THE 30th anniversary of the EDSA People’s Power Revolution was recently celebrated amidst the poverty that constantly wears down our people and the uncertainty that grips the world, especially in the Middle East.
EDSA is where the hopes of millions of Filipinos for a better living condition and more political freedom are after we deposed the 21-year Marcos regime through a determined but spontaneous effort. The hope is still there albeit much of it unfulfilled.
I still remember the newspaper headlines on Feb. 25, 1986 announcing that Marcos and his family fled Malacanang. It is like a dream. I cannot believe it for Marcos was the only president I have known until then.
Nobody could ever imagine that the Aug. 21, 1983 assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the father of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport would be the catalyst of EDSA. Aquino’s assassination forced his fellow politically excluded members of the national bourgeoisie to work hand in hand with the growing oppressed sectors of Philippine society.
Who would have thought that that incident would spell the beginning of the end for the Marcos dictatorship?.
People’s organization from the liberal right to the extreme left worked feverishly to oust Marcos and his cronies from power. Bigger and bigger people’s protest actions were held all over the country. Liwasang Bonifacio, Mendiola and in a few occasions Plaza Miranda in Metro Manila became the places to be at the time and “Boycott” the new byword of students and protesters.
Sandals, backpacks and bandanas or tubaos and even malongs became the fashion statement of activist students while the terms of endearment “Ka,” and “Bok” and the much more political “Marcos-Hitler Diktador-Tuta” and “Imperyalismo – ibagsak, Pyudalismo – ibagsak, Burukrata Kapitalismo – ibagsak” slogan became the mantras of a protesting people.
Cutting classes to attend the regular teach-ins in the tambayan where the Rebolusyunaryong Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, the national situation and sometimes Theology of Liberation are studied became the norm for progressive student activists while workers intensified their union activities and the peasantry called for genuine land reform. It became fashionable to call the workers and peasants one’s real classmates and the streets, the true universities of the people.
It was really a tumultuous era that in 1985, Marcos was forced to call for a snap election in an apparent bid to divide the opposition and legitimize his tottering regime.
An inexperienced housewife, Corazon Aquino – the widow of Ninoy and BS’s mother, took up Marcos’ challenge and apparently won the snap elections.
The strong man, who is ailing at this time, refused to recognize Ms. Aquino’s victory and instead declared himself as the legitimate winner of the Feb.7, 1986 elections. His refusal to submit to the will of the people emboldened the protesting masses even more as talks of an armed revolution by this time is already in the air.
It was at this point that a faction of the military led by Marcos’ defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos began plotting a coup d’état against their boss. Their plans, however, became known to Marcos following the arrest of some of their men prompting them and their few followers to hold out in Camps Aguinaldo and Crame (both camps were situated fronting each other at the corner of EDSA and Bonnie Serrano Street) where they decided to await and resist the loyalist soldiers who were given orders to arrest them.
However, before Enrile and Ramos could be arrested, the late Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin and Ninoy’s brother Agapito “Butz” Aquino, on the night of Feb. 22, called on the people to converge in front of the two camps and protect the mutineers from loyalist forces. Thus began the EDSA revolt.
Millions of people from all walks of life trooped to where the camps are located. Three days of prayers and protesting ultimately saved the coup plotters (contrary to the recent claims of Enrile and Ramos that their foiled plot led to Marcos’ ouster) and ended the Marcos dictatorship.
Marcos, who was then holed up in Malacanang, was airlifted by U.S. forces to Hawaii to ensure that Ms. Aquino would assume power and that bourgeois democracy would be firmly in place.
Three decades later, the only clear and undeniable achievement of EDSA is the restoration of the democratic space (which is immensely being enjoyed by traditional politicians or trapos).
Problems like the non-empowerment of the people due to poverty, political opportunism of the national elite, and the presence or pressure of foreign interest in the halls of power remain as if EDSA did not happen.
Patronage politics, a regressive form of feudal politicking practiced by politically entrenched families, is now even worse as it became the “standard operating procedure.”
A culture of impunity now pervades not only the military and police establishments but also civilian sector of government. Hence, civil servants now have the notion that they can do anything and get away with it unpunished. This is the reason for the numerous corruption scandals rocking the civilian arm of the government, the military and police establishments.
Thus, it could be fairly said that the aspirations of EDSA for a just and equitable society where the people are economically and politically empowered remain unfulfilled. A lot of work has yet to be done so that the sacrifices made by those who did not make it in won’t be in vain. It is the duty of today’s generation to do their part.
Kung hindi ngayon kailan? Kung hindi tayo sino? Bangon bayan, sisikat din ang araw sa dakong silangan.
*The opinion of this author is his alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.