The 1986 February Revolution marks a turning point in the history of the Philippines' as a nation. It liberated the Pilipino people from the pangs of dictatorship and oppression of the previous regime. A turning point, however, is only a beginning, the start of a new pathway. The February Revolution may be considered a "founding event" that sets the pace for national reconstruction: economic, political, and social. What must not be left out, though, is the moral reconstruction of the Pilipino character, for a nation is only as good as the people who compose it. The moral recovery program is as urgent as any economic or political reform, for indeed, as Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani says, "At the bottom of our economic problems and political instability is the weakness and corruption of the moral foundations of our society."

What is called for then is the project of a Pilipino ethics. But what would this ethics be? What characteristics would it have? Upon what should it be built?

I suggest that we pick up precisely from the February Revolution as a "founding event." After all, the February Revolution was uniquely Pilipino: during those momentous four days in February, Filipinos showed their strengths and overcame their weaknesses as a people, giving birth to people power.

What follows is an outline of a project of a Pilipino ethics.


A Pilipino ethics must first and foremost be an axiological ethics, an ethics of values.

The February Revolution was a highly emotional event that highlighted many positive Pilipino values that may well serve and enhance people power or lakas ng bayan. The four days of February were not planned rationally and systematically. Perhaps they were the culmination of a long series of struggle for liberation, but the happenings during those four days were the spontaneous response of the people to the call of the moment, an outpouring of hearts, pleas, and prayers. If reason played any part at all during those days, it was reason guided by the heart.

Values, as Max Scheler says, are objects of our intentional feelings. They are not thought, but felt. Far from being a chaotic unstable realm of our human existence, the heart has an order of its own, an ordre du coeur. The heart has its own reason which reason itself does not know, says Pascal. Our feelings are our spontaneous response to the world, more immediate than our thinking. The heart has a certain kind of feelings (different from sensory feeling, feeling state, and psychic feeling) that are intentional in nature, that is, oriented towards value. As correlatives of our intentional feeling, values are not things, situations or persons, though these may act as carriers of value. Rather, values that are preferred or placed before in our feeling-acts of loving and hating. As such they are objective in the sense that they do not change; they are simply there or given for our valuing. Values, however, attract us, and in this sense are subjective or related to us; they address us, call us, generate in us an ought-to-be and an ought-to-do. We are obligated to do something because something ought to be, but that something presupposes a value.

A Pilipino ethics must be an ethics of value. A Pilipino hardly acts on the basis of his rationality. Not that he is irrational or does not use his head, but he tends to act more from the promptings of his heart, from an intuitive and immediate grasp of reality. More accurately, he acts from his kalooban, which in reality is inseparably heart-mind. Rather than an ethics of form and matter, of ends and means, or a deontological ethics, both of which emphasize reason and may be alien to the Pilipino personality, an ethics of value is precisely attuned to this personality.

But what values need to be emphasized in such an ethics?


A Pilipino ethics must value solidarity.

The February Revolution gave birth to people power, in contrast to the power of one man or one family. People power was symbolized in people forming a single elbow-chain, kapit-bisig, pleading with the soldiers of Marcos, "Sumama ka, makiisa ka na sa amin" (come with us, be one with us). Rich and poor joined hands, shared food, water, makeshift shelter, and bed. The disabled did not have to worry about falling in line for the food; food was brought to them. Such was also experienced by the soldiers on the campus. The people protected Ramos and Enrile and their forces; each was responsible for the other. One of the two songs that became popular after the event was "Magkaisa". Reconciliation became the byword in the ensuing days.

An ethics of solidarity, of kapit-bisig, is an imperative for the Pilipino today. For a nation made up of 7,100 or more islands, divided into so many regions each at home in its own language, and with factions of different if not conflicting ideologies, the value of solidarity may be our primary road to survival as a nation.

An ethics of solidarity is an ethics of responsibility. Responsibility is the ability to give a response to the objective demands of the situation, which in this situation is the need of my neighbor. Responsibility is response to and for my neighbor. The neighbor is kapuwa, dalawa ngunit pareho. My neighbor is other than me, yet like me a human being and a Pilipino.

Walang sinuman and nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang Walang sinuman and namamatay para sa sarili lamang Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa't isa . . .

(No one lives for himself alone, No one dies for himself alone,Each one is responsible for everyone else.)

An ethics of solidarity (kapit-bisig) highlights the Pilipino value of pakikipagkapwa (sharing in one's advanity), which is not quite the same as pakikisama (group loyalty). Pakikipagkapwa springs from an inner conviction that the other, though belonging to a different region or faction, is a fellowman; like me, he or she is a human being who deserves to be respected, attended to and loved. "Magkakapit-bisig tayo" means that you and I are responsible for one another; we are all in this together.

But for what are we in solidarity? The answer is found in the values of truth and justice.


A Pilipino ethics must value truth, justice and, in consequence, human rights.

The February Revolution started with the defection of Ramos and Enrile and the latter's revelation that there had been rampant cheating in the snap election of which the true winner was Cory Aquino. The gathering at the well-named Epiphanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) was a witnessing to the truth, a standing for the truth of the mandate of the people. It was also a genuine protest against countless abuses of power, the trampling of human rights under the Marcos regime, the most significant of which was the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. The February Revolution, in short, was a revolt against social injustice.

One of the most unforgettable moments during the February Revolution was the false alarm that Marcos had left the country. When the people learned the truth that he was still around and that a curfew had been declared, more people left their homes and gathered at EDSA. One of the striking features at EDSA was the food brigade at Gate 4 of Camp Aguinaldo--it never ran out of food because the rich shared what they had with the poor.

