YESTERDAY brought to memory the first day of the four-day bloodless EDSA People Power Revolution (February 22 to 25, 1986) that toppled the 20-year reign of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
The government had since then unilaterally celebrated that bloodless uprising year after year until 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. He has attended none of the subsequent February 25 celebrations.
No doubt most Filipinos today were not yet alive during the EDSA uprising 34 years ago, since the Philippine population was only 55 million in 1986 or half of the estimated 110 million today. But I was already 36 years old and the editor of Panay News then.
With a transistor radio in hand, I went down the office and hurried to my favorite coffee shop to listen to the breaking news.
The harried reporter was blaring a flash report: Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary (PC) chief Gen. Fidel Ramos had staged a failed coup d’etat and were holed in with other mutineers at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, fearing for their lives.
In those four days, the eyes of the rest of the world focused on the swelling of millions of people from all walks of life providing a mantle of protection on the mutineers against the incoming battle tanks.
The late Jaime Cardinal Sin was largely instrumental in convincing radio and TV audiences to converge along the EDSA stretch on both sides of Camp Aguinaldo.
Most elements in the military either surrendered to Gen. Ramos or merely stood down in tacit support of the EDSA “revolutionaries,” forcing the Marcos family to fly to Hawaii on February 25, 1986.
Earlier on that day, Corazon Aquino took her oath of office as revolutionary President despite her “loss” to Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap election.
One of the urgent acts of Pres. Cory was to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) of cities, municipalities and provinces. That was how a city prosecutor, Rodrigo Duterte, morphed into politics as OIC-vice mayor of Davao City – an “accommodation” to his mother Soledad who had campaigned hard for Cory against Marcos.
If only in recognition of that turning point in his life, shouldn’t President Duterte have done more for the annual celebration of EDSA Revolution than his predecessors?
Ironically, even if he were willing to, it would no longer hide his admiration for the toppled dictator Marcos, whom he turned “hero” by allowing interment of his remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016.
We who have gone through Marcos’ martial law years may see bits and pieces of Marcos in Duterte to the chagrin of the present generation influenced by “trolls” in social media.
Because of the polarization of public perception, it would be presumptuous to assume another onslaught on EDSA this week – not until the people who run out of patience rage rover the tendency of Duterte to gloss over “unforgivable” circumstances, such as the intrusion of Chinese military and fishing vessels within our exclusive economic zone at the West Philippine Sea.
Unlike during Marcos’ time when strong opposition political parties, like Pusyon Bisaya of Cebu, scared the administration in privilege speeches at the Batasang Pambansa, today’s congressmen are “tamed,” incapable of performing check-and-balance.
Even Vice President Leni Robredo has denied her involvement in the alleged plan to mobilize protesters who would occupy EDSA anew to call for the ouster of President Duterte.
Yes, the vaunted “spirit of EDSA” that gave us a strong sense of pride is gone, but hopefully not for good. ([email protected] /PN)