The Philippines is worse off 30 years after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution


I’m tired of reading stories from old farts about the so-called “people power” revolution that transpired at EDSA in 1986. These old-timers hold a tradition to relive the tale over and over and this year is no different as Filipinos set out to mark the 30th anniversary of the event. The stories seem to be growing on trees lately and some of them are annoying because they omit the important role played by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile & former President Fidel Ramos in the lead up to the event. Cory Aquino wasn’t even present during the three-day rally as she was said to be hiding in Cebu but her supporters keep crediting EDSA’s “success” to her.

A 3-day fiesta: The so-called EDSA 'people power' revolution
A 3-day fiesta: The so-called EDSA ‘people power’ revolution
Had Enrile and Ramos not defected from the Marcos administration, the military then would have probably dispersed the crowd even before their numbers reached a hundred. Fortunately for those who took to the streets to support Enrile and Ramos, the military did not touch them. It’s no secret that the military respected both Enrile and Ramos in those days and possibly until now. The people should also give credit to the late former President Ferdinand Marcos for not insisting on shooting or using water canons on the protesters. A truly evil dictator like the late Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad would have clung to power even if it meant killing hundreds of civilians.

Those who keep reliving the stories of EDSA simply can’t move on. They cling on to the memory of the event partly because of the fiesta atmosphere and mostly because the event was anti-climactic. What followed the “success” of the EDSA revolution was disappointing.

Truly, after all the build up, the ending of the EDSA story was an anticlimactic letdown. I feel sorry for people who are stuck in the past. Being stuck in the past is a phenomenon that occurs when nothing significant has happened in the succeeding years following a supposedly seminal event or when things went downhill from a happy and glorious event.

While the peaceful revolution was hailed worldwide and impressed the international community, three decades later, not much has changed in Philippine society. Filipinos are facing a different kind of tyranny nowadays – something that is even more difficult to remove than a single dictator – the members of the oligarchy. They are the few powerful elite families and clans that own and control mainstream media, telecommunications networks, power and water supply. They provide mostly crappy service and shortchange their Filipino customers.

The protesters may have succeeded in ousting Marcos Sr, but his successors, starting with the late President Cory Aquino, were either too incompetent or too corrupt in their own right to fix the ills of the nation. A lot of people actually describe the current President Benigno Simeon Aquino as both incompetent and corrupt and, in that sense, worse than Marcos Sr.

Sure, the Philippines or, rather, Metro Manila has more malls now than before and there are more cars on the road but those are hardly signs of progress. It’s actually an indication of society’s lack of imagination and lack of planning. The number of malls is proportionate to the number of people who spend a lot of time doing shallow activities like shopping and spending money instead of saving or investing it. The number of cars on the road point to the lack of reliable public transportation. We all know that Filipinos love their malls. But don’t ask BS Aquino why the traffic is bad. He’ll insist it is a sign of progress. He has this bizarre way of spinning his failures to suit a perception favorable to him.

Do not believe anyone who says that life during the Martial Law years was worse than today. It’s not black and white. It could be the same. There are a lot of people who say that life then was peaceful for those who did not break the law.

Of course there were the abuses committed by members of the military and the Philippine National Police. But the same can be said about their behavior during the Cory years. She has not been held accountable for the Mendiola massacres in 1987 where 13 people were killed by government anti-riot forces. Likewise, the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004 was when seven farmers died in the hands of PNP and AFP forces. And now, during her son’s reign, BS Aquino has avoided taking responsibility for the countless deaths during his term starting with the eight Chinese tourists who died during the Mendoza hostage crisis in 2010 which was partly due to government incompetence in handling the situation.

For the same reason, six thousand people (a conservative estimate) died during the Yolanda typhoon in 2014. And let’s now forget the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in the hands of members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who were, at the time, in the process dictating the terms of a so-called peace agreement to BS Aquino. The President’s effort to appease the rebels was allegedly the reason he did not authorize the military to help the SAF troops who were under attack. His behavior – favoring the enemy more than his men – was tantamount to treason. That’s obviously something worse than declaring Martial Law, which was a legal move to save the country from a communist takeover back in the early 1970s.

Do not believe anyone who says that the economy is better now. BS Aquino’s government used illegal means like pork barrel funds and the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to aggressively spend in a desperate bid to stimulate economic growth. The problem is, the economy is now a bubble. If the next administration puts a hold on spending, it could negatively-affect economic growth. In other words, the economic growth we are supposedly in the midst of is now unsustainable and merely for show while BS Aquino is in power. The only thing that truly keeps the economy afloat are the remittances from overseas contract workers. It’s worth mentioning again, for the sake of the new voters, that it was during Marcos Sr’s time when the policy of sending Filipinos to work abroad started. It was not a good way to fix unemployment but succeeding administrators also benefited from that strategy nonetheless.

Furthermore, the BS Aquino government borrowed too much from foreign creditors to fund his three trillion-peso budget. The total amount he borrowed during his term is said to be more than four trillion pesos. That is more than the amount his supporters keep accusing Marcos Sr of borrowing during his term. Filipinos who are not even born yet already have a debt to pay thanks to BS Aquino. I suppose the thought doesn’t bother him because he does not have a child and his term is about to end anyway. It’ll be someone else’s problem. As long as BS Aquino’s allies in the media keep harping about how the economy is better during his term, his image will remain intact.

So the stories about EDSA told by the old farts will remain a story about a three-day fiesta and nothing more. As my sociology professor once said, Filipinos love feasting for a day and fasting all year. In this case, a three-decade fasting followed a three-day fiesta.