People Power Remembered
A Presidential Proclamation has declared today, Saturday, February 25, 2006, a Special National Holiday to honor the memory of the EDSA People Power Revolution with appropriate ceremonies. It has been 20 years (egad!) since the event took place and yet we seem to not have learned from the mistakes of the past. Two decades after that glorious event, the Filipino is still trying to figure out what the restoration of our democracy really means.
Yesterday, the Philippines was again all over CNN and BBC. Journalists world-wide were scurrying about trying to get the scoop on an alleged coup which newswires claimed had been foiled just in time. Top honchos in the military were having a field day boasting about how they had captured one of the suspected leaders and had "information" on the powerful personalities behind the plot to topple President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Former President Joseph Estrada also seemed bent on joining the fray. He, too, went on air to claim that the military had wanted to take him away at dawn from the hospital he was staying in to an undisclosed location but he had stood his ground. Although it was still a day early, rallies and other commemoration ceremonies were expected to take place around Mendiola, the EDSA shrine in Ortigas and the statue of Ninoy Aquino in Makati. Hence the Department of Education thought it best to declare that all classes in all levels be suspended. (Hurray for the kids who got a surprise holiday.)
While I and the rest of the workforce went about our day, about an hour before lunch, we got wind of the news that the president had (all of a sudden) declared we were in a "state of national emergency". We were alternating between breaking news on the net and the spreadsheets we were doing on our computers. Since I work in a bank, the effect of that announcement was felt right away. Share prices fell and the strengthening peso tumbled. On a day that should have been a joyous and peaceful celebration, it was instead marred by this and this.
The last election proved that Filipinos in general do not value their right of suffrage. Although there was an overwhelming turn-out (with thousands of flying voters), the officials elected were mostly chosen not because of their public service records or proposed platforms of governance but because they were more visible, i.e. had close showbiz connections, had a long family history of dabbling in politics, had the moolah to campaign all around the country or simply because he/she could be cajoled into rendering a song or dance number on stage. Having the chutzpah to do that sometimes even determined the fate of a candidate.
Thus, each year, the number of people who go to the EDSA ceremonies keep dwindling. How can you expect someone who was but a mere toddler at the time to understand the impact that event had on the lives of the Filipinos when his/her generation grew up in a society which doesn't really give it the importance it deserves? I remember that moment in time distinctly. I was still in high school in 1986. It was the height of election fever. Being the socially-aware school that we were, we would invite members of the opposition (alumna Cory Aquino included) for a chance to speak out their grievances against the Marcos regime. On the other hand, I had a batchmate who was the granddaughter of then-president Marcos and she would also hand out flyers and giveaways tirelessly on his behalf. All of a sudden, events began happening swiftly: a promising senator lay dead on an airport tarmac, a wilfull president denied involvement, a wave of grief and anger from the masses threatened to break out into violence...then lo and behold, reprieve at last from the tyranny of dictatorship. The EDSA Revolution was the first of its kind around the world. Images of soldiers being offered food, flowers and rosaries by children and the clergy while meekly sitting atop tanks and beside various heavy artillery amazed nations. Just like that, the president was deposed. No blood-shed. No storming of the Bastille reenactment. Jubilation filled the streets as democracy was once again restored to the Filipino people who had made a stand with firm belief in the ideals of freedom and unwavering faith in God.
Cory and her yellow-clad followers attended the Makati ceremonies that took place in the afternoon. By that time, militants who had been dispersed at EDSA were also trickling into the business center. Beside them stood a lot of familiar faces - politicians who, like the mythical phoenix, had previously risen from the proverbial ashes of oblivion during Cory's regime, got into power again during PGMA's term, but were now disenchanted with her administration. They called for the ouster of the president since the events that proved to be the catalysts for the People Power Revolution in 1986 appear to be happening once again. Total freedom may be a thread away from being curtailed. It has begun with this. Political analysts are now saying that martial law can't be far behind. At this point, I tend to believe the saying that we Filipinos have short memories. Previously, this would have sparked an outrage. Give it a couple of weeks and all will seem to have been forgiven. No matter how grave the crime, we exonerate the perpetrators and even find it in ourselves to laugh about it. What a shame it is to let a historic and religious event that brought us together as a people go to waste. Maybe that's why the masses have ceased going to these proceedings. Nobody can seem to remember what it stood for in the first place.