Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 20      June 26 - July 2, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


Edsa Veterans on Another Edsa

Singer-composer and university professor Jim Paredes, National Museum curator John Silva, and poet-musician Jess Santiago are veterans of previous Edsa uprisings. What do they think of the possibility of another Edsa uprising?


Singer-composer and university professor Jim Paredes. National Museum curator John Silva. Poet-musician Jess Santiago. They are all veterans of the popular uprisings that have come to be known as the Edsa uprisings or the People Power uprisings.

In February 1986, about a million people trooped to Edsa – near Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – to protect a small group of soldiers who had withdrawn support from the Marcos regime following what was said to be a fraud-ridden snap election. Marcos had ordered an attack on this group of soldiers, led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos.

The 1986 Edsa uprising was the culmination of a long anti-dictatorship struggle that began as early as before the declaration of martial law in 1972. Marcos had displayed authoritarian tendencies as early as 1969.

In January 2001, people again trooped to Edsa to oust another president, this time Joseph Estrada. They chose Edsa for its historical meaning.

The president had been facing impeachment charges for corruption, bribery, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

This time the fight was largely against corruption, although Estrada himself had displayed authoritarian tendencies as well as partiality to the family and cronies of the late Ferdinand Marcos and this, too, was a major issue against his administration.

Nineteen years have passed since the first Edsa uprising, and four years since the second one. The people continue to rail against corruption in government and violations of the most basic democratic rights.

And now several political quarters ranging from Left to Right are on the verge of calling for another Edsa uprising, in the wake of the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations said to involve President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. The conversations are said to have hints on cheating in the 2004 election.

There are calls for the ouster of another president. What do the likes of Paredes, Silva, and Santiago think of this – they who were at Edsa?

Paredes, a member of the singing trio Apo Hiking Society together with fellow Ateneans Danny Javier and Buboy Garovillo was involved in broad anti-dictatorship campaigns during the Marcos years. He joined both Edsa uprisings.

“I joined Edsa 1 with a full heart and spirit because I believed it was our chance at getting back our democratic institutions, and I think Edsa 1 was successful in that,” he said. “I joined Edsa 2 after much thinking and with much consideration because I felt it was important to tell our leaders that we cannot have a government like that, we need a more decent government.”

He is disappointed at where the country is after the two Edsa uprisings. He attributes the current state of affairs to “laziness on our part.” We wouldn’t be where we are now, he says, if we had really followed the “revolutionary spirit” of Edsa 1. “We thought the work was over,” he said. “That’s what went wrong.”

He does not deny that he is suffering from what some political analysts have described as “People Power fatigue.”

Does he regret joining the two Edsas? “In both Edsas I went there with pure intentions, and I think you can never fault pure intentions,” he replies.

But does he intend to join another Edsa uprising?

“Frankly, no. I don’t think that’s the way to go,” he said. “I think it’s either we work through it through our processes, and if our processes cannot deliver, let us have a real revolution – scary as it sounds, very scary, of course I don’t want that.

“But our government is a failure. Our system of government is a failure. It has not delivered on its promises. So for me, it’s either we strengthen the process – in other words, strengthen the justice system, imprison whoever has to be imprisoned; and if we cannot do that then let’s throw the government out, let’s change everything, let’s change ourselves, let’s change the whole system.”

“We shouldn’t be changing our leaders every now and then only to get more of the same,” he added.

Silva was an activist with the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK or Association of Democratic Youth) shortly before Martial Law. He went to the U.S. during Martial Law, and returned to the Philippines shortly after the fall of Marcos.

He actively participated in the broad anti-Estrada campaigns that started in 2000 following Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson’s revelation that the president then was receiving money from jueteng, an illegal numbers game.

What does he think about the political crisis presently surrounding the Macapagal-Arroyo presidency?

“GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) unfortunately has been a disappointment on many fronts,” he says. “That she would now be mum on an issue that is serious only compounds her problem.”

Macapagal-Arroyo has kept silent on the issue generated by the Malacañang tapes, in spite of urgings by even her political allies like Senate President Franklin Drilon to speak out.

Silva prefers the constitutional manner of addressing the issue. But he has not closed his doors to the possibility of another Edsa. “Like many others, I would rather go through the constitutional process. If there is evidence of election fraud, then have her resign or impeached.  The vice president takes over. If the process is not satisfactory, then we may need another uprising,” he explains.

Does he see the country as having to do several more Edsa-type uprisings?

“One is somber about the fact that Edsas may change something momentarily but may not sufficiently end the problem in the long run,” he said. “I don’t want to see several Edsas only because they regress a country’s economic growth.  But the crooks in power seem so well entrenched that there may have to be Edsas again.  A sort of cleansing until we are really rid of a culture of corruption and have upright civil officials.”

Santiago has a long history of nationalist and pro-social justice activism behind him. During the martial-law years he became one of the leaders of the Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT or Celebration in Art and Poetry), a progressive poets’ organization. He started writing and composing songs during the late 1970s, and his pieces became hits in rallies and are still favorites among activists. He continues to be a regular figure at mass actions, aside from writing a column for the tabloid-sized Pinoy Weekly, an alternative newspaper.

The man was in both Edsa uprisings. What does he think of the possibility of another Edsa?

He politely begged off from being interviewed at length, but enthusiastically allowed the use of his song “Pagbabago?” (Change?) for the purposes of this article. He said he still thinks the way he did when the song was created.

Written and composed shortly after the Edsa 2 uprising, the song is among other things a reply to the rhetoric of some traditional politicians who claimed that real change would come upon the ouster of Estrada. It reminds us of the harsh lessons of both Edsa uprisings:

Maghapon-magdamag sa pabrika

Kayod-kalabaw sa bukirin

Ulani’t arawin tayo sa kalsada

Maisulong lamang ang adhikain


Hinarap na natin ang lahat ng hirap

Binalikat ang lahat ng pasanin

Ngunit ang bunga ng ating pagsisikap

Sinasarili lamang ng mga sakim


(Day and night we sweat in the factories

We toil like water buffaloes in the fields

Rain or shine we take to the streets

Just to push for our dreams


We have faced all hardships

We have shouldered all burdens

But the fruits of our labors

Are kept for themselves by the selfish)


The song ends by telling us that however many Edsa uprisings may happen, things will not change for us unless we learn.


Kahit mag-People Power tayo ang talo

Hangga’t hindi tayo natututo


(Even with People Power we would still be losers

So long as we haven’t learned)





© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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