Thursday, February 25, 2016

EDSA II: Not a Revolution

On January 17-20, 2001 there was a four-day protest that advocated for the downfall of the government of President Joseph Estrada. The peaceful demonstrations and rallies were held at EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). Successfully installing Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and supported by leaders of the original EDSA that toppled Marcos, it was dubbed by the Philippine media as EDSA II.

EDSA I was a peaceful revolution that recognized the sovereign power of the Filipino people to effect regime and institutional changes. This is why it was called People Power Revolution. Initially guided by a Freedom Constitution and later on by a duly ratified 1987 Constitution, it was undoubtedly recognized legally and by the international community.

EDSA II was held in exactly the same place and also instituted regime change but was definitely not empowered to institute revolutionary changes. It was not a revolution.

EDSA I was a product of a long struggle by Filipino freedom fighters to overthrow the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Dictators are historically toppled only through revolution or coup d’état. The successful downfall of Marcos was precisely through the peaceful People Power Revolution. It was also an immediate reaction to Marcos’ attempt to reverse the results of the elections that pitted him against CORY, the widow of Ninoy Aquino. Marcos’ term as President had ended and had no legal basis to remain as a dictator. Disregarding the sovereign will of the people in electing CORY was unacceptable. Installing her as President after the successful revolution was a wise and right move.
Legitimate voters duly elected President Joseph Estrada nationally by a landslide. The legal process to oust a President is by impeachment. He was indeed impeached by the House of Representatives and was going through an impeachment trial at the Senate when the so-called EDSA II was launched.

EDSA II disregarded the constitutional process of impeachment in forcing the resignation of President Joseph Estrada allowing the ascendance of Vice Gloria Arroyo.  Under the 1987 Constitution, “the Vice President (or the Vice President-elect) shall assume the Presidency or serve as acting President:

    In case of the death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice President shall assume the Presidency.
    If the President-elect fails to qualify for office, the Vice President-elect shall act as president until the President-elect is qualified.
If a President is not chosen, then Vice President shall act as President until a President is chosen and qualified.

President Estrada did not die. He had no permanent disability. He was not removed from office. In fact, the impeachment trial was still going on to remove him. He did not actually resign. The Supreme Court just decided that his actions amounted to a virtual or implied resignation.

Most important was the withdrawal of support and defection of General Angelo Reyes, AFP Chief Staff representing the military. The combined forces of the protesters or what the critics called “the mob rule” and the military establishment headed by General Reyes actually amounted to a coup d’état.

The Supreme Court gave it a democratic and constitutional legitimacy by asserting that President Estrada resigned and could therefore be succeeded by Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

So even by Supreme Court declaration, EDSA II was not a revolution but a regime change through a constitutionally provided due process.

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