A Pilipino ethics must emphasize the values of truth, justice and human rights. The pressing problems and issues facing the country today can be boiled down to the disvaluing of truth and justice, and the lack of respect for human rights: graft and corruption, insurgency, poverty and unemployment, agrarian reform, labor unrest, even the depletion of our natural resources. Solidarity is cemented in the common commitment to truth and justice. To value truth is to live and die for the truth, to bear witness to a light that is given to me but not to me alone. Katotohanan is katoto-hanan or katotoo-hanan: where you and I abide, that which you and I can share and partake of and of which no single person has a monopoly. Katarungan (justice) is katarung-an, the straight path that you and I must tread and not circumvent.

The common thread that unites both truth and justice is the dignity of the human person, at once both a singular and social value. Truth is a value because, as person, one is gifted with the openness to know it. Justice as the rendering of what is due to the person is a value because in his uniqueness and irreducibility one person is inviolable. The dignity of the person grounds both truth and justice.

To speak of justice and the dignity of the human person is, of course, to speak unaviodably of his rights. The inviolability of the person is his right to live decently, to work humanly and earn the fruits of his labor, to be educated and to express freely and responsively his thoughts and feelings, to share equitably the riches of the earth. The emphasis on rights, however, must be complimented by an emphasis on obligation. I cannot demand my rights unless I fulfill my obligation. Both are simply two sides of the same reality, the inviolability of the human person.

The inviolability of the human person points to another value that must characterize a Pilipino ethics--non-violence.


The February Revolution was a non-violent revolution. The people did not meet arms with arms; rather they used persuasion, pakikiusap. All throughout those tense four days of February, Ramos was on the air, nakikiusap, persuading the military commanders to join him. Indeed it was a peaceful revolution.

Pilipinos are a peace-loving people. We hate violence, conflicts, and direct confrontation with others. We prefer to harmonize with others, to be at peace with them. Peace, however, is not just the absence of disorder, but is positively grounded on justice. The incidents of assassination that we hear, read about, or even witness nowadays may be due to conflicting demands of justice. Nevertheless, the February Revolution proved that we can fight for justice without the use of violence.

The opposite of violence is usapan, dialogue. To engage in dialogue with the other on equal footing, with a disinterested openness to the other and a willingness to be carried by the force of what is true and good, is to value non-violence.

Non-violence is at once the recognition that all persons are brothers and sisters under the Fatherhood of one God--the value of the Holy.


That the February Revolution was indeed a miracle may be contested. What cannot be doubted, however, is the religiosity of the people who participated in it, directly and indirectly. The images of the Blessed Virgin, the rosaries and the Masses, the recitation of the Our Father before any food distribution, were among the many symbols of faith at EDSA. Outside Metro Manila and in the provinces, people prayed and sent donations of food and money: church bells tolled in sympathy and in thanksgiving with those at EDSA for a freedom won. The February Revolution was a manifestation of the belief that God had liberated the Pilipino people.

A Pilipino ethics cannot deny the value of God or the Holy. Pilipinos in general have never doubted the existence of God; indeed to prove His existence is rather alien to the Pilipino mind. The question perhaps ought to be "how real is God to us?" God is not so sacred that He is cut off from the secular. "Nasa Diyos and awa, nasa tao ang gawa" (Man proposes, God disposes) ought to be re-interpreted in the light of the February Revolution to mean that God is the God of history, that He is one with us in the making of our history as one people."Isang bansa, isang lahi, isang pananampalataya" (One nation, one race, one belief).


Finally, a Pilipino ethics is critical of traditional Pilipino values and traits that need to be re-evaluated in the prospect of reconstruction and total human development.

The February Revolution saw the overcoming of some of these traditional Pilipino values and traits. The timidity, complacency, and lack of drive of the Pilipino was proven wrong during those challenging days of the revolution. Pilipinos sacrificed the comfort and safety of home to go to EDSA. Where was the supposed lack of discipline of the Pilipino at EDSA when people lined up for the distribution of food?

The value of the family here was evident at EDSA--parents bringing their children to share in the making of history. But it was the family with other families rather than my family versus the others.

Where was the utang-na-loob (indebtedness) of Enrile when he decided to go against his benefactor Marcos even at the latter's request to share power? Where is the truth to the popular "crab story" (referring to the tendency of crabs in a basket to pull each other down) that is supposed to characterize the Pilipino when Enrile and Ramos acknowledged the presidency of Cory Aquino? What of the colonial mentality of the Pilipino? The foreign media were there, but only as observers; Radio Veritas and the Pilipino people did the fighting on their own. And for once the value of pakikisama was used positively for freedom, truth, and justice and not simply for regional faction.

A Pilipino ethics must now re-evaluate and be critical of the traditional Pilipino values and traits of bahala-na (resignation), kanya-kanya (self-centeredness), utang-na-loob (indebtedness), pakikisama (family), pamilya and colonial mentality. These cultural values are ambivalent, they can be used positively or negatively, for the common good or for self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. If culture is not just the passive acceptance of things and values handed down by the previous generation, but the creative work shaping what is presently at hand in view of what a people intends to be in the future, then a Pilipino ethics needs to emphasize the positive elements of traditional values to foster the Pilipino identity.

The project of a Pilipino ethics is education for a lifetime, but the task begins now, for as says Lao Tze, "The journey of a thousand miles begins from where one stands."

Ateneo de Manila University