Tearing Down the Dictatorship, Rebuilding Democracy
Delivered before the joint Rotary Clubs of Metro Manila at the Manila Hotel
January 23, 1986
Last January 6, speaking before a joint meeting of various business and management associations I outlined my economic program. Ten days later, on January 16, I presented my social platform to a multisectoral audience in Davao. Today let me present to you my political program.
My political program is simple. I propose to dismantle the dictatorial edifice Mr. Marcos has built. In its place I propose to build for our people a genuine democracy.
I am first to admit that it will not be easy. The dictatorial edifice is strong. I am first to admit that the Marcos dictatorship has been cleverly crafted by an evil genius. And I am first to admit that that evil genius, allowed to run amuck for twenty years, succeeded in foisting on the nation a grim constitutional joke built on deceit and manipulation. The deception should not be allowed to last one minute longer.
The choice in this election is between a dictatorship founded on deceit—the Marcos program, and democracy founded on freely expressed will of the people—the Cory Aquino program.
Mr. Marcos is determined to remain permanent dictator, come hell or high water. I am determined to stop him.
He is running desperate; he and his minions are reaching out into the darkest bottom of their bag of dirty tricks. My friends, together we must stop them. We can. No edifice built on deceit and manipulation is indestructible; truth must triumph in the end. Twenty years of Mr. Marcos have far exceeded tolerable limits.
Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!
The Marcos program of well-planned deception begins in a book which he wrote in 1971. It carried the pretentious title Today’s Revolution: Democracy. It contained a diagnosis of what was wrong with Philippine society. It also pretended to prescribe a remedy. He diagnosed the nation thus: “Ours tends to be an oligarchic society. This simply means,” he wrote, “that the economic gap between the rich and the poor provides the wealthy few the opportunity of exercising undue influence on the political authority.” (At that time, of course, he was already one of the wealthy few, but not yet the wealthiest that he is now.) What then must be done?, he asked. His answer was: We must dismantle both the economic and political oligarchy.
That was in 1972, more than thirteen years ago. What did he actually do? Last January 6, I showed you that he pushed aside the old economic oligarchs and enthroned in their place his rapacious herd of crony oligarchy. He also dismantled the old political oligarchies, but only to crown himself king, emperor, military governor, and even occasional Pope.
His long political experience prepared him to execute the masterly political and economic palace coup. The first radical step was the imposition of martial law. Then by craft, by coercion, by bribery, he overwhelmed the Constitutional Convention of 1972 and the referenda and plebiscites that followed. Marcos got what he wanted; he succeeded in ripping out the heart and soul of our old democratic system.
The Marcos Constitution today, instead of protecting us from dictatorship, institutionalizes dictatorship.
The foundation of the Marcos dictatorial regime is the total destruction of the old system of checks and balances. I admit that the old system was not perfect. But at least it gave to the judiciary and to the legislature a generous measure of respectability. That is not so anymore.
The Constitution now allows Mr. Marcos to pack the Supreme Court with his classmates and fraternity brothers. The will of Mr. Marcos has become jurisprudence.
The Constitution allows him to pack the Commission on Elections with people whose mathematical wizardry will ensure his electoral victories. The will of Mr. Marcos has become the arbiter of all electoral contests.
And who appoints generals and decides how long before a soldier can retire? Mr. Marcos.
The appointing power today is a menace. Unchecked by any other authority and not subject to review or public scrutiny, it has enabled the dictator to fill the most sensitive positions of government with officials whose primary qualification is loyalty to the President. Such a convenient arrangement has solidified the President’s hold on absolute power, and it is evident that he finds absolute power absolutely delightful. Today, almost like a god, he can build and he can destroy; he can imprison and he can release from prison. The only thing he cannot do is raise back to life the many salvaged victims of his reign.
But the crowning insult of all is that the Constitution has given him immunity from answerability for all his wrongdoings as President. As Minister Puno himself said when sponsoring the immunity provision of the Constitution, immunity means that, even if the President commits a crime, he is not subject to prosecution. The Constitution allows him to sin mightily and with impunity.
Briefly, then, he has set up a system which makes a mockery of the sovereignty of the people. What he calls democracy is just about as democratic as the worst of the communist regimes he so duplicitously abhors.
