Exposing the EDSA I myths:

Commemorating the 24th anniversary of EDSA I




February 25, 2010




Today, as the nation commemorates the historic EDSA People Power I uprising, the continuing illegal detention and torture of 43 health workers by the Philippine military stands as a manifest and complete reversal of everything that EDSA I stood for.

While EDSA I ended the Marcos dictatorship and all its attendant evils, the Arroyo regime has restored much of these. Patronage politics and crony capitalism are stronger than ever, albeit called by other names.

Imeldific dinners and lavish spending abroad hog the headlines, while more than half of the population goes hungry. Institutions and processes of our so-called democracy are undermined for political exigencies.

--- From the statement of Health Alliance for Democracy





By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

EDSA myths (Part I)

A ruling president shunning people power and a presidential aspirant eagerly laying claim to it. Neither one can be expected to explain to the people what Edsa was all about, what was achieved and what could not be achieved. And what is its continuing relevance to our people’s situation today.

De facto President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is conspicuously absent again at the official celebration of the anniversary of Edsa I, the people’s uprising that toppled the dictator Marcos 24 years ago. In 2001 Mrs. Arroyo, then Vice President, was catapulted to power after a second unarmed uprising cum military rebellion dubbed “Edsa Dos”. But she quickly eschewed people power as she chose to anchor the legitimacy of her presidency on the legal fiction that President Joseph Estrada had “resigned” rather than being ousted, claiming that she merely assumed the office when there was a vacancy, no thanks to people power.

Presidential candidate Sen. Noynoy Aquino, on the other hand, struggles to lay claim to the Edsa people power legacy in his latest television advertisement. Young people are gathered around him in the style of the grandmotherly storyteller, Lola Basyang. He preaches, “Sa Edsa nagsimula and laban, sa Mayo ipagpapatuloy natin ang laban…” (The fight began in Edsa, in May we will continue the fight…) Of late it is the crassest example of how the EDSA I uprising has been debased in an attempt to appropriate it and turn it into political capital for the May 2010 elections.

First of all, one needs to explode the myth that EDSA I happened overnight, like some kind of inexplicable phenomenon, and that it all started with the military rebellion led by then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos. It didn’t.

It took all of fourteen years before the Marcos dictatorship was overthrown; throughout that time our people struggled against despotism and misrule. This found concrete expression in the broad urban resistance movement both underground and above ground, the armed revolutionary movements of the CPP-NPA and MNLF, and the various anti-Marcos opposition groups both here and abroad.

From the outset, it was from the ranks of the poor, exploited and oppressed classes that resistance to authoritarian rule emerged: workers who were not allowed to strike over legitimate grievances; poor peasants who were being driven off their land; the urban underclass whose homes were being demolished to give way to Mrs. Imelda Marcos’ beautification projects; students from the hotbeds of activism like the state universities who were being rounded up or gagged from expressing their dissent.

In time, personalities and groups from among the middle forces began to raise their voices in protest. Notably it was the religious who ventured out of their comfort zones, breaking bread with the struggling masses wherever they found them, sharing their weal and woe, until they themselves were targeted by the military as “subversives” or “communist sympathizers”.

Later, professionals such as lawyers and physicians also took up the cudgels for human rights victims, asserting their right and duty to minister to those in need regardless of ideological or political orientation. Teachers and other government employees also became restive borne of their own economic issues and the political repression they were subjected to by the authoritarian state.

Even artists joined the fray with noted film directors, writers and painters becoming activists against censorship and the climate of suppression of freedom of expression. The “mosquito press” was pioneered by the xeroxed newsletters of the religious then the newspapers fearlessly put out by press freedom icon, Joe Burgos and others.

The politicians in the anti-Marcos opposition were outstandingly represented by Senators Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and Jovito Salonga. They distinguished themselves by the fact that they fought martial law from the outset, courageously, consistently and with a clear-sighted and statesmanlike appreciation of the need to unite the broadest array of social forces to topple the dictator, including those on the Left of the political spectrum.

The sector of big business, especially the foreign chambers of commerce and their local partners, welcomed martial law and benefited from the dictatorship’s foreign investment-friendly policies. It was only when Marcos cronies and favored multinational corporations started to elbow out other vested interests, when the economy started to go down, and the political situation became more unstable (especially with the raging communist-led and Moro secessionist armed struggles in the countryside) that sections of the economic elite began to abandon Marcos and look to the anti-Marcos opposition for an alternative leader from the same elite mold.

