THE sparsely attended, reluctantly celebrated “EDSA Revolution” commemoration last Monday turned out to be a funeral wake, the last rites for the false Yellow narrative of that event 33 years ago.
For the first time in 33 years, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the official publication of that narrative, had no huge front-page photo of the commemoration, no picture of Fidel Ramos doing his celebratory jump that he did three decades ago. On its front page was a small blurb — with the same prominence as the “Hanoi boots out fake Kim” — referring to its report on the event: “EDSA commemoration lures sparse crowds.”
With failed Yellow regimes – those of Cory, Aquino 3rd, and to some extent even Fidel Ramos’ – Filipinos have ceased to believe in the Yellow Cult’s simplistic, good-vs-evil narrative of the events of 1986.
Except for the Philippines and Czechoslovakia — where in both not coincidentally, the Catholic Church is a major political player — 19 countries in the past three decades that went through similar, peaceful revolutions from authoritarianism to democracy do not have such celebrations of such tectonic shifts in their political regimes.
In our part of the world alone, there had been two ruthless dictatorships. First was the 31-year regime of Indonesia’s Suharto. Historians estimated that 500,000 Indonesians, mostly ethnic Chinese, were killed by the pogrom he ordered when he wrested power from Sukarno in 1965. About 1,000 Indonesians were even killed by the police in people power-like demonstrations that led to Suharto’s fall in 1998.
Does Indonesia have a holiday to commemorate this “people power” revolution? No.
Sukarno wasn’t even arrested or forced into exile to the US. He died in 2008 at 86 years old after a quiet life in a posh neighborhood in Jakarta. He was buried in a state military funeral with full honors, with Indonesian commandos as his honor guard. Suharto’s biggest crony Liem Sioe Leung survived and became richer, his son building an Asian conglomerate, which now includes the largest power-telecom-infrastructure empire in this country, the First Pacific group.
The second iron-fisted dictator in Asia was Korea’s Park Chung-hee, who ruled for 17 years. His Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was so bold and ruthless that it was known to have even kidnapped Korean oppositionists abroad.
Park was shot pointblank and killed in a banquet by the KCIA director in 1979. After a two-year transition in which another military man ruled as an unelected leader, Korea went on to become a fully democratic state. Does Korea celebrate this transition, demonize Park, and consider as hero the KCIA director who killed him?
No. Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, was even elected as South Korea’s 11th and first female president in 2012.
Lech Walesa during a visit to the Philippines told Corazon Aquino that the movement that overthrew the communists in Poland in 1989 was “inspired” by the People Power uprising she led in 1986.
Does Poland have its version of our People Power celebration? No.
We can go on and on, with data on each of the 19 countries that had people power-like peaceful revolutions. Except Czechoslovakia, not a single country celebrates its extra-constitutional, nonviolent regime change. Significantly, what Indonesia, South Korea, Poland and Romania, as well as most of these 21 countries, celebrate as national holidays is Constitution Day.
In our case, Constitution Day, while officially a “working holiday,” passes unnoticed, with no celebration at all, except for a dinner of the Philippine Constitution Association which no newspaper reports.
No wonder then that the Philippine Constitution is routinely flouted and disregarded, even by an American former CNN correspondent.
What these countries mostly celebrate are their independence from foreign masters. None of them celebrates the fall of their strongmen or dictators, cognizant that these men, whatever their failings, were one of their own citizens, their regimes — even the most brutal — having their good side.
There are three major reasons our governments have celebrated the People Power event since 1987.
First is that EDSA 1 proved to a good template for Cory Aquino’s master, the United States, to disseminate worldwide in order to rouse people under communist dictatorships to stage revolutions.
The EDSA template would have been swiftly forgotten if there were no EDSA 1 commemorations yearly, complete with videos of nuns and priests seemingly stopping tanks.
The United States’ first target was China’s democracy movement, which however, failed. Where do you think that young Chinese got the idea to stand ramrod in front of a tank in that iconic Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989?
