To reclaim lost ground
After allowing the surreptitious burial of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, publicly acknowledging the campaign contribution of the dictator’s eldest child, and introducing during his China visit the dictator’s son and namesake as possibly the next vice president of the land, President Duterte appears to have green-lighted the downplaying of the anniversary celebration of the Edsa revolt.
Proclamation No. 1224 designates Feb. 22-25 of every year as Edsa People Power Commemoration Week. Yet a Malacañang official says a simple ceremony will mark this year’s 31st anniversary, so people can “move on and not get stuck in the past.” But who’s getting stuck in the past?
Recent official moves recall the inglorious past when the strongman thought nothing of bending the law to suit his agenda or defanging Congress to silence contrary views. The threat by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to expel from their exalted posts in the House those who would not toe the line on the matter of the revival of the death penalty definitely echoed Marcos’ dictatorial ways. That hero’s burial served to exonerate the strongman as well as his family, and to give the lie to the very reasons behind the display of people power on Edsa that toppled the dictatorship and sent the former first family packing. And the seeming laying of the groundwork to get the alleged pork barrel scam queen off the hook presages a state of affairs when the high and mighty got away with murder, as it was during the martial law era.
These backsliding tendencies toward strongman rule are the very arguments why Edsa should be marked properly, even ardently. History might be written by the victors, but it is now being revised and altered drastically by politicians and social media trolls who peddle fake news and alternative facts to advance their interests.
“Moving on and forgetting may leave us in danger of making the same mistakes all over again,” warned Vice President Leni Robredo, who underscored the importance of reverence for the past to “ensure quality of direction in our future.”
Indeed, as the group that names itself The Power of We said in its call for a proper celebration of Edsa at the People Power Monument on Feb. 25, this is one huge history class, especially for millennials too young to remember the events that led to the inspiring exercise of people power in 1986.
It bears recalling that this bloodless revolt gained for the Philippines the world’s respect and admiration, for showing that peaceful change was possible. It inspired similar people-fueled solidarity in shackled nations and literally brought down walls, such as the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Celebrating Edsa acknowledges the sacrifice of countless men and women who laid down their lives in resisting the Marcos dictatorship. While it is true that the ensuing years amply demonstrated that the mere changing of the guard was not sufficient to transform Philippine politics, Edsa remains a defining moment when Filipinos showed a capability to transcend differences to get together for decisive, collective action.
The highest outcome of this “near-miraculous four-day phenomenon … was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to infuse our people with a new purpose,” according to Edsa player and former president Fidel V. Ramos. “The Spirit of Edsa compels our unswerving opposition to injustice, greed, corruption and complacency.”
With ominous dark clouds looming anew, we must mark Edsa with a purpose and take rare comfort in its great achievement: the return of democracy. At the same time, we must mark it with renewed resolve because this democratic space is again at risk from dark forces.
Downplaying Edsa and limiting its commemoration within the confines of a military camp means isolating it from the source of its power—ordinary Filipinos, the sort who kept vigil on the great highway to deliver a message that still resounds today: Enough!
It’s time to reclaim lost ground, to prevent the return of forces exorcised 31 years ago and on the verge of resurgence.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.