Did EDSA 1986 matter?

21

Every year around this time in February, we commemorate the 1986 People Power revolution, which had become a morality play of a Martyr’s Widow leading the people to overthrow the Dark Lord.

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Indeed the morality tale was so powerful that it inspired peoples elsewhere under the yoke of dictatorships to break their own shackles.

Just a year after the EDSA uprising, huge people’s rallies challenged South Korea’s strongman, Chun Doo-hwa, which eventually led to democratic reforms, among them the direct election of the president. Chile’ strongman Augusto Pinochet called for a referendum in 1988 that triggered events that eventually led to his fall in 1989.

Poland’s “Solidarity” movement gained momentum after 1986, with Lech Walesa assuming power in 1989. In his visit to Manila in 1995, Walesa said: “Your peaceful People Power Revolution was an inspiration to us for our own revolution.”

From then on, it was a democratic domino effect: Poland’s people power revolution, the Singing Revolutions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic states in 1989, the East German democracy movement that eventually tore the Berlin wall down; and Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution,” which all contributed to the demise of a powerful totalitarian state. Even South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was inspired by our people-power revolution.

But did it matter to us?

Did it change the lives of tens of millions of Filipinos trapped in poverty?
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The chart accompanying this article says it all. The chart tracks the Gross Domestic Product per capita (or per person)—a rough measure of the average income of the people in particular country—at constant 2005 US dollars, in order to account for inflation in each country.

We have the lowest GDP per capita now, at $1,501.

Twenty-eight years after EDSA, our major competitors in ASEAN—Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia—have overtaken taken us. Malaysia’s GDP per capita of $6,786 is a 4.5 times our $1,501; Thailand’s $3,353 is 2.2 times ours.

To put it in another, depressing way:

Our GDP per capita of $1,501 in 2012 was roughly that of South Korea in 1961, Malaysia in 1972, and Thailand in 1990. In effect, we’re behind South Korea by half a century, Malaysia by four decades, and Thailand by two decades.

It’s as depressing when we look at the poverty data (see Table). Malaysia and Thailand have nearly miraculously reduced their poverty incidences (measured as the percentage of population living below $2 per day) to single-rates since the 1980s, 2 percent for the former and 4 percent for the latter. No wonder that in the past several years Filipino domestic workers have been leaving our country to serve the Malaysian rich.

After nearly three decades, we’ve reduced our poverty incidence only by 15 percentage points and we seem to be stuck in the 40-percent levels.

These statistics however could never capture the tragedy and horror of poverty, of children living miserable lives and dying of diseases that have been wiped out it in developed countries, of men and women wasting away in some slum shack, just waiting for death.

So what happened that we’re so left behind that pessimists even think that Vietnam, nearly destroyed by the world’s most powerful nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, could soon overtake us?

In a nutshell: Nothing much happened here.

The EDSA Revolution restored the power of our oligarchs, and the country’s oligarchic structure created by colonial powers, and of course, its ideological superstructure, Spanish Catholicism.

The religious spin given to the Revolution—the Virgin Mary was claimed to have willed it—even strengthened the backward, medieval version of Hispanic Catholicism that partly explains the backwardness of nearly all nations that had been colonized by the Iberian colonialists. No wonder we have been unable to undertake even the weakest program for population control, making us the Asian country with the fastest-growing population—of mostly poor people.

The cronies and big-business supporters of the dictator, years after EDSA, regained their seats in politics, business, and even media. Even such a prime architect of martial law’s economic structure — Marcos’ Finance Secretary Cesar Virata — was given recently no less by our national university, the UP, the honor of having its business school named after him, oblivious of the fact that Philippine business collapsed from 1983-1985 when he was the dictator’s Prime Minister.

The heroine of EDSA basically restored the pre-martial law constitution, and therefore the country’s political and economic structure, except for its provisions making one-man rule very difficult.

Weak state, strong elite

Our state since 1986 has been a weak one, standing not for the nation as a whole but only for the strong elites that control it. In crucial junctures—for instance the re-capture of the Meralco monopoly by the oligarchic Lopez clan right after EDSA or the skirting of land reform through “corporatization” of the Aquino clan’s Hacienda Luisita until the Supreme stopped it—the elites get what they want, at the expense of the changing our social structures so our country would be more productive.

As I will be writing on Monday, our state has become so weak, its elite so lacking in patriotism, that a foreigner, an Indonesian magnate has been able to capture Meralco and other strategic industries.

Some even say that it would have been probably better if EDSA were a violent bloody revolution.

In such scenario, the oligarchs would have been wiped out, or the horror of a bloody revolution would have been such a catharsis that it would have forced Filipinos to embark on serious nation building. This after all was the case in the French Revolution, America’s Civil War, the Korean war, the Malayan Emergency and its ethnic strife that led to the rise of Singapore and Malaysia, and Thailand’s bloody extermination of its communists.

