Edsa Veterans on Another Edsa

Singer-composer and university professor Jim Paredes, National Museum curator John Silva, and poet-musician Jess Santiago are veterans of previous Edsa uprisings. What do they think of the possibility of another Edsa uprising?


Singer-composer and university professor Jim Paredes. National Museum curator John Silva. Poet-musician Jess Santiago. They are all veterans of the popular uprisings that have come to be known as the Edsa uprisings or the People Power uprisings.

In February 1986, about a million people trooped to Edsa – near Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – to protect a small group of soldiers who had withdrawn support from the Marcos regime following what was said to be a fraud-ridden snap election. Marcos had ordered an attack on this group of soldiers, led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos.

The 1986 Edsa uprising was the culmination of a long anti-dictatorship struggle that began as early as before the declaration of martial law in 1972. Marcos had displayed authoritarian tendencies as early as 1969.

In January 2001, people again trooped to Edsa to oust another president, this time Joseph Estrada. They chose Edsa for its historical meaning.

The president had been facing impeachment charges for corruption, bribery, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

This time the fight was largely against corruption, although Estrada himself had displayed authoritarian tendencies as well as partiality to the family and cronies of the late Ferdinand Marcos and this, too, was a major issue against his administration.

Nineteen years have passed since the first Edsa uprising, and four years since the second one. The people continue to rail against corruption in government and violations of the most basic democratic rights.

And now several political quarters ranging from Left to Right are on the verge of calling for another Edsa uprising, in the wake of the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations said to involve President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. The conversations are said to have hints on cheating in the 2004 election.

There are calls for the ouster of another president. What do the likes of Paredes, Silva, and Santiago think of this – they who were at Edsa?

Paredes, a member of the singing trio Apo Hiking Society together with fellow Ateneans Danny Javier and Buboy Garovillo was involved in broad anti-dictatorship campaigns during the Marcos years. He joined both Edsa uprisings.

“I joined Edsa 1 with a full heart and spirit because I believed it was our chance at getting back our democratic institutions, and I think Edsa 1 was successful in that,” he said. “I joined Edsa 2 after much thinking and with much consideration because I felt it was important to tell our leaders that we cannot have a government like that, we need a more decent government.”

He is disappointed at where the country is after the two Edsa uprisings. He attributes the current state of affairs to “laziness on our part.” We wouldn’t be where we are now, he says, if we had really followed the “revolutionary spirit” of Edsa 1. “We thought the work was over,” he said. “That’s what went wrong.”

He does not deny that he is suffering from what some political analysts have described as “People Power fatigue.”

Does he regret joining the two Edsas? “In both Edsas I went there with pure intentions, and I think you can never fault pure intentions,” he replies.

But does he intend to join another Edsa uprising?

“Frankly, no. I don’t think that’s the way to go,” he said. “I think it’s either we work through it through our processes, and if our processes cannot deliver, let us have a real revolution – scary as it sounds, very scary, of course I don’t want that.

“But our government is a failure. Our system of government is a failure. It has not delivered on its promises. So for me, it’s either we strengthen the process – in other words, strengthen the justice system, imprison whoever has to be imprisoned; and if we cannot do that then let’s throw the government out, let’s change everything, let’s change ourselves, let’s change the whole system.”

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