There appears to be a marked difference between power and authority. It is not said but well felt. It may not be seen but it is clear and concrete. The distinction has a special relevance to leaders and followers. And this truth is particularly relevant to the socio-political situation of the country.
Power is usually associated with physical force. It is identified with material strength and control. That is why there is fire-power with reference to weapons and armaments. This is the essence of the armed forces of a given country. That is why there is a country called “super power” which is synonymous with the capacity to destroy, to dictate, to dominate.
Authority on the other hand has reference to moral competence and influence. It is so right and so real. It commands obedience without enforcement. It invites internal deference with neither external coercion nor confrontation.
Authority serves. Power dominates. Both authority and power rule: the former liberates while the later subjugates. Both authority and power govern: the first earns confidence and respect from those governed, the second implants in them suspicion and disdain, anger and hatred.
It is best when those who exercise secular governance have both moral authority and physical power, to have moral ascendancy hand-in-hand with ordinate armed forces. It is dangerous both for those who govern and those governed if they merely rule and are ruled with power but no authority. Such predicament only leads to the ultimate end: the doing away with the rulers by those ruled.
And herein lies the big predicament of the present administration. There is the prevalent perception among the populace that Malacañang governs and rules with armed power without acceptable authority in terms of moral ascendancy. Unless this common perception is changed, the government will be continuously challenged.
This explains the continuous protest rallies and marches. This is the reason for the consistent rumors of coups both from known and covert figures.
19 December 2005