Is that such a cruel thought? Maybe, but then how many millions of Filipinos have died or will die of hunger and diseases or lived or would live miserable lives because we haven’t forged a strong nation and a strong state?

That idea, that strong states emerge from the blood of its people, worries me. If that were the case, Vietnam, with 3 million its people killed in the war, would soon be overtaking us.

Take a look again at the chart, and something is so deeply wrong with us, and Indonesia’s rate of growth suggests that it would probably have us biting the dust in the coming years, and don’t forget, Indonesia is a major-oil producer.

It’s the sad, sad reality of what was our glorious moment in history. EDSA just didn’t improve much the lives of most Filipinos.

We’ve got to move and change things, and in our lifetime.

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
www.trigger.ph and www.rigobertotiglao.com

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21 Comments

  1. EDSA was a staged “People Power”. A Moro-Moro. There was no “Real” people power. If there was it would end up like the rallies against DAP & PDAP. As long as no “Major” power is backing any demonstration, nothing will come out of it. EDSA “happened” because there was the U.S. Stae department behind Cory Aquino. Their Clan had been under the US protection and employment since the time when the Americans arrived on our shores. EDSA was the template for other so called “people power” around the world. The fact was it was hatced in Washington DC by the CIA and the State Dept. The CIA will cover the present dictators and give them a protected exit eg marcos to Hawaii and the SD will back the opposition aka moving Cory around to Cebu, Davao etc protected by US Navy Seals. There was the group of Enrile the RAM under Honasan who wanted to take over. EDSA was useless exercise because it was not to change the status quo but to perpetuate it. To really move forward our country we need comprehensive reform in Education, Political structure, Government Bureucracy, Judicial & Economic structure. And most important of All, we need to change the “Mindset” of our fellow Filipinos that We Are all in this Together”. To change we all need to change our outlook of the world. Ther is no such thing as a Free Lunch.

  2. Historical facts about Philippines poverty – % Poverty by year:

    After the first year of the Marcos reign:

    1967 – 10.5

    The last year of the Marcos reign:

    1985 – 34.9

    since then:

    1988 – 30.5
    1991 – 30.7
    1994 – 28.1
    1997 – 21.6
    2003 – 22.0
    2000 – 22.5
    2006 – 22.6
    2009 – 18.4

    I therefore conclude that it is a MYTH that Filipinos were “less poor” during Marcos days. In fact, poverty worsened during the 20 years of the Marcos reign. And poverty has declined since Marcos was removed from power.

    ~The_truther

  3. While improvement of the lives of Filipinos did not seem to be pronounce, we cannot deny the fact a lot of freedom wqas restored. In Marcos time they would have been jailed, and their family threathened. Gatherings as well as Social media like Facebook, Twitters, WOULD BE OBVIOUSLY BE BANNED . SO DO WE STILL LIKE MARCOS? IN 1986 GOVERNMENT CHECKS STARTED TO BOUNCE-A SIGN OF GOVERNMENT BANKRUPTCY

  4. Decades of corruption, bureaucratic red tape and inefficiency beginning from Malacañang down to the office of the barangay…what can we expect? Our nation had just started cleansing the government from the corrupt, had just starting eradicating red tape and inefficiency….so all we can do is wait since these cannot be done for six year only. 50 years of corruption cannot be eradicated in six years.

  5. It’s rather unfair to judge Virata’s performance as economic manager or Marcos’ long rule for that matter in what happened in just two years of the more than a decade that they were at the helm particularly because the 2 years cited were the two years beginning with the year of the assassination of Ninoy. It was the politics, with the aforementioned murder as center piece, that failed the economy and not the other way around. And it matters not if the cronies of today were the same cronies of Marcos or new ones raised under the Aquinos in power; it’s the continuance of cronyism and the return and strengthening of oligarchic rule that’s the culprit. The 1986 military aided people power revolt was a power grab by a combination of former oligarchs, sidelined former political leaders, and ambitious military officers and defense officials together with a believing naive middle class that padded the numbers, plus the personal backing of Cardinal Sin guised as Word from God; and last but by no means least, sanctioned by the American masters. There was no revolution that took place in the sense of drastic change or a sincere desire for real change. There was a lot of pretending of that even up to now, hence, our present situation as you have accurately described it. More than a quarter of a century down the drain. Where do we begin?

