The Common Good
March-April 2001

People Power II

by Karl Gaspar | March-April 2001

Once again, an outpouring in the streets brings change to the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets and parks in Manila and other major cities in the Philippines early this year as People Power II erupted. With crowds swelling, cabinet members offered their massive resignation, and finally even the military deserted the president-it was clear that people power had reached its objective to push Erap Estrada to resign. There were joyful celebrations in the big cities that evening.

Despite all existing political and social theories, there is not one I know that can fully explain the people power phenomenon both in 1986 and this year. While there are material bases for the revolutionary struggle, for the believer there were just so many signs of God's intervention that was the people power. It was political, yes; but it was also very cosmic, metaphysical. There is no way the people could have won, if not but a direct divine intervention. A miracle took place.

Right now many are saying that God has given us a second gift, the first being the one given in 1986. We wasted the first gift; no radical reforms to benefit the poor took place from 1986 on. This is a second gift, and many of us say to ourselves that we should not waste it. We should learn the lessons of 1986 and not commit the same mistakes. Thus, there are calls for:

n A continuing trial of Estrada for all charges of corruption and plunder. Justice first before reconciliation and mercy. He, his kin, cronies, and all those who helped him obstruct justice should be brought to trial. This is the only way we could experience catharsis, as it happened in South Korea. Then, having undergone a fair trial, if they are found guilty they should be punished, even in a symbolic manner. Then, as the psalmist states, let justice and mercy embrace.

n Supporting President Arroyo's four core beliefs in her governance: fight poverty, improve moral standards in government and society, change the character of politics, and lead by example. Civil society, which effected people power, should push aggressively for the next stage of struggle, precisely to press the government for radical reforms, even as they also actively participate in non-governmental organizations.

n In the next 3 months, a coordinated national campaign to end the buying and selling of votes, to stop corrupt politicians from winning, to ensure accurate and fast counting of votes, and later to monitor local government officials while setting up mechanisms to monitor how they use government funds.

So much work needs to be done. But there is such a high level of joy among those who actively participated in the struggle. What was most significant about people power 2001 was that it was not just in the streets of Manila but throughout the country, especially in the other big cities And the great majority were students and young professionals. The youth were out there in the streets because they want to have a better future for themselves.

Once more, the church-Cardinal Sin, the bishops conference, the religious, lay leaders of church organizations-also was very much at the center of this struggle. Hopefully, the church will continue to play its role in finding ways that the needed actions could continue to be implemented.

We won because there was a vast reservoir of goodwill and commitment. We won because a lot of Filipinos cared. We won because many prayed for a successful resolution of the campaign. We continue to need prayers and support.

Karl Gaspar is a member of the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team in the Philippines and a Sojourners contributing editor.

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