In a speech, the President recalled how Filipinos turned the tide of the nation through a bloodless revolution.
“As the entire nation prepares for the upcoming midterm elections this May, let us always remember how this historic revolution restored our power to collectively chart our future through the ballot. May we all have a profound sense of appreciation and understanding of what we lost and what we reclaimed,” Duterte said in his message.
Filipinos showed the world three decades ago that “history can be rewritten without the need to resort to violent means,” the President said.
“Indeed, the peaceful revolution that brought together Filipinos from all walks of life during those tense four days of February 1986 has given rise to a Philippines that was reborn from the ashes of its tumultuous past,” he said.
Duterte also expressed optimism that its observance will inspire all, especially the youth, “to deeply value the freedom and liberty that we won in EDSA.”
“Let us never forget the sacrifice of those who came before us so that we may always be motivated to preserve and protect the democratic way of life that we enjoy today,” Duterte added, wishing everyone a meaningful commemoration.
In a speech Sunday night, however, Duterte said the military and police should have established a junta instead of giving back power to politicians after EDSA 1.
“They [politicians] are all the same, they are all thieves. They just transfer from one political party to another,” the President said during a PDP-Laban sortie in Cebu.
“That is your [military and police] fault. It is but right that you seize power through a coup d’etat but do not give the power to politicians. Look for 10 intelligent people—military, police, executives—who will work well. Give them power in Congress. Support them instead,” he added.
Malacañang allayed concerns on the whereabouts of the President during the anniversary rites.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte has been on a tight schedule since the weekend and was attending several engagements.
Panelo said the President “has been working tirelessly” by attending an event in Laguna on Saturday, two public events in Cebu on Sunday, and one in Pasay on Monday.
READ: Rody shuns EDSA rites
“While the President has to attend to more pressing matters of the state and may not be physically present during the commemoration of the People Power Revolution, he will, however, be there in union with the celebrators as well as in recognition and reminder to all that our government is a fruit of democracy and our sovereignty resides in the people and all authority emanates from them,” Panelo said in a statement.
“The lesson learned in EDSA is unmistakable. Power is transitional as life is ephemeral. You abuse either and it will be taken away from you,” he added.
More than a thousand people gathered Monday at the EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Multi-sectorial groups, officials and personnel of government agencies, religious groups, academe, students, civic and other non-government organizations attended the event to commemorate the historic event, which ended the two-decade leadership of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines led the commemorative program, which included the flag-raising rites, ecumenical prayer, wreath-laying rites, conferment of Freedom Awards and Spirit of EDSA and Good Citizenship Movement Awards, and singing of patriotic songs.
In his speech, Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and EDSA People Power Commission vice president, said the People Power Revolution instilled in the youth—at that time—the kind of courage that pushes them to rise up and fulfill their dreams.
“Today, there is a different kind of revolution, which is creating inclusivity for all Filipino people. Our President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, is to create an inclusive road making every Filipino a part of a growing country,” he said.
Concepcion added that real democracy has to be translated into real economic democracy “where the country is not controlled by the rich and where those at the bottom of the pyramid and the middle-class are aspiring to be wealthy.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, denied suggestions that the Duterte administration was undermining the freedoms restored by the EDSA Revolution.
Guevarra said democracy remains vibrant 33 years after the historic EDSA uprising in 1986.
“We Filipinos continue to enjoy the liberties that we regained after the People Power revolution in 1986… Our government institutions function with vibrancy under a democratic regime,” he said.
Guevarra also denied claims that freedom of the press and of expression are under attack, despite the government’s concentrated legal attack on the online website Rappler, which has been critical of the administration.
“We continue to enjoy the freedom of the press and most especially with the advent of social media, people are free to express their grievances,” Guevarra, said, adding that the country’s laws also “protect our right to privacy.”
Former President Benigno Aquino III earlier called on Filipinos to remember the lessons of EDSA so as not to return to the “dark chapter of our history.”
In People Power anniversary event last Saturday, he hit two recent government actions that trace their roots from the Marcos era: the re-floating of the idea of of renaming the country to Maharlika and the creation of the human settlements department.
Duterte had earlier said he was open to renaming the country to Maharlika, agreeing with a proposal that first surfaced under the Marcos regime.
Duterte also signed into law the bill creating the human settlements department earlier this week. The department was supposedly created for Marcos’ wife Imelda during his era.
Aquino questioned the two developments, saying that they could be reflective of Duterte’s preference or ideology.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Monday skipped the 33rd commemoration of the EDSA People Power Revolution for health reasons.
Ramos was expected to attend the event, but Pastor Boy Saycon, EDSA People Power Commission member, said the ex-president was not healthy enough to be there.
He said Ramos was also not able to attend his book launch at Club Filipino in San Juan City.
“We only ask that everyone pray for him that He will give him strength. We hope he will be here in the future EDSA anniversaries,” he added.
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the leading figures in the 1986 EDSA revolution, said that the bloodless People Power Revolution should be celebrated not on Feb. 25 but on Feb. 22, saying this was when the “Shout of EDSA” was heard.
“For me, what is important was Feb. 22 because that was when the shout of EDSA was aired and heard. That was when we risked our lives to have benefits for the country,” said Enrile, who was then Marcos’ defense minister before joining the revolt.
On Feb. 22, 1986, Enrile and Ramos announced their resignation from their respective positions at a press conference, a move that helped trigger the EDSA Revolution.
In a radio interview, Enrile noted that the initial call to gather at EDSA represented better how Filipinos were willing to lay down their lives for the country.
Another key figure in the revolt, former senator Gregorio Honasan who was a colonel at the time, said EDSA should be commemorated simply, and that people should “continue to work and pray hard for reforms” that would lead to “national unity, peace and posterity.” With PNAREAD: Hidden facts about Edsa People Power exposed
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