(DP 2003-05) Beyond EDSA: A Quiet Revolution at Commonwealth Avenue

Raul V. Fabella


On the 20th anniversary of “Ninoy” Aquino’s death, we revisit the alignment of forces and beliefs at EDSA ’86 and argue how the powerless state became the historic compromise struck among mutually distrusting and loathing partners. The 1987 Constitution, bearing the brunt of these fissures, reaffirmed the powerless state. The hope was that the unresolved contradictions will be leapfrogged with the delivery of the democratic dividends. The powerless state, however, of itself and apart from pure bouts of luck did not deliver these dividends. With crises come external pressures to change but whose outcome is reversible; with crises also come demagogues promising nirvana at the end of the rainbow to justify a power grab. Incapacity to punish means that the next coup is not a question of whether but a question of when. But there could also emerge demiurges demanding attention not with empty promises but with a history of tangible beneficial facts-on-the-ground. The stirrings in “Commonwealth Avenue,” which followed “Baclaran” which followed “Riverbanks, Marikina” have the smell and feel of a new order, a new ethic and a new technology. The paper explores how state power got locally transformed into a rich harvest of public goods resulting in a positive feedback loop and how this loop may be scaled up. EDSA failed to find closure in the powerless state. Will it find closure in Commonwealth Avenue?

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