Andres Bonifacio, Filipino hero and founder of the Katipunan which launched the Philippine Revolution to gain Philippine Independence from centuries of Spanish Rule during which time a revolutionary government was formed, is commemorated as a yearly National Holiday on his birthday, November 30.
Today, one mainstream newspaper reported that pro-government groups are planning to hold rallies on November 30 to urge President Duterte to declare a revolutionary government while anti-government groups will also be staging separate rallies in different parts of the country. According to the source, a security official who asked not to be named, pro-revolutionary government rallies are being organized in key cities by some rightist groups and more than 300,000 supporters are being mobilized to assemble at Mendiola near Malacanang Palace. The security official also said that retired military officers associated with right-wing groups as well some former communist leaders were behind the mobilization. At the same time, anti-government groups are planning to stage protests at the same venue, Mendiola, and at the Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila and the Bonifacio Monument, Caloocan City. Citing a destabilization plot against the administration, President Rodrigo Duterte has time and again brought up the idea to “declare revolutionary government”.
As an ordinary Filipino citizen following developments unfold on the sidelines, and taking all this news on the political front with the proverbial grain of sand, this latest report of upcoming rallies on the streets, if true, appears as another piece of the puzzle as to why all this talk of the President declaring a revolutionary government has resurfaced on mainstream media recently.
The President has swung from one end of the pendulum to the other on this matter for some time now. Here is a short round-up of some of the latest conflicting statements:
In a speech last August 29 during the Mass Oath-Taking of Newly Appointed Officials, Duterte said he would not consider a revolutionary government during his term, “I was not joking but I am not into it. For the Philippines to really go up, sabi ko, ang kailangan ng mga tao is not martial law. Go for ginawa ni Cory, revolutionary government. Pero huwag kayong magtingin sa akin, hindi ako pwede diyan. (I was not joking but I am not into it. For the Philippines to really go up, I say, what the people need is not martial law. Go for what Cory did, revolutionary government. But don’t look at me, I cannot, am not amenable to that.)
Then, in a television interview on PTV4’s “Sa Totoo Lang” program last October 13, Duterte said, “I was elected by the people. And if I sense that the country’s about to go overboard, I will declare revolutionary government. Hindi ko kayo tinatakot, pero hulihin ko kayo lahat (I’m not scaring you, but I will arrest all of you). And I will declare a full-scale war against the New People’s Army.”
However, on November 9, he confirmed Vice President Leni Robredo’s statement that the military would not support a revolutionary government. The President then said: ‘OK, then we will not have a revolutionary government.’ Correct, she’s correct,” Mr. Duterte added. But when asked if a RevGov was off the books, he said, “Who would announce that he would go revolutionary? You just go ahead. Why make a drama out of it?”
Come November 18, President Duterte, again repeated his line of declaring a revolutionary government if the opposition destabilizes his government or tries to wrest power which would result into chaos on the streets. “If my country is weakened and I see revolutionaries bringing firearms on the streets, well, maybe you shouldn’t have second thoughts, I will declare a revolutionary government,” he said to reporters in Davao, City.
While on November 21, Tuesday, Duterte told the military to ignore talks about a revolutionary government, noting that the idea is far-fetched. “Huwag kayong maniwala ‘yang mga coup d’état, mga revolutionary coup d’état. Wala tayong makukuha diyan (Do not believe talks about coup d’état, revolutionary coup d’état. We won’t get anything from that). Let us just build a country),” he said during his visit to wounded soldiers at the Army General Hospital in Taguig. The President reassured the public that he would not declare martial law or a revolutionary government, saying that he would just arrest the rebels and detain them in government prisons for a number of hours.
So will he or won’t he?
Is he serious about this move and are his claims of a destabilization plot as justification for his action true? If he does, is it legal as he will be dismantling the government and Constitution that he vowed to uphold when he was elected to office? Will the military support his actions, given that by declaring a revolutionary government, he is no longer bound to uphold and follow the Constitution? Will the citizenry, the ordinary man on the street, express their sentiments on the streets for or against such a move? What are the repercussions and ramifications– on our society, our economy, our politics? Is declaring a revolutionary government part of a well-planned strategy by a President who, according to his supporters, simply wants to break free from cumbersome and corrupt socio-political institutions that are hindering him from ushering the promise of change for which he was voted. Or, as painted by his critics, is this on-off talk of a revolutionary government the ramblings of an impatient and frustrated President with a dictatorial and authoritarian mindset who is increasingly finding it difficult to govern within the current democratic framework.
Thus far, it seems that claims of a destabilization plot are rumors and talk floating around, no chaos on the streets evident. Lawyers have been expressing their views and are divided in their opinion as to whether it is legal or can be considered legal, considering that there is no provision for establishing a revolutionary government in the Constitution. Looking it up, a simple dictionary definition of revolution says that revolution is an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed. Given the rumors coming from the provinces that there are efforts on the ground to organize core groups who will actively support a revolutionary government and given his much-touted popular mandate and strong following, it is indeed possible that there will be popular support for such a move, making the military a key element to minimize the ensuing crisis that such a declaration would create. With regards to this, political scientists say the military’s mandate is to uphold the Constitution and to safeguard the sovereign rights of the people. Thus, the military is not dutybound to support the President as Commander in Chief if he overthrows or dismantles the existing government which was created by the existing Constitution. Should they do so, what results is a coup or a putsch. And as with any “revolution”, its impact on society will surely be manifold and far-reaching. with its results hard to predict, for its effects can go either way.
So, will he or won’t he is still the big question and a big if.
As a popular Filipino expression goes” Abangan ang susunod na kabanata which means, Let’s wait for the next chapter”. Well, we regular folks will indeed continue to watch, wait and see.