charter change

[OPINION] ‘Edsa-Pwera’ and the waning of a Constitution

John Molo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[OPINION] ‘Edsa-Pwera’ and the waning of a Constitution

Alyssa Arizabal

This constitutional moment is a reckoning. But it doesn’t have to be one-sided.

“Panahon na para itama and hindi patas na Konstitusyon.” That’s the battle cry of the commercial that heralded the latest version of charter change. Yes, it tells the public that there’s inequality because the Constitution is itself unequal. And yes, it completely ignores that the Constitution has an “equal protection” clause. But those behind the ad don’t care. They just need to inflame the public. Social media scans show there’s a slew of accounts running the same narrative against the Constitution, and of course EDSA.

It’s a potent strategy. The error of past Cha-Chas was that they were too cerebral. This one doesn’t make the same mistake. Of course, it incorporates economic thinking like, “We need to change it (the Constitution) because it has failed.” The reason? Because “35 years after the 1987 Constitution, nearly 80% consider themselves poor or near poor,” “our economy has fallen behind”, and “education has deteriorated”. Yes, it’s all non-sequitur but, what matters is that it triggers outrage. Troll farms need fuel.

So far, public reaction is muted. This favors the proponents and should alarm those against. It indicates that the combo of disinformation, economic punditry, and a huge war chest can’t be stopped by the same strategies that defeated Cha-Chas of the past. Calls to defend EDSA, the status quo, and the sanctity of the Constitution lack the power they once had. Worse, some approaches tend to “educate” the public, telling it to “do the right thing” but, are silent on what the public needs to hear.

Trolls farms exploited this during the 2022 campaign. We know how that ended. Whether it’s here, the US, Indonesia, or Argentina, disinformation operators draw from the same winning playbook: use nuggets of truth to prey on desperation. This works so well largely because the other (or “good”) side is often unwilling or unable to put the public first. Troll farms know that “good” political or financial leaders are often paralyzed by the fear of being called “populist” (or any other “ist” for that matter).

That’s where “Edsa-pwera” draws its power. For 37 years, despite what the 1987 Constitution commanded, we’ve asked the farmer, the worker, the middle-class, and the MSMEs to “wait.” “Wait” because we needed to chase the numbers. “Wait” because the economy is not yet ready. “Wait” because in truth, we quietly judged that their pleas made little “economic sense.” 

There’s a limit to the public’s patience. After 37 years, they have a right to resist calls for empty veneration. The Cha-Cha ad promises to uplift the ordinary Filipino. Who can say no to that? To say “stick with the Constitution” sounds like we are fine with how things are. “Ginagawa naman namin ang tama, pero walang nagbabago,” so said an old lady I met during the 2022 campaign.

To win the public back requires honesty and, more difficultly, humility. We need to accept that as a nation, we did get some things wrong. Post-EDSA economic policy did tend to favor the ultra-rich, while the tricycle driver remained a tricycle driver. We deemed it proper (or “efficient”) to keep taxing entrepreneurs and income earners, robbing public school teachers of the right to strike, and to deny farmers what they were promised. We prioritized “development” that turned public parks and open spaces into malls and condos that ordinary Filipinos could barely afford. Is a city really “global” if the people who make it run can’t afford to live in it?

These are the “wedges” that disinformation operators are exploiting. They did it to win elections. Now they’re using it to fuel “Edsa-pwera.” Surviving this firehose of disinformation also requires keeping things digestible. Changing the Constitution is a national conversation, not a lecture. Arguments will be more effective if they leverage shared experience, or suffering. Fortunately, as to the latter, the middle-class and MSMEs have more in common with the masa than dynasties. We commute for hours and can’t afford to live near our workplaces because of high property prices. Now we’re told opening land ownership to foreigners will help?

Most important of all, against disinformation, we must realign with the people we claim to fight for. This means reconsidering devotion to theories that have alienated the commuter, the worker, and the farmer. Concepts like “trickle-down economics” or beliefs that say concentration of wealth at the top is healthy must be revisited. The public has seen enough of the bias that views incentives and bonuses to the top 1% as “economically sound” whereas wage hikes are dismissed as recipes for “catastrophe.” Democracies will remain vulnerable to disinformation with their continuing failure (or is it refusal?) to address huge wealth gaps. 

This constitutional moment is a reckoning. But it doesn’t have to be one-sided. With humility and a genuine commitment to put the common Filipino first, manufactured hate can be shifted towards the proper targets. If this Constitution is to be changed, then so be it. But, not by tactics fueled by disinformation and manufactured hate. Still, the Resistance, if it is to be effective, must be willing to give the public what it has been denied since 1987. If the public is to “fight to preserve” the Constitution, give them something to fight for first. –

John Molo practices commercial law and teaches Constitutional Law in several schools. He chairs the Political Law Cluster of UP Law and has argued several cases before the Philippine Supreme Court. He is a Trustee of the Philippine Bar Association and is a past president of the Harvard Law School Alumni Association. He has lectured across the region on topics involving Disinformation.

1 comment

Sort by
  1. ET

    I agree: “… the Resistance, if it is to be effective, must be willing to give the public what it has been denied since 1987.” But first, we must undo how the triumvirate of Corruption, Repression, and Disinformation has poisoned the People’s minds. It is such a triumvirate that misled the People to believe what it has been denied since 1987, and worse, that it has to fight to preserve the ruling Marcos-Romualdez Political Dynasty. Secondly and lastly, later on, we need to look into “systemic weaknesses,” which may eventually lead to another social catastrophe.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!