of all that ails the nation, where no one comes out with “clean hands”. Speaker Jose De Venecia and the Consultative Commission on charter change would like to address this problem with one master stroke; change the presidential form of government with the British style parliamentary system after a French style transition. This proposal has all the elements of a revolution from the center, but is still a step short of eliminating the winner-take-all system because of the monopoly of the administrative branch by the majority. Cheating will still prevail to the detriment of the people despite touted economic gains.

The Kapre in Philippine Society

The two brothers came of age for their vow to slew the ogre that terrorizes their community. The older brother failed to return from the ogre’s castle and was assumed defeated. The younger brother followed suit and found it easy to slew and defeat the ogre. He was however surprised to see the dying ogre transformed into his elder brother, while he remained unchanged by the blood splattered all over him because of his pure intention to rid the community of a tyrant. This is Philippine society; with the kapre that refuses to die because of hidden motives called self-interest.

Structure of Philippine Society

Philippine society is structured like a rural passenger jeep teeming with people up to the roof top. The first row is occupied by government on the wheel, sandwiched by highly organized churches and Big Business. Sometimes government is possessed by these churches that are not so much concern of overpopulation. Sometimes it is possessed by Big Business that is the bulwark of corruption. This creates a dysfunctional government with multiple personalities.
The second row is occupied by the opposition who are ogres-in-waiting. The academe occupies the third row. It is in this stage that the youth should slew the ogre because when they get to the 2nd row, they will transform into ogres-in-waiting. The masses seated on two parallel benches at the back and at the roof top are far detached from the center of power to be of any significance to the direction of the nation except when the engine stops during elections.

Cheating Culture

The causes of cheating according to David Callahan in his book “The Cheating Culture” are the big windfall and the slim chance of being caught. Cheaters win and the few who do not cheat are afraid that they can’t get ahead in this highly competitive world without cutting corners. The prime motivator of cheating however is the “winner-take-all” system in a society. One is forced to use everything in ones disposal in order to win. Callahan identified two classes of people in this kind of culture; the “Winning class” and the “Anxious class”. In government, these are the administration and the opposition who perpetuate the vicious cycle. He did not however identify the “hopeful class” composed of the youth in academe which is necessary to break the cycle because he confined his study mostly on the business sector. The best way to rid the system of this ogre is for academe as a whole to offer it idiots and morons by not doing their homework until the process of exorcism is completed. Ogres reside best on intellectual people, eloquent speakers and bar top-notchers with diminished humility, and avoid retardates and those with Down’s syndrome. Its favorite hiding place is the dysfunctional structure of a society.

White lies

Every June 12 school children would parade banners celebrating the earliest independence in Asia inculcating in the mind of the people that it has been over a hundred years we’ve been enjoying this freedom. To highlight the significance of the day, July 4, 1946 was downgraded into Philippine-American Friendship Day. In a TV interview where former President Ramos was arguing the merits of his favorite proposal for a parliamentary form of government, he was visibly momentarily lost with his count where to start the ineffective presidential form of government. He finally reckoned it from the time of independence declared by Aguinaldo. During that time however, Senator Beveridge was passionately delivering his speech in the US Senate to repudiate the declaration of Aguinaldo because Filipinos “are like children” who have not learned the craft of governance that Americans brought with them from centuries of experience in Europe. There was the Treaty of Paris where 20 million dollars was paid for the further colonization of the Philippines. Between Aguinaldo and Quezon was 36 years of hiatus in Filipino leadership.

History should not allow people to think that we have this continuous independence while Del Pilar had to die at Tirad Pass to give Aguinaldo safe distance from pursuing American troops. Haiti declared independence in 1803 yet, but people there are still dying in stampedes for food and relief goods from UN volunteers. Heroes need villains and people are perplexed with our national heroes executing one another. The late Senator Raul Roco said that our leaders lied to the people since Gomburza. These were the precursor of doublespeak and the economy of truth that pervades in the country.

