Was the EDSA Revolution all about driving out an iron-fisted dictator from the seat of power?

by Jego Ragragio

The question may come across as a strange one, in light of this past Saturday’s celebration of the 26th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution. Calling it an “unfinished revolution,” President Aquino himself called on the Filipino people to make right what they saw as the wrongs of the system. In support of the message, Manila Archbishop Lius Tagle also called on Catholics to be involved and to “not leave the responsibility up to the (people in government).” The overall advocacy, it would seem, is a greater participation and cooperation in the political and civic processes and activities towards cleaning house. All told, not a bad message given the circumstances.

The other side of the fence

It seems, however, that not everyone is on the same page.

Sen. Bongbong Marcos, in a Facebook post, voiced his plea to stop blaming his father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, for the problems facing the country, saying “[b]laming past administrations will not bring food to the plates of the hungry. Excuses cannot substitute for performance and results.” Claiming bias in the accounts of his political foes, Sen. Marcos continues, “Most of what we hear now from all sides are still within the ambit of propaganda. But I certainly am concerned with the state of our country today.”

Former President Fidel Ramos was weighed in, saying that President Aquino’s continued offense against churches and religious faiths could lead to an EDSA-style uprising against Aquino. As if giving a warning, Cruz said, “(People power) is a possibility because the Chief Executive is showing less and less consideration for the beliefs of others contrary to his own. When the churches, sects and religious movements of different creeds find themselves harmonious in supporting a common stand, then they become a rather formidable moral power.”

History and recollection, in context

While Sen. Marcos’ words ring true, he seems to want to say that what we know now about the Marcos regime, Martial Law and the 1986 EDSA Revolution is largely propaganda – and by implication should be disregarded. But as George Santayana wrote in Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As much as we would not want to question Sen. Marcos’ recollection of the events 26 years ago, it might be best for him to equally respect the collective recollections of the families of the victims of human rights abuses under Martial Law.

to blame the Marcos regime for the problems that permeate Philippine society may be just as productive as blaming the Spanish conquistadores of 1521. But nothing should keep us from remembering our history, and drawing lessons from it.

Right tree, wrong bark

Lessons such as taking a stand and paying close attention to legal and political processes of today, such as the impeachment trial. Former President Ramos’ view has merit, but then the impeachment trial was never meant to alleviate poverty in the first place. The impeachment trial is the determination of the Filipino people, by representation in the 23 Senator-judges, of whether or not Chief Justice Renato Corona continues to deserve our public trust. This is a matter of seeking a reasonable assurance that our judiciary is truly independent of partisan interests. Beyond poverty alleviation, this goes into the fundamental right of people to obtain justice.

While the impeachment trial continues to be Aquino’s take-off point in many of his public addresses, the need to expand the economy is not lost to him. It may be more worthy of former Pres. Ramos’ time to instead ask whyimportant bills such as the RH Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill have been removed from the priority list of the House of Representatives.

There are leaders, and then there are leaders

Oscar Cruz’ statements are puzzling at best, considering the 2005 pastoral letter stating that the bishops “are not politicians who are to provide a political blueprint to solve problems…With Pope Benedict XVI we do not believe in the intrusion into politics on the part of the hierarchy.”

Yet by saying that the religious would rise up against Aquino, presumably because of Aquino’s firm position on issues such as the RH Bill and the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, it seems that Cruz places a higher value religious interests over national ones. Is this truly the Catholic Church doctrinal position? Is this really in keeping with the spirit of EDSA?

It is true that the late Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin helped rally the people to rise up against Pres. Marcos, but this cannot be understood to mean that the Church itself led the movement, especially if we are to believe the leaked US Embassy cable detailing the Vatican’s overall opposition to Sin’s active involvement in political activity. Furthermore, Sin was charismatic and loved by Filipino Catholics. No Church leader of such popularity exists today to rally the people together as Sin did.

The revolution continues

The message of EDSA today is that Filipinos must rise and take part in changing the wrong they find in society, that it is in our best interest as a nation to clean house. But part of this message is one of preservation: to keep the spirit of EDSA alive and well, and to remember that when we took to the streets, we weren’t just kicking out a dictator from the seat of power. We were reclaiming our democratic institutions and saying that we had had enough of the culture of impunity, the culture of corruption.

Tama na, sobra na, palitan na. Enough is too much, and it is time for a change.


Juan G. M. Ragragio is a thirtysomething year-old nerd/geek hybrid who blogs athttp://raggster.wordpress.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/raggsterWhen not online, he either attends law school at the University of the Philippines College of Law or stays home inventing new ways to use chicken noodle soup.

Photo from President Aquino’s Facebook page. Some rights reserved.