  6. Philippines Politics has two political parties- the In group and the out group. At the time of the overthrow of Marcos, the old premarital law oligarchs were the out group. The In group were the Marcos Oligarchs.
    When Senator B S. Aquino, Jr. flew from Boston, Massachusetts, USA via Taipei, Taiwan back to Manila, it was NOT to restore democracy , as stated correctly by Ambassador Tiglao, BUT to throw out the Marcos Oligarchs and bring back the premarital law into wealth and power.
    The friction between Marcos and Aquino went back many years. It started from both men trying to attract a young Imelda. In 1965 when Marcos jumped from the Liberal Party to the Nationalista Party, because he lost the party nomination for President of the Philippines. In 1968, then Senator Aquino made a senate privilege speech that revealed classified material that may have caused a military operation to be targeted at Sabah to be shutdown.. In 1969, Aquino called Imelda Marcos the Philippines Evita Peron and Ferdinand Marcos called Aquino a Congenital Liar. In 1972, the Miranda Bombing by Marcos Goons, in Quiapo, made the Liberal Party Rally to be put in disarray.After declaration of martial law, we know what happened to Aquino. In 1980, Aquino went to the U.S. to receive medical treatment for a heart attack while in confinement. He stayed in an upper middle class and upper class section of Boston called Chestnut Hill. He made many speeches in the USA to rebuild his financial base. In 1983, he heard that Marcos had lupus disease and was physically weakening. Aquino made his move and was killed. This was the first shot of the two competing dynastys.
    Mrs. Aquino rode to popularity because of Senator Aquino’s Death. Her American PR Firm called her an ordinary housewife. That was far from the truth. Corazon Conjuangco Aquino came from a well connected Chinese-Filipino Family and had been educated at fancy U.S. Colleges. She came from old money that saw the Marcos as beneath her. There was definite class snobbery involved.
    In 1986, the U.S. TV Network American Broadcasting Company (ABC) Show Nightline had Mrs. Aquino and President Marcos debate in front American Audiences. Mrs. Aquino’s People tried to put her in modest circumstances and played down her class background.
    In Filipino Politics, the 3G’s-Guns,Goons, and Gold were involved. Both sides used dirty tricks and vote fraud. Why she won was that people were tiring of Marcos. As previous bloggers have state, there were political opportunists that saw the “writing on the wall”.- then General Fidel V. Ramos, 2nd Maternal Cousin of Marcos’; Juan Ponce Enrile; et cetera. The EDSA “Revolution” brought back the Lopez Family to retake MERALCO. The Lopez Family NEVER paid one centavo for the 14 year improvements in MERALCO. The premarital law oligarchs rode again.
    Both Aquino Presidencies have been led by indecisive personalities. Both catapulted into the Presidency because of sympathy vote. There haven’t been any substantive changes in a oligarchic economy. The economy is not a dynamic and capitalist.
    For the past 67 years, the hacinderos have controlled the economy.The excuse has been it’s a developing economy. Over 50 years ago, the Philippines had an economy that South Korea envied. This country sent many people there. Then the economy stalled and South Korea through very hard work and tough times became a developed economy besting the Philippines Economy which had been the role model.
    It’s not the Philippines is lacking in talent. There are lots of talent. It’s the hidebound economy and system that doesn’t allow the “little guy” to climb the ladder. Many talented Filipinos have left these shores because opportunity isn’t here. Instead of building a world class infrastructure here, they are building a world class infrastructure in foreign countries.The Massive OFW Money keeps this creaking economy from crashing.
    Bottom line the EDSA “Revolution” was between two sets of oligarchs. Mrs. Aquino used democracy as a smoke screen. The premarital law oligarchs threw out the Marcos Oligarchs. Her son has kept these oligarchs in power. We see it clearly in the latest MERALCO Price Gouging. Many of the MERALCO big share owners backed Mrs. Aquino and in turn her son.
    What democracy?

  7. “We have the lowest GDP per capita now, at $1,501.”

    I would say the Philippines has the highest Per Capita CORRUPTION INDEX, if you go by an honest down-to-the-core social weather polls – aside from False Asia and SWS doctored stats, catered to a particular specific clientele whose sole purpose is to condition the people’s mind that everything is okay under their watch – and the Leaders of this only Christian-dominated nation of All Asia are god-fearing, adhere to the laws of the land, admit their corrupt practices in public, and never, ever STEAL hard-earned taxpayers money, but then again, we are reminded by true reality before our eyes, this the land of Thieving- Political-Hypocritical stinking to high heaven politics, and they have the gall to call themselves practicing Christians…….

  8. A bloodless revolution?

    That’s a joke. A freak accident at best.

    I was 18 when the so-called EDSA revolution happened. It was euphoric. One could use a knife and slice the thick coat of euphoria in the air.

    Marcos knew the Filipino psyche better when at the dying days of his power he uttered in lame desperation that Cory and her ilks were no better than him and that they were just envious and wanted the seat of power so they can have their turn to plunder and pillage the nation. How true!

