“All tyrants believe in forever. But history, especially People Power, shows that we, the people, eventually triumph.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — The EDSA Shrine has once again been filled with battle cries of the Filipino people as a broad array of human rights defenders, workers, the urban poor, youth and students, and church people gathered for the 33th year since the EDSA uprising to call out the government for the “shadows of tyranny” under this administration.
People from all walks of life flocked to the gathering. Emotions seethe as they shouted chants against the return of an open dictatorial rule in the country, and sang songs of the people’s struggles and aspirations for peace, unity, and genuine democracy.
Several streamers calling for the end of martial law, and resist tyranny were hung at the footbridge along EDSA and Ortigas
Among those who joined the #TayoAngEDSA protest are former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Serreno, Bro. Armin Luistro, actress Mae Paner, former Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano, and progressive lawmakers such as Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago and ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio.
“Tayo ang EDSA, tayo ang pag-asa. Tayo ang EDSA, labanan ang diktadura,” they chanted.
After the program, protesters marched along the stretch of the major thoroughfare and continued their protest action in front of Camp Aguinaldo’s Gate 2.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny said, “All tyrants believe in forever. But history, especially People Power, shows that we, the people, eventually triumph.”
Gross human rights violations
Protesters decried the continuing and intensifying human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
“Is there a good person who orders the killing of those who dare to dissent?” Pastor Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines asked during the protest action.
In a statement, Bayan said that 33 years after the EDSA uprising, the country is still being “confronted with gross human rights violations reminscent of the Marcos years.”
For one, rampant killings and widespread red-tagging greeted Filipinos in 2019. Among the most recent is the military hitlist that named human rights defenders, church leaders, human rights lawyers and a journalist as so-called “terrorist” members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed the New People’s Army.
This administration has at least 13 cases of massacres of farmers and human rights defenders. No perpetrators has ever been brought before the bar of justice.
In her speech in front of Camp Aguinaldo, Edith Burgos, mother of disappeared activist Jonas Burgos, belied claims that there are no human rights violations under the present administration – from drug-related killings to concerted attacks against those critical of the Duterte administration.
“You can commit graver crimes if you are a liar,” she pointed out.
One Billion Rising global director and #BabaeAko member Monique Wilson said the struggle against tyranny must be coupled with the fight against tyranny.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been widely criticized over his misogynistic statements. One of his infamous pronouncements is his order to have female armed guerilla fighters shot in their vaginas “to render them useless.”
Whenever in hot water, presidential spokespersons are quick to dismiss these as mere jokes. Wilson, who is also a theater actress, said it is not normal to resort to rape jokes. She added that misogyny is a tactic that the likes of Duterte and US president Donal Trump use to spread fascism and tyranny.
She called on not just women but also good men not to be silent over Duterte’s misogyny.
Various women’s groups joined today’s protest action. In a statement, the Center for Women’s Resources said, “three decades have passed yet the shadows of tyranny continue to haunt us. Despite the charges filed against them, the Marcoses continue to consolidate power, wealth and influence both in local and national governments.”
Press freedom under attack
Blogger Tonyo Cruz of the Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity urged the Filipino people not to allow anyone to trample on the people’s right to freedom of expression and of the press, following the politically-motivated cyber-libel cases filed against news site Rappler and the cyber-attacks being launched against alternative news websites such as Bulatlat.
A repeat of glorious days
Survivors of the martial law years who joined the protest action today reminisced the “glorious days” that led to the downfall of the conjugal Marcos dictatorship.
Lawyer Aleta Tolentino of People Power Volunteers for Reform pointed out that senators implicated in the infamous pork barrel scam are now free from charges.
She said, “ibalik ang ninakaw. Hindi ang magnanakaw.”
Meanwhile, as the election fast approaches, Bayan said there are various indications that the Duterte administration “is intent on using the vast machinery and resources of the state to push for the victory of its candidates in the 2019 polls.”
The group said, “the people will not allow and will resist a repeat of the Marcos dictatorship under the signboard of ‘Duterte.’ Our mass actions today are a demonstration of unity by various groups and democratic forces who have not forgotten the lessons of EDSA and are determined to fulfill the people’s aspirations for genuine freedom and democracy.”