Carol Pagaduan-Araullo | Edsa Myths (Part II)

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Was Edsa I a failure? Ferdinand Marcos Jr., heir to the Dictator Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth and discredited political legacy, says so. According to him, there has been no change: poverty only worsened, there are no basic services for the people and subsequent governments were not able to clean up the bureaucracy.

Senator Noynoy Aquino reminisces about his parents’ (and his own) sacrifices in fighting Marcos. He asserts that his mother, President Corazon Aquino, successfully restored democracy and defended it by putting down several coup attempts.

Both, not surprisingly, are resorting to half-truths to peddle lies from each one’s self-serving perspective.

Mr. Marcos Jr. cites the impoverished, miserable and repressed state that Filipinos are in to argue that things were better back in his father’s heyday. Marcos Sr. told the people that they had to give up their political and civil liberties in exchange for economic and social welfare; in the end, he gave the people neither. If indeed things are in many ways worse now than under the Marcos dictatorship it is because its warped legacy pervades today’s restored “democracy”.

Noynoy, for his part, tries to reprise the good-versus-evil analogy that worked well for his mother when she ran for president against the strongman Marcos. He paints a Camelot-like reign: apart from restoring so-called democracy, she allegedly also banished the evils of corruption, abuse of power and moral turpitude. Since to many Filipinos, the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the embodiment of evil, Noynoy wants us to believe that he, by pedigree, is the antithesis of Mrs. Arroyo.

Too bad for Noynoy, not even the outpouring of grief during his mother’s wake and burial can erase the truth about what happened after Edsa I, how its promise of giving back power to the people and of bringing about long-sought after reforms was dashed not long after Cory assumed power.

What has been obscured in the furor over whether EDSA 1 was a failure or not is the fact that while martial law was declared by Marcos in 1972 to perpetuate his hold on power, he still had to preserve the reactionary rule of the big landowners, the business partners of the multinational companies and banks, and the entrenched bureaucrat capitalists from whence he himself came.

While the other factions of the elite were lorded over by the Marcos clique, it was the people who bore the brunt of the suffering under the same old exploitative and oppressive ruling system made worse by fascist tyranny. Consequently, while the overthrow of the dictatorship was the immediate common goal of the Edsa I participants, there were as many medium-term and long-term objectives as there were class interests among the participants.

The small but influential and moneyed minority to whom Cory and Ninoy Aquino belonged was interested only in restoring the formal trappings of democracy – e.g. elections, Congress, the judiciary and ostensibly, civilian over military rule – but were averse to instituting genuine land reform or national industrialization. The larger majority wanted nothing less than “food and freedom, jobs and justice”.

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