Cory’s “Army”: Organizing People Power
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 10, 1987–AS SOON as Cory Aquino let it be known that she was not against the formation of a political party, her true-blue leaders began regrouping, reorganizing, consolidating and coalescing their political forces. With the political realignment, the battle lines between the pro-Cory and anti-Cory parties were drawn.
As of the latest count, no fewer than 14 political parties , aggrupations and organizations have come out for Cory. Many regional and local political entities have also committed their support to the lady President. Their first political task is to campaign for the approval of the draft constitution.
Ratification = Cory!
Before Cory left for Tokyo, three massive organizations had already sprung up in support of her call for the ratification of the proposed charter. These are the Lakas ng Bansa, a powerful political movement, led by Cory’s cabinet ministers; the Conglomerate of Business Groups, composed of business and industrial leaders; and the Coalition for Constitutional Approval, a five-party entity, whose initials, CCA, correspond with those of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
The original plan was to put up a single, all-encompassing administration party that would provide Cory with strong political support in the task of normalizing and rebuilding the country. It was obvious that Unido, the party under which Cory ran for and won the Presidency, was more of an enemy than a friend of Cory’s, an obstacle rather than a help in the realization of Cory’s vision.
Again and again, no less than Unido’s top guns, “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, attacked Cory’s stand. Unido’s dubious allegiance to the President was intolerable. Then came “Doy’s” open flirtations with Cory’s No. 1 challenger, Enrile.
Like Enrile, Laurel battled for presidential election in case the electorate turned down the draft constitution. He also subscribed to Enrile’s belief that the repudiation of the proposed charter would constitute a repudiation of the Cory government. Worse, “Doy” even agreed with the Marcos “loyalists” that there was no documentary proof of a Cory-Doy victory in the last election, ignoring the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of such a victory.
“Doy’s” liaison with the Marcos-Enrile gang and the muscle-flexing of the Marcos political tail, the KBL, and the so-called NP wings of Palmares and Cayetano prompted Cory’s supporters to do some seducing and muscle-flexing of their own. Lakas ng Bansa attracted to its fold political parties while the five-party coalition of the CCA underscored the political clout behind Cory. The lady President is clearly far from helpless as she sometimes appears to be.
The CCA’s lead party is the PDP-Laban, founded by the late Ninoy Aquino, now headed by Cory’s brother, “Peping” Cojuangco. Cory’s brother-in-law, “Butz” Aquino, with his militant Bandila, is also there. So is Salonga’s wing of the Liberal Party. Ramon Pedrosa’s Pilipino Democratic Socialist Party and Raul Manglapus’s Union of Christian Democrats complete the five-party coalition.
Another organization that has thrown its weight behind Cory is the Conglomerate of Business Groups, which draws individual members from different business and industrial organizations, like the Lions, the Rotary and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, among others.
Committed to Cory’s economic recovery program, the CBG counts with great influence in the world of business and industry, both here and abroad. Its support has given Cory a stronger moral authority to carry out her program of government.
But the grandest alliance of all is, perhaps, the Lakas ng Bansa, organized by Cory’s closest supporters, many of whom are members of the Cabinet. Although identified only as a political movement, it is considered as Cory Aquino’s “party of the future”. Right now, its top leaders are about the most visible, audible and credible spokesmen of the Cory government. Its president and seven of its 13 vice-presidents are all cabinet ministers.
The Lakas ng Bansa roster of officials reads like a Who’s Who in the government. Justice Secretary Neptali Gonzales, who bolted the Unido, is the movement’s president, Budget Minister Alberto Romulo, who threatened to leave Unido, is vice-president of the National Capital Region.
Other ministers who occupy vice-presidential positions in the Lakas ng Bansa are Heherson Alvarez of Agrarian Reform, Region II; Ramon Mitra Jr., of Agriculture, Region VI; Luis Villafuerte of Reorganization, Region V; and Antonio Cuenco of Political Affairs, Region VII. The remaining vice presidential positions were vacated by Ernesto Maceda and Rogaciano Mercado but will be filled up by top political leaders of their respective regions who also hold high positions in the new dispensation.
Judging from its composition, the Lakas ng Bansa, also known as Laban, is virtually the political movement of the administration. No other single political entity is more conversant with the over-all thrust of the Cory government than Laban, whose principal organizers are also some of Cory’s most trusted advisers. It has the blessings of “Peping” Cojuangco and its day-to-day affairs are run by its secretary-general, “Ding” Tanjuatco, Cory’s cousin.
Laban looks like a stronger version of the Unido, although the latter is a duly-registered political party while the former is not. Its membership comes from a much-wider political spectrum than Unido can ever hope to have. It expects to absorb all the pro-Aquino political forces and groups, like the Cory Aquino for President Movement, Cory Crusaders, Bisig, Bayan, Lakas ng Pilipino, Bansa, Kaiba, and many others.
