PCGG @26
MY FOUR CENTAVOS - Dean Andy Bautista () - February 25, 2012 - 12:00am

Year in, year out, on this day, the “veterans” of the 1986 People Power Revolution heave a collective breath to bemoan and bewail the waning spirit of EDSA. The lamentations often leave the youth of today derided for not living up to the promises of EDSA  or for not appreciating the significance of that turning point in our history. But it is not just the youth, on which this message has been lost. It appears that we, too, who were once the EDSA youth have wandered from it.

For those working with the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the dulling of the luster of the gains of EDSA strikes a particularly mournful chord. As fewer people celebrate the Revolution, fewer still have any fondness left for the Commission. And with each passing year, the general consensus has been another year too late and too long.

Not that the impatience is unjustified. It’s been 26 years since its creation  and 40 years since Martial Law was imposed  what’s taking so long?

Before we reach our rope’s end, it might be worthwhile to recall the leash that the Commission was given.

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There are three things that are particularly striking about the context of the Commission’s creation.

First, the Commission is the first official act that signified the return to democracy. Created on February 28, 1986, the Commission pre-dates: our present Constitution by one year; South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission by nine years; and the United Nation Convention Against Corruption by 19 years. Arguably, in many ways, the Commission set the course for the global stolen assets recovery agenda. Simply put, it was unprecedented. At a time when we were picking up the pieces of our world broken by tyranny, barely three days after the Revolution, we were already demanding “good government” long before “good governance” became a buzz word in the global sphere. Our own misgivings and criticisms on its performance aside, the fact of its creation is, in itself, a milestone worth acknowledging  an exercise easily achieved by simply thinking back to our collective sentiments during those days.

Second, in the flurry of the days that followed the Revolution, there was a tempting prospect to hurry the resolution of that chapter in our history  yet, sobriety dictated that we could not return to normalcy by proceeding abhorrently abnormally against the alleged plunderers. Thus, as one would learn, from an examination of the executive issuances relating to the Commission, due process was a cornerstone principle that had to be respected in the pursuit of its mandate. Admittedly, we could have done more and achieved them faster, if we had dispatched with due process. The Revolution just ended. Surely, revolutionary means and measures would have been, not only acceptable, but expected? The Philippines was under the Freedom Constitution that effectively equipped then President Corazon Aquino with both Executive and Legislative powers. What kind of achievement would that have been, though  to get back what was plundered, by simply using similar techniques to get back at those who stole from us? And so, we waited patiently and tried to do things right, even when the indignation would have justified brash actions that could have hurried up the process.

In hindsight, the Commission could have been more decisive. The extraordinary situation demanded extraordinary action. And if we knew then what we know now  that cases filed would be bungled or be made to inexplicably languish in Court  then valor should have been the better part of prudence.

Finally, just as EDSA was our triumph in reclaiming our power as a people, unfortunately, almost just as quickly, we relinquished the reins and let that task fall on the shoulders of those in the Commission alone. In the early days of the Commission  and this few people know and even less appreciate  a good number started out as volunteers. Admittedly, some who were tasked to guard the chicken coop morphed into the foxes they were supposed to guard against. Yet, a good majority of these pioneering volunteers received nothing more than a mere pittance for their services. Twenty-six years later, hardly a word of thanks come their way.

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In no way should these “contexts” serve to excuse the Commission’s failures and shortcomings, but in recalling and recognizing them, perhaps, we’d be less likely to shortchange ourselves of the legacy that is rightfully ours. If the thought of the Revolution no longer moves us, then maybe it’s just as proper an exercise to recall what it was that moved us to troop to EDSA, in the first place. And having been there, recognizing what we’d done since, we can still find our way back to rediscover the idealism of our youth, anchored in the direction of our age. For as we continually try to make sense of that chapter in our history, we need to make sure we impart the right lessons that tell of the proud people we should be. 

We are the products of our times. It was easier for us then to aspire to greatness, for we were confronted with the frightening prospect of the consequences of doing nothing. The youth of today have different concerns, because they do not share the same problems.

The difference in contexts, however, does not foreclose the possibility of engendering a similar response. In fact, perhaps, today’s youth could do their elders a notch better by learning from our mistakes and shortcomings. They can take the lessons of EDSA, free from the baggage as when we learned them.

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In their honor: This week’s four centavos are given to nameless unsung heroes who trooped to EDSA 26 years ago to reclaim the power of the people over their government.

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”You can’t look at anything from where you can see it from.”         Irish Proverb

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E-mail: deanbautista@yahoo.com

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