It does not end there, however. The control which the President has extends not only to the judiciary, not just to the Batasan, not just to the COMELEC or to other agencies. It also extends to local governments. It is ironic that the 1973 Constitution took pains to ad to the Constitution an entire article on local autonomy. This was in response to the clamor of provinces, cities and municipalities for diminished interference of central government in the affairs of local government. The fact of the matter now, however, is that there is no local autonomy under Marcos. He ignores the present Constitution’s desire for greater local autonomy. Today nothing significant is done either in the barangay, or municipal, or city, or provincial level unless it has the blessing of the President. You just look at the Mayors of Metro Manila; they have been reduced to glorified errand boys of the President and of his First Lady. The net result is that the presidency is bloated and overburdened, while the growth, the progress, and the initiative of local governments is stunted.
The evil formula then of the present system is simple: (1) concentrate all significant powers in the Executive, (2) abuse and misuse that concentrated power for personal benefit, (3) protect the holder of power against any complaint or prosecution. This formula these past twenty years under the expert guidance of Mr. Marcos has worked marvelously well for himself. It has worked marvelously well for his coterie of sycophants and relatives. But it has devastated the nation and degraded our people.
The program I propose to you, therefore, is simple and straightforward: (1) we must break up the concentration of power in the hands of the Executive; (2) we must set up effective safeguards against abuse and misuse of power; (3) we must make the executive and all who follow his directives answerable for their misdeeds. It is only thus that we can rebuild the nation from its ruin and redeem the honor and dignity of the Filipino people.
I realize that this will be a monumental task. I realize that as President I will be surrounded by obstacles on all sides. The Batasang Pambansa will still be a KBL-dominated Batasan. The judiciary will still be the same judiciary which blessed every dictatorial step Mr. Marcos took from 1972 until today and absolved the entire military establishment from complicity in the murder of Ninoy. But I have confidence in the determination of our people to put an end to our agony. The forces for good are strong. Together we should be able to shame the shameless to repentance and restore rationality and credibility and the spirit of public service to the political system.
Let me pause here to say how disgusted I am by what Mr. Marcos has been saying about my position on Amendment 6. I am generally disgusted with the way he is conducting his campaign because without batting an eye he tells the most brazen lies.
First, it was about communism. Next, it was about the MNLF. Once again yesterday and you can read about it in the papers, he lied. This time it is about my position on Amendment 6. He has been telling people, particularly government employees, that I plan to use Amendment 6 to reorganize the government. I am sure he knows that I never said that.
My friends, I ask you – “How do you deal with an inveterate liar?” If you have a child whom you catch over and over again telling lies, what do you do with the child? And what do we do with this overgrown child struggling to lie his way to a reelection?
This man is desperate. He will stoop to anything. Can you continue to allow an inveterate liar to govern you? Can we allow an inveterate liar to represent us in the family of nations? Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!
My friends, I do not offer you magic. I offer you an invitation to hard work and united struggle. As I said when I spoke about the economy, I shall ask for no greater sacrifices than I myself am prepared to make. I shall impose no heavier burden on our people that they are willing to bear. But sacrifices and burdens there will be, shared equitably by all, for we shall be rebuilding from the ruin left by Mr. Marcos. Indeed, I believe that a people get the government they deserve, but I also believe that we deserve a government better that what we have today. We must prove this on February 7. Sobra na! Tama na Palitan na!
In this difficult task, how must we begin? We must begin by distinguishing between changes that are immediately achievable and changes that will take more time to achieve. The impossible takes a little longer to do!
Let me therefore begin with what are immediately achievable through decisive action by the President.
First, Amendment 6 is a powerful instrument of oppression. It has spawned legal monsters. I enumerate three grossly offensive decrees that need immediate attention: P.D. Nos. 1877 and 1877-A which create the gross aberration that is the P.D.A., and P.D. No. 1836 which authorizes the detention of persons at the sole discretion of the President. These monsters must be crushed. I shall formulate Cabinet bills for their repeal. I shall present these bills for action by the Batasan to whom legislative power should properly belong. But if the Batasan is recalcitrant, if it refuses to eliminate these monstrosities from the statute books, then, to protect our people, I shall be forced to make use of Amendment 6. But I shall use Amendment 6 only as a last resort and only to destroy itself.
Second, I shall lift Proclamation No. 2045 and 2045-A and thereby lift the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus nationwide.
Third, Mr. Marcos has transformed mass media from vehicles for information into instruments to mislead, to manipulate, and to insult the intelligence of the public. The major television stations and radio stations will not allow anything that will expose the Marcos administration for what it really is. Media are under the control of the Palace. The result is a citizenry that is uninformed or even dis-informed and therefore easy prey to manipulation. I shall liberate the mass media from control and thereby strengthen the voice of the people as an instrument for keeping government honest and honorable.
