A different EDSA story (a take on video “Ninoy + People Power: Hidden Truths the Media is not Telling Us!”)

Short memories, unfinished businesses

By Ed Lingao
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

THERE IS another version of the EDSA People Power story, but it is one that EDSA veterans aren’t liking.

In this new version, former President Ferdinand Marcos is portrayed as the real hero of EDSA for refusing to fire upon the assembled crowds in February 1986; EDSA was a gathering of military adventurists, veteran professional protesters and communists, and hakot crowds; and Corazon Aquino stayed tucked away in the safety of Cebu while unwitting civilians put their lives on the line.

Marcos is hailed as the one who built massive infrastructure projects and rebuilt the economy; he is also the one who turned back the communists at the gates of Malacanang by declaring Martial Law. In addition, Marcos is portrayed as a close friend of oppositionist Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr., whom he jailed during Martial Law. In fact, this version says, Marcos and Ninoy would even chat with each other using scrambler telephones. As such, Marcos could never have ordered Ninoy’s assassination.

As the nation marks the 26th anniversary of what the world has come to know as the People Power Revolution, young Filipinos who never experienced the events of February 1986 are left wondering again what all the ruckus is about. But what is most striking is the fact that this alternate version of the story is one that more and more young Filipinos are tuning into – and apparently identifying with and liking.

This new version of the People Power story is being told over the Internet through social media sites, in a nine and a half minute video that seems like a cross between the Angry Birds game and the movie ‘Gladiator,’ with heart-pounding music, bold primary colors, and moving graphics, yet with simple lines of text that are well attuned to what one viewer calls the “Powerpoint generation.”

Hidden truths?

Titled “Ninoy + People Power: Hidden Truths the Media is not Telling Us!”, the video began gaining popularity in YouTube by the middle of last year and has since become viral. It has appeared or has been reposted in numerous websites and YouTube channels, and pops up repeatedly in FaceBook.

The video’s creator, who calls himself Baron Buchokoy, maintains a YouTube channel called PinoyMonkeyPride. As of mid-February, the video that was posted in Buchokoy’s YouTube account in June 2011 already has more than 200,000 views. Buchokoy implies that the video has had more views, saying that the video in fact was just re-uploaded “since the powers that be hacked and removed it recently from YouTube.”

This is proof, Buchokoy says in his introduction to the YouTube video, that “someone or some group is trying to hide the truth.”

“Please spread the message,” he adds. “Marcos is the least suspect in the Ninoy assassination and that only 2% of the 1986 Philippine population attended EDSA People Power. Let’s end Filipino ignorance. It ends now.”

IN THE past, such assertions had merely been dismissed as rumblings of Marcos sympathizers keen on putting their own spin into the history books to rehabilitate a fallen icon.

“The points are not very new,” says Mon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform (IPER). “These came out immediately after the assassination of Ninoy and right after EDSA 1.”

“All these arguments were made by Marcos-aligned groups,” Casiple says. “It is a mixture of truth, lies, omissions, and, of course, a little bit of popular handling.”

“That falsification or distortion of history may go some length, but it is like you can change the perception of Hitler and the Nazi regime,” comments Rene Saguisag, former spokesman of then President Corazon Aquino. “You saw the human rights violations and the plunder committed by the Marcoses during their merciless martial rule.”

Old version, new traction

But if the number of views and the lively and passionate comments on YouTube are to be any indication, this new “old” version appears to be gaining traction with the youth. Too, the video is told in the language and the pace of the Net and video generation, something that neither pro-EDSA nor pro-Marcos proponents were able to maximize before.

“It’s effective,” says 20-year-old Darlene Basingan, a PCIJ intern from De La Salle University in Cavite, after watching Buchokoy’s video. “Marcos was portrayed very negatively in the stories I had heard about EDSA. So I wondered if it could be true that everything about Cory was positive. Now I have been enlightened as to the truth after watching this video.”

She says Marcos “wasn’t all negative” during the uprising. “Hindi naman pala niya gusto atakihin ang mga tao (He didn’t want to attack the people).”

“This should be viewed by the youth,” says Basingan. “I suppose everything said here is true, based on facts, and not just someone’s imagination. If that is the case, this should be seen by other youth so they can have a bigger perspective of People Power.”

