The People’s Revolution in the right perspective
AS IN previous years, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan snubbed the Edsa People Power anniversary celebration on Feb. 25 because, as they claim, “That is not our Edsa. Our Edsa is Feb. 22nd.”
It was on Feb. 22, 1986, that they broke away from the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, supposedly to restore democracy in the country.
Enrile and Honasan are able to say that with a straight face because the anniversary celebration of the revolution has been focused on the events that transpired on a stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue on Feb. 22-25, 1986, giving the wrong impression that the people’s struggle against the Marcos dictatorship took place on a short strip of highway and in all of four days, making heroes of the very people who had committed abuses against the Filipino people.
Americans regard as the commencement of the American Revolution April 19, 1775, when the Massachusetts militia at Concord fired at the British troops sent to destroy arms and stores. The French people remember as the beginning of the French Revolution July 14, 1789, when the Bastille in Paris was stormed and seized, inciting the masses to revolt against the French monarchy and nobility.
Filipino historians consider as the start of the Philippine Revolution Aug. 23, 1896, when Andres Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros tore up their cedulas and shouted “Long live the Philippines!” to symbolize their defiance of Spanish rule. That “Cry of Pugad Lawin” signaled the call to arms against Spain.
Enrile’s men fired no shot on Feb. 22, 1986. Instead, they sought cover from Marcos’ shellfire. They attacked no military camp on that day. Instead, they holed up in one. They let out no cry for freedom that Saturday night. Instead, they let out a cry for help from the same civilians they had abused. In fact, Enrile declared at about 6:45 p.m. on that day: “As of now, I am still the minister of national defense.”
It is time for the Filipino people to put the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue event in the right perspective. It should no longer be called the Edsa Revolution, and the anniversary celebration should be moved to another date.
Jeff Goodwin, who holds a PhD in sociology from Harvard University and who is a professor of sociology at New York University, defines a revolution as any and all instances in which a political regime is overthrown by a popular movement in an extraconstitutional and/or violent fashion.
A revolution takes place over time and all over the land. The colonials of North America waged their revolution from 1775 to 1783. The French revolutionists seized fortresses outside Paris and wiped out the entire French nobility and aristocracy from 1789 to 1792. The Katipuneros’ revolt waged initially in eight provinces lasted two years, from 1896 to 1898.
The revolution against the Marcos dictatorship might have had its beginning on April 6, 1978, when the oppressed citizens staged a nationwide noise barrage to let the dictator hear their loud protest against his tyrannical rule. It might have been inspired by the tens of thousands of people who went to the Manila International Airport to welcome the returning
Ninoy Aquino, the political nemesis of Marcos, on Aug. 21, 1983, to tell him, “Hindi ka nag-iisa,” meaning they were with him in the fight for the restoration of democracy. As Ninoy’s body was brought to its final resting place, millions lined the route to show the dictatorship that indeed Ninoy was not alone.
It could have been sparked on Sept. 21, 1983, when people marched from all points of the National Capital Region calling for the dismantling of one-man rule: “Lansagin, lansagin ang diktadurang Marcos!” They converged at Liwasang Bonifacio, where they raised their fists and fervently sang what was to be the anthem of the revolution, “Bayan Ko,” before Bonifacio’s monument. It must have been reminiscent of the gesture of defiance of the hero and his followers at Pugad Lawin. That march stirred the oppressed people to mount regular protest marches not only in the streets of Metro Manila but also in the main streets of urban centers nationwide, except in the Ilocos.
Ninoy Aquino’s widow was at the forefront of the protest actions. Enrile and Honasan were implementing martial law and continuing to oppress the people. How could they have led the revolution?
Ernest Mandel, a Marxist economist and political theorist, once wrote:
“When the majority of the people refuse to be fooled and intimidated any longer; when they refuse to stay on their knees; when they recognize the fundamental weakness of their oppressors, they can become transformed overnight from seemingly meek, subdued and helpless sheep into mighty lions. They strike, congregate, organize and especially demonstrate in the streets in increasing numbers, even in the face of massive, gruesome, bloody repression by the rulers, who still have a powerful armed apparatus at their disposal. They often show unheard of forms of heroism, self-sacrifice, obstinate endurance.
“This may end in their getting the better of the repressive apparatus which starts to disintegrate. The first victory of every revolution is precisely such a disintegration. Its final victory calls for the substitution of the armed power of the revolutionary class (or of a major class fraction) to that of the former rulers.”
The Edsa event was not the final victory as the Marcoses are creeping back into power. But it was a crucial victory as people power subdued the armed forces of the Marcos dictatorship.
Oscar P. Lagman Jr. is a member of Manindigan!, the cause-oriented group formed by business executives, professionals, and academics after the Ninoy Aquino assassination.
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.