Structure and Form

“The structure of a thing is how the parts of it relate to each other, how it is ‘put together’, this contrasts with process’, which is how the thing works; but ‘process’ needs a viable structure.” (Wikipedia) The only constant in the universe is change and change is the result of opposites. Nature operates in dichotomy and all man made structure should abide by nature.
Everything in the universe is structured or related. All ions were formed and structured from the two basic particles of the up and down quarks a split second from the Big Bang. Equivalent electrons gravitated towards these ions to form their atoms. Gravity pulled these atoms together after a billion years when the temperature was sufficiently cool to form the stars and galaxies. Elements are born within these stars, like our sun that churns out helium from hydrogen through nuclear fusion caused by the immensity of gravity. Other stars produce even heavier elements like carbon and iron.

These elements have their own particular properties and forms like the combustibility of hydrogen gas. When bonded with other elements in a chemical reaction, the union acquires another structure and property. Our table salt is a compound of two poisonous elements, sodium and chlorine. Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, both gases. Properties and forms emanate from structure, like wetness of water and saltiness of salt. The molecular structure of rubber evolved a form that would grasp a surface and the properties to bounce, and elasticity.

Government Structure not Form

The British style of parliamentary government as envisioned by Speaker Jose De Venecia and the Constitutional Commission on charter change is like a beautiful towering wedding cake with the adherent icing, decorations and written love quotes. The cake however is only the portion cut, served and eaten by the bride and the groom. All the rest are styrofor covered with icing to add glamour to the occasion. It is a form of government that will perpetuate the winner-take-all system rather than lick it under current Philippine environment.

The impeachment proceeding of President Arroyo has taught us that the opposition could not impede the majority in the House. The touted “vote of no confidence” will be harder to attain in Philippine setting because of the “cuyog” or bandwagon attitude of politicians. The majority party will have a vise-grip on power in this multi-party-unicameral system not only in the legislative but more so with the executive branch.

Political parties are mechanism designed to fit the winner-take-all system in either presidential or parliamentary forms of government. “All politics is local”, to quote Tip O’Neil, and political parties should stay in the local level to purge national leadership of “utang na loob” that awaits repayment. The majority and minority party will only be determined by alliances and coalitions after the local elections in the Philippine style parliamentary system.


The proposed federal system of government will highly rely for funding with the national government and will serve as another tier of corruption. We already have massive decentralization with over 70 provinces that heavily rely on the national Internal Revenue Allotment. The ARMM has 94% of its income siphoned from the national government. The addition of another 12 federal states would have tremendous crippling effect on the central government.

Reengineering Society

To reengineer society the center of power has to be restructured like changing the nucleus of lead to transform it into gold. Once the nucleus is altered, the necessary numbers of electrons just gravitate to form a new element. Philippine history took a different course from that of the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand or the United Kingdom, giving it a different social and governmental structure.

The federal government of the US was weak in its incipience and had to gradually take power from the self-governing 13 states due to threat of war from their British cousins. After independence the president had the primary concern to keep the union in-tact and stronger. The most important speech of any president is the yearly “State of the Union Address” that stresses relationship. The strong and self governing states made the presidential form of government sufficient to cancel the winner-take-all system. A minor crack in the union could develop into the declaration of independence of these states effectively abolishing the federal government, like the disintegration of the U.S.S.R.

South Korea has North Korea and Taiwan has mainland China to worry about. They have to make their countries strong to withstand perceived attacks. Security unites the people while the winner-take-all system takes the back seat with big business.

The United Kingdom has its monarchy and the patriotism of its people brought about by their glorious past as part of the structure to balance the deficiency of the parliamentary system. Japan has the revered emperor as the unifying force and has developed strong institutions and citizenry as deterrence to the predatory instinct of government. These make them a mature democracy. Thaksin Sinawatra exerted vigorous effort to prove wrong the accusation that he was disloyal to the king of Thailand.

The Philippines lacks these moderating institutions to neutralize the “winner-take-all” system in either presidential or parliamentary form of government. Filipinos were living contentedly in their individual paradise island and did not find the need for a national government structure that was necessary to at least put up a good resistance against colonial Spain who established governance minus Filipinos. The Commonwealth under the colonizing Americans had Filipinos taking care of domestic matters while foreign affairs and the armed forces were undertaken by the US. That was the structure that brought about the momentum of an economy next to Japan up to the 1960’s. The destructive winner-take-all culture could not establish a beach head because Big Brother America was watching.
To impose the structure of a mature democracy on an emerging democracy is so unnatural and only lends to the observation that former colonies could never catch-up with the standard of their former colonizers.

