Washington International Law Journal


Massive peaceful demonstrations ended the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines twenty years ago. The “people power” uprising was called a democratic revolution and inspired hopes that it would lead to the consolidation of democracy in the Philippines. When popular uprisings were later used to remove or threaten other leaders, people power was criticized as an assault on democratic institutions and was interpreted as a sign of the political immaturity of Filipinos. The literature on people power is presently marked by disagreement as to whether all popular uprisings should be considered part of the people power tradition. The debate is grounded on the belief that people power was a democratic revolution; other uprisings are judged on how closely they resemble events surrounding Marcos’ ouster from office. This disagreement has become unproductive and has prevented Filipinos from asking questions about the causes of these uprisings or the failure of democratic consolidation. This Article departs from conventional thought and develops two alternative theories of people power in the Philippines. The first holds that people power is an expression of outrage against a particular public official. The second holds that it is a withdrawal of allegiance from the official in favor of another. Neither view insists that people power is or aspires to democratic revolution. These alternative theories hope to resuscitate the study of Philippine democracy.

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