Remembering Edsa

By:Rey Almenario
Today the country marks the 32nd anniversary of the so-called Edsa revolution that toppled former president-dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos after ruling the country for 20 years, 14 years of which were under martial law.
It was a people’s uprising triggered by Ramos and Enrile, former Marcos’ martial law co-designers and implementors, who fell from the graces of the dictator and wanted to stage a military coup against the dictatorship: an adventure which failed to gather steam. Presumably afraid of being caught and subsequently punished for their subversive action, the duo called on the late popular Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin to help them gather the anti-Marcos Metro Manila civilians from all walks of life in a show of people power against the overstaying dictator.
The popular archbishop responded to the call and quickly thousands upon thousands of civilians tired and fed up of the excesses of martial rule gathered at Edsa from Feb. 22-25, 1986 to join the call for Marcos’ ouster. Witnessing such huge and growing build-up of civilian protestors, most military commanders previously loyal to Marcos decided to desert the latter. By 25 Feb. 1986, Marcos and family and friends, upon the intervention of the US State Department, were flown from Malacanang to Hawaii, aboard US carriers.
And that was how Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Cory C. Aquino, became president, after having been cheated in the snap elections called by Marcos to establish his legitimacy and after after leading a civil disobedience movement to protest the rigging of the snap elections, among other political issues.
As we remember the Edsa “revolution” that toppled Marcos from power, let us also make an account of the “gains” the country and our people may have benefited, if any, following this historic event.
The immediate gain, say the yellow Cory loyalists, was the country’s return to democratic rule. That is true, if only in terms of the return of our civil liberties suppressed by Marcos’ martial rule. But that is just about it. For Edsa failed and failed miserably to lift the millions from debilitating poverty and starvation. For sure, foreign investments may have increased under Cory. The country’s gross domestic product may have risen under Cory. But distribution of wealth has stayed unequal, worsened in fact.
When our foreign lenders could have written off billions of our dollar loans, especially those tainted with corruption, if only the popular Cory had asked for write-off, or even moratorium on foreign debt payments, she opted instead to maintain the status quo.
When she could have repealed the law on automatic debt repayments that continues to put a strain on the government’s budget, she chose not to. She signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Code, but exempted her own Hacienda Luisita from coverage. Indeed, instead of responding to the call of protesting farmers for genuine land reform and the resolution of other pressing issues affecting the farming sector, she had her military apparatus rain bullets on the defenseless farmer-protestors in that infamous Mendiola massacre, killing many and wounding many more.
It is clear only the oligarchs in Philippine society, personified by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan, went on to politically and economically benefit from Edsa. In his column today in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Prof. Randy David beautifully puts the betrayal of Edsa in this headline: How a revolution turns into a restoration. Yes, restoration to political and economic power of oligarchs sidelined or marginalized by the Marcos dictatorship
Could another Edsa happen under the Duterte regime? There are certainly unsettling issues that hound this administration: unnecessary killings associated with tokhang, dictatorial tendencies of the president perceived as threat to press freedom, primacy of retired military men over civilians in appointments to high positions in the bureaucracy, controversial extension of martial law over Mindanao viewed by critics as prelude to what could be a nationwide declaration, the controversial TRAIN law that is sending consumer prices of basic commodities higher, and prevailing mass poverty, among others.
Against this backdrop, Duterte remains a hugely popular president, judging from the results of recent perception surveys conducted by the Social Weather Station and other survey organizations. The economy is among the fastest growing in the Asean, even if such growth does not meaningfully trickle down to the broad masses of poor Filipinos. As it is, mounting another Edsa by the disgruntled would be wishful thinking.

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