Its founding fathers come from different political parties, like the Liberal, Nacionalista, PDP-Laban and even Unido itself. Not a few KBL leaders have already expressed their willingness to join. Its membership, according to Tanjuatco, is open to “all Filipinos, here and abroad, young and old, rich and poor of whatever sector, religion or affiliation.”
“Lakas ng Bansa is People Power continued, institutionalized nationwide, and reinforced with a driving vision to emancipate the Filipino people from all forms of poverty and tyranny. The movement will not stand aside ad watch democratic gains eroded. It will not only rally to defend these gains but it will also mobilize to consolidate them.
“We must realize that although we have driven the former president away, he has left behind his destructive and dismal legacy. In many areas of our country, his clones and heirs apparent — but more seriously his distorted values — remain firmly entrenched. A great movement of People Power is needed to expose and bury once and for all these vestiges from a recent and unlimited past.”
Many of Laban’s organizers hope to convert their movement into a duly-registered political party. If they haven’t taken positive steps towards that end yet, it is in deference to Cory’s wishes not to disturb the present so-called “rainbow coalition”. But they are ready. At a moment’s notice, when the movement’s directorate so wishes, Laban will be registered with the Commission on Elections as a full-fledged political party.
Its organizational set-up is virtually complete, including the draft of its constitution and by-laws. It has already adopted the slogan — “Lakas ng Pagkakaisa, Lakas ng Bayan” — a red dove in flight with a broken chain attached to its leg. The red dove, according to Laban officials, symbolizes a courageous and gentle people in their journey towards liberation as represented by the broken chain.
About 2,500 delegates attended the launching of Lakas ng Bansa at the Valle Verde Auditorium in Pasig, Metro Manila. PDP-Laban’s “Peping” Cojuangco and Jose Yap were there. So were Villafuerte and Cuenco of Unido. But “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, Unido’s “dynamic duo”, were conspicuously absent. All the delegates were one in their stand to protect Cory from what they called “remnants” of a horrible regime and other “adversaries.”
Lakas ng Bansa was established, according to Minister Gonzales, principally to support Cory’s effort in rebuilding the nation, and its doors are open to all, even to card-carrying members of established political parties without their losing party membership. It was organized, he stressed, “not in opposition to, but in harmony with existing political parties that support President Aquino”. Its first major objective is to restore constitutional democracy “by working for the ratification of the new constitution”.
To repeat, the battle lines have already been drawn. On one side are pro-Cory parties, groups and aggrupations, numbering no fewer than 14 national entities, not counting the seven regional and local ones. On the other side are only two political parties: Enrile’s Nacionalista Party of Palmares and Cayetano and Marcos’s abominable KBL. You may add a third one, if you don’t consider Kalaw’s Liberal Party circus a mere nuisance.
As for Adaza’s Mindanao Alliance, forget it. Such an alliance is only between Homobono and Adaza, for, by and of Homobono Adaza himself. For all intents and purposes, Adaza is nothing more than an appendage of Enrile’s political gang. Kalaw and Adaza used to be “supporters” of Cory, but for one reason or another, they parted ways with her after she assumed power. Wittingly or otherwise, both have in effect aligned themselves with the Marcos-Enrile alliance while maintaining their individual political identity.
In the case of Unido, one has to play it by ear. After wagging against the draft constitution earlier, “Doy” Laurel is now wagging in favor of it. Perhaps, he is playing it by ear as he awaits the wigwag from his elder brother, “Pepito”, who calls the shot in his own wing of the Nacionalista Party. One thing is clear: “Doy” will zig when “Pepito” zigs and zag when “Pepito” zags. Expect Rene Espina to zigzag along with them.
But “Pepito’s” mind is made up. He is for the ratification o the proposed constitution, which, he believes, is an improvement on the 1973 Constitution, “designed for the one-man rule of Marcos”. While the draft charter is “an imperfect document” says “Pepito”, it can “satisfy the desires and even the demands of all the segments of our society”.
“I would never have signed the draft constitution if I believed it would be inimical to the Filipino people. On the contrary, I felt that for all its imperfections and shortcomings, it would guide and inspire us in the fashioning of a freer and richer future after the ordeal of the past despotism from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves.
“It is a worn argument, I suppose, but it is no less valid for the telling, and so I repeat the ratification of this constitution will provide our country with the stability it needs to plan more realistically and to adopt more enduring policies for the days ahead.”
Blas Ople’s Partido Nacionalista ng Pilipinas is also for the approval of the draft constitution. While some PNP members are against it, Ople and his three PNP confreres, who were ConCom members, like Pepito, are duty-bound to uphold what they helped to formulate. Ople’s closest side-kick in the PNP, Teodulo Natividad, also a ConCom member, has already put himself squarely behind the ratification of the proposed charter.
