Saturday, August 1, 2009

A leader in those heady times

The mid- to late 1980s were an interesting period in East Asia. The political map one sees today was, democracy-wise at least, quite different back then. It was in 1986 that an unlikely pro-democracy leader named Corazon Aquino was swept into the presidency in the Philippines. Her husband, Benigno Aquino, had been assassinated in 1983, almost certainly by those loyal to long-time Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. 

It was a "people power" movement following the disputed presidential election in 1986 that toppled Marcos (forcing he and his wife into exile in Hawaii, much like former ROK president Syngman Rhee). 

Inspired by the events in the Philippines, the spirit of those in US-allied countries seeking the democracy they'd been promised for decades spread. In 1987, massive demonstrations by students and then other civilians in South Korea forced then-President Chun Doohwan to abandon his plans for another presidential election by electors in favor of direct elections by the people. 

In Taiwan, the Republic of China led by Lee Teng-hui sought to further demonstrate that it was the better choice for all of China by instigating political reforms that gave more power to citizens. Though more gradual and less of a social upheaval, it was part of this trend. One also wonders if those in the Soviet Bloc were also inspired to remove their communist leadership by the actions of Mrs Aquino and the Philippine people.

But of course, not all of the inspired succeeded. We all know how the events of May and June 1989 turned out in Beijing. A year later in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest by the ruling junta instead of being allowed to take her position as prime minister following electoral victory by her party. Vietnam, for its part, remained a communist dictatorship.

These musings on my part are because of the news today that Mrs Aquino has died from colon cancer at the age of 76. It's hard to imagine what East Asia might be like today were it not for her courage and perseverance. 

Corazon Aquino, requiescat in pace.

Sphere: Related Content

6 comments:

  1. i don't know what to say. The whole country had known she was sick (i know i did), but the news of her passing still came as a shock.

    she was a great woman, immortalized as a hero. The first female president of my motherland, and was not corrupted by power.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It makes me happy to hear someone from the Philippines agreeing with my positive assessment of this person. Not being from the Philippines, I only have opinions based on what I know from outside, which is generally good.

    I could find something positive to say about most Korean leaders or most American leaders, but there would always be someone saying how the Korean leaders were generally terrible (and I mean Koreans telling me how terrible the Korean presidents were), and in the US about a third will say the same thing about any president (people from the opposing party), so it's rare to hear that someone who was in power was so universally liked.

    I hope that the people of the Philippines can build on her legacy. As I was doing news programs for more than the past ten years, I often mentioned Arroyo and Estrada, etc, and frankly I always wondered how someone like Estrada could be elected (but I also wondered how someone like Bush43 could be elected). Maybe I'm naïve for thinking this way, but I feel candidates for high office should be held to her standard.

    Kim Daejung won his Nobel Prize largely for his life-risking efforts to bring democracy to South Korea. I always thought (and I think my above essay demonstrates this) that Corazon Aquino deserved something like that, too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope that the people of the Philippines can build on her legacy.

    i hope so too. she was a hero. and the Philippines is a place wherein we place a lot of respect to individuals who did such. I'm sort of expecting a "Cory day holiday"


    I often mentioned Arroyo and Estrada, etc, and frankly I always wondered how someone like Estrada could be elected (but I also wondered how someone like Bush43 could be elected).

    because he's an actor. he acted the position, and those who were not paying attention just voted for the more appealing guy. (we voted for the other guy those days) To qualify for the spot, you only need to be three things:

    1. above 40 years old.
    2. can read and write
    3. is a filipino citizen.

    oh, sure!

    Maybe I'm naïve for thinking this way, but I feel candidates for high office should be held to her standard.

    **If it's naive to hope for candidates with integrity as pure as hers, then we just disheartened the future generation...
    and i'm naive too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Maybe this is not too important but ill point this out anyway. The photo above that refers to the 1987 People Power is actually the People Power II (EDSA Revolution II), that occurred last 2001 (to remove Estrada from Power). The golden shrine of the Virgin Mary that was there was actually built in commemoration of the 1987 Revolution. During the 1987, that area is just a highway.

    I have nothing against President Aquino, however i always felt that her rise to stardom as well as her legacy is over rated. She is a president by accident. She dont know how to manage a government and she doesnt have the will power. If anyone will go over the details of her presidency, its not as good as most people perceive. Im referring to her administrations efficiency in reducing corruption in local politics, lowering crime rate and improving economics vis a vis the other presidents that ruled before and after her. The EDSA revolution is an inspirational story (but thats it), and its effect with other countries history is debatable. If its Benigno Aquino we are talking about, then my opinion will be very positive.

    RIP Pres. Cory Aquino

    ReplyDelete
  5. Arvinsign, thanks for the correction on the photo. The site where I found it (which I am having trouble now finding) had labeled it as 1987, not 2001, but I'll take your word for it (it was not a Philippines-based site and I know that Korean stuff gets mislabeled all the time).

    As for Aquino's actual administration, I think no head of state ever escapes scrutiny for actual policies, but I do wish to give her credit for taking up her dead husband's cause and seeing it through.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sure. One other clue also is the banner on the left that says "RESIGN ALL". That was the battle cry during the EDSA II Revolution (referring to the call for the resignation of all pro-Estrada Senators). And also, the banner that says "AKBAYAN". AKBAYAN is a very active leftist group in the Philippines. The group was formed in 1998. So much for the lecture. I hate this OCD problem of mine :).

    "but I do wish to give her credit for taking up her dead husband's cause and seeing it through."

    -- As a Filipino, its flattering to know that. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.