With the withdrawal of the US in Philippine governance a vacuum was created and the dormant ogre woke-up making Filipinos “children” again. James Mills said, “Whatever would be the temptations under which individuals would lie if there was no government, to take the objects of desire from others weaker than themselves, under the same temptations the members of government lie, to take the objects of desire from the members of the community if they are not prevented so.”

Governance in Nature

“The tide of evolution carries everything before it, thoughts no less than bodies, and persons no less than nations”, said George Santayana. The stars, human anatomy, and the nuclear family are evolutionary stages that contain the pattern of government. Governance in the family is not divided between the legislative and the executive. Both father and mother have their share of rule making and administration in the family without the benefit of election. Children know who is dominant among parents and subject themselves more to the authoritative one.

Society being composed of individuals should operate like the human body which has systems like the muscles that have to be excited by the nerve cells to contract and expand to achieve work; labor is the primary duty of government to the people. The nervous system represents government which is topped by the brain with the right part having control of the left side of the body and the left brain having control of the right side of the body. The harmony between the right and left parts of the brain together with the electrical and chemical reactions therein due to stimuli from the environment produce the properties inherent to man including consciousness. The immune system hints how corruption in government could be diminished.

At the nucleus of an atom is a proton that is composed of two up-quarks and one down-quark making it electrically positively charged. The presence of neutron in the nucleus at first puzzled scientist because it has no electrical charge. Further experiment in laboratories however showed that the neutron was necessary to hold back the disintegration of proton that has an excess up-quark. It is the weak nuclear force that prevents a chain reaction of nuclear fusion in the center of the sun effectively holding back an explosion similar to the hydrogen bomb.

Governance in Society

The pattern is unmistakable that government should not be controlled by one party either in the legislative or in the executive branch but should be shared by the majority and the minority in the proportion of two thirds and one third respectively akin to the structure of protons to maintain the motivation to excel. The prime minister should have two deputy prime ministers coming each from the majority and minority coalitions with the shadow government having opposite structure. Conscious human intervention has to be employed to attain this pattern otherwise nature takes over with (EDSA) counter revolutions until the right proportion of power sharing is attained. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “… natural things are explained by natural causes, while those that are done for a purpose are the products of human reason and will.” The majority and minority coalitions should be engaged in a mechanism of productive competition to bring out the best in our leaders instead of annihilating each other for the monopoly of power. More destructive than absolute power is the struggle to attain it. The proposal by a UP professor for the Philippines to undergo a 30 year dictatorship is like going back to the Dark Ages.

The powers of the French president should stay with the prime minister like foreign affairs and the armed forces while all other ministries allotted to the majority coalition especially those that deal with the outside world will be administered under the supervision of the majority deputy prime minister like the Bureau of Customs. The minority deputy prime minister likewise oversees ministries and bureaus assigned to the coalition like the Bureau of Internal Revenue. A well known Japanese corporation had one brother called “Mr. Inside” who took care of the factory, the local operation of the corporation including the innovation of products that will have relevance with the future. Another brother called “Mr. Outside” took care of sales throughout the world and infusion of capital from outside sources. The minority should act like Prince Philip walking a modest step behind Queen Elizabeth 11. It will be assigned domestic functions like the Department of Interior and Local Government including the PNP and all ministries with the same domestic functions. Those with expertise suited to the ministries allotted to the minority coalition would opt to remain with the minority.

France did not disintegrate during the time of President Francois Mitterrand with Prime Minister Jacques Chirac at the other end of the political spectrum. Germany is another example where Chancellor Angela Merkel shares power with the minority almost in equal proportion. These are unlike the artificial mixture in Cambodia where Prime Minister Hun Sen shared power with Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh that eventually ended in a head-on collision. The institutionalized power sharing will produce coalitions that are so fluid and will easily find the strongest and most qualified prime minister through the vote-of-no-confidence even without dissolving parliament within the five-year term; better than the parliamentary experience of producing strong leaders within the period of ten years.

