Edsa 1 matters
The passing on Christmas Eve of the esteemed Inquirer editor in chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, LJM to her Inquirer family, is one big reminder that Filipinos must never forget Edsa 1. On Dec. 26 the newspaper’s banner story was titled “LJM: Keeper of the Edsa Flame.” Indeed she was, and the role of the Inquirer as agenda-setter and mobilizer in the post-Edsa 1 years depended heavily on her journalistic savvy and instincts. She and Inquirer founding chair Eugenia Duran-Apostol are of the same mold.
There are threats to the recognition of the true significance of Edsa 1 perceptible in the way the election campaign for the May presidential contest is unfolding. There are very subtle attempts to project Edsa 1 as the historical aberration, instead of the 21-year Marcos regime that eroded government foundations. Those 21 years likewise disrupted the development of a pool of potential leaders from which the people could choose honest, competent, patriotic, people-oriented and God-connected public servants.
Edsa 1 restored freedom. The dictator’s son Bongbong Marcos would not be running for vice president in May if it had not happened. Of course, he could be president today as his father’s heir if Edsa 1 had not happened. And then, too, there would not have been an icon of press freedom in LJM, whose passing we are mourning but whose life work we are celebrating.
Edsa 1 matters. Although the 30 years after it under five presidents have not lifted the majority from poverty, with still 25 percent of over 100 million Filipinos subsisting on less than P100 a day, the foundation of freedom will one day change the landscape. Everyone then will realize that the blessings from being free, derived from exercising freedom’s responsibilities, will never be comparable to whatever a dictatorial system, in any form, can offer. Being free means being human.
Edsa 1 matters. It defined “people power.” It gave Filipinos a global identity, having demonstrated that a nonviolent revolution can bring down a repressive regime. It proved the possibility of a nation becoming one: with the poor, the middle class and the rich getting together and working to be free.
But there have been many betrayals to the spirit of Edsa 1. The coup attempt of August 1987, barely 18 months since Edsa 1, and a number of other attempts after it, were one big betrayal. There was the “Kamag-anak Inc.” and the post-Marcos corruption binge that continue to this day, though confronted head-on by President Aquino, who has not been personally tainted by a corrupt transaction, the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) notwithstanding. Unrestrained corruption betrayed Edsa 1, as did the politics of expedience, of popularity and of deceit. The rule of political dynasties and economic elites is a contradiction to Edsa 1, serving, not the people at large or the common good, but vested interests.
The Edsa flame calls for keepers. One exemplary and persevering keeper, LJM, has gone, joining many who were players in the struggle against one-man rule: Macli-ing Dulag, Bobby de la Paz, Artemio Celestia Jr., Eman Lacaba, Ed Jopson, Ninoy Aquino, Cory Aquino, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, Jose Blanco SJ, Evelio Javier, Joe Burgos, Betty Go-Belmonte, Chino Roces, Jose Diokno, Doy Laurel, Soc Rodrigo, Lorenzo Tañada, Butz Aquino, among countless patriots including desaparecidos. Lest we forget, there was a great price by which our freedom was regained in February 1986. It did not come on a silver platter. And preserving freedom demands vigilance, responsibility and involvement.
The 2016 elections are an exercise of the freedom regained in 1986. The sixth president after the dictator Marcos will be elected on May 9. Whether the choices for president bring hope or not can just be a secondary concern at this time. Ambition and entitlement rather than the best interest of the Filipino people may seem to pervade the political discourse. Keeping the Edsa flame, the freedom path, is not a short-term aspiration. With the passing of the Edsa 1 generation, everyone must grasp the commitment to uphold freedom for the coming generations. The folly of giving up freedom for the myth of peace and order under an iron-fist regime can destroy generations. It was a risk that the Filipino people once took. It is a risk not worth taking again.
The last time I saw LJM was sometime last October, when I visited the Inquirer office one late night to submit the “Inquirer Story” that she had urged me to complete. Some five years ago, I sent her and the opinion editor an unfinished draft narrating how the Inquirer started in 1985 from the business standpoint. I bumped into her at the Edsa Shrine one noon Mass a year later, and she encouraged me to finish the draft. I finally did. As I had not seen her for years when I visited, I began our chat by saying: After Edsa 1, 30 years and five presidents have not delivered on the need for inclusive economic development and on the demand for social justice and equity. She said: “It is not that bad. We have moved forward as a country and society with Edsa 1.”
Indeed, we have moved forward. LJM glowed with optimism. A person of faith can only be one with limitless optimism and unbounded courage. There is still much to be desired in how things are. But the Edsa flame remains kindled, thanks beyond words to LJM.
There are those who attempt to revise history and marginalize the impact of Edsa 1 on Philippine society. But that is part and parcel of democratic space. The Inquirer has played its role in the last 30 years to keep the Edsa flame. Hopefully, there will be many more keepers of the Edsa flame, who will take the trail that LJM blazed.
The challenge continues. Generation after generation must know that our freedom was once lost, but we regained it. Edsa 1 matters.
Danilo S. Venida (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.
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