THE administration marked the 30th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution Thursday but largely ignored the roles played by key figures in the uprising three decades ago.
In an “Experiential Museum” set up in Camp Aguinaldo to mark the event, not a word was said about former President Fidel V. Ramos, at the time the vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces; or Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who was then defense minister, to document how the two broke away from the government of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Together, the two provided the armed might in the civilian-backed military revolt of 1986 that ignited People Power, but they appeared only in photos at the museum, with no captions to identify them.
Ramos did attend the “Salubungan” reenactment at Edsa, however, along with ranking military and police personnel shortly after a mass at the Edsa monument.
For ceremonies marking the event, no invitations were sent to Vice President Jejomar Binay, then a human rights lawyer, or Senator Gregorio Honasan, a colonel at the time who joined Ramos and Enrile in the military revolt. The two are running for president and vice president, respectively, under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance banner.
“I don’t know why Ramos and Enrile’s role were not given prominence. Instead, the exhibit only capsulized the bad things and memories of the late President Ferdinand Marcos during the dark days of martial law,” said one visitor who asked not to be named.
Binay, an opposition candidate running for president, challenged President Benigno Aquino III and the ruling Liberal Party to stop distorting the truth by revising history.
Since he resigned from Aquino’s Cabinet two years ago, Binay said, he has not been invited to any of the ceremonies to mark the Edsa Revolution.
Honasan added: “We chose to be here in Quezon instead of being with personalities and celebrities who were not even there 30 years ago.”
Binay and Honasan said the spirit of Edsa had been distorted, and the poor who were supposed to have benefited from progress brought about by democracy, had been left out.
“VP Binay and I were on Edsa because we wanted change. We wanted our countrymen to be alleviated from poverty. For the past six years, this administration failed to do that,” Honasan said during his speech in Candelaria, Quezon, at a campaign rally attended by some 2,000 supporters.
“It is sad to see that after 30 years, and particularly over the past six years, the poverty problem worsened,” Binay said.
“It is even sadder that the two of us, Gringo [Honasan] and I, who were active participants in the Edsa revolution and risked our lives remain frustrated at how the government has been treating the poor with very poor service. Our people deserve to have better lives,” Binay said.
After 30 years, Honasan said the country has gained more democratic space but the “inclusive growth” being boasted by President Aquino leaves much to be desired.
Thirty years ago, on Feb. 22, Enrile and Ramos, wearing bullet-proof vests and surrounded by men led by Honasan, announced they were breaking away from the Marcos government.
A day after, Enrile escorted by hundreds of heavily-armed men walked towards Camp Crame joining Ramos and waited.
While holed up in Camp Crame, Enrile and Ramos called for the people to support them, a call that was broadcast over Radio Veritas and endorsed by Jaime Cardinal Sin.
None of these events were documented in the Edsa museum, which instead focused on the abuses under the Marcos regime.
Several meters away from the museum, President Aquino during his speech at the People Power Monument, attacked the Marcoses for bringing hardship to Filipinos.
A hall in the museum called Restless Sleep showed videos of Marcos declaring martial law in 1972. The Hall of Hidden Truths showed images of slums and beggars to show that people were poor during the Marcos years.
Exhibits also highlighted the torture conducted by the military with reenactments by stage players.
Other halls recounted what the Aquinos did to bring about the fall of the Marcos regime.
Well-heeled guests arrived at Camp Aguinaldo in tourist buses and were escorted to the museum. No poor visitors could be seen.
Leftists, whose participation during the Edsa Revolution was given special recognition by the symbol of People Power, Cory Aquino, the President’s late mother, were also sidelined in the museum.
But militant youth and student groups led by Anakbayan marched to Edsa to mark the event in protest, saying they would not let the Aquino government “yellow-wash history.”
“The revolt at Edsa was not the story of two families or personalities,” said Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo, apparently referring to the Aquinos and Marcoses. “People power is the story of a people who fought against tyranny and for freedom.”
He accused Aquino of hijacking the Edsa People Power Revolution to serve his selfish interests.
President Aquino, he added, had no moral ascendancy to claim the legacy of Edsa because his regime has presided over many of the same crimes allegedly committed by the Marcos administration.
“With the persistent human rights violations, lumad killings, corruption, cronyism, unabated tuition and other fee hikes, and puppetry to foreign powers, we can say there is no real difference between the Marcos dictatorship and the Aquino administration,” Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo said the Filipino youth and people must reclaim Edsa and continue the spirit of People Power by fighting for the democratic right to education, decent wages and jobs, land for the tillers, and civil liberties that continue to be denied the people 30 years after the Edsa uprising.
The youth group also called on the public to reject the candidacy of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late President Marcos.
At another rally, League of Filipino Students national chairman Charisse Bañez said the Aquino administration has continued the “nightmares of martial rule, with human rights abuses becoming worse under his administration.
“Aquino should be jailed and made accountable for his crimes to the Filipino people,” she said.
In his speech, Aquino lashed out at those who said life was better during the Marcos years, and campaigned against Senator Marcos’ run for the vice presidency.
Speaking in Filipino, he attacked the Marcos family and blamed it for damaging the economy and society during martial law.
“To tell you the truth, even if my family was truly victimized during Martial Law, we were actually quite fortunate—because we were somehow able to visit our father during his imprisonment, and because after his assassination, we had a body to bury, and we now have a grave we can visit. Others were not so lucky. Many of you here today went through even greater suffering—far greater than anything I can share. But what I will speak of this morning is not intended for you, but for the current generation that experiences so many forms of freedom,” Aquino said.
