What is so vexatious about the crowd at Edsa?
Cory Aquino was propelled to the presidency by a humongous gathering at Edsa that made that artery of traffic impassable for several days. In many ways, Manila was paralyzed. It was the same thing when Senate refused to open the celebrated “second envelope” and the crowd once more milled around the Edsa Shrine to demand for Erap’s ouster. Again, that part of Manila was closed to traffic and to the everyday affairs of those who held office or resided in its environs. But nobody was talking about “nuisance” then. And it cannot be protest of government action in which the difference consists. The first time people trooped to Edsa, they were protesting what was widely perceived to have been the perversion of the electoral process. The second time, they gathered to install Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and they were there to object to a procedural decision of Senate in the lawful exercise of its duties as a court of impeachment.
Both at Edsa I and Edsa II however, there were serious doubts if not outright rejection of the claims of the government in power to legitimacy. Of course, it was a matter of numbers likewise. Whoever denies the relevance of numbers is being naive. Towards the end of the Marcos presidency, the number of defections—so dramatically instantiated by Air Force officers dispatched to strafe the streets but who landed their aircraft instead on Crame grounds—made it clear that the Commander-in-Chief was no longer in command. It was not too different with Erap. When one high ranking official after the other announced his resignation and the Army made known its withdrawal of support of the President, then it became clear that “incapacity” did not mean only serious physical or mental impairment, but included the incapacity to execute the laws. No matter the many and justified complaints against the Aquino administration, there is no doubt that the nation accepts it as the legitimate government of the Republic of the Philippines.
That is why, there is gnashing of teeth at the sidelines, and there are millions more at the sidelines then there are picking up the refrain of chants and cantillation supposedly in defense of religion. For now, what the INC members have against them is not government intransigence, nor really an assault on religion—a charge more imagined than real. What stands as some unsurmountable buffer against the numbers they can amass is the general conviction that they are on the wrong side of the law.
This should make it clear how important it is that the government itself uphold the law and educate the nation in the ways of a government of laws and not of men! But this government has trifled with the law on several occasions. It should now see what a dangerous game that is and how tenuous its hold on power—and its ability to maintain national cohesion —when it does not place a premium on the legitimacy of its actions and its very existence.
It is the prospect of one sect, subject to a central command, importuning itself without even the decency of subterfuge that is most offensive to many. The grumbling is not directed at
the INC and its doctrinal positions. It is directed at the use of force—even if it be the still relatively benign force of choking Manila’s thoroughfares —that is not sanctioned by law. In fact, it is the posturing of INC as an alternate repository of power that most reject.
What these intimations of a crisis in national life suggest is not the need for the exercise of the so-called “calling out powers”. That would be alarmist. More demanding yet but ever so vital to the life of the nation is education in the ways of the law, a schooling of which the government itself by its unconditional submission to the rule of law should be the supreme pedagogue!