Whether we like it or not, our generation lives under the shadows of Ferdinand Marcos and his Martial Law. As a people we pledged to "never again" allow for a return of the likes of him in the political landscape or, failing in that, to remove him/her in office before he/she gets a chance bring us back in that dark era. Our actions today are judged to the degree that we conform or digress against this pledge and so the question must be asked, are we withdrawing from that pledge?
More than the crisis in national leadership the graver crisis we may be facing today is the crisis in the perceived utility of People Power as a force for good.
It bears to note that the biggest lesson of People Power is the sheer indispensability of a leader, good or bad. Jose Rizal proved himself indispensable in the fight for Filipino liberty against Spanish tyranny. Benigno Aquino likewise proved himself indispensable in the fight for national liberty against the Marcos dictatorship. Heroes willingly die in the conviction that someone, anyone, can take their place and advance their human cause. Instead of perpetuating themselves in power their strategy is to perpetuate their vision in the people's hearts and minds, where it is untouched by any tyrant who may come after them and destroy everything they lived and died for.
The belief, therefore, that someone in high office is just way too qualified that he/she cannot be dispensed with is patently tyrannical and is definitely out of bounds with what is regarded as good in the context of Filipino political experience.
In a sense People Power was our collective acknowledgement of our heroes' belief in us as citizens. We know this so well after EDSA-1. So, where, we may ask, did People Power go wrong?
Maybe, just maybe, what's "wrong" is the basic assumption of People Power being the politics of last resort. In a sense it is. But it was also supposed to be everyday citizenship of the first order so the more proper question should be "where did we, as a people, go wrong?"
Just like that, "maximum tolerance" is dead. In this time of Bush-like "calibrated preemptive response" we are given the signal that the tempo for change has just been increased. They've eliminated tolerance out of the equation in the hope of also getting People Power out of the way for charter change but let's see what really gets eliminated.
Did People Power indeed fail us or are we just in that phase in history when our understanding of People Power is beginning to fully mature? Are we living like romantics, or worse, reactionaries in a post-Marcos era or are we instead living progressively, albeit in a struggle, in a "People Power Era"?
As a martial-law baby my hope is that someday People Power will no longer be asserted in the streets but from within the confines of government when scoundrels will be the ones out in the streets gnashing their teeth. I believe it will happen definitely, except that it will not be in this world.