TODAY is the start of the four-day commemoration of the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986. After 32 years, the euphoria of those days has subsided; the memory of people dancing in the streets upon the news of a dictator fleeing Malacañang into the bosom of his erstwhile sponsor, America, is simply just that – a fading memory.

And the Deegong, who toned down the celebration last year, has at last appointed people to the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC). Foremost among these commissioners are Christopher Carrion, an original of the 1986 EDSA and one of the founders of the Spirit of EDSA, Inc., that over the years has managed to perpetuate its memory. The other is Joey Concepcion, the industrialist son of President Cory’s first Secretary of Trade and Industry, Jose Concepcion, Jr. President Duterte must have thought hard on the symbolism of these appointments, the old and the new; the former, to stamp his imprimatur for the original rationale of EDSA, “…the abrogation of a dictatorship and restoration of democracy…”; and the latter, to pass on the torch to the new face of EDSA, one without its socio-political warts and connotations of failed promises. Perhaps DU30 is sending the message that however one interprets whatever the lessons and recriminations of the past, they must be subsumed to a larger purpose—the emancipation of the Filipino from the shackles of decades-long stark poverty, injustice and corruption.

President Duterte too was a child of EDSA, a derivative of its restructuring. A mere city prosecutor, he was flung into a political life when, upon the refusal by his mother Nanay Soling of an offer to become OIC Vice Mayor of Davao in 1986 by President Cory Aquino, the son assumed the role. History is replete with such twists of fate.

People on both sides of EDSA have interpreted its meaning over the years through the prism of each individual’s deep-seated beliefs, values and biases. Today, the perception of the winners and losers of EDSA are as convoluted as it was in 1986. No one is neutral on EDSA, except perhaps the millennials whose collective ethos have no intimate bond with the realities of those days. Perhaps this is inevitable as the passing of the years must strip away the “chaff from the grain.”

Perhaps, this is meant to be. Many of the participants in the decades-long struggle leading towards those fateful four days are now past their 50s. And the cruel onslaught of age, has decimated our peers, but time has likewise liberated our ranks, septuagenarians and nonagenarians from the prison of the of familiarity of the not so recent past. Thus, we may now look back dispassionately upon those days with a more judicious eye. We are a dying breed and will carry the memories with us to our graves. But our recollections and interpretations of those days have been put in paper. When the corpus is dead, the written words live. These are excerpts.

I am edsa. We are edsa.
(The Manila Times, March 2, 2017)

“I was wrong on my expectations about the ‘restoration of democracy.’ What was restored came with the re-establishment of the rule of an oligarchy and the continued perpetuation of traditional politics – albeit with a new set of personalities.

Many of us in the decades-long struggle for real democracy from the mid-1960s, adherents of parliamentary-federal structure of government, were enthusiastic in supporting Cory Aquino as she was our symbol against the repressive dictatorship. We understood too that she was from the elite and her values therefore were those of her class but we were hopeful that she would transcend these with the outpouring of love and adulation shown by the masses – whose values were not congruent to hers.

A few of us recruited to her administration implored her to continue to rule under the revolutionary Constitution to give herself more time to dismantle not only the martial law structures but the unitary system of government which we then and still now believe perverted the principles of democratic governance. We were no match for the ruling class. Cory surrendered her prerogatives to real socio-economic-political reforms by rejecting the people’s gift – the 1986 revolutionary Constitution. She then proceeded to embed her dogmas in her 1987 Constitution.

This is the Constitution guarded zealously by her son Pnoy that President Duterte and we the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP)…and the majority of the downtrodden Filipinos want to replace; with a federal-parliamentary system and a social market economy (SOME).”

What happened to edsa
(The Manila Times, March 9, 2017)

“The Yellows …
We were all ‘Yellows’ then as this was the color we wore after the assassination of Ninoy, symbolizing our protest against this dastardly act, and our struggle to boot out the dictator Marcos from power and institute real reforms.

Some of us are no longer Yellows… Our perception of EDSA and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled mostly by those of the recent past administration. Our take is that EDSA is not an Aquino family franchise, nor just a mere booting out of the Marcos family. And this is not a narrative of entitlements of two families.