Fourth, the new leadership will exert all efforts to eliminate the social cancer of graft and corruption and establish an honest, efficient, and just system of public service. The issue of hidden wealth will not be allowed to die. The issue will be vigorously pursued by an investigating commission not subservient like Solicitor General Mendoza. What belongs to the people will be given back to the people, and those who belong to Muntinlupa will be given suitable quarters in Muntinlupa.
In 1978, after the interim Batasang Pambansa was inaugurated, Mr. Marcos said he would clean up the accumulated dirt in the bureaucratic stable; it was a joke. In 1980, Mr. Marcos was authorized to cleanse the judiciary. It was an even bigger joke. The time for joking is over.
Fifth, in the interest of national reconciliation and solidarity, general amnesty will be granted to all political detainees and all political offenders who foreswear the use of violence against the state. Preparatory to such grant of amnesty, I shall ask for a six month cease-fire in order to enable my government to take steps, immediately upon assumption of office, to redress the legitimate grievances of those who have resorted to armed struggle. I am confident that, given a credible government, surrenders will be for real and not like much publicized zarzuela of surrenders that are staged to serve the propaganda purposes of the regime.
Let me pause here to elaborate on the insurgency problem, because one of the questions which Mr. Marcos asked when my name began to surface as a serious presidential candidate was: “What does Cory Aquino know about insurgency?”
Let me preface my answer to this question by asking another question: What has Mr. Marcos done about insurgency? When he first became President in 1965, there were 165 insurgents; today there are more than 16,000 of them getting closer to the Palace doors.
During his first two terms as President the problem of insurgency grew and became so acute that he found it necessary first to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and later to impose martial law. Did he thereby solve the problem of insurgency? He did not. So in 1976 he asked for permanent martial law powers to cope with the worsening problem of insurgency. In response, he gave himself Amendment 6.
He also invented the PCO which was an instrument for arrest without judicial process; but, on the eve of the release of a pastoral letter of the bishops condemning the PCO, he abolished the PCO but only to replace it with the PDA, the same dog with a different collar. The habit of deception is deeply ingrained in his soul.
He also pretended to lift the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus but he carefully kept it suspended with reference to those who dare challenge his abuses.
Today, twenty years after he first became President, thirteen years after he imposed martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, nine years after he acquired the powers under Amendment 6, the problem of insurgency is worse than in 1965, worse than in 1972, worse than in 1976. To his question, therefore, “What does Cory Aquino know about insurgency?”, my first answer is that, with his dismal record, he should be ashamed to ask the question at all.
It is beyond debate that Mr. Marcos is the most successful recruiter for the insurgency. For this reason he refuses to face me in open debate. He knows that after this election he is leaving to us as one of his shameful legacies the difficult task of reversing the drift towards a communist takeover. His rapacity has relentlessly pushed the nation to insurgency these past twenty years.
My fellow Filipinos, I fully realize that insurgency is not a simple problem. It is a combination of several problems involving the mind, the heart, and the stomach of man. It is an economic problem, a social problem, a military problem, and an ideological problem.
To the economic and social problems, my answers are the economic program I outlined last January 6 in Manila, and the social program I presented last January 16 in Davao.
To the military problem, the heart of the solution lies in the strengthening of the morale and the restoration of the discipline and professionalism of the military. As I said last week to the people of war-torn Davao, “I assure you that there are among the military a restlessness and a desire for the restoration of the honor and prestige which the profession once possessed but which years of dictatorship has tarnished and debilitated. There is in fact among many in the military a sense of shame that an honorable establishment which took so long to nurture has during Mr. Marcos’ regime been transformed into an object of mockery and hatred. The military ideal has been tragically tarnished by Mr. Marcos. My leadership will lend support to the restoration and revitalization of the military ideal. The soldiers are demoralized because the leadership of the military, at the expense of military professionalism, has capitulated to the blandishments of a President who uses misplaced loyalty to perpetuate himself in power. As a first step therefore in the restoration of the morale in the military, I shall upon assumption of office set in motion a process of immediately retiring all over-staying generals.”
Insurgency is finally an ideological problem. It is a problem of marketing ideas. As such, the solution lies in allowing ideas to surface freely and to compete with other ideas. You cannot defeat an idea simply by suppressing it; you cannot imprison an idea; you can defeat ides only with better ideas. I am sure that totalitarian ideas of any form, if allowed to compete with ideas of genuine democracy, will not win the minds and the hearts of the vast majority of our people.
The present regime, in desperation, has been dishonestly drumming into the consciousness of our people the accusation that I will sell out the nation to communism. Let me reiterate my stand on this matter: I am not a communist, I never was, and never will be. Moreover, I will use the power of the state to fight any force, whether communist or not, which will seed to overthrow our democratic government or destroy our cultural heritage including our belief in God. But I will respect a communist’s right, or anybody’s right for that matter, peacefully to sell his ideas to others. I am confident that, under a government that enjoys the confidence of the people, ideologies that run counter to our cultural and religious values will be rejected without need of bloodshed.