As for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Marcos made sure the hierarchy was well-fed from the trough of the kleptocracy such that the era of multi-millionaire generals all started under his regime. It was only when the rivalry between the Marcos/Ver faction and the Enrile/Ramos faction heated up that the ground became fertile for the establishment of the Reform The Armed Forces Movement (RAM), the organization of military officers that eventually figured in the failed coup attempt preceding the Edsa uprising. The god fathers and leaders of RAM were fiercely anti-communist, had track records as human rights violators, were beholden to the US and had a messianic complex about their role in bringing about reforms, not just in the AFP, but in Philippine politics in general.

Verily, it was after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino that the simmering cauldron of resistance and protest boiled over into a wave of non-stop massive demonstrations calling for Marcos to step down until, with the not-too-gentle prodding of his principal backer, the US, he called for snap elections.

The snap presidential elections of 7 February 1986 pitted Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the unassuming widow of the martyred opposition leader, Ninoy, and Ferdinand Marcos, the ailing Strongman believed to be behind her husband’s brazen assassination. Mrs. Aquino quickly became the rallying figure for a people sick and tired of years of unmitigated suffering under authoritarian rule; the elections, the opening they had been waiting for to kick out Marcos.

But it was not to be. Marcos was declared the winner in a massively fraudulent electoral exercise triggering an outpouring of protest culminating in gigantic demonstrations where Mrs. Aquino claimed victory and called for civil disobedience to enforce the will of the people. The Left began preparations for a people’s strike to up the ante in the anticipated showdown between the democratic forces and Marcos’ armed minions.

These events preceded the failed coup d’état led by Enrile/Ramos who, in the first place, planned to install a military junta in lieu of Marcos. Thus when Cardinal Sin called on the people to flock to the gates of the two military camps traversed by the main hi-way named Epifanio de los Santos or Edsa to support the beleaguered military rebels, the response was instantaneous and overwhelming.

The days of the dictatorship were numbered. ###



By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Edsa myths (Part II)

Was Edsa I a failure? Ferdinand Marcos Jr., heir to the Dictator Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth and discredited political legacy, says so. According to him, there has been no change: poverty only worsened, there are no basic services for the people and subsequent governments were not able to clean up the bureaucracy.

Senator Noynoy Aquino reminisces about his parents’ (and his own) sacrifices in fighting Marcos. He asserts that his mother, President Corazon Aquino, successfully restored democracy and defended it by putting down several coup attempts.

Both, not surprisingly, are resorting to half-truths to peddle lies from each one’s self-serving perspective.

Mr. Marcos Jr. cites the impoverished, miserable and repressed state that Filipinos are in to argue that things were better back in his father’s heyday. Marcos Sr. told the people that they had to give up their political and civil liberties in exchange for economic and social welfare; in the end, he gave the people neither. If indeed things are in many ways worse now than under the Marcos dictatorship it is because its warped legacy pervades today’s restored “democracy”.

Noynoy, for his part, tries to reprise the good-versus-evil analogy that worked well for his mother when she ran for president against the strongman Marcos. He paints a Camelot-like reign: apart from restoring so-called democracy, she allegedly also banished the evils of corruption, abuse of power and moral turpitude. Since to many Filipinos, the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the embodiment of evil, Noynoy wants us to believe that he, by pedigree, is the antithesis of Mrs. Arroyo.

Too bad for Noynoy, not even the outpouring of grief during his mother’s wake and burial can erase the truth about what happened after Edsa I, how its promise of giving back power to the people and of bringing about long-sought after reforms was dashed not long after Cory assumed power.

What has been obscured in the furor over whether EDSA 1 was a failure or not is the fact that while martial law was declared by Marcos in 1972 to perpetuate his hold on power, he still had to preserve the reactionary rule of the big landowners, the business partners of the multinational companies and banks, and the entrenched bureaucrat capitalists from whence he himself came.

While the other factions of the elite were lorded over by the Marcos clique, it was the people who bore the brunt of the suffering under the same old exploitative and oppressive ruling system made worse by fascist tyranny. Consequently, while the overthrow of the dictatorship was the immediate common goal of the Edsa I participants, there were as many medium-term and long-term objectives as there were class interests among the participants.