The Marcos Loyalist Reds…
The hundred yellow ribbons ‘round the old oak tree’ may soon be covered by Red ones as the influx of Marcos supporters slowly inched their way into the political consciousness during the past years from their solid base in the Marcos homeland in the north. This resurgence can be attributed to the tolerance…of President Fidel Ramos, a cousin, who allowed the return of the dictator’s remains under strict conditions agreed to by the Marcos family, which agreement was reneged upon, perhaps, with the quiet acquiescence of the FVR administration. This paved the way for the complete rehabilitation of the family by PRRD who has admitted to his own father’s debt of gratitude to the father Ferdinand and his own fondness for the son, Bongbong. The son also did his part by demonstrating filial love – a trait much valued by the Filipino. On his run for the vice presidency, the Filipino millennial responded in kind. They are a powerful and versatile force that has clearly distorted the equation—partially alienating the yellows.”

I wrote these words in the past. I stand by them. But my children and my grandchildren will have a different take. And it is inevitable and only proper. But I also wrote these in summation:

“Perhaps the colors, Yellow and Red, will lose their significance and everything negative attached to them. Perhaps, the rise of a leader (DU30) who was himself a product of EDSA but tried to heal its wounds is what is needed in this time and age.”

I close my EDSA memories with a tinge of hope.
The aerial photographs obtained by’s Frances Mangosing show incontrovertible proof that China’s militarization of its South China Sea outposts is almost complete.

To this latest outrage, another demonstration of Xi Jinping’s contempt for compromise commitments his predecessors entered into with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Duterte administration offered … a collective shrug, combined with a finger pointed in the usual direction.

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what [do] they want us to do? We cannot declare war — not only is it illegal, but it is also contrary — but it’s also … impossible for us to declare war at this point,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, once a credible lawyer with experience in human rights law and expertise in international law, told reporters.

Among many other dismaying statements he made, he also said this: “Our position is everything found on these islands were already there when the President took over. So let’s not talk of a militarization that happened under the Duterte administration, if there is such a militarization which China denies.”

He should have at least read the news report before opening his mouth. The story quoted Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest part of the Spratlys occupied by the Philippines, thus: “I flew with HBO before the elections in 2016. We got repeated warnings from the Chinese because we were circling over the islands. I see there are now additional vertical features.”

To this categorical statement from someone who lives in the area, one can add any number of scholarly or intelligence assessments, including from independent institutions, which assert that the Chinese have not only aggressively reclaimed land in the seven reefs they occupy in the Spratlys, they have built military facilities on them.

Not even China denies that new facilities have been built that can be converted to military use; Beijing only denies that the new facilities are military in objective.

Why the official speaking on behalf of the President of the Philippines should prioritize what China says (“if there is such a militarization which China denies”) over the informed judgment of Filipino citizens and indeed of the Philippine military is a riddle.

Why that same official, a lawyer like the President he speaks for, would assert easily disprovable lies (“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything”) is a mystery.

Why he would think that his answers, and the Philippine government’s position, meet the national interest (“let’s not talk of a militarization that happened under the Duterte administration”) is an enigma.

The truth is: Only Beijing thinks that the alternative is war. To be more precise, Beijing wants us to think that the only alternative to the current state of affairs is war.

President Duterte himself said so. Referring to Xi, China’s all-powerful leader, he said: “His response to me, ‘We’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.’”
Tellingly, no Chinese government agency ever denied or confirmed these remarks — and why would they? To hear the president of a sovereign state say these words is victory enough for the Chinese. If the only alternative is war, why would a small carabao butt heads with an enormous dragon?

But in fact, other alternatives exist.

The sweeping legal victory the Philippines won at the arbitral tribunal, in the case the previous administration filed, is proof that other options are available.

It is nothing short of tragic that the first administration to be led by a lawyer since Ferdinand Marcos’ does not believe in the efficacy of the law.

It would have taken time, but Manila stubbornly insisting on its rights recognized by the landmark ruling of July 12, 2016, would have had the support of many influential members of the international community.

Instead, we have the tragic spectacle of the President’s spokesperson, lying about the objective facts, blaming those who actually fought for the country’s best interest, and spreading China’s own black-and-white, war-or-else gospel.

History repeats itself, first as spectacle, then as capitulation.