Given the turmoil obtaining in Syria at this hour, Marcos could be the kindest president the Philippines has ever had. What the Philippines was during those four days, February 22 to 25, in 1986 was what had Syria become first quarter of 2011. Decades-old regimes had begun falling across the Middle East either as a result of sheer civil unrest, as in Egypt where mass protests on the streets forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign, or where demos and rallies proved insufficient to force the perceived dictators to step down, a certain degree of armed action became necessary as in Libya where it needed a civil war to topple Muammar Gaddafi and get him killed. Certainly the gravest of all these downfalls was that of Sadam Hussein which required the costly Iraqi war, both in terms of destruction to infrastructure and human casualties, to bring about.
If, then, Assad were at the helm of the Philippine nation in those four days of February 1986, the country could have been reduced to shambles as many parts of Syria have since the civil unrest early 2011 escalated into a civil war. With Assadâ€™s intransigence in clinging to power, there is no visible end to the bloodshed and devastation that are getting worse in Syria everyday.
Looking back now, I ask if it was not to the countryâ€™s fortune that Marcos did not have that much intransigence. The nation saw on television how then AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver was urging President Marcos to have tanks moving in and disperse the thousands that had already massed on EDSA — certainly implying firepower. But President Marcos cut him short, ordering instead to use water hoses or any somesuch method, but never guns.
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And thus did the EDSA uprising of 1986 went down in history as a peaceful people power revolt. It would be the height of political naivette to believe so.
The EDSA rising turned peaceful because Marcos refused to use guns.
If Assad were in his place, he would insist that those in EDSA â€“ granting they did count a couple of millions â€“ constituted a very slim minority of the Filipino people who at the time were counting 83 million. Assad would have insisted that the majority of the people were in the middle, â€œto be precise, not against him.â€
It was just that the event was perfectly hyped in the media so that what was actually a happening in a very small section of Metro Manila was projected as a nationwide phenomenon. And Marcos, instead of defying Reaganâ€™s order (how do you put this in diplomatic terms?) to â€œCut. And cut clean,â€ did not resist when flown to Hawaii by United States operatives.
In Assadâ€™s case, when asked for reaction to a demand by US President Obama for him to step down because he had lost legitimacy to rule, he said he will not listen to anybody — never mind if that anybody is President of the greatest nation on earth — outside of Syria. Assad, by his assertion, would listen only to the Syrian people, and again he would insist that the majority of Syrians are in the middle, â€œnot against me.â€
During the EDSA crisis, Marcos definitely had the numbers and add to this the â€œmajorityâ€ who, by Assadâ€™s reckoning, must be in the middle and were not anti-Marcos, he enjoyed enough public support to stay in power. Unlike Assad, however, Marcos, though not really acceding to the Reagan direction, did not choose to defy the US wish for him to step down. Instead he allowed himself to be â€œkidnappedâ€ for bringing to exile.
Had Marcos did an Assad, he would surely have thrown the nation into a conflagration such as whatâ€™s happened to Syria, decimating the population by tens of thousands and bringing the country to utter ruins. But by not doing an Assad, had not Marcos exemplified the height of magnanimity and compassion, care and concern, and love a leader should reach for the people he leads?
The EDSA rising propelled the plain housewife Cory to the pinnacle of political power. She got the whole world enthralled. In speeches before the United Nations and the US Congress, she gloated in the glory of the â€œbloodless revolutionâ€.
And Cory called that bloodlessness her feat!
Almost just as soon as Cory took over the presidency, she declared: â€œNow I know why people would kill for this position.â€
The bloodiest event that ever took place on Mendiola was the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987 â€“ very early on in the Cory administration. And the bloodiest episode that ever took place in Concepcion, Tarlac was the Hacienda Luisita Massacre on November 16, 2004 â€“ when Cory could have prevented it but did not.
If the EDSA revolt turned out bloodless, it was because Marcos just refused to make it bloody.
Years ago, I came across a passage from a speech by Senator Bongbong Marcos about how to treat his father. He said, â€œLook beyond the man.â€
It takes the grim reality of Syria to view the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos in the correct perspective.
[Photo courtesy PeoplePower.e-workers.de.]
Essayist, novelist, film writer and director