EDSA Commemoration Reminds the Country and President of the Strength of the People — CANVAS

Photo: Various groups stage a rally at the People Power Monument on February 24, 2018 to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the EDSA Revolution. Rappler

Sunday, February 25th marked the 32nd anniversary of the Philippine People Power Revolution: EDSA. In 1986, civil resistance against the rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos was championed by both civilians and the military and backed by the Catholic church, leading to the ousting of Marcos. The 2018 government celebrations coincided with protests by civic groups, the official wreath laying and flag raising ceremony alongside flowers and candles honoring martial law martyrs. Filipinos, with more than a century of recorded street protest starting with  one staged by the first workers’ union in the country in 1903, monitor the state of democracy in their country, prepared to defend their liberty and rights.

On February 20, 1986, Marcos proclaimed himself the victor of a snap election. On the same day, Corazon Aquino called for civil disobedience and the boycott of Marcos’ cronies’ companies. The stocks of those companies fell the next day as two million people took up her cause.

Marcos responded by threatening to reinstate martial law if Aquino led a nationwide strike, and by coordinating his own mass demonstration of support in return. Reports would later claim that over ten million pesos had been reserved to pay “supporters” to attend this rally in Marcos’ honor.

Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile announced two days later his defection from Marcos. He was joined by Lieutenant General Fidel V. Ramos, and other military personnel followed suit. The Catholic Church announced its support and urged people via radio to provide aid and guard the defectors against anticipated reprisals. Marcos, in retaliation, denounced Enrile and Ramos.

Before and during this time, various protests against the totalitarian regime had begun to coalesce into a movement. When, on February 23, Enrile and Ramos met along EDSA, they were surrounded and protected by a growing number of supporters in a movement that seemed increasingly like a revolution. Marcos answered their calls for democracy and an end to their subjugation with columns of armored tanks.

“Thus began the banded Filipinos’ show of force—through song and slogans; through earnest extensions of friendship to hard-faced soldiers; through the flashing of the Laban sign—symbol of Cory Aquino’s campaign and of the movement that carried her; through prayers and linked arms and rosaries, human barricades and flowers.”

On February 25 1986, Corazon C. Aquino was sworn in as the elected President, ushering in democracy and pushing the dictator Marcos out of a country that had unified for freedom.

This year, several groups marked the historic day with new protests. Some view Duterte as a president becoming a dictator, and camped out for over a week to protest the drug war and extrajudicial killings associated with it, martial law in Mindanao, and charter change. Martial law survivors Judy Taguiwalo, former Secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Satur Ocampo, former representative of nationalist and democratic Bayan Muna Party, attended the protests. Duterte currently faces accusations of crimes against humanity over his war on drugs. As many as 20,000 people may have been killed in police raids or vigilante shootings in attempts to stop the illegal trade.

Militant groups held another program in Quezon City. The groups gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to launch their “Congress of the Masses.” Among the issues they called out is the administration’s move for charter change, constitutional revisions they fear will only benefit Duterte’s allies. Farmers from disaster-hit areas in Samar also joined the militants in the march denounce the alleged militarization in the regions, and to demand proper rehabilitation for their lands.

As the People Power Revolution is celebrated, the drive for freedom is kept in the forefront of the minds of Filipinos, who watch warily as their President strengthens his power.

As a protester said “It is a warning to all would-be tyrants that the people will always resist and triumph over authoritarian rule, no matter how long and no matter how difficult.”