“This is the only time I learned about this,” says JB, a sophomore computer science major. “I had never seen or heard about these things in any documentary. Not everything we heard about EDSA was true.”

In Buchokoy’s YouTube account, a post by MrLangam read, “I used to be fooled by our history teacher using a false book.”

“The only thing I can say is that this country needs a new Marcos, and history needs some revision,” said Maimiewow.

“I cried after watching this video… this country is dying,” said Dyna1226. “Like a patient with cancer stage4.”

Meanwhile, anelio21 said, “Dami na nating nagising na mga Filipino dahil sa video na ito. Maraming salamat sa gumawa nito (There are a lot of us who were awakened with this video. Thank you to the one who made this.).”

Yet while the comments were overwhelmingly in favor of the video and its message, not everyone has been a happy fan. Said genocide222: “Most people who are commenting here are probably too young to really know what happened so please just don’t comment. Cory had a country that were in ruins in every aspect and was destined to fail, Marcos on the other hand came in with an economy that was one of the best in Asia and he just built on that, and he did a good job on that. I just think he became obsessed with the idea that he is the savior of the country and did not want to let go. That’s why he was threatened by Ninoy.”

Macoy, Ninoy ties

THE VIDEO is divided into three parts. The first part opens with the accomplishments of Ferdinand Marcos during his 21-year reign, including the building of structures like the San Juanico Bridge, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Marcos, the video says, built more roads, bridges, and schools than any of the other presidents who succeeded him combined; the exchange rate was two pesos to the U.S. dollar, and the country had supposedly become self-sufficient in rice. The video transitions to Martial Law, where Marcos throws suspected communists in jail, including his main opponent, Ninoy Aquino.

The video then relates how Marcos did not implement the death penalty on Ninoy, and even allowed him and his family to travel to the United States. The video goes to some length, using quotes and video clips, to show that Marcos and Ninoy had a special relationship that was “intentionally silenced in Philippine history.” Buchokoy then asserts that Ninoy was never a threat to Marcos, and that Marcos had selected him as his successor.

The second part sets the stage for the EDSA revolt. Marcos won in the 1986 snap elections even though, the video says, there was massive cheating on both sides. When then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Police Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos break away from Marcos, Buchokoy says that “Cardinal Jaime Sin called upon innocent Manilenos, hakot crowds, communists, curious civilians, and the yellow army” to assemble in EDSA.

There were four elements in EDSA, Buchokoy says: an “absent leader” who was identified as Cory Aquino; “zealous nuns”; “veteran professional communist protesters”; and “catholic (sic) civilians” summoned by Sin.

“EDSA revolution was only peaceful and non-violent because of one completely ignored and silenced fact,” Buchokoy says in his video. And this was that Marcos ordered the marines “not to attack.”

In the last part of the video, Buchokoy says the “old oligarchy that Marcos abolished” was back in power, controlling industry and the media and demonizing everything about Marcos. Twenty-five years after EDSA, Buchokoy says its legacy is “monopoly of the oligarchs, hegemony of the media, mediocre life of the middle class, and eternal suffering of the poor.”

Gloss & drama

Veteran television news producer and blogger Paul Farol says there is no denying that Buchokoy’s video was successful in pushing its message across to the youth.

“When I first saw it, I actually had to stop myself from buying into everything it was saying,” confesses Farol. “It was so well-made, it was glossy, it was sexy, it had all the elements, it had dramatic tension, it had imagery that played out the story well. And it did not do it with a voice over or anything like that. It was just images and words and sound bites.”

University of the Philippines professor and former student activist Vim Nadera also says it’s a far cry from all the other documentaries or stories made about EDSA.

“The one who made this comes from the Powerpoint generation,” he says. “The style indicates someone young, not someone from our generation who relied on the mimeograph.”

Speculating that the videomaker could be as young as his students, Nadera says that the text is laid out like poetry — “line by line.” He explains, “If you’re looking for a fair, deep, or accurate message, this is not the kind of sentence form you would use. It is like poetry, with line-by-line cutting. I suspect a youth made this, and he fit everything into the space that can be handled by a cell phone or an Ipad.”

“IT IS a professionally made video, the one who conceptualized this knows his stuff,” says political analyst Casiple. “He observed the rules of mass communication: give just a hint, nothing heavy-handed; it tried to portray itself as balanced.”