The small but influential and moneyed minority to whom Cory and Ninoy Aquino belonged was interested only in restoring the formal trappings of democracy - e.g. elections, Congress, the judiciary and ostensibly, civilian over military rule - but were averse to instituting genuine land reform or national industrialization. The larger majority wanted nothing less than “food and freedom, jobs and justice”.

The more politically mature and seasoned, those who had been at the forefront of the anti-dictatorship struggle from the outset, harbored no illusions that overthrowing the dictatorship would solve the fundamental problems of Philippine society. They had more realistic, if limited, objectives for a people’s uprising and thus would be the last to judge EDSA I as a failure.

Edsa I had its inherent limitations. It brought back to power a different faction of the ruling elite, one that had the advantage of having been part of the anti-dictatorship struggle and was therefore clothed with the rhetoric of “reform” and “change” and the mystique of “people power” which it, however, used to preserve the status quo.

This explains why the Cory regime undermined land reform by letting a landlord-dominated Congress legislate the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Under CARP, her family’s landholdings, notably the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita, were exempted from distribution. Four administrations and more than two decades later, landlessness and rural poverty - in short, social injustice - has worsened; avowed democratic gains have been rendered meaningless for more than seventy per cent of the people.

Edsa I did not end the perennial economic crisis plaguing the country. Nothing changed as far as economic policies are concerned. The same IMF-World Bank and later, WTO-imposed, policy framework that the Marcos regime implemented was carried out by all subsequent regimes from Aquino to Arroyo. When Cory addressed the US Congress, the most applauded part of her speech was her declaration that her government will not renege on its foreign financial obligations, i.e. the Marcos-incurred foreign debt.

Consequently, the backward, feudal-agricultural and unindustrialized character of the economy has remained the same. Good quality jobs and income-earning opportunities are so scarce that daily, more than 3000 Filipinos seek work abroad. Those who remain compete for low-paying, insecure jobs in a tiny manufacturing sector or the few relatively higher-paying jobs in call centers; become odd jobbers in the informal sector; but more likely end up among the tens of millions of unemployed facing a bleak future.

Edsa I did not empower the people. Politics and government continue to be dominated by the economic and political elite, traceable to the principalia class from which the Spanish, then the American, colonizers handpicked those who would rule in their name, and later in the name of “democracy”. In electoral exercises reinstated after Edsa I, they take turns holding the reins of power.

This is the reason why the US backed the Cory regime and its successors. The “persuasion flights” of US F4 phantom jets at a crucial point of the 1989 coup attempt demonstrated beyond doubt the decisive role played by US imperialism in Philippine politics. It also explains why every post-Marcos regime has had to pander to and spoil the military and police to retain their loyalty. Every time the people howl in protest, there are always the US-trained and equipped state security forces, the pliant courts and prosecutors, and the shadowy “death squads” to deal with them.

What Edsa I, the first unarmed people’s uprising, succeeded in doing, is the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The restoration of the formal trappings of democracy reopened avenues for expressing the muffled voice and asserting the suppressed will of the people.

The lesson has been learned. The people will no longer be content with merely overthrowing one regime only for it to be replaced by another without any basic changes. If there is any reason why the Arroyo regime has not been overthrown by people power, it is not because “people are tired of people power”, much less that people are content with Mrs. Arroyo, but because people still have to build a consensus on what kind of regime should take its place. ###

▲ Photos by KMU  ▼
▲ Photos by JT  ▼


A Complete Reversal
Statement on the Commemoration of EDSA People Power I
22 February 2010

Today, as the nation commemorates the historic EDSA People Power I uprising, the continuing illegal detention and torture of 43 health workers by the Philippine military stands as a manifest and complete reversal of everything that EDSA I stood for.

While EDSA I ended the Marcos dictatorship and all its attendant evils, the Arroyo regime has restored much of these. Patronage politics and crony capitalism are stronger than ever, albeit called by other names.

Imeldific dinners and lavish spending abroad hog the headlines, while more than half of the population goes hungry. Institutions and processes of our so-called democracy are undermined for political exigencies.

Over the last nine years, we have witnessed not just the decline of our social landscape but also the growing ascendancy of military rule.

