Different perspectives on the 1986 Edsa uprising


How do you regard today’s observance of the peaceful people’s uprising that led to the ouster of the Marcos martial law dictatorship in February 1986?

Three separate activities mark this year’s observance: each one representing a different perspective of those dramatic events that caught the attention of the world.

Tellingly perhaps, the Malacanang-led rites will be held not at the Edsa Shrine on Ortigas Ave., as done in the past, but at Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP headquarters. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will be the guest of honor and main speaker, since President Duterte has chosen to attend an event in Davao City related to the government’s peace efforts with the Bangsamoro.

As explained by the presidential spokesperson, the low-key observance will be “no longer a celebration of the past (but) now a reflection on what can happen in the future.” He explained: “It’s time to move on to the whole aspect of nation building,” and “we can’t get stuck in the past.”

But the event “deserves a more dignified treatment than a ‘quiet celebration’ in the guise of moving on,” protested Vice President Leni Robredo. “Moving on and forgetting,” she said, “may leave us in danger of making the same mistake all over again,” asserting that “the truth of our past will ensure clarity of direction in our future.”

A second celebration is being organized by the group that bears the name The Power of We. This observance, to be held at the People Power Monument on EDSA, is planned to be “one huge history class, especially for millennials” on the 1986 exercise of “people power.”

Progressive groups protest during the 31st anniversary Edsa People Power 1, decrying intensifying state fascism. (Photo by Fred Dabu/ Bulatlat)
Progressive groups protest during the 31st anniversary Edsa People Power 1, decrying intensifying state fascism. (Photo by Fred Dabu/ Bulatlat)

The progressive activist groups have set their own activity earlier in the day, marching late this morning to two rally points: the EDSA Shrine and the main gate of Camp Aguinaldo. Led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and CARMMA (Campaign Against the Restoration of the Marcoses in Malacanang) they weighed in with a third opinion: “Neither the ‘quiet reflection’ proposed by Malacanang nor a ‘Yellow restoration’ … is a rupture from the old ruling system,” Bayan declared. “Neither reflects the aspirations of the people for genuine freedom and democracy.”

At the EDSA Shrine the marchers aim to highlight the Filipino people’s sustained struggle for 14 years against the Marcos dictatorship that led to its ouster 31 years ago. But because no fundamental change has happened since then, they will call to account all the post-Marcos administrations for having maintained the same social-economic-political system controlled by the local elite together with foreign interests. Every succeeding administration has basically followed the same foreign (read: US) designed programs and policies. Notably, Cory Aquino’s “centerpiece” Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program failed to end massive peasant landlessness and land monopoly, even after being extended for over 20 years.

These are the very conditions, Bayan avers, that allowed the Marcos heirs to regain political power after they were allowed to return to the Philippines in the 1990s. (The family brought back the dictator’s heavily embalmed body, under an agreement with President Ramos that it be buried in Ilocos Norte. Instead, the wax-covered body was put on display for tourists in airconditioned glory for 27 years, until it was surreptitiously buried this year, with military honors, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.)

At the gate of Camp Aguinaldo the marchers are set to denounce the alarming trend of fascist repression by state security forces and the military’s declaration and pursuit of “all-out war” against the Left revolutionary forces. They’ll raise the people’s cry for the continuation of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations unilaterally “cancelled” by President Duterte last Feb. 3, just a week after the two parties declared their third round of negotiations successful on several important aspects.

Broad swaths of the population have been roused to vehemently oppose the insidious campaign to fully rehabilitate the Marcoses, and to thwart their ambition to return to Malacanang, via the corrupt electoral system and otherwise.

It’s interesting to note the differing views of the two most prominent figures at the EDSA people’s uprising, Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos – the key implementers of martial law who turned their backs on Marcos in the end, when he had clearly lost the backing of his principal patron, the United States government.

Ramos, who succeeded Mrs. Aquino as president and won through her support, has enthusiastically participated in all previous celebrations. Today he is pushing to perpetuate the “Edsa people power revolution” through a memorial center or an “interactive online learning museum.” This had already been planned during his presidency, he says, but wasn’t carried out due to lack of funds. He now wants President Duterte to undertake the project.

“As long as this can be done during President Duterte’s term, he will get credit for it and the people will love him for it,” he said. He cited a two-hectare lot within Camp Aguinaldo, right behind the People Power Monument that can be used to construct the memorial center/museum.

On the other hand, Enrile hasn’t been seen in the annual celebrations, and for a good reason: he was sacked by Mrs. Aquino as her defense secretary, for complicity in the several coup attempts mounted against her administration by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement.

It was these “idealistic but disgruntled military officers” to whom Enrile gave credit recently when he spoke at a church-sponsored forum last Feb. 15 on martial law and the February uprising. The dictatorship was ousted, according to him, when RAM withdrew their support for Marcos and thereby gained the support of the people at EDSA. At the forum, he pridefully narrated how Marcos had entrusted him – and only him – to write the martial law proclamation in September 1972 and all the general orders, letters of instructions and other edicts that were issued afterward by the dictator.

What surprised the audience was that until now Enrile can’t seem to find a single bad word to say about Marcos.

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Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com

Published in The Philippine Star
Feb. 25, 2017

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