“I wish to emphasize: These are not products of imagination. These are neither theories nor the opinions of a small few. Martial Law actually happened. There was a dictator who, along with his family and his cronies, abused his position, and the price for this was the lives and the freedom of Filipinos,” said Aquino, referring to the late President Marcos.
“I can only shake my head in disappointment whenever I am told that some are saying that Mr. Marcos’s time was the golden age of the Philippines. Perhaps they were golden days for him, who—after completing two terms as President, which is equivalent to eight years—created a way to cling to power. In fact I have wondered: We have both been President—where might our country be today if he had just stayed true to his mandate during his time in office?,” said Aquino.
Aquino said the martial law years were golden days for the Marcos cronies, and for those close to him. “In fact, I heard several stories: During the dictator’s reign, businessmen did not want to grow their businesses, because those in power might notice and decide to steal them,” he said.
Aquino also said it was also the golden age of growing the national debt.
“When Mr. Marcos began his time in office in 1965, the national government owed P2.4 billion. At the end of 1985, two months before he was ousted from the presidency, our debt had grown to P192.2 billion. And because this money did not go where it was supposed to, the payment of this debt burdens us to this day,” Aquino said.
Aquino said it was also the golden age of brain drain—the golden age of workers leaving for jobs in the Middle East.
The President said it was also the golden age for those who abused the Moros. “Landgrabbing became a trend in Mindanao, and the Marcos regime, in spite of siding with those who were abused, seemed to approve of the actions of the abusers. Whereas they could have worked for justice, or passed a law to fix the situation, the solution they pushed for involved the Philippine Constabulary and the Armed Forces,” he said.
Aquino then criticized Senator Marcos, who is running for vice president.
“Every time I leave the country, I tend to get asked: Is it true that the Marcoses are still in power? I have to admit, it is very difficult to explain. To this day, it is still painful to think that a Filipino had the gall to inflict such abuse on his countrymen, like what Mr. Marcos did. Perhaps this is also the right time to tell you what was reported in a broadsheet just yesterday: that the 1986 Comelec tabulators are fearful. They are worried that the Marcoses will return to power, because they themselves saw the blatant cheating to favor the dictator during the 1986 elections,” Aquino said.
“Now, when I think of what we have achieved through our peace process—through which we have a Framework Agreement and a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and all that remains is the Bangsamoro Basic Law—I feel a deep sense of disappointment, because the only law that can bring forth justice and peace is being blocked. And is it not true that the BBL has hit a road block in the Senate Committee for Local Governance, headed by Senator Marcos?” said Aquino.
Aquino also lambasted Enrile, who was defense minister under Marcos.
“Is it not true that, in the last session day, it was Senator Enrile who continued to interpellate? And is it not true that these two surnames were the ones who pushed for a military solution against the Moros during the dictatorship?” said Aquino.
“Today, if the surveys are right, then the son of the dictator who still cannot see the mistakes of the past has an increasing number of supporters. If that is right, then does it also mean that we have forgotten what we once said, ‘Enough is enough; we have had it?” he said.
He said it is not surprising that there are those who benefited during the dictatorship, together with the remaining Marcos loyalists, continue to say that people have not gotten anywhere since Edsa.
He said they want the people to believe that the Filipinos had a better life under President. Marcos.
“But where did his 21 years of leadership take us? Did our country not turn into the ‘Sick Man of Asia’?” Aquino said.
Aquino also recalled his family’s suffering under martial law, including his father’s trial before a military tribunal.
Aquino said his father was a civilian tried in a military tribunal. It was Marcos who accused him, Marcos who appointed the members of the prosecution and the defense, Marcos who appointed the judge, and Marcos who was the final reviewing authority, he said.
“The playing field was uneven, and it was unlikely—if not impossible—to pursue justice. To my young eyes then, how could I have thought of preparing for a proper future?” he said.
Even the people who worked for the Aquinos were persecuted, he said, including their pilots, drivers and maids.
“In almost every part of our nation, there are stories of those who were taken without warning, tortured, and killed, or those who disappeared, whose bodies have not been found to this day,” Aquino said.
Aquino then said that Senator Marcos might do what his father, President Marcos, did during the past.
“To all those who maintain that Mr. Marcos should not be blamed for the things that took place under his regime, I can only say: Is it not true that, if you assume all power in yourself, you should also assume all responsibility?” he said.
“It is also true that the sins of the father should not be visited on the son?” he added.
He also blamed Senator Marcos for failing to acknowledge the sins of his family.
Quoting Santayana, he said, “Those who cannot rememer the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The Palace kept up the attack, saying Senator Marcos must face up to allegations against his family, including ill-gotten wealth accumulated during the martial law years.
“He must face these allegations and not avoid this reality regarding the liabilities of the Marcos family to the Filipino people,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a text message to the Malacanang Press Corps.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government also refuted the claims of Senator Marcos, who said his family abided by the decision of the courts in the corruption cases filed against his family.
It also denied Marcos’ claim that he was not involved in the cases filed by the government against his family.
“In fact, the Marcos family has been active in appealing to the Supreme Court various decisions which were ruled against them,” said Richard Amurao, PCGG chairman. – With Vito Barcelo
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