In his typically bombastic manner, Ople announced that the ratification of the new constitution “will erect the sovereign ramparts” to foil all existing conspiracies against the Republic, making all “hidden agendas” obsolescent. He also warned that those who want to seize power still hope to abort the plebiscite and “prolong the constitutional vacuum” because they know that the ratification of the new charter will “foreclose their option of mass violence for toppling the government.”
“All claimants to power, therefore, increasingly realize that the period for an unconventional challenge to the government is definitely capped by the cabinet deadline. Beyond that date, they will have to recast their plans to be able to stay in the game, by preparing for constitutional and peaceful elections.”
The Tried and Tested
But Cory will have to bank on her tried-and-tested supporters to hurdle one of the severest tests of her political career: the approval of the draft charter, whose repudiation could be perceived as a public rejection of her young administration. Such a perception, however, could only come from a distorted sense of logic. Cory had nothing to do with the formulation of the proposed charter, except to appoint the people who drafted it. Whatever flaws it has should not be blamed on Cory but on the people who produced it.
Unlike the 1973 Constitution, which was written for and in behalf of Marcos, the 1986 draft charter is the product of the free interplay of ideas among 47 commissioners insulated from Malacañang influence. Nobody can accuse Cory of doing to the 1986 proposed charter what Marcos did to the 1973 Constitution. In other words, if the people rejected it in the plebiscite, they would do so not because they had withdrawn their support from Cory but because they disapproved of the proposed constitution. So, let Cory call for an elected — this time — constitutional convention!
But the Marcos-Enrile political gangs do not see it that way. They had been peddling the idea that rejection of the new charter would mean the withdrawal of public support from Cory, and therefore, Cory must get a fresh mandate from the electorate to continue in office. And yet, they don’t want Cory to campaign for the ratification of the new charter. Where’s the logic there?
Logical or not, Cory has accepted the challenge — and she is campaigning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, partly because she wants to settle, once and for all, the fake issue of the legitimacy of her government, principally because she really believes that the approval of the draft charter is a giant step towards normalcy and national stability. What the means is that Cory is willing and ready to give up her vast powers under the Freedom Constitution in favor of the 1986 constitution, which establishes limitations on the powers of the Presidency. She’s not power-hungry.
If Cory were like Marcos, she wouldn’t give a hoot for the draft charter. Its rejection would be sufficient justification for her to continue wielding her plenary powers under the Freedom Constitution and call for an elective ConCom to draft another Constitution. Until the electorate approved a new charter, she could go on ruling under the mantle of a revolutionary government. She would be an all-powerful Chief Executive for as long as she continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of her people — which she does.
But Cory is not Marcos—and she is infinitely more perceptive than Marcos, who viewed things only in the light of his insatiable greed for power and self. Precisely because of that, she is working hard for the approval of the new constitution although it means the diminution of the powers that she currently enjoys. Cory’s support for the ratification of the new charter is proof to all that she is no power-hungry politician.
When Marcos “lifted” martial law, he did it only on paper. He retained his vast powers, even the power over the lives and fortunes of his critics and enemies. This is not the case with Cory. If the proposed charter is approved by the people, Cory will have much less power than she would have under the 1935 Constitution. Hers will be a republican government answerable to the people, from whom government powers should emanate.
On this score, a large segment of the people are behind Cory all the way. Besides the Lakas ng Bansa, the Coalition for Constitutional Approval and the Conglomerate of Business groups, other large movements have recently organized themselves in support of Cory’s campaign for the ratification of the proposed constitution. Noteworthy are Bansa, composed of some 20 large farmer organizations, led by former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, and Kaiba, the biggest women political party of the country today, led by Princess Tarhata Lucman.
Lakas ng Pilipino, headed by Charito Planas, is also campaigning for the approval of the new constitution. So are Partido ng Bayan of the late Rolando Olalia and the Lapiang Manggagawa of Jose Villegas. The Philippine Islamic Democratic Party has also come out openly in favor of the approval of the proposed charter. Even militant organizations , like Gabriela, Bisig and Bayan are behind Cory.
Cory’s Unarmed Forces
All these political parties, aggrupations, civic organizations and militant groups now constitute Cory’s unarmed army, which is committed to preserve the gains of the People Power Revolution. They are behind Cory in her quest for a stable and prosperous nation, as they stood by her in her struggle to oust the Dictator. Whether they will eventually fuse into a single political party for Cory or not, the fact remains that they are now solidly one behind her.
Their militant interest in the country’s welfare should serve as a warning to all those, particularly Enrile’s military coup-koos and the Marcos Mafia. These would kill the Filipino people’s newly-recovered rights and liberties — again! Having organized on its own free will, Cory’s “army” is out to prove that People Power remains a tower of strength for a people who loves justice and peace. How strong that Power is will be shown in the outcome of the plebiscite on the proposed constitution.