A Leftist’s Reflection on the Death of Former President Corazon C. Aquino

By Emmanuel M. Hizon

I will readily admit, when news of former president Corazon C. Aquino reached me, I couldn’t care less. Why would I sympathize with somebody who was given the unique opportunity to lead a revolutionary government, only to squander almost all the opportunities that came with it to realize the people’s dream of a truly transformative democratic transition? Whom instead of repudiating Marcos’ odious debts and thereby putting some closure to his nightmarish dictatorship, instead, chose to honor it to the last cent and in so doing prescribed the future generations to a life of poverty and forced indebtedness?

I have learned, then as a young activist, how Mrs. Aquino as President, sinned by omission on the issue of Mendiola massacre. In this case, would it be just to give my condolences when the martyrs of that fateful day are still without justice while the perpetrators are free and unaccountable – the foremost of which is now the mayor of Manila.

Why would I shed tears for her when the farmers and workers of Hacienda Luisita are still tied to the same grueling class conditions which her government had perpetuated? Clearly, as much as she was a symbol of liberal democracy, is an agent of, consciously or unconsciously, by flaw or by will, her own class compulsions.

And why would I mourn with Mrs. Aquino’s family when they did not even bother to express their grief to the countless farmers, unionists, activists and leaders who were summarily executed under the Aquino administration? How could I possibly identify to such interment, when ordinary people cannot even afford their own coffins much less have the attention and help they so badly need from the media, the church and the do-gooders?

Why will I then mourn the death of a reputed member of the oligarchy, a known cacique, a defender of elite democracy, an unrepentant associate of the landed and elite class which for almost all written history has treated the masses, “the great unwashed” as mere subjects, possessions and playthings to advance their whims and elite dispositions?

Who could forget the Aquino government’s pro-US military bases stance? Who could not recall her government’s US-backed low intensity conflict and total war policy against “insurgents” which in truth harmed the masses more than its perceived enemies?

Are we not entitled to our anger, to our discernment, to dredge up old yet throbbing wounds, to tell the people’s real stories which many of us have chosen to disregard? Why not? Because it’s rude? Because we are disrespecting the dead? How about our dead? Is it ill-timed or inappropriate? Then when is the right time? When will the time of the people come?

These are just some of the many questions that swirled on my head these past few days like confetti dropping wildly from some high-rise building in Makati. Nevertheless, I contented myself with the proposition that my current disposition is valid, politically correct and consistent with the masses’ interest and pulse. Cory will not have my sympathy.

But then again, as I was watching Mrs. Aquino’s funeral service, I cannot help but notice the continuing pouring of support and sympathy from many people. I am not talking about here of middle class people who we often associate with Cory but rather, of ordinary, everyday people; the labanderas, the obreros, the manangs, the urban poor, the probinsyanos; the very same masses we from the broad left movement have sworn to serve with utmost passion and dedication.

They have no anger in their eyes, no impassioned tirades on the Aquino government’s horrible mistakes, no finger pointing, no rage, no resentment. All I saw on television was a long yellow line of sad heart-broken faces waiting for their turn to view their president one last time; mourning as if they too have lost a loved one, grieving as if they too lost something important in their life.

My first reaction was sheer amusement and bewilderment which immediately turned into anger. How could the people have possibly forgotten? How could have they possibly forgiven Cory and her regime when they were never given any exoneration from their misery and poverty in the first place? How could they idolize her and identify with her?

I concluded this could be the result of the Filipino people’s overt romanticism, its legendary propensity to easily forgive and forget which inevitably fused with corporate media’s proclivity for creative spins and spectacles. I said to myself, this would quickly fade as it was quickly created with the people going back to reality; back to their wowowee dreams, back to our same old rubbish shitty lives.

However, each passing day was a revelation. Particularly, what struck me most was when people were asked why they were there. Almost all answered that they wanted to pay tribute to the woman who helped them restored democracy, who helped them reclaimed what was rightfully theirs. From the mother who brought her daughter all the way from Isabela to teach her about democracy, the students who were too young to even remember Edsa 1 up to the laborers and the poor who proudly claimed to have been participants to people power 1, 2 and even 3, all said it was because of democracy.

Then it finally dawned on me why this woman despite her regime’s numerous social and economic transgressions is so loved and cherished by a people representing three generation of Edsas. It’s not so much because she is religious, a mother-like figure to many, a glorified widow or simply a martyr; beyond the labels, our ideological flexing and the comfortable branding of pundits, Cory has been duly recognized by the people as an icon in their transition from despotism to rule of law, their struggle from tyranny towards a sense of freedom and democracy. Cory is first and foremost the representation of that ideal, of that difficult journey towards democratization, of that collective national experience.

And it did not stop there. She will also be remembered as a defender of that particular form of democracy flawed and wanting it may be in so many ways, not measuring up to our Marxist concept of a democratic archetype. From people power 2 which removed an incompetent and corrupt regime up to her participation in the fight to throw out the illegitimate Arroyo regime and its sinister plan to amend the constitution, Cory will be remembered and respected as a person who despite her privileged status joined the people in their most trying and important political junctures.

She will also be remembered for her seemingly incorruptible disposition and her lack of desire to cling to power more than what was bestowed to her. This is in sharp contradiction with the succeeding governments that followed her especially the current Arroyo regime which has shown its penchant to further its illegitimate rule through a combination of brute force and fake consent.

However, beyond Cory and beyond the mourning, the public must also be encouraged to use this period as a time of reflection and deliberation. We, the Filipino people and as a national polity must realize now more than ever that Philippine democracy and freedom must not only be celebrated and acknowledged as it is; it must be furthered, deepened and enlarged.

While leviathan icons may emerge in historic political moments, the people must become conscious of the fact that they themselves are their own icons. They are the real power behind the people power uprisings, they are the undeniable force which restored and have defended this young and fragile democracy; and yes, they are the image and symbol of the struggle for meaningful change. Once the people have realized and embraced this basic yet powerful fact, any conversation concerning the so-called poverty of icons will be naught.

Moreover, while the nation grieve Mrs. Aquino’s passing, let us also remember and grieve for the countless and nameless people that have been wronged, oppressed and in so many ways been deprived because of decades of systemic neglect and elite rule which unfortunately, Ms. Aquino’s government was a part of. Justice and accountability must be extracted from the “invulnerables”, the so-called privileged ones, the ruling class without any exemption to a particular regime or personality; even it means revisiting old yet unhealed wounds and/or bringing to the ground heaven-like reputations.

Let us not forget the martyrs and survivors of Mendiola massacre, the workers and farmers of Hacienda Luisita, our beloved Lean Alejandro and all the brave kasamas who were tortured, incarcerated and summarily executed before and under Aquino’s term as well as the succeeding regimes. Any celebration of democracy without the accordance of justice to those who thirst for it will not only be empty and meaningless, it will also be insulting and degrading to us as a people.

Hence, we as a people must undergo this profound process, a period of mourning and grief for the loss of a symbol as well as a time of contemplation and renewal of our national aspiration for genuine change, justice and equality. This is the only way to have a complete and truthful celebration of what Cory represents and symbolizes without the illusions, the frills, the romanticized concepts and wrong notions while remaining faithful and true to the people’s cause and interest. ###

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One Response to “A Leftist’s Reflection on the Death of Former President Corazon C. Aquino”

  1. […] A Leftist’s Reflection on the Death of Former President Corazon C. Aquino: I contented myself with the proposition that my current disposition is valid, politically correct […]

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