Today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police continue to disregard the

basic tenets of due process and defy even the highest courts of the land. Today, these state security forces remain the top human rights violators in the country.

Today, like the 43 health workers, everyone and anyone can be their victim.

Anyone can be arrested arbitrarily, handcuffed, and blindfolded for almost two days. Anyone can be deprived of sleep, subjected to hours of interrogation, and denied legal counsel. Anyone can be tortured and harassed sexually while under detention.

Anyone, like the 43 health workers, can subjected to the worst forms of abuse and humiliation simply by being accused, through lies and fabricated evidence, as a New People’s Army member.
All of these are with the blessings of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, AFP commander-in-chief and highest-ranking civilian authority. Hers is a rule marked by everything that was abominable with the Marcos dictatorship: unbridled greed and corruption, insatiable lust for power, and utter dependence on the armed strength of state security forces.

Today, it is not enough that Filipinos live “lives of quiet desperation”. Regardless of what we are doing, we live under the naked power of the military, like a sword over our heads.

The continuing detention of the 43 health workers is an irony, if not a tragedy, that highlights the meaninglessness of any commemoration of EDSA People Power I. The innocents who suffer will earmark our government’s backward march to history.

This kind of existence is unacceptable. We demand change. We demand respect for our basic liberties and fundamental rights. We demand an end to martial rule.

Free the 43 health workers now.

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera
Secretary-General, 0920 460 3712

Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos
Vice-Chair, 0927 483 2325

Dr. Darby S. Santiago
Chair, 0927 473 7700

▲ Photos by JT  ▼


24 years after Edsa
Radical change still needed – KMU

Amid celebrations for the 24th annivesary of the 1986 “people power” revolt that ousted former strongman Ferdinand Marcos, labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno today said Marcosian rule merely changed face and that the Filipino workers and people still clamor for thoroughgoing changes in the country.

“We removed Marcos from power only to see him change face in succeding presidents. Poverty, hunger, joblessness, corruption, repression – these are like ugly threads that run through governments that came after Marcos,” said Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU executive vice-president.

“Post-Edsa regimes have only intensified the comprehensive attack on our rights and interests as workers and people. That is why we still clamor for change. After learning that elections won’t change the system decades ago, it is also becoming clearer to many people that even people power uprisings won’t do. We need something more radical,” said Ustarez.

“Shortly after former President Cory Aquino assumed the presidency in 1986, people were already saying that only the faces in government have changed, but nothing much else. Edsa 1 left the basic socio-economic structure of the country intact. Now, 24 years after Edsa 1, we have proven the undeniable truth of those statements,” he added.

Ustarez said that poor people’s basic food has changed from galunggong in late 1980s to instant noodles today, that one out of three Filipinos are experiencing involuntary hunger, that the few jobs available today are less secure because of contractualization, that 40% of the national budget goes to corruption, and that blatant and massive human rights violations continue to be committed.

“Attacks on the livelihood and rights of people have only changed forms – and one can reasonably say that they have even intensified through the years. Marcos declared martial law; Gloria did not – but the results are the same: hundreds of people dead, missing, displaced or injured,” said Ustarez.

The labor leader also said that workers continue to suffer from attacks on the labor sector that were made during the Aquino government. He cited the Herrera Law which legalized the contractualization of labor and the labor secretary’s Assumption of Jurisdiction power over labor disputes, as well as the regionalization of wages through the wage boards.

“Instead of improving the lot of Filipino workers, the Aquino government launched attacks on our rights and interests in all fronts. Regarding job security, it promoted the contractualization of labor. Regarding trade-union repression, it allowed the labor secretary to send military and police forces in labor disputes. And regarding wages, it made efforts to raise wages across the country doubly difficult with the creation of the regional wage boards,” Ustarez said.

Reference: Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU executive vice-president, 0908-649-1992


▲ Photos by JT  ▼


'Tagumpay ng EDSA 1, ibalik sa taumbayan!'
Matapos ang 24 taon, pag-angat ng kalagayan, 'di pa rin natitikman -- grupo

February 22, 2010

Tagumpay ng EDSA 1, ibalik sa taumbayan -- ito ang naging panawagan ng grupong Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) at BAYAN-NCR, na nagsagawa ng aksyong-protesta ngayon sa People Power Monument sa Quezon City kasabay ng ika-24 anibersaryo ng pagsisimula ng unang 'People Power' revolt na nagpabagsak sa diktadurang Marcos.

