Problem with Rainbow Coalitions

Cory Aquino and Joseph Estrada sharing the same stage in a rally must have caught people by surprise, considering the contrast in their politics and presidencies.

Aquino was beneficiary of People Power 1 while Erap was at the receiving end of People Power 2 (ironically, Cory was among those behind the latter’s downfall in 2001).

But this has been the strategy since Ferdinand Marcos was successfully booted out of power in 1986: forge coalitions to muster the needed “critical mass” of protesters.

Edsa 1’s “rainbow coalition” had the extreme left kapit-bisig with the extreme right, together with groups upholding ideologies and views between the two extremes.

Because the dictatorship was able to push many politicians to the periphery for a time, they were able to acquire a degree of respectability in the anti-Marcos coalition.

Edsa 2 used the same coalition building strategy that had so-called civil society groups and militants uniting with traditional politicians for the main goal of ousting Erap.

Throughout all these, the inherent weakness of the strategy, which is the coalition’s vulnerability to manipulation by unprincipled personalities, was glossed over.

Edsa 1’s triumph paved the way for the reacquisition of power by traditional and corrupt politicians who disguised themselves as leaders of anti-Marcos political groups.

Edsa 2, meanwhile, replaced the corrupt and incompetent Erap government with a similarly corrupt administration, although it may not necessarily be an incompetent one.

What differentiates the current effort to oust President Arroyo from the other people power uprisings is that the weakness of the coalition strategy is obvious.

Nowhere is this truer than in last week’s Makati rally graced by Cory and Erap.

Aquino must have felt awkward lambasting Arroyo’s alleged corrupt acts and pushing for her resignation even as Estrada, a convicted plunderer, was sitting nearby.

By using the same “rainbow coalition” strategy against Arroyo, coalition leaders may have ensured that once the present government falls, a similar one will take its place.

(I wrote this for the March 4, 2008 editorial of Sun.Star Cebu)

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