Transitions to democracy in Southeast Asia, in particular in the Philippines and Indonesia, have been popularly characterized as ‘people power’ or bottom-up replacement driven by pro-democratic civil society forces. Yet, the dramatic fall of dictatorships subsequently led to the reorganization of oligarchic interests, and civil society forces continue to experience marginalization. Thus, one finds an unresolved discrepancy between the portrayal of transitions as a ‘triumph of civil society’ on the one hand and the persistence of oligarchic power structure after the transition and the resultant marginalization of the same civil society forces on the other. It is often suggested that entrenched patrimonialism hinders a meaningful move to greater democracy with new leaders displaying strong clientelist tendencies. 2 It is also emphasized that elements nurtured under the old regime survived the transitions, hijacking post-authoritarian reform to maintain and even expand their power. Such observations, however, sit uncomfortably with popular accounts of the collapse of authoritarianism, which still emphasize the democratizing role played by civil society forces.