Reclaiming People Power

A soldier reads a copy of Malaya during the 1986 People Power Revolution. (Photo by Joe Galvez)

Later in the afternoon of Feb. 22, Joe received a call (he said it was from Louie Beltran of the Philippine Daily Inquirer), who asked if he had heard about a report that the forces of Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver had orders to arrest dozens of opposition leaders, as well as journalists in the Mosquito or Alternative Press, and haul them off to some detention facility on an island. The two friends counseled each other to take precautions and stay in touch.

-Lourdes Molina-Fernandez, ‘EDSA is not just four days in February’: A first-person account

Posting this in honor of those who braved the streets, not only in Manila, but also in other parts of the country back in February 1986.

While I may have been seeing more and more Philippine history revisionists trying to question what People Power 1986 has done for the country, I think more and more people seem to miss the point that if those fateful days had not occurred, the country would have remained under the Marcos dictatorship for several more years. And despite the official proclamation that Martial Law was lifted, history bears witness that the family of the President had the country by its nose after 1981.

A couple of days ago, I saw then Captain Rex Robles being interviewed by GMA Network’s Howie Severino on News To Go. For those who don’t know Robles, he was part of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), a group of young officers in the armed services who wanted change during the Marcos regime. Robles was asked if People Power 1986 was worth it since nothing much has changed in the country since. Robles said that it was. He added that there was no question of the revolution being undertaken since it was the call of the time. He said that it was a decisive moment in Philippine history and he would do his country a disservice if he stood by doing nothing.

To my mind, the wick of the revolution was lit in the failed putsch of the RAM soldiers who, after being denounced by their captured comrades, sand-bagged themselves in Camp Aguinaldo. Fearing a massacre by pro-Marcos troops, they begged the Archbishop of Manila for help, which came in the form of an appeal for people to flock to EDSA and protect the mutinous soldiers. What followed next was the expression of a people long holding a grudge against the abuses committed by a dictator. And the fire did spread fast to other provinces, cities and towns all over the country. Yes that was 1986.

And that is what I don’t understand with all these revisionist thoughts that People Power 1986 did nothing for the country.

Nobody went to EDSA or the various public parks and plazas of the country thinking of economic development, new tax policies or employment programs. Everyone went to EDSA and the plazas to express their disgust of the dictator and his years in power. Everyone went to EDSA and the plazas to show the man in Malacañang that he and his family no longer has the mandate from the people.

And the voice of the people was heard not only on every corner of the country, but in the whole world. The call of the people was so loud that even Marcos’ overlords in Washington DC decided that he needed to be airlifted out of the country.  And this same power of the people later reverberated in several corners in Eastern Europe, even recently in the Middle East and North Africa.

People Power 1986 was a manifestation of what we can achieve as a nation if we decide to unite for a common cause. It was an exhibition of the greatness of the Filipino in overcoming the harsh rule of a dictator and the temptation of an armed revolution. It was the realization of Rizal’s dream of a revolution without the use of arms. And it was the restoration of a commitment to democracy first written in blood by our founding fathers in 1896.

Everything else that sullies the memory of those people who sacrificed in the years leading up to those days in February, and questions the acts of those who braved the streets then, is plain BS.

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