Of colors and symbols of EDSA

Of colors and symbols of EDSA Featured

FROM a historical perspective, a lapse of 33 years after an episode is still much of a current event stretched out over a contemporary period. It is a photograph of a moment still subject to alterations. Volumes have been written about EDSA, what happened on Feb. 22-25, 1986 and their consequences on the country and the lives of its people.

My piece today is an attempt to shed light on current political realities and ongoing conflicts using EDSA as a backdrop, consequently contributing to the literature that future historians may ponder on. The current animosities between the Yellow army and the DDS are derivatives of the conflicted interpretations of EDSA. These are not merely a grudge fight between two political families, two sets of traditional politicians or two camps of the oligarchy, as they were framed then, nor are they a classic struggle between the forces of good and evil. It’s more complicated than a simple delineation of political fault lines between protagonists.

First, just the facts as I recall them. Those euphoric days of February are the Reformers’ version by those installed to power in the aftermath of a dictator’s ignominious exit. Victors have the prerogative to write their account for history — thus this was called and celebrated in subsequent years as a Revolution. It was then unpopular to contradict the appellation lest you invite the wrath of the millions who made it happen. Only much later, when the air had sufficiently cleared, emotions abated, expectations unmet and the “tradpols” and the oligarchy crawled back and were allowed to assume their places in the new order, that another version was proffered.

Academics and those indignantly left outside of the power structure were emboldened to pronounce this as merely a “local uprising,” not a revolution, since EDSA was confined only to the capital region and there were no structural changes, blah, blah, blah. This narrative disavows the people’s seething anger towards the dictatorship and all that it stood for. These pockets of rage epitomized by the weekly Friday protest were replicated in cities, towns and villages, building up towards the climax — our Edsa People Power Revolution. It was indeed a start of the revolution. Whether unfinished, aborted or captured, we leave that to future historians to judge — perhaps centuries from today.

Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ defense secretary has another interpretation. “…EDSA People Power 1 should be commemorated on February 22, not February 25. That was when we bet our lives. That was when we gambled our lives for the benefit of the country.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Hogwash! Enrile and his cohorts indeed gambled their lives to save their hides. It was a cold-blooded attempt at a coup d’état that failed. Were it not for the masses of ordinary citizens, some of whom were clueless, and the intervention of Gen. Fidel Ramos and the forces loyal to him, the carcasses of these putschists would have been quartered and drawn. FVR, who had been loyal to cousin Marcos and a professional soldier, took the side of the masses and thus became a hero — all transgressions and past faults and his role during Martial Law forgotten and forgiven. He was later anointed as Cory’s political successor.

The Marcos minions have a revisionist take. There was no revolution, but an uprising precipitated by a faction of the armed forces with the connivance of the American government; whereupon, they boarded an American plane and were kidnapped to Hawaii, not flown to Paoay.

So, after three decades, these changing versions reinforce my premise that unless all the participants have said their piece and to a man have gone to their graves — including this columnist — all these are still current events. One can’t accelerate history’s judgment on whether EDSA was a revolution, uprising or a coup d’état. We must await a longer passage of time.

What is certain is that EDSA polarized our country and the schism is deep. For one, Yellow was ardently adopted as the color of hope by the anti-Marcos forces, including the Liberal Party, PDP-Laban and some segments of the politicized Catholic Church hierarchy for the singular promise of a housewife to simply reinstate her limited concept of democracy and freedom and seek justice for the assassination of a husband and return the wealth stolen by the conjugal dictatorship. There was no clear strategy for systemic socio-economic-political restructuring as this was beyond the ken of a housewife-turned-politician. Later, it was a perception by the progressive allies that the cabal of traditional politicians in cahoots with a new set of oligarchy captured the revolution and established a new order protected by the 1987 Constitution.

President Fidel V. Ramos succeeding Cory had progressive programs of government but was likewise stymied by the same 1987 Constitution. Cory and Cardinal Sin collaborated to frustrate FVR’s attempt at constitutional revisions. Although the rift between Cory and FVR opened, Yellow and what it symbolized continued to be FVR’s color. But FVR dropped the “L” of Cory’s Laban sign and substituted his Lakas “thumbs-up.” FVR stopped wearing Yellow and tried to reach out to his friends and colleagues among the “Marcos pa rin diehards” whose martial law colors were Red and Blue. FVR truly wanted to bridge the gap between the Yellows and Red & Blues. He failed.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of a respected President and a protegee of President Cory, fared no better revising the Cory constitution.

The 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) was constituted to initiate efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution to shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government with a liberalized economy. She failed.

Arroyo’s administration was fraught with accusations of corruption, leading to her plunder case and subsequent incarceration. At first supported by the Cory people, the Yellow members in cabinet abandoned her en masse over an election anomaly questioning the legitimacy of her presidency. This marked the final break between the Yellows of Cory and Gloria’s administration. This cleavage was further exacerbated by the subsequent assumption to power of an incompetent son and buried whatever good was left of the legacy of a once popular mother — resulting in her vilification. Cory’s death propelled the son to victory. In return, her son hammered the final nail to her good memory. Cory’s Yellow of hope worn by millions morphed into the pejorative Yellow of PNoy. Such is one of the tragedies of EDSA.

Today the forces of EDSA in several permutations are arrayed anew; PNoy’s Liberal Party Yellows with their “L” symbol, faced against the expedient alliance of the Red and Blue of DDS, the PDP-Laban and remnants of the Marcos Loyalists, cemented by the formidable DU30 “fist pump” that mimics the powerful “Sieg Heil” of epochs past; and on the sidelines are what remains of the memory of Cory’s tattered army. The latter lost its franchise over the Yellow and is no longer identified by any color; perhaps White, the presence of all colors; perhaps Black, an absence of.

So, 33 years after the EDSA People Power Revolution, nothing has changed; yet everything has changed. A conundrum!000
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