OPINION | A LONG ZIGZAG JOURNEY TO DEMOCRACY
by Salve Armada
On Peace Talks
The much-awaited results of the peace talks proceeded at a snail pace and nothing concrete had been gained except for the de rigueur pale affirmation of the latest Joint Declaration. Ah, it’s now practically dead, however. The inconsistent demands of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) were complexified under Duterte. Those past consensuses were not sustained since the principle of stare decisis is not faithfully observed by the principal of the government.
Rodrigo Duterte as the current principal of the GRP lackadaisically flip-flops with his public words and commitments. Fondly listening to the military cabals on the peace talks, they unconsciously mimic the disastrous Chiang Kai-shek’s stubbornness in dealing with revolutionary forces. Without learning from China’s Tao-like realist orientation, the militarist hawks cannot grasp the adage, “water boring holes into the hardest stone”. Flip-flopping is no art of cunning but lousy self-conceit and a source of repugnance. Now, it’s the outdated anti-communism all the way: Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC painting the whole archipelago bloody red.
The revolutionary forces meanwhile had persisted for more than fifty years as the longest continuing insurgency in the globe. The CPP had disclosed that it had laid out well the age range of its cadres with sufficient numbers from the young generation to carry the struggle. Meaning to say, the touted “protractedness” of people’s war is not only in terms of situs/space (countryside to the city) but also in terms of chronos/time (before-now-near-future).
The prevailing climate of impunity does not advantage the status quo nor granted stability to the dialogue on peace. Only when the two parties reached obvious parity (i.e. the GRP and the revolutionary forces are in a balance) the more likely realistic and practical peace negotiations can come about. With the dissipating legitimacy (as distinguished from popularity) of the regime, the prospect of this future upended peace talks will no longer be historically remote.
A post-Duterte in 2022 elections?
This is a shared question wrapped in both hope and trepidation. Hope is that lone firefly that took off after the wings of pestilence, killings and chaos flew out to damage lives, health and livelihoods during pandemic time. Hope speaks in the language of the “new normal”. Trepidation is an acid that corrodes faith of claim “Filipinos are worth dying for” by our martyrs and heroes. Because hope and trepidation were both placed only in the single basket of 2022 elections, what obtains is the atmosphere of widespread precarity.
The unhealthy obsession with procedural democracy as though an ideology has blinded us Filipinos to imagine alternative means of regime change outside the frame of calendar elections. Are we not aware of the fact that elections are the game long monopolized by the politico-economic elite in our society? And that election in the country is really the election of new masters, but no end of master-slave hierarchy?
The majority failed to comprehend and embrace the thesis that substantive democracy is power directly in the hands of the underclasses. And it’s time the underclasses wrest power by and for themselves by whatever favorable means. Boldly put by Thomas Jefferson, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure”.
No wonder that the appropriation of substantive democracy is the spectre feared by the neoliberals. The neoliberals in our country are those politico-economic elites who subscribed to the scripts of global capitalism that exploit the underclasses. It must be noted that the spectrum of neoliberals in 2022 elections is occupied by the faction surrounding Leni Robledo on one side and those around Duterte on the other side, with the 1Sambayan coalition hilariously dances with Tweedledee and Tweedledum cotillon tune.
Fixation with the 2022 election merely maintains the empty ritual of voting but aborts the birth of the Jacobin cum Jeffersonian substantive democracy in our country.
People power on the horizon
Outside calendared elections, Filipinos have had a history of ousting authoritarian figures via gigantic mass mobilizations. The chief protagonists were organized groups and spontaneous masses conjoined. Congealed in the urban capital of the nation, such mobilizations were effective at a precise tipping point of the ouster moment. Yet thereafter such successful mobilization cannot inaugurate democracy amongst social classes. Forget not that traditional landlord power came back when Cory Aquino normalized the status quo after “EDSA revolution”. The elite reclaimed ascendancy since the political crown of the Jeffersonian tree of liberty has no Jacobinian social roots to sustain its growth and stability.
Next time perhaps when the proper moment comes, when the organizations of the underclasses possess unified agency and trajectory, substantive democracy will emerge. The elites can no longer darken the horizon when the power of once oppressed people reigns. This can probably come about when both open and clandestine oppositions in the city and the hinterlands coalesced as active agents of the shared historical project.###