By BENJIE OLIVEROS
It’s ironic that the Edsa People Power monument and the Edsa shrine, which have been built to celebrate and commemorate the ouster of a dictatorship, are now off-limits to those who want to air their grievances against the administration and the resident of Malacañang. Not only are protest rallies in these sites being prohibited, these are being guarded zealously by large numbers of state security forces during the supposed commemoration of Edsa People Power 1.
When did this start?
It was not during the Cory Aquino administration. In fact, the anniversary of Edsa People Power 1 was celebrated in these sites and everybody was welcome. People flocked to these sites, although as the years passed by and there has been no substantial change in the lives of majority of the people, the crowd became thinner and thinner.
Neither was it during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos who also benefited from Edsa People Power 1. Even the succeeding administration of Joseph Estrada, who had no affinity with Edsa People Power 1, did not prohibit gatherings not organized by the government and protest actions to be held at Edsa. In fact, Estrada was ousted by the second edition of People Power, which began with gatherings of thousands of people at the Edsa shrine, snowballed into more than a million and culminated in a march to Malacañang.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who benefited from the ouster of Estrada, was the first to prohibit unofficial gatherings and protest actions at the Edsa shrine and people power monument especially since her administration became the object of the people’s ire after a mere one year of assuming office after she, her family and officials were implicated in one corruption scandal after another.
And now the son of the primary beneficiary of Edsa People Power 1 is ironically the second president to ban rallies and unofficial gatherings at Edsa. Benigno Simeon Aquino III who was propelled to power by being packaged as the opposite of Arroyo and on the slogan of “tuwid na daan” (righteous path) has now turned his back on the historical event that brought his mother to Malacañang.
A long stretch of Edsa was closed to traffic for “security reasons” even as the second Aquino administration held “quieter” and much downgraded commemoration activities. This caused monstrous traffic, which stranded and angered a lot of people who got stuck in a five-hour traffic jam. This despite the big number of policemen deployed at Edsa, whose main concern was to block protesters and guard against any unofficial gathering of people at the shrine and at the monument.
What is the Aquino administration afraid of when the president’s late mother is still being remembered as the icon of Edsa People Power 1? Why did Aquino administration have to implement a security overkill when it claims to be pursuing a righteous path and still gloats on its supposed popularity? Is it afraid to rekindle the fire of Edsa People Power uprisings, when the people chose the path of direct action to oust a dictator and, later on, a president accused of scandalous corruption?