By Juan L. Mercado
Glendower : “I can call spirits from the vasty deep”. Hotspur: “Why so can I. Or so can any man. /. But will they come, when you do call for them?” — from Henry V, by Shakespeare
Smashed by an armored personnel carrier during the aborted November 29 coup, the Peninsula Hotel’s lobby doors now work. Guests are trickling .back. But a question festers: Why didn’t people surge forward when Sen Antonio Trillanes, Gen. Daniel Lim and rebels, called them, like Glendower, to overthrow the scandal-studded Arroyo regime?’
“No one came,” noted Honululu Star Bulletin and other observers.. Yet, 11 million voted for Trillanes six months earlier But a look back reveals that this dismissal of calls to hit the streets is “not an isolated phenomenon.”
In the 2003 Oakwood mutiny. Trillanes tried to do a Cardinal Sin: he summoned the people. From luxury detention, Joseph Estrada denied bankrolling the Magdalos. This was not a “coup for rent”, Trillanes fumed But installing Erap as head of a 15-man junta, and installing Magdalos as caudillos, was a raw power grab. So, people didn’t reach for their marching shoes. The mutiny crumbled within 24 hours.
Before Magdalos, there were the “Kawals: a smattering of junior officers who revolted thru a grotesque clandestine press conference.. Nobody listened. And the farce promptly collapsed. In surrendering, “leader Capt. Edwin Navaro claimed : they were conned by hangers-on, like the Council on Philippine Affairs (Copa).
Before “Kawal”, Erap followers tried to clone the deafening anti-Marcos “noise barrage” of 16 April 1978. That was a forerunner of People Power 1. This time, remnants of the detested Marcos regime, like martial law bouncer Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and others, tooted away
But no one came, just as Hotspur predicted. “Except for isolated areas, it went largely unheeded,” the Inquirer editorially noted. “There was a sorry disconnect between method and need.”
In 2005, communists and party-list comrades clung to coat-tails of the opposition as it boasted:, they’d trigger “People Power” thru a cell-phone barrage. It would erupt .as the President delivered her July State of the Nation message: “Let a thousand cell phones bloom.” Millions would then scramble for the barricades, former Secretary Horacio Morales predicted..
Japanese use cellphones as “electronic wallets” for shopping. We wage revolution with them, as in People Power 2. But cell phones stayed on silent mode this time.” That bid to clamp on a disguised politburo fizzled.
Last November, the middle-class “Black and White Movement” got 50,000 signatures, on an online petition. They asked President Arroyo to quit. But when they mailed an “eviction notice” postcard to the occupant of the “House of the Big Briber”, only 300 showed up, at the Makati post office. Why?.
Contrary to widespread impressions, survey data shows the “so-called masa” remain cool and rational, Social Weather Stations Mahar Mangahas observed.. It is the volatile middle class that gropes for shortcuts. Most Filipinos spurn extra-constitutional grab for power
Successful people power bids jell around leaders of integrity who present moral alternatives. Neslon Mandela offered that option for South Africa . Corazon Aquino bluntly insisted she stood for everything Ferdinand Marcos rejected. And the Burmese junta is scared witless of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
There is also “protest fatigue”. And Columnist Antonio Abaya notes : the Filipino electorate has matured substantially. In the 2007 senatorial elections, movie stars fared badly. Candidates who spent lavishly were badly trouced. Voters no longer attended rallies watch candidates dance. Instead, they listened to public affairs talk shows and demanded candidates speak on had issues of the day.
We all tend to massage experience to suit our preferences. Wish is often “father to the thought.” And repeated failures of would-be revolutionaries reveal “passive gullibility” . That would be excusable. But they seem hooked on willingness to be deluded.
Most fooled themselves into believing they’re were “Glendowers” : that they could whistle up people at whim. This is true of Trillanes & Co, as well as those who came before: Erap’s minions, Kawals, Magdalos, Black and White Movement. “They strut like the Pilipino proverb’s fly,” the Sun Star noted. Perched atop a carabao, crossing a rickety bridge, the fly chortles: ‘There. We shook that one, didn’t we.”
“In rebellion, nothing succeeds like success. But nothing also fails like failure”. Now, those who thought they’d wangle slots in a Trillanes junta run for cover. Communist and left wing groups, identified with Sanlakas, ( part of the rejectionis or anti-Joma faction of the Communist movement, wash their hands, Abaya says.. So does .former UP president Dodong Nenemzo who stitched together a “revolutionary junta plan, in the event of a successful power grab by his comrades.
In an ABS-CBN interview, Nemenzo’s lawyer declined comment on his client’s claim that “he was in the Pen merely to do academic research on military rebels.” Reminds one of Copa’s Pastor Saycon’s dodge when the “Kawal” plot collapsed: “I merely facilitated airing of grievances.. Remember the alibi of the driver, nabbed in a bank heist’s getaway car. “I didn’t yell stick `em up,” he fumed. “I just held the car key and kept the motor running.”
In these repeated failed uprisings, the bottom line is : People Power remains what it t always was – a spontaneous cry, from a betrayed people, for peaceful redress under God’s sun. Filipinos do not wield this weapon of last resort lightly.
Twice in our recent checkered history, we‘ve used it: once against a dictator, and the second time against a plunderer. But it always resisted manipulation by tinsel prophets. For the “Spirit blows where it wills.”