The People Power Revolution
EDSA People Power 1 (Feb, 22-25, 1986)
The powerful force of democracy is the masses or the people. It can topple dictatorship that suppresses the basic rights of an individual; the rights for freedom of speech, freedom for want, and freedom for religion. It happened in the Philippines. Since the proclamation of Martial Law in September 21, 1972 (Proclamation No. 1081) through the government of the deposed President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, these basic rights were suppressed by the military rule.
I remember in the 70s, when you get caught roaming the street around 10 pm because of the imposition of curfew, you will be investigated. Many of those who violated were wrongly accused of subversion or those who were opposing the military rule. Many politicians, government employees, people’s organization and non-government organizations who rallied against the Marcos regime were accused of rebellion. Many were put to jail and killed without the proper judgment of the supreme court.
The youth’s unified voice were often heard in the streets. Underground movements of student militants with the help of concern businessmen and elders mushroomed in the cities and countryside. Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) was organized to oppose the bloody environment of the country. The CCP founder Jose Maria Sison (Joma Sison to his peers) escaped the arms of the Marcoses and exiled himself in Geneva, Switzerland. Big businesses were sequestered by the government and prominent families who owned it fled abroad to avoid the oppressive rule of the Marcoses. For more than a decade, Marcos and his croonies washed away the riches of the country.
From 2 pesos per 1 US dollars, it catapulted to 25-35 pesos in the 80s. Since his reign in the late 60s along with his First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and their families, the wealth of the government were put into their own accounts. These were just a summary of the dictatorship of the Marcos regime. This hub is not enough to recount what the Filipinos witnessed until the death of exiled senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’Aquino in August 21, 1983.
Close encounter with Martial Law
Supporters of former Senator Ninoy Aquino were angered by the assassination of the lawmaker. He experienced to be in jail when he opposed the Marcos regime. He and his family were exiled in the USA for almost a decade. With his enthusiasm to be back in politics, he persuaded his wife, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, from prominent Cojuangco clan that he will go back to the Philippines. But he only reached the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Ninoy never reached his home because he was shot dead. This triggered the unified anger of the Filipinos to stage a bloodless revolution three years later. Who can ever forget his saying: “The Filipino is worth dying for.”
In 1983-84, I was a dreamy sixth grader in elementary. I’ve witnessed military men investigating people or accusing them of connivance to the New People’s Army (NPA), the new citizen’s arm of CPP. Many intelligent students from major universities in the country joined the group and were dispersed in far flung barrios, like our place, to encourage people to join and fight the dictatorship. Many were killed; innocent barrio folks died; militarization was really making people hide in fright.
What will you feel when residents of our barrio fled their homes in the wee hours of the night because of the series of military and rebel encounters that happened in our place? My eldest uncle (brother of my father) was killed because he was a CHDF volunteer (Civilian Home Defense Force). He resisted his captors so he was left gasping for death beside the road near our rice field.Many witnessed that it was the members of NPA who were responsible for my uncle's death. They also carried the three service firearms of my uncle. My father evacuated us to the city (Naga City). Who wouldn’t be when the situation worsened. Even the wake of our dead barangay captain was disturbed by the fighting. Our place was declared no man’s land. Even my nightmares recounted those unforgettable events of my youth.
Snap Elections and the People Power 1
Since the death of Senator Aquino, many groups were organized. Even major churches in the country initiated many prayer vigils to pray for peaceful elections. The president (Marcos) was suffering from a degenerative disease called lupus. His cabinet with the Prime Minister Cesar Virata along with Vice President Arturo Tolentino were still puppets to his decisions. The Philippine Army (PA) and INP (Integrated National Police) sensed that the political atmosphere was in the verge of reconstruction. The opposition party of the dead Senator Aquino had chosen his wife, Corazon Aquino (Tita Cory to her supporters and friends) to be the standard bearer. The KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or Organization of New Society) of Marcos regime were confident that they will win the elections by landslide.
During the campaign, I was second year high school then, The entourage of President Marcos visited the Basilica Minore in Naga City. It was his wife, the First Lady Imelda Marcos who spoke on his behalf because his speech was incoherent. Many elders were Marcos fanatics because he spoke without papers for his speeches. But his last speeches were not so good due to his ailing body, then. High school students in the city, including me, line up complete with flowers along the main façade of the church to welcome the president. I’ve seen the ailing president carried by two servicemen. I went out to breath fresh air. I cannot stand the crowd or mob, I think. Then at the lobby of the church, I saw Vice President Arturo Tolentino without a bodyguard. I approached the Vice President and shoke his hands. My inquiring mind asked him about the president. Being a cub reporter in our school paper, it was really my first scoop for a national figure. I asked VP Tolentino about the health of the president. He shoke his head and said that ”people should really vote wisely.” I thanked him and we proceeded to the plaza to take a look for the ailing president for the last time.
People have mixed feelings. Many were fed up by Marcos dictatorship. From books up to real events, the Marcoses created an oppressive chapter in the history of the Filipinos. Some data in many school books were considered hoax or fallacy. They really blinded the minds of the people, especially the youth.
During the snap elections result in February 11, 1986, the NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections) organized by concerned businessmen, educators, people and religious groups saw that Mrs. Cory Aquino won the election but the COMELEC (Commission on Elections) declared that Marcos won by landslide. The result was fraud and doctored by his croonies. This enraged the people. Even his relative, Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Valdez Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile decided to take side with the people. The first family fled to Hawaii to escape the consequences that might be inflicted by angry people.
The world (through its radio, television and newspaper staff and reporters) tuned in to every detail of the birth of bloodless revolution, the People Power Revolution. People, young and old, from all walks of life converged at the different parts of EDSA (Efipanio delos Santos Avenue) for a memorable walk of freedom. Many events were so picturesque; a young girl giving a bouquet of sampaguita (national flower) to on-guard military men. Nuns, priests and religious people, ordinary citizens were all happy, most in tears because of the newfound freedom. The EDSA Shrine is just a pigment of that memorable day, February 25, 1986, that the unified voice of Filipino people were heard all over the world. Entertainers (actors, singers and all) joined the first female president Cory Aquino flashed the Laban sign (Fight sign or L sign) as yellow and white ribbons were waved by throng of people that witnessed that we can topple dictatorship without bloody fightings.
The succeeding People Power II also toppled abusive leaders in the country (the impeached President Joseph Estrada) in 2001 but People Power III was not so successful when people tried to topple the reign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (who allegedly cheated the result of the election over the triumphant actor Fernando Poe, Jr.).
People Power 4: Is it possible?
Filipinos are really forgiving. The families of deposed President Marcos are still handling high positions in the government. The ill-gotten wealth was never recovered (?) and the Marcoses still own businesses outside the country (like a super mall and a bank in Morocco). The First Lady Imelda Marcos was never indicted to their crimes.
The abuse of authority continuously plague the government. Political dynasty are still apparent. Even media men are being killed (Maguindanao massacre) to suppress their voices for truth.
Even, these are the present scenarios, I still want a democratic government. People still believe that a true leader will support them to uplift their economic status in life. For how long, I don't know. Batch of old and new candidates for presidential race are now campaigning around the country. Let's hope that the May 2010 national elections ( the first automated elections in the Philippines) will give way to a true dedicated public servants.