Unfinished or failed EDSA Revolution?
The People Power revolution that took place 31 years ago at EDSA will be celebrated this year with a meager budget of P1 million pesos. The small amount made vice President Leni Robredo unhappy and accused the president of “green-lighting the downplaying of the anniversary celebration of the EDSA revolt.” She warned that “moving on and forgetting (the dictatorship) may leave us in danger of making the same mistakes all over again.” Celebrating the EDSA revolution will not be complete without adding the voice of the Philippine Catholic Church. Bishop Socrates Villegas then private secretary of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin in 1986 and now president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) lamented the darkness that has befallen the glorious past of the revolution. But he encourages people to constantly remember the faith and bravery of the people who took part in the EDSA revolution. Every year that this revolution is celebrated, a common primordial question being asked is “what are we celebrating?” It is a loaded question that haunts us every year because nobody can point to an end point that makes sense. It is pointless to celebrate the glorious days of the EDSA revolution if seen from the unfulfilled promises of such revolution 31 years since: freedom from poverty, hunger, better quality of education, government transparency and respect for human rights. Perhaps the president was right in allocating a pittance to this celebration because when you compare the outcome of this year’s celebration to the more extravagant celebrations of the past, nothing much will really change. So why spend more money on it? Perhaps VP Robredo needs to step back and reflect a little harder on why people are trying to forget the past because remembering it just reminds them that nothing has really changed under a democracy that was supposed to be the reward of the revolution. The very people who were key personalities during the revolution had plenty of opportunities to fulfill these promises when they were sworned in as president of the republic. But if the present is a reflection of their past leaderships, the EDSA revolution was then a failure. Cory Aquino allowed the oligarchy to regain their footing post EDSA. She had her own Kamaganak Inc. scandal to boot. It was not enough that President Cory restored democracy with a new constitution but should have taken the extra steps to ensure the promises of EDSA were fulfilled. Part of her legacy is the coups that happened during her watch because of military discontent. General Fidel Ramos along with then defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile hastened the revolution by breaking away from the Marcos dictatorship and joined the people. Not because that was their plan but it was an option that presented itself and helped them protect their hide. President Ramos protected the same oligarchy and was himself embroiled in the PEA-Amari and Centennial celebration scandals. He was also very much behind in bringing Digong Duterte to Malacañang. While Enrile tried through “Save the Queen” to become a de facto leader of the country through a failed coup, he survived politically but is now temporarily free on bail for corruption charges. Credit his political skills and legal acumen for his longevity in the halls of power. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was a product of another EDSA to oust another corrupt president who acted as if he was still in showbiz while running the country with his boozing, womanizing, and criminal dealing. President Arroyo turned out to be a reincarnation of the late dictator with her corrupt-ridden administration and whose legacy is the destruction of the democratic pillars of government by corrupting the presidency, the judiciary, and the legislature to stay in power. Senator Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino picked up where his mother left off by going after officials of the Arroyo administration including the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona and jailing of the former president GMA, and senators Jingoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile. Along with them, the PDAF queen, her majesty Janet Napoles. But just like his predecessors, the oligarchy thrived and continued to set the economic agenda of the country. We now boast of having more Filipino billionaires no thanks to these past presidents! Aquino’s lack of executive experience prior to the presidency caused him to make bad decisions (Mamasapano, MRT/LRT, etc.) and his hard-headedness allowed corrupt officials to continue their merry ways. Senator Gringo Honasan, the mustachioed RAM colonel who stood out prominently during the revolution has himself implicated in previous coups and recently been linked to the PDAF scandal. Obviously, gone is the idealism of the much admired colonel of 1986. Bishop Soc Villegas who rose through the ranks to become president of the CBCP had tried to steer the church and the flock towards the direction of the popular Pope Francis but was late in finding his own voice on the matter of the extra judicial killing (EJK) the DU30 administration has embarked upon since taking office. Perhaps he tried earlier since becoming a prince of the church but his predecessors were tainted by the PGMA scandal by looking the other way while PGMA sullied Philippine democracy. And why not, many of the bishops were exposed to have been lavished by the lady president with material things to satisfy their earthly lust for power. But more than that, the Catholic Church collectively failed to address poverty, human rights violations, and government inefficiency through the years. DU30 rose to power precisely because of people’s collective anger and disappointment with the status quo. DU30, however, is clearly unprepared for the presidency and is just coping armed with limited executive experience as mayor of Davao. He bragged about killing criminals in the city and two key people have come out to corroborate his claim and more. Retired police officer Arturo Lascañas’ perjured himself with his new revelations that he was part of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that killed criminals on Duterte’s orders while mayor of the city, but dovetails nicely with that of another assassin’s claim, Edgar Matobato. If proven true, DU30’s current campaign to rid the country of the drug menace will be discredited for being state sanctioned killings. But it will remain a big question mark if DU30 will be held accountable given his supermajority support in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Among the most vociferous is Senator Dick Gordon who himself was accused of being involved in summary executions in Olongapo City when he was mayor there. He is so hell bent in protecting DU30 by discrediting these witnesses rather that getting down to the bottom of the truth. Which brings us back to the question of what is it that we are trying to remember or celebrate at EDSA? To spend millions just to look back is very painful given the many missed opportunities. Income inequality, poverty, and hunger will always confront us every day until leaders and the people are ready to make drastic changes. The facts are there for everyone to see but which are continually ignored at our own peril. The gap between the rich and the poor are so wide, you could literally fit an elephant in it. It is not enough to continue celebrating, concrete steps must be undertaken if we are to progress. You can hail the economy as robust but if the people are suffering, it is nothing but a hollow claim. The Philippines has the resources to be better but is mired in corruption everywhere that hinders progress. It is not enough to give the poor a pittance para lang pampatawid sa gutom (temporarily overcome hunger). The gap must be made smaller if we are to create a middle class. If done, that is something to truly celebrate!