Philippine Style Parliamentary System
It is about time that we stop adopting forms of government that do not fit our culture and start devising our own system based on our history. The blue print is in nature. “What awe we have ought to be reserved for the richness of the ways in which simplicity can masquerade as complexity”. – P. W. Atkins (The Second Law, 2nd Edit., 1994)

The Presidency

The presidency should serve as a moderating factor in governance and could be rotated between the Council of Leaders coming from North Luzon, Metro Manila, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao akin to the council of datus of Malaysia. The Council members will be elected by the MPs of their respective regions. The President will appoint the commissioners of Constitutional Commissions based on the recommendation of proper collegial bodies. He or she will have no other power in government except to receive a copy of research or studies made by the Development Academy of the Philippines similar to the Brookings Institution of the US in order to institutionalize transparency and place academe within the structure of the state.

Constitutional Commissions

All Constitutional Commissions should emanate from the Presidency and reside with the government. The Ombudsman and the Department of Budget and Management will be raised to the level of a Commission so that their responsibilities will clearly rest with the State and not with the government. They will serve as the binding force between the powerless president and the dynamic government like muons that bind protons and neutrons.

During Martial Law, the Commission on Audit lifted its power to pre-audit transactions for fear that it will become part of dubious unstoppable transactions of government. This power, although a source of petty corruption of rank and file auditors, should be restored in the new set-up to prevent corruption in the offing. Accountants of various government agencies should be deputized by the Commission on Audit to do the pre-audit functions and will be accountable to it for infraction of audit rules and regulations. All actions of constitutional commissions are subject to the research and study of the Development Academy of the Philippines. This is one way to address what David Callahan called – the big gain and the slim chance of being caught in cheating.


“Honesty is the best poverty”, was the motto advanced by a top BIR provincial official which defines the mental frame of most public officials in the Philippines. The immune system which was determined to be bigger than the nervous system teaches us how to deal with this virus in our system. The B lymphocytes go directly to the circulatory system with the blood from the bone morrow while others are further matured in the Thymus glands and become attackers called T-cells. These lymphocytes attack foreign bodies like dust, asbestos, cancer cells, bacteria and viruses to ingest them, ridding the body of hazardous materials.

The immune system is never fully understood yet by scientist, but they know a couple curious things that have relevance with corruption in government. They found out that if the attacker T-cells could not recognize a foreign body, the B lymphocytes produce anti-bodies that attached themselves to the unrecognized bacteria or virus. With the anti-bodies exposing the identity of the virus, the T-cells attack to destroy it keeping the body healthy. Another property of the immune system is that it has a memory bank and can identify viruses it once destroyed. The process of vaccination lies on this knowledge. A critical imbalance between the B lymphocytes and the T-cells is unhealthy to the body. Deputy Ombudsmen in all government agencies does not serve these purposes because they are already ranking officials of their agencies situated in the most fertile biosphere of corruption.

Transparency in Governance

The Philippine structure of government encourages more attacker cells. We have the AFP, the police, the NBI, DOJ, anti-car napping, anti-drug, anti-piracy, and anti-smuggling task forces and numerous state attack institutions that what is being attacked sometimes is the body itself like in arthritis. There is an apparent lack of transparency institutions to recognize corruption in its incipience and prevent its occurrence. The media has become less effective to expose corrupt practices because a good number had joined the ranks of the ogre and the people are confused with conflicting opinions. Spin doctors have mastered their craft with the saying that, “if you cannot lick them, confuse them”. The Development Academy of the Philippines which will be loosely attached to the Office of the Council of State will serve as a repository of all public administration theses done by government officials and employees who aspire for promotions. This thesis gets to be a must for those who wish to attain CESO status.

Institutionalized power sharing is in accord with nature. It best suit emerging democracies and allows a nation to mature in its own phase. It is less painful in eliminating the winner-take-all system that breeds the “cheating culture” in government. Our universities have been churning out intelligent graduates ready to work for the good of the nation. Unless we get rid of the winner-take-all system, intelligence will only be gobbled up by the dog-eat-dog culture and produce a dysfunctional elitist society. Reengineering society is easier achieved by adapting the right structure of government rather than instilling in the people artificial mode of patriotism. The right culture will just gravitate to an equivalent nucleus. There are still talents in the administration and opposition with sufficient humility to start a new mechanism and rekindle the simmering hope of the Filipino.

E-Mail Address: eposadasjr@yahoo.com.ph