OUTGOING Prime Minister Cesar Virata, obviously oblivious of what was happening in Malacañang, formally turned over to Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel the Office of the Prime Minister in a simple ceremony at the Executive House at 1 p.m. on March 25, 1986.
OUTGOING Prime Minister Cesar Virata, obviously oblivious of what was happening in Malacañang, formally turned over to Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel the Office of the Prime Minister in a simple ceremony at the Executive House at 1 p.m. on March 25, 1986. Two hours after the symbolic turnover, President…
Two hours after the symbolic turnover, President Corazon C. Aquino invited Laurel, Juan Ponce Enrile and other Cabinet members to attend a press conference in Malacañang.
Suddenly, Aquino proceeded to read Proclamation 3, abolishing the 1973 Constitution, the Parliament, the Supreme Court, the office of the Prime Minister and all national and local positions.
Laurel, Enrile and the rest of the officials present could not believe it. President Aquino and her advisers had unilaterally set up a Revolutionary Government!
Furious and feeling betrayed, Laurel recalled later: “It was not only politically reckless but economically disastrous.”
Enrile, Laurel, the rebel officers, as well as the Unido leaders had played a very important role in the ouster of Marcos. They gambled with their lives and gave up so much of their time to bring the new government to power.
Any decision involving no less than the abolition of the Constitution should have at least been discussed and debated with them.
Yet, they were not even consulted. They felt betrayed and it was too late to complain.
“History,” Laurel said later, “might have taken a different course if President Aquino had not abolished the 1973 Constitution, and if her avowed objective was to achieve political stability at the earliest possible date, she should have repealed only the objectionable Marcos Amendments, particularly Amendment No. 6, which had clothed himself with legislative powers and perpetuated military rule.
“It was like burning a whole house just to kill a rat!”
Laurel was right because when she demolished the infrastructure of the Marcos government, she wrecked the entire political structure and, thus, derailed the application of much needed solutions to the country’s worsening political, social and economic problems.
Besides, there would have been no need now to debate the wisdom, or the lack of it, of going back to a parliamentary form of government or a federal system of government. Or wasting time and taxpayers’ money arguing whether to amend or revise the Constitution.
Said Laurel: “We could have saved precious years and the billions of pesos spent in running the country under a Revolutionary Government, in framing a new but flawed Constitution and in holding expensive local and national elections.
“We could have avoided bitter partisan resentments caused by the arbitrary replacement of elected local officials by favored officers in charge.
“We could have addressed the urgent national problems sooner and gained political stability earlier.”
As for Laurel and the other leaders, the worst was yet to come. During the 100-day honeymoon period, Laurel and Enrile, in particular, were systematically eased out of Malacañang’s inner circle.
Barely a month after Aquino’s oath taking, they became less and less privy to the decision-making process of the palace and more and more reduced to being outsiders, whose access to the presidency was being substantially sabotaged by a cordon sanitaire.
Laurel and Enrile were no longer invited to Malacañang except for Cabinet meetings. Military intelligence reports that they used to receive every week stopped reaching them. Something was indeed cooking in Malacañang.
“And stoking the fires,” Laurel recalled, “was the intense power struggle between two camps: one group was a left-leaning clique bereft of experience in statecraft that hated Enrile and the reformist officers, and the other was a group just as inexperienced but allied with big businesses and the powerful Catholic Church.
By Cecilio Arillo, February 26, 2019
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