IT SEEMS that Philippine President Corazon Aquino is ready to declare into existence a "revolutionary government" to sweep away the constitutional superstructure of Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule. She'll then resolve the pesky problem of a National Assembly in which the Marcos party still claims a majority on the basis of earlier parliamentary elections.Her government will be able to write a new constitution and hold new elections at its convenience. At the end, everyone can hope, the Philippines will be a solid democracy again.
We are aware this is not a time when Philippine democrats are eager to hear American nagging. President Aquino may care to know, however, that not all her well-wishers sympathize with her turn to a revolutionary government. It seems to us the step takes away from the high seriousness of the whole campaign she pursued to install democratic rule.
The Feb. 7 presidential election, after all, worked. With what the American ambassador wryly termed "an extension of the counting process," it produced a winner who was, plainly, the people's choice: Mrs. Aquino. This is the very basis of her legitimacy. True, there was a hitch: the old National Assembly, controlled by the Marcos party, confirmed him as the new president. Her proper response to that, however, would have been to use her great current political influence to jawbone the assembly and induce it to certify her as the victor. Then she could have gone on to dissolve the assembly, write a constitution, and so on.
As Mrs. Aquino fought to make the outcome of the count reflect accurately the outcome of the vote, she appealed to the crowds in the street and applied to them the name of "people power." A useful and necessary tactic in the gaining of power, however, should not be confused with a source of legitimacy. The vote was the source of legitimacy. If she could now have that vote confirmed by the National Assembly, she would reap the moral advantage of taking her place in the Malacanang Palace as a democratically elected president rather than as the leader of a military coup and a provisional government.
A small thing? Without such confirmation, the opposition is bound to continue to claim she is not in her office by right. The Philippines does not need this sort of distraction. It also helps to keep in mind just what it was that toppled Ferdinand Marcos. It was not his corruption, or the assassination of a rival, or the growing insurgency or the looming economic collapse. Collective national outrage reached a critical mass only when Mr. Marcos added to the list of popular grievances his denial of the people's right to remove him. A stolen election was too much. There lies the case for Mrs. Aquino's respecting its true results.