Finally, let me move on to the more remotely achievable goal, the task of reformulating our Constitution. This is the long range challenge we must face. And patiently but with solemn determination we must face it.
We all know that the permanent solution to many of our major political problems will require the reformulation of our Constitution. Quite simply stated, we have a Constitution that nurtures dictatorship.
Constitutional reformulation, however, cannot be achieved by executive fiat. It is a task that must be initiated by the Batasan and carried through either by the Batasan or by a Constitutional Convention and ultimately completed by the people.
You and I know that the Batasan, as it is presently constituted, looms large as an obstacle to constitutional reform. As I said, even under a new leadership, the Batasang Pambansa will still be dominated by the KBL. But I am convinced that you, the people, once liberated from the clutches of dictatorial rule, will be able to make your power felt and you will be able to move even the most recalcitrant Batasan to respond to your clamor. The power of the people supported by the power and the prestige of the presidency can overcome the Batasan.
You will now probably ask me: What constitutional changes will you support? The answer is easily given because the glaring defects of our present constitutional system are too large to be ignored. They scream for reformulation. Let me enumerate some of the defects which should immediately be corrected:
First, Amendment 6 must go. Mr. Marcos says now that he will re-examine Amendment 6. I say that no further re-examination is needed. Amendment 6 must be eliminated immediately.
Second, the appointing authority of the President must be subjected to effective check and scrutiny. We must not allow the President to be surrounded by unthinking clones.
Third, the Batasan, the Supreme Court in particular, and the judiciary in general, as well as the independent Constitutional Commissions, must be made truly independent of the Executive.
Fourth, the immunity of the President from prosecution for actions that hide behind official shield must be removed. How the immunity provision was approved by the interim Batasan is a glaring example of how the power of the presidency can tantalize even otherwise healthy intellects.
Fifth, the power of the President to impose martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus must be subjected to effective check. These instruments of state response to crises are meant to be temporary measures; under Marcos they have become permanent fixtures.
Sixth, the term of the President must be limited. We must spare our children and their children the scourge of a President for life.
Seventh, the Central Bank must be made truly independent of the President. Today the independence of the Central Bank is granted only by statute; but as we all know the President now is superior to any stature. World-class thievery must never happen again.
Eighth, the electoral process must be purified. Leonardo Perez and Vicente Santiago have brought the system to an all-time low. If we cannot beat the Santiagos and the Perezes, we will never have a permanent end to dictatorship.
I shall not elaborate now on how precisely the reforms I have enumerated should be formulated in detail. We shall have enough time for that after we have ousted the Marcos dictatorship. His ouster is the urgent task now. Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!
Let me now conclude by setting the record straight on three so-called major issues which Mr. Marcos has raised against me so far:
First, I concede that I cannot match Mr. Marcos when it comes to experience. I admit that I have no experience in cheating, stealing, lying, or assassinating political opponents.
Second, I concede that I am prepared to seek a political solution to the communist insurgency before relying on military force. Magsaysay proved that a political solution is possible if the President is credible. Marcos is living proof that brute force is useless if the President is not credible.
Third, I do not concede that any member of my family has signed an agreement with Nur Misuari to create an independent state in Mindanao. As I have said on previous occasions when he has fabricated similar charges, Mr. Marcos should put up or shut up!
Moreover, I submit that these three so-called issues are not the real issue in this presidential contest. They are issues which only a dying dictator can think up. Instead of making peace with God, he wastes his remaining days in muddling the issues.
The real issue, I declare, is Marcos himself. He said so himself when he called this election. But since his memory has been shortened by creeping decrepitude, let me refresh his memory, if that is still possible. The real issue is the performance of Mr. Marcos:
- How he and his cronies plundered the economy and mortgaged our future;
- How he and his wife have erected extravagant monuments to themselves that mock the painful poverty of our people;
- How he and his dummies have drained the National Treasury and stashed their hidden wealth abroad;
- How he and his goons have tortured and “salvaged” defenseless citizens;
- How he and his political padrinos have turned the Batasan into an expensive rubber stamp;
- How he and his misguided minions have prostituted professionalism in the military;
- And how he and his classmates have converted the Supreme Court into a compliant cabal of callous collaborators.
These and a host of other abuses are the real issues on which Mr. Marcos must submit himself to the people’s judgment on February 7. I dare him to be man enough to face these issues. And may the better woman win!