This, Casiple says, is where the danger lies: In presenting itself as a balanced account of EDSA, the video liberally uses facts and quotes out of context. For example, says Casiple, it may be wrong to portray EDSA as a gathering of professional communist protesters when the communists themselves were divided over EDSA.

“The context at the time was that the communists had a boycott stance,” he says. “They actually have a problem politically on how to identify with EDSA. And in history, it’s clear that there was a debate about it within the movement.”

“The communists stayed away and admitted that they committed a blunder,” says Saguisag. “In other words, when they say people power, it was really the people, it was not military power or communist power, kundi pami-pamilya na handa magbuhos ng dugo para sa bayan (but families that were ready to shed blood for the nation). That was the time we were asking what can we do for the country, and not what the country can do for us.”

Twisting truth

Nadera’s objection is more fundamental. His sector, the youth, was not even included in the video. He says that he is upset that he wasn’t among those included by the videomaker as having joined EDSA. “He didn’t include me,” he repeats. “There was no youth or student seeking change.”

On the point about Cory Aquino being in Cebu during EDSA, Casiple says the facts had never been in dispute. When Enrile and Ramos announced their breakaway from Marcos on Feb. 22, 1986, Cory Aquino was in a convent in Cebu. “That’s also clear in history, Cardinal Sin was the one who called for EDSA,” says Casiple. “What’s not debatable is that Cory was identified by the people as part of EDSA.”

“There’s a certain twisting of the truth,” he says, “because the video cites actual video and actual quotes, but they’re all out of context. If you’re not careful and you don’t know your history, you can be easily convinced (by it).”

INTERESTINGLY, THE person responsible for all this renewed debate about EDSA has not even revealed himself. For all the attention he has gotten, no one seems to know Buchokoy’s real name, his affiliations, or if he is one person or a group of persons.

“Why doesn’t the creator of this video identify himself? By keeping himself anonymous, the video creator is no different from the other “propagandists” he is railing against,” said tetablanco in Buchokoy’s YouTube channel three months ago.

In his YouTube channel, Buchokoy described himself as a 35-year-old artist who is “fighting against ignorance in Philippine society through the utilization of graphic materials such as animations and comic strips.”

“This Filipino visual artpiece is created, authored and directed by a conservative Filipino citizen residing in the Philippines,” Buchokoy said. “This video is not Marcos propaganda. It is all about what media is not telling us. After 25 years, it is now obvious that Cory administration is more violent with more journalist dead in her 6 year term compared to Marcos’ 29 years. She also suffered 8 coup attempts which is a reflection of her administrations rampant corruption.”

Buchokoy’s videos in PinoyMonkeyPride have already had a total of 2.1 million views, with 11,909 subscribers. Buchokoy’s channel contains 25 videos, all of them running along similar themes critical of EDSA, the Cojuangcos and the Aquinos, of economic and political policies implemented since 1986, and of the influence exerted by television giant ABS-CBN and the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer on the public and on the government.

PR’s handiwork?

Farol is one of a few who have been in contact with Buchokoy in the past, and only then, it was done through private messages on the Net. Even he is not clear who Buchokoy is or who he represents.

“Some part of me thinks Baron may or may not be just one person,” says Farol. “The work he did I think he cannot do it by himself, unless you have help. Maybe he is working as a group.”

In one message last year, Farol told Buchokoy that a reporter wanted to schedule an interview with him. Buchokoy replied that he would rather remain anonymous. “He said, ‘It is better that no one surfaces, so that people just focus on the work and the message that I’m trying to give’,” Farol recounts.

Casiple, however, believes that Buchokoy is the product of a well-funded production house contracted by a public relations firm whose message is simple: “Si Marcos ay para sa tao, at ang lahat ng nangyari, including people power, were plots against the people (Marcos was for the people, and everything that happened, including people power, were plots against the people).”

Says Casiple: “As a propaganda video, nag succeed siya.”

The PCIJ tried to get in touch with Buchokoy through his Facebook and YouTube accounts, but there was no reply.

Another blogger, Warlito Vicente, who goes by the online name of BongV, says Buchokoy is an animator for “a firm that contracts animation from overseas.” Vicente says Buchokoy preferred to use a pseudonym “as he is cautious about security – you know how it is in the Philippines.”

