“Today it is all up to us.”
February is always a good time to remember the events of the People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolt (others describe it as EDSA 1 to distinguish it from EDSA 2 which saw the ouster of President Joseph Estrada), which occurred from February 22–25, 1986.
This year is special as we celebrate 36 years of the overthrow of the US-Marcos dictatorship. It is also challenging for those of us who participated in that struggle as the dictator’s son is currently in a position to win the May 2022 presidential elections. Some even say that this might be the last year when there will be a government-sanctioned celebration of the EDSA Revolt.
More than three decades since the Marcos regime was toppled, dramatic changes have transpired in the socio-political landscape. Six administrations have come and gone and with the 2O22 elections just around the corner, a new crop of leaders will be elected.
Corazon Aquino, a simple housewife, succeeded the deposed Marcos and restored democracy, She was succeeded by Fidel Ramos, one of the protagonists in the EDSA Revolt, who spearheaded a resurgence of our economy after decades of regression under the dictatorship. He steadfastly promoted people empowerment and global competitiveness, pushed deregularization of key industries, liberalization and other structural economic reforms. But his administration was also plagued by major challenges such as the energy and financial crises.
I proudly disclose that I was a member of FVR’s cabinet, an environmental undersecretary assisting Secretary Victor O. Ramos. I believe that FVR is still the best post-EDSA president because of his vision of unifying the country.
Joseph Estrada, Ramos’ successor, ran under the banner of a pro-poor platform and used a populist playbook (poor versus rich) to win the 1998 elections. But Estrada’s lackadaisical brand of leadership, personal foibles, and shady dealings proved to be his ultimate undoing and culminated in his eventual ouster in the so-called EDSA 2 in 2OO1.
As a result, Erap’s vice president, Gloria Arroyo was sworn in as president. But she too was linked to various scandals when she was accused of electoral sabotage and misuse of funds. Many believe that she cheated in the 2004 elections which Fernando Poe won. She was later imprisoned – unfairly and unjustly in my view – but acquitted by the Supreme Court.
Noynoy Aquino assumed the presidency under an anti-corruption and anti-poverty program. However, his administration would be remembered also for two events that tainted Aquino’s record – the Mamasapano massacre and the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
And then we have President Duterte. To critics, Duterte is an irreverent and foul-mouthed narcissist, an autocrat with authoritarian tendencies. But to his legions of supporters he will forever be Tatay Digong, the decisive and confident leader oozing with charisma. Two things stand out most in Duterte’s presidency. First, the coronavirus pandemic and the deadly anti-drug war campaign for which he is now under investigation before the International Criminal Court.
More than three decades after the EDSA Revolt, the nation has experienced a roller coaster ride of high hopes, missed opportunities, and broken promises. The restoration of democracy during the time of Cory was a singular opportunity to overhaul a system broken beyond recognition by Marcos. Ramos’ initiatives put some impetus to meaningful reforms with his no-nonsense style of governance. During his time, the economy recovered and had grown considerably to the point that investor confidence was restored and the country, if not for the financial crisis of the 9O’s, began to be seen as the Next Tiger of Asia or the Tiger Cub of Asia. But fates would have it that the immediately succeeding administrations squandered these opportunities when the scandal ridden governments of Estrada and Arroyo caused the economy to falter and the fight against corruption and poverty took a hard blow.
Noynoy, a sincere and honest leader, could have regained the momentum started by Ramos but derailed by Estrada and Arroyo. But then again his efforts were stymied by internal and external factors. Aquino’s biggest failure was that he was not able to institute political reforms. Instead, during his time, political dynasties consolidated and now most of the country is under their control.
We as a people can choose who will lead us, elect the appropriate leaders who can best respond to the current and future challenges that we face. The best leader will set the policy direction that will best serve the nation’s interest. It goes without saying that the next elections, like all other electoral exercises in the past, is crucial as it will determine the path that our country will take in the years ahead. Will it be a boom or another bust? A golden opportunity to exploit or another debacle that will push us deeper into misery?
The answers to these will be in our hands.
In the succeeding columns, we further examine the EDSA Revolt and its aftermath. Has it lived up to its promise? Who betrayed the revolution and why? How do nurture a new EDSA Spirit regardless of the outcome of the 2022 elections?
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