“What was restored 30 years ago and continues to this day are only the trappings of elite democracy – periodic elections, Congress and a Constitution that guarantees civil liberties. The people demand more than that. They demand genuine freedom and democracy that goes beyond the mere holding of elections.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – In 1971, Rodolfo del Rosario was given an “invitation” to go to a nearby police station. But the invitation had lasted for two years. Del Rosario was among those wrongfully detained under the martial law.
Del Rosario was the family’s breadwinner. During his years in detention, they had no income. His wife who sold meat in the market had to shut down her store.
Del Rosario joined today’s march to EDSA Shrine, along with other victims of martial law and members of progressive groups, to commemorate the 30th year since the ousting of dictator, the late Ferdinand Marcos.
Earlier that day, President Aquino also led a commemoration at the EDSA Shrine, where they grandly re-enacted the so-called “Salubungan.”
But for Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo, the EDSA uprising “has been reduced to a spectacle” under Corazon Aquino’s administration.
“After 30 years, it is now a hollow ritual under the regime of her son, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. What was restored 30 years ago and continues to this day are only the trappings of elite democracy – periodic elections, Congress and a Constitution that guarantees civil liberties. The people demand more than that. They demand genuine freedom and democracy that goes beyond the mere holding of elections,” Araullo said in a statement.
Not merely ‘spontaneous’
Peter “Tata Pido” Gonzalez, an icon in the peasant struggle in the country, said in an interview that that he was among those who joined the first EDSA uprising 30 years ago. But sadly, he added, the credit of ousting Marcos is now being grabbed by those in power.
Gonzales said that as early as 1965, there was already a brewing discontent among Filipinos. He said the youth organized themselves and formed the Kabataang Makabayan. They went underground and to the countryside to educate and mobilize the people.
When Cardinal Sin called on the people to gather at EDSA, the people then have reached the height of their discontent.
“Kaya isang tawag lang, kasa agad ang mamamayan,” (That was why all it took was just one call and the people poured out into the streets.) he quipped, adding that in that sense, the popular EDSA uprising was not spontaneous.
It was, he added, a result of the groundwork that many activists had selflessly done despite the risks of being killed, tortured or disappeared under martial law.
Nits Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno recalled how in the days and months leading to EDSA uprising, they, too, were busy organizing residents along the street of M. Dela Fuente, near the Malacanang palace.
Gonzaga told Bulatlat that she was arrested in her house in Vicente Lim for helping form the Malayang Samahan ng Magsasaka (Masaka), which was founded by the late labor leader Felixberto Olalia Sr.
She was detained for four months.
“It was while I was detained that I was able to discern that I was on the right track. Since I was released, my commitment to the movement never ever wavered,” Gonzaga said.
Barricade defies logic
Progressives were able to whisk through three sets of barricades by the police as they marched along EDSA. They were able to hold the program right across the shrine.
“Where is the spirit of EDSA?” director and writer Bonifacio Ilagan, also a torture victim during martial law, said during the protest.
Ilagan, brother of missing martial law activist Rizalina, assailed that whoever ordered the blocking of today’s protesters defies logic.
Cultural artist Mae Paner, who was once a supporter of Aquino, jested she once belonged to the “other side” of the barricade.
“Tumaya ako,” she said, referring to how she campaigned for Benigno AquinoIII. She shared how she used to believe that genuine change could be implemented through Aquino.
Aquino is being criticized for implementing policies that progressives deem as anti-people. Araullo said that on the eve of the EDSA anniversary commemoration, members of a paramilitary group, formed and armed by the military, torched the temporary living quarters in Davao City of Lumads who were forcibly evacuated due to militarization of their communities.
“The youth of today should realize that they have the power to change society, and that power goes way beyond just casting your votes during elections. In fact, people power happened because of the clear inability of the elections to resolve the crisis of Philippine society,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
He added that people power “remains relevant today in the face of oppression and injustice. It remains a valid weapon for changing society.”
No to Bongbong
During the protest, martial law activists renewed calls on their campaign against the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator, is running for vice president.
Last Monday, victims of Martial Law launched the Campaign Against the Return of Marcoses to Malacanang (Carmma). The group reiterated that they are not against Marcos’ bid just because he is a Marcos but because he benefitted from martial law.
“Where did he get the funds he spends and will be spending for his vice presidency bid? It’s from the ill-gotten wealth,” Del Rosario said.
Gonzalez, for his part, said this is not just about the return of the Marcoses but also the fight against those propping up the oppressive system.
He said that the fight is far from over. “The only thing I might lose is my one and only life. But I am not worried. Did you see who came with us? The youth will continue our fight. Surely this is not the kind of society they want to pass on to their children.”