Aquino’s attempt to revise Edsa revolt saga
In shifting the celebration of the 28th anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolution from Manila to Cebu City on Tuesday, President Aquino undertook the revision of history: refocusing it to the role of the Aquino family in the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of Philippine democracy.
Speaking in Cebu, the President said it was in that city, not in Manila, where the struggle to restore democracy began its “first chapter.” This assertion downgraded the importance of the events at Edsa triggered by the military uprising against the Marcos regime, followed by the civilian mass movement that backed then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos in their breakaway from Marcos, knocking down the latter’s main pillar of
support. In other words, the military revolt served as the catalyst of the people power revolution, starting the collapse of the repressive dictatorship that ruled the country for 14 years.
Where was Cory Aquino, the President’s mother and leader of the emasculated political opposition, when the turmoil sparked by the military broke out? She was in Cebu, far away from the center of action in military camps at Edsa (Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the defense department, and Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary led by Ramos). She had sought refuge in a religious safe house in Cebu, while the rebel forces and the loyalist segment of the Armed Forces led by Gen. Fabian Ver were locked in a standoff, in the struggle to take control of the Feb. 22-25 revolution, as civilians mobilized by the call of Cardinal Jaime Sin to go to the streets to protect the beleaguered rebel forces flooded Edsa to confront tanks and armored vehicles sent by Ver to storm Camp Crame.
In his revisionist speech in Cebu, Mr. Aquino said: “Those at Edsa were not the only ones who joined the revolt, right? There are those in Cebu, Davao and so many [other] places.” It’s about time we recognized that Edsa people power involved the struggle of Filipinos all over the country, “not just [those] in Metro Manila,” he told reporters.
The President also said Cebu could be credited with representing the “first chapter” in the struggle to restore democracy. He recalled that it was in Cebu where his mother called for civil disobedience and the boycott of Marcos crony enterprises in protest against the rigging of the 1986 snap election. “If we could say that the last chapter in the struggle for democracy happened on Edsa, perhaps we could say that the first chapter happened in
Cebu,” he said. “I was at ease then that my mother was in Cebu. She was in good hands. Those who wanted to harm her would not succeed because she was in the company of ardent supporters.”
The walkout of computer personnel from the Commission on Elections which counted fraudulent election results showing that Marcos won the election ahead of Cory destroyed the credence of the official results. The ratification of the official results by the rubber-stamp Batasang Pambansa which proclaimed Marcos the winner despite the cheating sparked nationwide outrage and Cory’s call for civil disobedience and boycott. As a prelude to the people power demonstrations at Edsa, more than a million people jammed the Luneta in response to Cory’s call.
The shift of the venue of the Edsa anniversary celebration to Cebu marked an attempt by the President to emphasize Cory’s role in mobilizing mass protests in unseating Marcos. This interpretation ignores and downgrades the military’s role in unseating Marcos. The speech had no reference to the military as one of the key players of the uprising. It, however, refocused on Cory’s role in Cebu, while the military was hogging the stage in the struggle for control of the revolt between the Enrile-Ramos forces and the loyalist forces. Cory’s refuge in Cebu completely sidelined her from center of the action at Edsa.
It was only after the bulk of the military establishment had defected to join the rebel forces in Camp Crame that Cory returned to Manila to reestablish her presence while the Marcos regime was crumbling swiftly. At this stage, Cory declared support for the Enrile-Ramos mutiny.
Enrile and Ramos were conspicuously absent in the Cebu celebration on Feb. 25. Their absence was understandable. Their role was completely ignored by the President. His revisionist speech put back his mother in the center of the revolution and depicted her as the central figure in the restoration of democracy. The speech was to remind us that we are indebted to her for having been the rallying point of civilian participation in the people power mass movement that flooded Edsa. It was this demonstration that may have made the military realize that it alone could not seize power without mass civilian support.
This visible mandate of the people rallying around Cory could not be ignored when the military and civilian leaders of the insurrection were considering who should lead the provisional revolutionary government after Marcos fled the country.
In the oathtaking ceremony of the new leadership in Club Filipino on Feb. 25, Cory arrived late because of a fierce debate between the military and civilian leaders over whether she should be sworn in at Club Filipino, a civilian venue, or at Camp Crame, the center of the revolt. Cory and her civilian advisers insisted on Club Filipino. This decision defined the balance of power between the civilians and the military in the post-Edsa years.
The credit for this supremacy belongs to the people who filled Edsa to end the dictatorship. We owe them for the restoration of democracy, not the Aquino family.
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