Ani Bea Arellano, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Kadamay, isang ganap na tagumpay ng mamamayang Pilipino ang EDSA 1 sa pagpapatalsik nito sa pasista at pahirap na Pangulo noong 1986, subalit makalipas ang 24 taon, hinihintay pa rin ng milyun-milyong mga maralita na siyang pangunahing kumilos sa makasaysayang pag-aaklas ang inaasahang pag-angat ng kanilang kalagayan matapos nito.

"Una, ito ay mensahe sa ilang mga personalidad na umaangkin sa diwa at tagumpay ng EDSA -- bagamat kinikilala ang papel ng mga lider-oposisyon na tumindig noon laban kay Marcos, hindi iisang tao o iisang pamilya lamang ang 'nagpanumbalik' ng demokrasya sa bansa. Walang ibang nagmamay-ari ng tagumpay sa EDSA kundi ang sambayanang Pilipino, at panahon nang ibalik natin ang kredito sa kanila."

Subalit mas malalim dito, ani Arellano, ay ang matagal nang pangangailangan na makamit ng taumbayan ang higit na mahalagang pakinabang ng EDSA -- ang pag-angat ng kalagayan ng milyun-milyong mga maralita, na hanggang ngayon ay ipinagkakait sa kanila.

"Natupad ba ang mga pangako ng EDSA? Bagamat hinding-hindi natin pagsisihan ang 'People Power' noon, bagkus dapat pa nga nating ulitin ngayon, nakagagalit lamang ang pagkakanulo sa atin ng mga naging lder ng bansa matapos ang EDSA -- sa halip na pag-angat ng kalagayan, lalong paglala at labis na kahirapan pa ang isinukli."

Upang isalarawan ito, nagbaon ang grupo ng isdang galunggong at ipinaghambing ang presyo nito noong 1986 at sa kasalukuyan. Matatandaang ang presyo ng galunggong ang naging isa sa pinakamatining na isyu sa pangangampanya ng dating Pangulong Aquino laban kay Marcos, subalit sa halip na bumaba ay patuloy lamang itong tumaas sa paglipas ng mga taon.

Ikinumpara din ng grupo ang ilang mga mahahalagang estadistika mula sa taong 1986 at sa taong kasalukuyan, kabilang ang unemployment (6.7% noong 1986; 10.7% ngayong 2010, adjusted sa pre-2005 depinisyon ng unemployment); agwat ng daily cost of living, para sa isang pamilya na may anim na miyembro, at minimum wage (P126.7 at P57.08, ayon sa pagkakasunod, noong 1986; P894 at P382 naman ngayon); at self-rated poverty ayon sa SWS (66% noong Mayo 1986; 46% nitong Disyembre 2009 -- hindi signipikanteng pagbaba, kung titignan ang SRP sa bawat buwan ng administrasyong Arroyo), upang ipakita ang kawalang-pagbabago, kundi paglala pa, ng kalagayan ng mga maralita.

Ang malinaw, ayon sa grupo, ay sa kabila ng apat na beses na pagpapalit ng presidente mula 1986, walang tunay at pundamental na pagbabago ang nagaganap na bansa. At mahalagang maidiin ang puntong ito, sa panahong kumakaharap muli tayo ng panibagong pambansang halalan sa darating na Mayo 10.

"Sawang-sawa na kami sa pagpapalit-palit ng presidente sa halalan na walang nangyayari, at sa halip ay lalo pa kaming pinahihirapan," ani Arellano. "Ang kailangan natin ay isang bagong demokrasya, isang estadong tunay na tutugon sa mga pangangailangan at kagalingan naming maralita. Una sa lahat, ang katuparan ng tunay na reporma sa lupa at makabayang industriyalisasyon.

"At makakamit lamang natin ito sa pamamagitan ng sama-sama at organisadong pagkilos ng mamamayan, gaya sa EDSA 1 -- subalit ngayon, titiyakin na natin na tayo ang lubos na makikinabang sa ating tagumpay." ##

Reference: Bea Arellano, Kadamay Secretary General | 0921.392.7457


▲ Photos by JT  ▼

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