Celebrating EDSA

“Given the present-day realities, is EDSA still worth celebrating?”

In February 1986, the Filipinos booted out of power the dictatorship of Marcos by staging a bloodless revolt.

The revolt effectively ended the 20-year dictatorial rule by the Marcos regime characterized by excesses, suppression of human rights, and plunder of the economy.

(Editor’s Note: Marcos, was first elected in 1965, re-elected in 1969, declared martial law in September 1972 to check what he called was a state of rebellion and lifted this in January 1981; in April that year he was re-elected and was proclaimed by the Commission on Elections and the Batasang Pambansa as the winner, along with his vice presidential candidate Arturo Tolentino during the snap elections in February 1986.)

Four decades later, the son of the former dictator is now again in power as the leader of the country.

It is ironic that we ousted a Marcos with much revulsion in 1986, only to once again embrace another President Marcos 36 years later.

It would seem the Marcos name, long associated with profligacy, plunder, and human rights suppression, is now vindicated, with the Filipino people willing to forgive and forget the past sins of the family.

Is the four-day People Power Revolt forgotten, consigned to the dustbin of history, a mere historical footnote?

How do we explain this phenomenon? Can we attribute this to the notoriously short memory of the Filipinos?

This might as well be because our memory is so short that we often keep on reelecting politicians who are accused of crimes of betrayal of public trust and crimes so destructive of reputation that ordinarily would spell the death knell of political careers.

Or, maybe our understanding of compassion and justice is such that we are ready and willing to forgive and forget the crimes of people who did us wrong?

Or, perhaps, our political culture is so broken that the electorate is susceptible to being co-opted, and manipulated by enterprising and unscrupulous politicians.

Perhaps, the majority are so jaded and cynical that, for them, whoever is in power, their lot would not change.

They see poverty and insecurity as their destiny whoever holds the reins of government.

But to the loyalists, of course, the return of Marcos Jr. represents everything that is good about the 20-year rule of his father which, rightly or wrongly, they reminisce with fondness.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the Marcoses are back with a vengeance.

And the major players in the 1986 EDSA Revolt are either dead, retired, or conveniently cozying up with the new Marcos dispensation.

Many people—not all for sure—who actively participated and took part in the historic 4-day EDSA Revolt have long moved on to new pursuits, and are now busy living in the present.

Since Marcos Jr.’s ascent to power, many things happened, are happening and will still happen. New challenges are emerging.

After more than three years, the pandemic is almost behind us.

The people are slowly returning to their pre-pandemic routines and habits.

The economy is slowly but painstakingly regaining its previous traction.

But the fragile state of the economy remains with the Russia-Ukraine war still raging, triggering a worldwide disruption in the supply of oil and other basic commodities resulting in sharp increase in prices which is inflationary.

The South China Sea controversy is another thorn in the backside of the new administration.

Recently, President Marcos was going the rounds among the neighboring countries to drum up economic support and counter the aggressive stance of China towards its neighbors.

In particular, Marcos Jr. is revitalizing the Philippine alliance with the US downplayed by his predecessor, President Rodrigo Duterte.

Marcos Jr.’s recent effort to pursue closer ties with the US has been interpreted as the Philippines’ pivot to the US, Manila’s only security ally in the world.

As an ally, the Philippines continues to benefit from the American security umbrella in Asia, especially in the midst of growing security tensions in the SCS, where the Philippines commits to defending its territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Needless to say, Philippine foreign policy is closely watched because the country is situated at the center of the Sino-American rivalry for dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

Of particular concern is achieving institutional justice for the numerous victims of human rights violations not only by the previous administration but even as far back as the martial law victims of the dictatorship.

According to historical documents, the Marcos dictatorship committed 3,257 known extrajudicial killings (Amnesty International reports that some 2,520 of the 3,257 murder victims were tortured and mutilated before their bodies were dumped in various places for the public to discover), 35,000 documented tortures, 77 ‘disappeared’, and 70,000 incarcerations.

Note that these numbers do not include the unrecorded victims which may now be impossible to account.

Will the Presidential Commission on Good Government, tasked primarily to run after the Marcos loot, be emasculated or abolished altogether under the Marcos Jr. administration?

How about the court decisions against the Marcoses? Will they be enforced?

Given the present-day realities, is EDSA still worth celebrating?

I will answer this question in a subsequent column.

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