New CHR head says EDSA revolt an 'unfinished business'
MANILA (UPDATE) — Amid criticisms that the peaceful People Power Revolution in 1986 has failed to live up to its promises for the Filipino people, a former chief justice said EDSA never promised anything except to oust a dictator.
“Noong kami ay nagtakbuhan… wala kaming pangakong narinig, kaming taumbayan sa EDSA noong 1986. Alam lang namin, kailangang matapos na ang mapang-abusong pamamahala ni Ginoong Marcos kaya ginawa namin at nanaig ang alam naming tama,” former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said at an online forum organized by the Political Science Organization of the University of Makati on Friday.
(When we trooped to EDSA in 1986, we never heard of any promises. What we knew was that we have to put an end to the abusive administration of Mr. Marcos that’s why we did what we thought was right.)
“In fact, hiningan pa nga kami ng tulong (they asked for our help),” she added.
Upon the call of then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, tens of thousands of Filipinos converged on EDSA beginning on February 22, 1986 to protect then-defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then-Armed Forces of the Philippines vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos who were then hiding in Camp Aguinaldo after withdrawing their support from then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
That led to the now-iconic scenes of unarmed civilians, including nuns, standing up to tanks and fully-armed soldiers, offering food and flowers.
Sereno said they did not even like Enrile and Ramos as the two had been instrumental in implementing Martial Law, but they chose to heed Cardinal Sin’s call upon learning that the two were already on the side of the people.
It was during the EDSA revolt, the former top magistrate said, that Enrile confessed that they faked his ambush to justify the declaration of Martial Law and that Marcos cheated in the 1986 snap elections in Enrile’s hometown in Cagayan to secure his supposed victory.
Enrile, in a memoir in 2012, changed his tune and insisted the ambush was real. He is now openly endorsing the presidential bid of the dictator’s son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
For Sereno, what led to the EDSA Revolution was simmering discontent with Marcos’ governance, amid soaring prices of commodities, lowering value of the peso, malnutrition, among others, capped off by the 1983 assassination of Marcos’ rival, former senator Ninoy Aquino.
“Sa panahon pong ‘yun, para bang isang bulkan ang taumbayan nagkaka-minor eruptions na, bulkan na nagagalit,” she said.
(In those days, the public was like a volcano with minor eruptions.)
“Kaya noong in-assassinate si Ninoy, it was such a major psychological shock and emotionally, lumabas ang mga galit ng mga tao kasi nag-iyakan talaga,” she recounted.
(When Ninoy was assassinated, it was such a major psychological shock and emotionally, the public vented out their anger; they were in tears.)
Sereno had just gotten married on July 4, 1983 when Ninoy was assassinated on August 21, 1983. Her first baby was born January 19, 1986.
Sereno, who recently became active on social media to debunk lies about Martial Law, rejected claims the Martial Law years were the Philippines’ “golden age.”
“Sa aming generation walang golden age, Imposible ‘yang sinasabing golden age. Bagong creation lang ‘yang term na ‘yan, parang pambubudol lang sa aming nakaranas noon,” she said.
(There was no golden age. That’s impossible. That term is a new creation meant to deceive those who experienced it.)
Sereno, who was ousted in 2018 over her non-filing of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), went on to recount other anomalies during the Marcos regime — from pressuring the Sandiganbayan to acquit the soldiers implicated in the killing of Ninoy to corruption issues hounding the Marcoses — the same subjects of disinformation on social media she seeks to refute.
She acknowledged there was a failure in educating the youth about what really happened during Martial Law, saying the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the body tasked to recover ill-gotten wealth, should have done more to inform the people, in their own language, about the P174-billion the agency has recovered from the Marcoses and the billions more left to be recovered.
The Marcoses were estimated to have plundered public coffers up to $10 billion.
Acclaimed author and University of the Philippines professor Jose Dalisay, Jr. agrees there was a failure not only of the educational system but also of the parents as well, in educating their children about the atrocities during Martial Law.
“We failed to consolidate that victory. We thought that since wala na ang mga Marcos, ay 'di na babalik ang mga ‘yan (We thought that since the Marcoses were gone, they won’t be coming back). We were wrong,” referring to presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos who is topping recent survey polls, less than 3 months before the May elections.
But Dalisay believes it’s not just the youth that needs educating.
“One thing that we have to remember that is not often brought up:
Even under Martial Law, those who were opposing it were in the minority. The majority of Filipinos supported Marcos implicitly just by keeping quiet and not objecting, if not actively,” he said.
“Kaya hindi kataka-taka na maraming mga matatanda na katulad ko ay iba ang kanilang memory ng Martial Law kasi hindi naman sila nakulong, hindi naman sila na-rape, hindi naman sila na-salvage, hindi naman nagulo ‘yung business nila kaya wala silang nirereklamo.
Ang hindi nila nakikita, ay lahat ng Pilipino, ke pabor ka sa Martial Law o hindi, lahat tayo ay pinagnakawan. At hanggang ngayon ay binabayaran pa natin ‘yung utang na ‘yan kaya lahat tayo tinamaan, kahit ‘yung mga pro-Marcos, nagbabayad din sila,” he said.
(That’s why it’s not surprising that some older people have a different memory of Martial Law because they were never jailed, raped, killed nor their businesses affected that’s why they’re not complaining. What they don’t see is that all Filipinos, whether in favor or Martial Law or not, we have all been robbed. Until now, we are still paying for those debts. Even those for Marcos are paying for them.)
NOT A CONFLICT BETWEEN 2 FAMILIES
Commission on Human Rights commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit pushed back against reducing the EDSA Revolution to a conflict between two families, citing as among its gains the restoration of democracy and bringing back of guarantees of freedoms.
“EDSA People Power is a shining moment when the power of the people reigned supreme,” she said.
“EDSA is not about two families but about the people and a collective dream of a free and democratic society.”
Gomez-Dumpit cautioned against seeing the EDSA revolt as the solution though to Filipinos’ problems.
“Even if we have regained democracy with EDSA, we realize that genuine democracy is a work in progress and hard-earned democracy can be threatened any time,” she said, explaining that EDSA was only the beginning, a rebirth of the country.
“A new beginning does not assure a new tomorrow,” she said.
For CHR chair Leah Tanodra-Armamento, the EDSA Revolution is an “unfinished business.”
“It would seem that removing an unworthy leader is a never unending story in Philippine politics,” citing the post-EDSA I cases of former President Joseph Estrada and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who also faced calls for her ouster.
“We overthrew one tyrant after another and collapsed a depraved regime with a new order. We have done this by people power or by way of elections. But they did not result in a restructuring of our government and society which could bring the changes that we desire. We started with high hopes and ended with gross disappointments,” she said.
The lesson from EDSA?
“Revolutions must do more than bring a change of leader or regime,” Armamento said.