Flaws in psyche

VICENTE SAYS Buchokoy merely translated into video some of the ideas that he had seen in the websites antipinoy.com and getrealphilippines.com, which he supports. The two websites are not purely political websites. In fact, they are meeting places for politically and socially active Filipinos who have a critical take, not only of Philippine politics, but of Philippine society, culture, and current events.

“Their thing is about critical thinking, not politics,” Farol says. “Although some have adopted more political lines like economic liberalization, parliamentary form of government, and decentralization. They look at the flaws in the Filipino psyche and highlight them so that other people look at it and try to change it.”

Farol dismisses any insinuation that the sites’ active members are pro-Marcos and anti-Aquino. “They are not anti-Noynoy or anti-Cory, but it is very convenient for them to have these characters to dissect, to use Cory as a symbol of what may be wrong in the country,” he says. “There are a lot of people in that group that are anti-Marcos also.”

He also doesn’t think that Buchokoy’s take on EDSA is a rewriting of history. Says Farol: “I think everyone came from EDSA with their own story. Each person who walked between the length of those two camps came out with their story. Maybe this is Baron’s story. Maybe his parents were there. Maybe he heard the story and absorbed it and then made his own story about EDSA. One view of EDSA is no more valid than the other views of EDSA.”

Nadera and Casiple acknowledge that Buchokoy’s identity is not as important as his message, and its impact on a new generation that never experienced EDSA and live through it only through the little they find in the history books.

Promise, results gap

“We did an analysis of the textbooks in the Philippines,” Casiple recounts. “For the period covering martial law, there was a deafening silence by the textbooks on the human rights violations. They treated it like an ordinary period of any presidential term. Edsa was never given a special place.”

He says Buchokoy’s video taps into the yearning and frustrations of the youth for a better life. After hearing all the promises of EDSA that the older generation like to talk about every time February rolls around, many youths feel alienated and at a loss. If EDSA was such a good thing, Casiple notes, then why are we were we are today?

“They see that there are the same problems like corruption,” he says. “What tie them together are aspirations, but there is a twist. They go by the results, not the process.”

“If that trend is not reversed,” says Casiple, “in a few years, we will have a majority of voters who did not go through that period, and who therefore, will be susceptible to videos like this.”

Saguisag for his part says he is not worried, and that there is enough evidence around of Marcos’s dictatorial rule, if only people would bother to look. “I feel confident that this video will not gain a far reaching effect because the relatives, friends, and grandchildren of the victims of Marcos are still here,” he says. “It will not succeed. I hope not. I do not want my grandchildren apologizing, saying my grandfather was stupid for fighting against a hero.”

Not quite finished

But Nadera says the success of Buchokoy’s video is still a reminder to Filipinos that we live in a country of “short memories” and “unfinished businesses.”

“It is the fault of our generation that should have cared for the torch of EDSA,” he says. “We neglected it because we thought that it all ended after we got rid of Marcos. It is easy to get the medal, but to be worthy of wearing it always is another thing altogether. The same goes for our victory in EDSA. It should not have ended with the ouster of Marcos.”

“There is a shortness of memory because there are no reminders,” says Casiple. “If all you know of Marcos is that he is a great speaker, or that he is handsome, well, you are dead, because you do not know roles these people played in the history of the Philippines.

“Some people have realized that when something happens like EDSA, it is not the end of the road where everything is resolved and the hero goes off to lalala land where everything is made of gold,” Farol says. “Democracy is a continuing struggle that is never finished. People must challenge the views out there.”

“Maybe,” mulls Farol, “Baron is challenging the view that Cory gave us democracy. And that is his view, and it is his right.”

Nadera agrees with Farol, but adds one more point. Baron Buchokoy may be critical of the democracy that came after EDSA, but it is the same democratic space that he now uses to have his voice heard. Points out Nadera: “In the time of Cory, you could just criticize her, and you would hear all sorts of things, that she was an ordinary housewife who knew nothing. But you would not be jailed for that.”

“That is democracy, that is what Cory’s government gave us, and that is the legacy of EDSA,” he says. “That you can criticize all you want without fear, just as this video is doing.” – With additional reporting by Winona Cueva, PCIJ, February 2012