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25 Years of People Power from EDSA Revolution to Daang Matuwid: Lessons in Democratic Life for Our Nation’s Future (A Statement from the Former Senior Government Officials)

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We, former senior government officials, join our people in celebrating the silver anniversary of the victory of our democratic revolution.

The Filipino people can rightfully be proud that they took the path of people power revolution, a path taken since by many other nations from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, including the latest from Tunisia and Egypt.

Our own people power revolution banished a dictator, defeated takeover attempts by various military factions, ratified a Constitution that guarantee our rights, rebuilt the institutions essential for our democratic governance, gave power and resources to our local governments, and liberated our media, our economy and our society from the many oppressions of authoritarian rule. Many of our countrymen celebrate just surviving another day; surely our people must celebrate making so much history in the first 25 years of our democracy.

We celebrate our achievements but we must be mindful of the monumental tasks that remain. Thus far, our people power revolution has failed to end corruption at the highest levels of our government, failed to lift millions of our fellow Filipinos from poverty, and failed to bring enduring peace to our countryside, particularly in Mindanao. Our democracy is now a 25-year old young adult. It must rise from the exuberance of the EDSA revolution and embrace the discipline of daang matuwid. It has so much yet to learn and do.

*What Have We Learned?

1. Our people like to choose their leaders. They often choose wisely. Sometimes they choose liars, cheats, and thieves but bad leaders do not fool all the people all the time. We must never again compromise the integrity of our elections being the only way for our people to choose their leaders.  

2. Our country has many honest, competent and courageous people willing to sacrifice for our democratic institutions to function well. We must get more of our best, most decent and brightest people to become civil servants because their service will save our nation.

3. Our laws speak so clearly: a public office is a public trust. We must keep our leaders, particularly those at the highest levels, and our civil servants, including those at the grassroots, faithful to our laws and worthy of our trust. We must make sure those who violate our trust suffer substantial consequences.

4. The exercise of our freedoms and rights is our best guarantee for a secure and prosperous future. Surrendering our liberties for security and prosperity is a fool’s bargain. The greatness of our leaders will depend on the responsibility borne by our citizens. We revere our dearly departed Corazon Aquino not just because of what she did but even more because of what she was able to inspire our people to do.

*What Must We Do?

Now we must join the one-year old presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino to do what he said in his inaugural he would do:  “Ilalaan ko ang aking buhay para siguraduhin na ang ating demokrasya ay kapaki-pakinabang sa bawat isa.”

1. We must first rid our government of the leeches and vampires sucking the blood of our people. We need to restore responsibility and accountability in our public agencies. We must finally take the steps necessary to make the Office of the Ombudsman the “protector of the people” that our Constitution intended it to be, instead of the coddler of the corrupt powerful that it has become. Throughout our government, we must make graft rare not common, corruption unusual not routine, and abuse extraordinary not SOP. Our highest officials must become the leaders in honesty and integrity or serve as prime examples of punishment for violations, when necessary.

2. We must invest in improved health and better education to realize the promise of our nearly hundred million people being the true blessings they were meant to be for their families and our country. Our nation has nearly doubled in numbers since the EDSA revolution 25 years ago. Our society and economy has the means to protect all Filipinos from sickness or disability and to enable all to become literate, skilled and productive in a modern technological world. We need to deploy these means sooner rather than later before the growing numbers of the sick and ignorant overwhelm those who are well and educated.

3. We must expand our economy, not just on the obvious vigor of our cities, but also on the growing prosperity of our farmers, fisherfolks and rural communities. Our economy must grow more by creating jobs at home and less from merely spending the remittances of workers abroad. So many of our economic enterprises survive on the exploitation of our workers that we need to re-discover the powerful virtuous cycles possible when workers are lawfully treated so that they become better consumers. We must give attention to employing our young people who are unable to get jobs because they have no prior job experience. Our government and the private sector should start up internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job options and other modes of providing our young mostly unemployed workers with valuable work experience.

4. We must have a government that serves, not constrains, the individual and collective enterprise, energy and creativity of our people. First of all our government must not insult, scandalize or provoke another outbreak of people power by its failures to retain our trust in its integrity and our respect for its competence. We must use the power of the people, not just to oust dictators or plunderers, but also to educate our children, heal our sick, empower the powerless, and uplift the lives of all. Our government must mobilize our citizens, not just in protest of its mistakes or in the election of its replacements, but also in strategic and sustained participation in governance, enterprise and development.

5. We must build an inclusive and just peace everywhere conflict and insurgency prevails. We should support prudence, perseverance and good faith in the political negotiations between the government and the major insurgencies afflicting our countryside. We should also accelerate the delivery of missing public services, expanded economic opportunities and more knowledge and information to communities long isolated by armed conflict. We urge our political leaders to provide political solutions to our very real problems that continue to kill Filipinos and keep those who survive poor. 

Our democracy has the capacity to perform far better than it had done thus far. Whatever imperfections our democracy might have, we can make it work better if we strive daily to strengthen our institutions and if more of our people become responsible citizens. Our most important task is the elimination of the worst miseries of poverty and the lessening of inequities that are the root of all unrest and instability in our beautiful land. Let us dedicate this silver anniversary celebration to our people power revolution’s eventual attainment of this task.

Vicente Paterno
Former Minister
Ministry of Industry

Sixto Roxas
Former Chairman
National Economic Council

Jesus Estanislao
Former Secretary
Department of Finance

Leticia Ramos-Shahani
Former Undersecretary
Deparment of Foreign Affairs





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