Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, activist nun and a veteran of the 1986 People Power described this event thus, “EDSA was a brief but shining moment in our history. It proved that people who are united to pursue a common goal are powerful enough to oust a dictator.”
It was indeed “brief but shining” and there are many Filipinos who will agree, those who were old enough to remember People Power, especially as witnesses and as participants. But we must remember that People Power did not happen only in EDSA but in other parts of the country as well such as Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, and Los Banos, Laguna. And we must not also forget that the growing people’s movement of workers, peasants, and other sectors did not spring up in just four days in February, but many years before that, all across the country. The people’s mass movement was organizing and resisting against landlessness, foreign control of almost all aspects of society, bureaucrat capitalism, injustice, and human rights violations, and it continues to do so still.
The four days of the 1986 EDSA uprising ended with the hurried exit of the Marcoses carrying their suitcases and boxes of money, jewelry, and various valuables worth millions of dollars, with the help of the United States government. Were it not for the US helicopters that helped the Marcoses escape to Hawaii, they would probably have been lynched by an angry people. Or hauled to the National Penitentiary.
If the Marcos years and the martial law period were indeed the “Golden Years”, how do the Marcoses and their followers explain People Power uprising, the humiliating retreat from Malacanang, and the subsequent exposés of their sins and excesses? How explain the Marcoses plunder of the economy, the Marcoses huge Swiss accounts, and how a part of these plundered funds were taken to pay the many thousands of human rights claimants for the torture, detention and abuses they suffered under Marcos martial law? Another way of asking is how do criminals, murderers, tax evaders, tyrants get away with it?
EDSA was a dramatic change of personalities in government, and while many Filipinos held on to a hope that things would get better, that hope was tempered with caution. There was no systemic change because the military, the big landlords, the big businessmen or the comprador bourgeoisie (a more accurate term) remained in business, beholden to the dictates of powerful foreign interests headed by the US . The structures of the fascist Marcos dictatorship were not toppled down. The grand promise of democracy remained just that, a promise.
The return of the Marcoses into power with Marcos Jr. sitting in Malacanang is proof that no systemic change has happened in all post-Marcos Sr governments. Marcos Jr was no different. In the past eight months as president, he has had no time or interest to respond to the problems of the people. Skyrocketing prices of commodities and services, low wages, the terrible impact of COVID-19, lack of jobs and decent livelihood, militarization and human rights violations continue to fall on deaf ears. He has been occupied with travelling accompanied by his huge entourage of elected officials or staff. To top it all, Marcos Jr has the gall of asking the people to pay their taxes honestly and promptly when he himself has not paid his taxes at all!
We mark the 37th year of EDSA People Power with no other than the son of the ousted dictator Marcos Sr in Malacanang. We mark the brief but shining moment that was EDSA by rising up as a people to wield people power as a weapon once more and use it to strike down a government that remains indifferent, useless, a burden, a squanderer, and a fascist. The spirit of EDSA lives because we will mark this date with the lessons learned from it and with the confidence and commitment to fight this regime to create a future with true freedom, democracy, and peace based on justice. ###