Where EDSA goes from here? Bury, cremate or resurrect? TMT

Where EDSA goes from here? Bury, cremate or resurrect? Featured

Last of 3 parts

THIS is the last of a trilogy on EDSA 1986. Looking back, people on both sides of EDSA have interpreted its meaning over the years through the prism of their own 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 save perhaps today’s millennials, whose collective ethos has no intimate bond with the realities of those days.

Nonetheless, mindful of Santayana’s dictum — those who participated at EDSA may not be allowed to forget their roles, but remember them lest they be condemned to repeat the same. But we may set on paper our memoirs of those events as lessons to be passed on to the coming generations. They may take or leave them. No matter. And they could be right as time has a way of deleting extraneous details leaving only the substance.

One interpretation of EDSA
These are my best interpretations of the events telescoped within the four-day period, a culmination of the seething anger and frustration of many of the actors that started years back. And I don’t claim this as the definitive narrative of EDSA where its supporters then proudly wore “yellow” as their color against the Marcos ‘red and blue.’

– The mantra that this was not a revolution as there was no structural change that ensued could be right. Nonetheless, the upheaval was euphoric for the Yellow forces of Corazon “Cory” Aquino, Cardinal Jaime Sin, supporters of Fidel Ramos and perhaps even those of Juan Ponce Enrile and the RAM, who tied yellow ribbons on their weapons. What should not be forgotten in this equation are those in the provinces and cities outside of Metro Manila, nongovernment organizations, civil society, students and the youth, and even those abroad who were part of the struggle and whose aspirations were congruent with those physically at EDSA. EDSA transcended the avenue, its essence becoming the driving force for this phenomenon. Thus, this is forever etched in our consciousness as the “spirit of EDSA.”

– The upheaval was an immediate consequence of Cory’s decision to bring the fight to the people on Marcos’ fraudulent declaration that he won the Feb. 7, 1986 snap election.

– The actual EDSA event started as a putsch by an elite military faction — the RAM led by Marcos’ own defense minister, Enrile — simply vying for power, with the Filipino citizenry and the Yellow forces not even part of the calculation.

– The coup plot was leaked to Gen. Fabian Ver forcing RAM to hold out at the Defense department headquarters.

– RAM and Enrile were joined by another bloc — General Ramos’ Philippine National Police (PNP). Ramos was the main rival of Ferdinand Marcos’ top uniformed and ultra-loyalist General Ver.

– The people’s anger at Marcos stealing the election propelled them to trickle to EDSA. Many of those that came first were the usisero, vendors eking out a living — a motley group of ordinary Pinoys. Cardinal Sin began to call the faithful to protect Enrile and Ramos and gather at EDSA. They heeded the call — the bulk of these were seminarians, priests and nuns, the youth joined by the hordes, including the NGO communities and civil society, the elite and organized neighborhood associations, students and their school councils sympathetic to Cory and against Marcos.

– The communists who were boasting that they speak for the masa were nowhere to be found. They sat this out on the sidelines.

– Filipinos from all walks of life made this a full-scale upheaval against a dictatorship.

– Ramos established his ascendancy when Enrile’s faction crossed EDSA Avenue to the PNP HQ and both recognized Cory as the legitimate President. Enrile and the RAM had no choice but accede reluctantly to the Yellow forces of Cory, Cardinal Sin and Ramos.

Cory Aquino, the legitimate president
The Enrile and Ramos factions rode on the seething anger of a citizenry that had long suffered under promises and abuses of what was once a competent leader, Ferdinand Marcos. A classic study on John Dalberg-Acton’s dictum, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Marcos misreading the factions’ strength with the surrounding hordes of civilians hesitated while the factions at the cusp of being annihilated relied on Ramos’ psywar initiatives and the call of Cardinal Sin and eventually Cory’s.

Cory appeared at EDSA during the latter part of the gathering, as she was stranded in Cebu. The people, particularly the Catholic Church, carried the momentum for her, wresting the initiative from both military factions.

Cory Aquino, Cardinal Sin and General Ramos are the recognized architects of the People Power Movement.

Post-EDSA
Part 3 therefore could be a road map, a point of departure, as it were for the next generation or two to redefine EDSA’s unfulfilled promise. It could take this long to erase whatever lingering animosities are attached to the events of 1986. Taking out the old actors from the equation, filtering out their motivations that produced the hurts, grudges, including the murder of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. at the tarmac and their symbolisms could leave behind a residue of a simple but pure articulation of the Filipino dreams and aspirations acceptable to all; “…that the hopes of the majority of the EDSA participants are — to free the Filipino from the shackles of poverty, injustice and the grasp of the oligarchy and the traditional practices of politics.”

In a parallel sense, time will filter out the Marcos, Aquino, Enrile, Ramos, Sin components, including all of us, the bit players, and leave only what may have been our ultimate motivations. By this formula then, we will have internalized that 1986 was no revolution in the classic definition but an unfinished one — an upheaval of some sort awaiting a finale.

In any case, those days in 1986 were the times when the seeds of change were drastically planted now awaiting a set of new players untainted by the conflicts at EDSA, biased only towards the restructuring of Philippine institutions in the body politic; and therefore, will nurture its growth. And this growth may not be watered with blood — as it was not during the events of EDSA when all forces capable of spilling blood, including Marcos, did not.

And what could be passed on to these next generations are the possibilities, passing on the torch to a leadership that is without its socio-political warts and connotations of failed promises. Whatever lessons and recriminations the past gave them, they must be subsumed to a larger purpose; the emancipation of the Filipino — the true meaning of EDSA.

Postscript — gift to the world
Many Filipinos will not agree with the above narrative. This is fundamentally the Centrist Democratic point of view and held as a credo by the Centrist Democratic Party. Others will have their own stories to tell. And we may debate the nuances of the circumstances before, during and after the EDSA People Power revolution/upheaval. But one thing is ineradicable. The EDSA People Power Movement was a gift of the Filipino to the world.

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