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Sep 30th
Home Columns Amina Rasul Forgetting EDSA I
Forgetting EDSA I PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Amina Rasul
Saturday, 28 February 2009 02:56

On February 25, 2009, the Philippines commemorated the 23rd anniversary of the People Power Revolution that restored democracy to the country after two decades under former President Ferdinand Marcos. Twenty-three years ago, on February 22, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos trooped to EDSA and camped there for three days in a peaceful revolution that forced the dictator, Marcos, to flee the country.

Marcos, offered snap national elections on February 7, 1986, to prove to the world that the Philippines was a democracy, then proceeded to rig the elections to remain in office. His opponent was Corazon Aquino, the widow of the martyred Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. Aquino rose to the challenge and became the catalyst that united her nation to oppose the presidency of Marcos. The powerful Catholic Church condemned the fraudulent elections. A million Filipinos joined her rally in Luneta Park to protest the rigging of the elections. Marcos’ control started to weaken. And then a fateful act occurred: Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile decided to withdraw support from Ferdinand Marcos in favor of Cory Aquino.


When it became clear that Marcos was moving to quash the Ramos-Enrile threat, calls to protect the two were broadcast on radio, TV and by word of mouth. Ramos and Enrile were holed up at Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Constabulary and Department of National Defense on EDSA. “Come to EDSA!” was the call. Unlikely forces came together: the Church and the political opposition, the long-suffering poor and society’s elites, intellectuals and the barely literate, disgruntled and disillusioned young military officers (Reform the AFP Movement or RAM) and leftists. Inspired by the gentle widow in her trademark yellow dress, the Filipinos triumphed. On February 25, the dictator fled the country. Aquino became the first woman President of the Philippines.


EDSA brought hope to Filipinos and to oppressed people around that world that citizens could regain control over their destiny without bloodshed. The world was stunned and encouraged by the Filipino will to regain their democracy.


T he gentle Corazon Aquino with her backbone of steel became President. Tempted by many advisers to retain power beyond her term, she remained steadfast in her promise to return democratic transition to government. Her trusted general, Fidel Ramos, won the elections and succeeded her as President. Ramos continued the reforms and peace processes initiated by Aquino, making the nation believe that the Philippines was on its way to becoming the next tiger economy in Southeast Asia. Ramos concluded the historic 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement, the first peace agreement with a liberation front in Southeast Asia.

People say that, after a dictatorship, democratic reform cannot take root if it not watered by the blood of martyrs. Sweat and tears are not enough. The blood of Ninoy Aquino was not enough. EDSA I was not bloody; it was too painless. EDSA came to be viewed as the less-expensive route to the presidency.

The dream is morphing into a nightmare and people are waxing nostalgic about the Marcos years.


Where did we go wrong? The trust rating of the President is at an all-time low, much lower than the trust rating of Marcos. In the last ten years, the government has been wracked by scandal upon scandal. Poverty has worsened. Criminality has risen. Armed conflicts between government and the MILF have displaced more than half-a-million Mindanaoans in the last six months alone. Millions of Filipinos have escaped abroad to find opportunities and send home money to support their children. Government and the Philippine economy have been kept afloat by the remittances of these hard working Overseas-Filipino workers (OFWs). Unfortunately, the children of OFWs have fallen by the wayside, without the guidance of parents. They suffer increasingly from substance abuse, teenage pregnancies, worsening education performance.


How did we lose our way? Is it because, as Dr. Clare Carlos said, EDSA I was not a revolution?


Many say, “Easy come, easy go”. They say that, after a dictatorship, democratic reform cannot take root if it not watered by the blood of martyrs. Sweat and tears are not enough. The blood of Ninoy Aquino was not enough. EDSA I was not bloody; it was too painless. EDSA came to be viewed as the less-expensive route to the presidency. Thus, some political strategists believed it was enough to gather thousands in EDSA to topple a President. To prove the point, political forces organized EDSA II and confirmed that it truly could be done. After all, people power was enshrined in the 1986 Constitution.


Do Filipinos still honor People Power and EDSA?


Sadly, the light that was EDSA has been dimmed. The People Power Revolution, now known as EDSA I, has been followed by EDSA II and (an ill-fated) EDSA III. Perhaps there will be an Ayala Avenue I, since peaceful political demonstrations can now be organized only around the Ninoy Aquino Monument at the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas in Mayor Jojobama Binay’s Makati.


Gloria Arroyo proclaimed that the world would not forgive another EDSA and did not attend the annual commemoration (conflict in schedule daw). What an odd statement from someone who benefited from EDSA II.


Each year that passes, the memory of that proud moment in history fades a little bit more. Will EDSA be commemorated only by documentaries of the ABS CBN and ANC television networks? Will these documentaries be viewed only by senior citizens, reminiscing about that glorious day when they went to EDSA armed with prayers and the will to say “Never Again”?


Manong Jojobama, ano po ang sagot? # # #


* Editor’s Note: To read Bobby Reyes’s account of the EDSA I Revolution, please go to
Remembering Ronald Reagan and his Role in Philippine History and
            The 1986 EDSA Revolution Was Part of the “Reagan Revolution”

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 18:10
Comments (1)
1 Thursday, 30 July 2009 18:28
The EDSA thing should be buried deep. It is not worth recalling it. Revolution? It was a picnic, an eating, singing, laughing and endless showboating. The miracle was that Marcos prevented a certain carnage that should have been launched against the coup.Who knows, another leader, given the chance, would have launched an attack against those holed in Camp Crame. There is no record to validate the allegation that Aquino won the snap election. She lost. That was another case of stealing the election results by proclaiming a loser the winner thru Sin, the CBCP, the MBC and a host of leftist.

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