Remember also that the 1980s were the height of Reagan’s crusade against the “Evil Empire,” the Soviet Union. The US had actually first focused on Poland, and the Central Intelligence Agency funneled, starting in 1980, a total of $1 billion to Lech Walesa’s “Solidarity” trade union that was the vanguard of the Polish revolution. Televised scenes and press photos of EDSA 1 proved a much cheaper way to rouse the Poles into action.
Indeed, even US officials and the Yellow Cult have boasted that EDSA 1, the “Yellow Revolution,” had inspired the peaceful revolutions, especially the “color revolutions” which overthrew communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The inspiration wasn’t just on the level of boosting morale. Formulating and executing the political tactics for Cory and the People Power movement was the PR and political consultancy group Sawyer Miller (see James Harding, Alpha Dogs: The Americans Who Turned Political Spin into a Global Business).
Sawyer helped to open up the governments of Eastern Europe and Latin America “by introducing mass communication into their electoral processes,” the late US Sen. Daniel Moynihan said in a speech in Congress.
While the EDSA template failed in China, it was remarkably successful in Eastern Europe and even in the Middle East, starting with Poland and Romania in 1989, up to the “Arab Spring” revolts of the 21st century.
There’s a second reason why we have been forced to celebrate the 1986 EDSA 1. Through its constant demonization of Ferdinand Marcos and deification of Cory Aquino, the Yellow Cult created the false scenario of a national consensus to remove the strongman from power.
The scenes of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and then Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos staking their lives at Camp Crame, preparing for Marcos’ attack, of the helicopter squadron defecting just as they were thought to be positioning to attack Camp Crame, the crowds stopping the tanks in the street — all these images of high drama were shown on TV again and again to justify the revolution, to create the illusion that this was a national revolution.
The first presidential election after EDSA 1, in 1992, however, provided hard proof that in reality the country was so divided over EDSA 1 and Marcos’ subsequent downfall.
Ferdinand’s widow Imelda Marcos garnered 10 percent of the votes, while his top crony, Eduardo Cojuangco, received 18 percent. If the two had united instead, they would have gathered 28 percent of the votes, bigger than Ramos’ winning 24 percent or Miriam Santiago’s 20 percent.
Doesn’t that point to the fact that a big part of Philippine society didn’t support EDSA 1 and wanted the Marcos regime back, even if just through his wife and top crony? Thirty years after, Marcos’ “Solid North” and Imelda’s Eastern Visayas, and swathes of Mindanao continue to refuse to be part of the “people” of the People Power uprising.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s strong showing in the 2010 and 2016 elections is another proof that for many Filipinos, Martial Law wasn’t the era of the Dark Lord, as the Yellows Cultists have portrayed it.
The third reason for People Power celebrations: It conceals the reality that the ruling Philippine elite continues to screw the masses, regardless of whether the nation is ruled by a democracy or a dictatorship.
It is not coincidental that the EDSA 1 celebrations have religious undertones.
In ancient and medieval times, religion served to conceal the fact that the pharaoh, the king, or the emperor, together with their clans, exploited the broad masses of the working classes through the lie that these rulers were anointed by, or even sons, of their deity.
The EDSA 1 celebrations portray the fiction that we are a nation of equals, and we have become poor (“condemned”) only because of Marcos (“the devil’), and were saved by Cory (“the Messiah”).
On the other hand, countries that had people-power types of regime changes don’t have such annual “celebrations” because they were clever enough to realize that such would only exacerbate the division in their countries. After all, even dictatorships that lasted long had to be supported by a significant section of their nation, and their fall would, of course, alienate those sections.
The EDSA 1 celebrations have only been divisive for our country. We should stop this inanity if we are to be united as a nation in the years to come. That there was a sparse crowd on Monday is the Filipinos’ message that they don’t want an EDSA 1 celebration any more.
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This column is based on one of five articles in the chapter “The EDSA Revolt” that debunks the myths over this episode in our nation’s history, in my book Debunked: Uncovering Hard Truths about EDSA, Martial Law, Marcos, Aquino, with a Special Section on the Duterte Presidency, available in most bookstores and through online ordering, www.rigobertotiglao.com/debunked.