President Corazon Aquino was an “ordinary housewife” who was constantly attacked – literally – by military rebels. She stood up to them and saw them off.
Would her critics have been as tough?
What would the country be like if President Cory had given up because of any of the coups that took place from 1986 to 1989?
To begin with there’s a strong likelihood Juan Ponce Enrile would have replaced her as leader of a military-civilian junta. The country would have hurtled toward a dark, uncertain future of intermittent coups and counter-coups.
Enrile himself indicated as much in the memoirs he published in 2012. But more on that later.
For now, let me answer the question – So what did President Cory – derided by her critics as “walang alam” or clueless actually accomplish?
Simple. She stood fast and allowed the Republic to take root and survive. If, like any of the trapos around her, she had given up, we would have been ruled by one or several juntas by now.
I must confess that for a long time, I was mad at President Cory.
Furious even, because she had THE POWER to reform the country, and yet she failed to do so. She could have been a benevolent dictator – the kind Filipinos had long dreamt about – and yet she never wielded the vast revolutionary powers that she had under the Freedom Constitution.
Once she stepped down from the presidency the scent of failure followed her into early political retirement. She was saintly, yes. She kept her integrity intact while occupying the highest office. But there were two perceptions of her that persisted – she was “walang alam at walang nagawa.”
After all, there was little to expect from a housewife whose main political duty was once to serve coffee to the politicians who would visit her senator-husband.
After she died in 2009, I asked Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who served as her controversial Interior and Local Governments Minister why she did not use the awesome powers of her office.
Pimentel told me, “Because she wanted to be the opposite of Marcos.”
I have thought about what Pimentel said since.
Now looking back through the prism of historical events, I realize that the only way President Cory could have succeeded was to be the exact opposite of Marcos. Because if she had started acting like Marcos, she would have lost the support of the masses who had put her in office. Without popular support for President Cory, the RAM boys led by Lt. Col. Gregorio Honasan would have been able to dislodge her from the presidency.