    But, as a young man then at 19 I also knew what Marcos knew. That is why I never believed in EDSA or other peaceful revolts that unfolded thereafter.

    I say remove all the oligarchs, the corrupt congressmen and senators. That’s a good start.

    Then we can begin transforming the system to a truly democratic and representative one.

  9. Its the fault of our political dynasties who maintain their wealth and power until kingdom come. Its easy to understand why congress does not enact law to prohibit political dynasty in the country. They want status quo: majority poor to be expanded and maximized so as to easily buy their votes. Never mind what other countries think of us Filipinos if our leaders are assholes!

  10. The mistake was in making a president out of Cory Aquino. What did she know? She was a totally useless president who was drowning in incompetence. Unfortunately, the people never learned from their mistake. They had to do a repeat of the same gesture when they voted for her son or was it the PCOS machines that did it? Now, we are stuck in a rut, with her son at the helm, a real copy cat of his mother. The same incompetent and insensitive fool, surrounded by a greedy lot.

    And we, who did not vote for him, have to put up with being led by a silly president, just as we who did not put her in power, have had to pray for a miracle to get her out of the presidency.

  11. The nothing happened after the EDSA revolution- we regressed economically as compared to the rest of the ASEAN countries; that it would have been better if the so called Marcos dictatorship continued…At least corruption is controlled and centralised.

    The Oligarchs came back to control both our economic and political systems and became richer and are having it so good- while our poor is described by Edwin Markham as follows:

    Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
    Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
    The emptiness of ages in his face,
    And on his back the burden of the world.
    Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
    A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
    Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
    Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
    Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
    Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

  12. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.” (The Second Coming… W.B. Yeats)

  13. Voice from the Wilderness on

    Yes, we’ve got to move and change things, and in our lifetime to exorcise the scourge and curse that was brought forth by this 1986 revolution which benefited no one except the personal MADONNA cursed aquino presidency…..

  14. Jose A. Oliveros on

    “Under Cory, we remained condemned as the ‘basket case’, the poorest of the poor, in Southeast Asia. Eighty percent of our people live below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the crime rate, the public debt, unemployment, power shortage, graft and corruption, simultaneous insurgencies and lack of basic services all continue to besiege us in our daily life. (Salvador H. Laurel, “Neither Trumpets nor Drums”, 1992). Written after the expiration of the term of Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino as President, these words of her Vice President may as well apply to and describe the present-day condition of the Philippines under the presidency of her son.

  15. Blame the bloody fools who voted for Pnoy. Blame the church who anointed Santa Cory. Blame the trapos and oligarchs.

  16. I agree with the last sentence of Mr Tiglao’s article. It’s what we do now that will our future. I wish Mr Tiglao would continue from that last sentence. So, what can we do now?

  17. It was a myth to begin with, Bobi. Cory was not even there and didn’t even get to set foot on EDSA. The National Command Authority Line was in total disarray, in shambles, and inutile. True JPE and FVR have joined hands, with the latter somewhat reluctantly. There were hordes of AFP types that congregated and gravitated around the prospective inheritors of power as changing skin colors became the urgent call of the moment. By and large, even with the “defection” of an AF unit to promote their cause did not resolve the issue preventing total disorder and anarchy but they did not know the real situation beyond the fences of Crame. Three generals sent to convince the pivot man who held the key to a peaceful resolution returned to Crame empty handed and their own estimate of the situation was limited to the fence that isolated Crame to the madenning crowd that did not even know or were certain of what it was they were fighting for. Just get Marcos out, the gathered throng shouted out. The religious were there as a response to Cardinal Sin’s effort to get the numbers around Crame past 1500 that Sunday morning when Tadiar and his marines were ordered out of their barracks unto Crame. Soon it was another scene in a vaudeville act and a carnival atmosphere settled on the gathered throngs.And it became another opportunity for those who control the reigns of power to get into the act. Political chameleons. Kibitzers. Opportunists. Carpet baggers of every size and shapes and more. And got themselves photographed for posterity for future use. If you are reading this for the first time Bobi, read the piece written by Rene Saguisag and in it you will find names, same names that are in the long list of the Grand Marion that faithfully execute the schemes and designs for societal control that have brought the nation to this quagmire and perdition. It was Virata who would eventually come with a stray suggestion, a last ditch effort, that would save the Duo of Crame and prevent further unnecessary bloodshed and pave the way for another attempt to rebuild the nation.

  18. Siony Camacho Bana on

    Edsa doesn’t really matter to all, I suppose. It did not represent the interest of the majority, it was represented by selected few , only about 2% of the total population of the Philippines. It is the battle btw the controlling priviledge few and the forgiving poor , who has very little chance to prosper ever. God never sleeps to aid the oppressed and the less fortunate , thru their sufferrings comes the eternal priceless blessings ,the wealth of justice before them.