From Amando Doronila of the Inquirer...
Citizen Cory Aquino Crosses Over into History
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Citizen Cory Aquino crossed over into the realm of history quietly in the early hours of Saturday. Her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, announced that his mother died “peacefully” after enduring 16 months of excruciating pain from colon cancer with great dignity.
The Aquino family declined a Malacañang offer of a state funeral. Noynoy Aquino said it was his mother’s wish to have a private funeral, adding that she had been a “private citizen since stepping down” from power in 1992.
She shed power cleanly, without any second thoughts of remaining in office any second longer than her constitutional term. The manner in which she died sent the message: “My time is up … It’s time to go quietly.”
That has not been the case with some of Cory’s successors who have schemed for ways to extend their constitutional term limits.
In death, Cory reminded the nation that the 1987 Constitution still remained the fundamental legal architecture of the democratic system that she reestablished, that transitions of power and term limits are still governed by the fundamental law of the land, and that they are under threat and have to be respected and protected.
The wish for a private funeral shafted the man whom she deposed in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution and whose family has craved for his remains to be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani with full state honors.
But events have often played cruel jokes on men or women who have delusions of greatness by denying them their fondest wish.
Full of ironies
The spontaneous and unsolicited tributes that followed her death are full of ironies—the most sublime of which is the tribute paid by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Military camps across the country reverberated with volleys of cannon fire from sunrise to sunset on Saturday as the AFP paid their former Commander in Chief the highest military honor and memorial services.
The honors failed to mask the fact that during the first three years of Cory’s presidency, her administration was threatened by at least six coup attempts staged by rebellious soldiers who tried to dislocate the fragile democracy she had restored. They also sought to tear apart the 1987 Constitution that formally replaced the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
The universal tribute to Cory acknowledges that her greatest legacy is the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.
This is best articulated by US President Barack Obama, who said Cory “played a crucial role in Philippine history,” moving the country to democratic rule through her nonviolent people power movement.
“Her courage, determination, and moral leadership are an inspiration to us all and exemplify the best in the Filipino nation,” Obama said.
It is not sufficiently appreciated that the most defining moment of Cory’s restoration of Philippine democracy occurred on Feb. 25, 1986, when she took her oath of office in Club Filipino, a civilian venue in Green Hills, San Juan, at the height of the People Power Revolution. The oath-taking took place hours before Marcos fled to Hawaii.
Club Filipino or Camp Crame
Before we forget the long-term importance of that oath-taking, it should never be forgotten that Cory arrived at Club Filipino two hours late for the oath-taking because of an impasse in crucial negotiations over the venue of the oath-taking with the military leaders, who had defected from the Marcos regime after the outbreak of the military mutiny at Camp Aguinaldo on Feb. 22.
The generals led by Marcos’ defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, were appalled by Cory’s announcement that she intended to take her oath at Club Filipino, instead of at Camp Crame, the center of the rebellion against Marcos and also the headquarters of Ramos’ Constabulary.
The military leaders, who were making their last stand at Camp Crame against Marcos’ troops, had wanted her to take her oath at Camp Crame. They claimed that Club Filipino was a security nightmare as it was within the range of mortar fire of Marcos loyalists.
The military leaders offered to fly her to the camp from her home to ensure her safety.
Supremacy of civilian rule
Cory saw in this offer an issue with a fundamental implication for the supremacy of civilian rule in a restored democracy. She emphatically rejected the offer.
She told the generals: “Camp Came was the first place where Ninoy, where every political detainee was brought. Filipinos once lived in dread of being taken there … The second thing, is, I have already told the people I would be at Club Filipino … I chose it because it is a neutral place. And I absolutely refuse to take a helicopter.”
That singular decision defined the character of the restoration of Philippine democracy. It stamped clearly her political vision of the post-Marcos democracy.
Had Cory not resisted the browbeating by the military leaders, it would have changed the character of the restored democracy. It would have laid the foundation of a military-dominated regime after Marcos.
Intuitive political instincts
In rejecting the military plan, Cory was guided by her intuitive political instincts.
As a consequence of the rejection of the Camp Crame plan, disgruntled military leaders who had felt that they had been robbed of the fruits of their rebellion by the civilian leadership, staged a number of coup attempts to seize power.
The coups introduced a period of political instability that wiped out the dramatic gains in economic growth fostered by a fresh leadership change and the advent of an honest government.
During the People Power Revolution, Cory was clear-sighted in her vision of the post-Marcos government. The goal of the People Power Revolution was restoration of democracy.
During her presidency, Cory was criticized for her unflinching devotion to democratic restoration. She has already come under growing criticism over her neglect of or indifference to social and agrarian reforms.
But that issue is not the focus of this article. It will be revisited in a comprehensive assessment of the Cory presidency.