COMMEMORATING the anniversary of the 1986 EDSA uprising is as much as de rigueur, albeit an obligation in the name of, well, democracy, as it is a chore that one has the option to mark on the calendar or get over with until the next merry-making or tribute-giving comes along.
Worse, it is also as much as an occasion to resurrect a dead horse and die on it as it is a time to bash the supposedly despotic family that had caused such political ruckus to come to pass in the first place.
We are using “uprising” because, objectively and never mind which side of the political fence you were on then and are on now, the event that transpired on February 22-25 almost 30 years ago was not a “revolution.”
The French Revolution is one of the real deals–it involved a nation and a people and it was not waged by one family against another to grab a bigger share of the pie of power and pelf for itself, not for poor Filipinos as it had been advertised in bright yellow.
Besides, its remotely distant cousin of a “revolution” took place on a highway in Metro Manila just for 96 hours, whereas the real McCoy (sorry!) could take a lifetime to pull off and it could even be preempted by a cunning protagonist like the United States that, after the end of the Filipino-American War of 1898, did not want to lose face and concocted the Treaty of Paris in the same year.
Well, the victors in that revolt or insurrection of 1986, have since used big words to call attention to their “people power” triumph and, unfortunately, “revolution” it is as the means for the assumption to power not of the huddled masses but the restoration of oligarchs to their original perches and, okay, of a “classless and tolerant society,” a longer term for democracy.
Such victory was supposed to be “bloodless,” which was exactly what Washington had in mind, in the process scoring a double whammy–getting rid of Ferdinand Marcos and installing in his place Corazon Aquino in a juxtaposition of sinner and saint, learned and unschooled.
It is silly to think of blood being shed at the time when the EDSA to-do was fiesta, zarzuela, vaudeville, paseo, etc. in one heady mix of colegialas, senoras and nuns and activists, communists, social democrats and other ideologues getting chummy and chatty with Fabian Ver’s boys who were armed to the teeth as if they were really going to war.
In all certainty, the uprising was no French Revolution, October Revolution or the Tet Offensive, so the Yellow Army should get real about EDSA 1986 raising the “revolutionary” bar and not be delusional about having accomplished the impossible.
What emerged from it through the years was that it had run out of villains (including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) to vilify that would justify celebrating it still past the generation of millennials.
Convenient punching bags
And so, those behind the uprising, either as active players or passive kibitzers, have to make do with (drum roll, please) the heir and heiresses of Marcos–“dictator” to some, apo or manong forever to many, particularly Ilocanos–as whipping boys until Noynoy will have found his one and only true love maybe 10 years from now, if it happens at all.
The Marcoses are a convenient punching bag for the Aquinos, the most prominent keeper of their flame being the incumbent President himself, Benigno Aquino 3rd.
If the former ruling family, for example, insisted on having its patriarch buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani, its successor dismisses the move as the height of arrogance and entitlement.
Is there really a law that authorizes the President of the Philippines to decide by himself if this guy or that deserves to be interred in a pauper’s grave or is undeserving of a spot at the Heroes Cemetery?
If, for another example, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the only son of the “dictator,” continued to refuse to apologize for reported martial law abuses of his father’s regime, then the fallen family surely merits its place in history, infamous and unlamented, in Noynoy’s book, that is.
The Marcos patriarch’s unico hijo can turn the tables on his family’s perceived tormentors who are hecienderos by way of Hacienda Luisita.
The so-called Lupao massacre in 1986 (the start of Cory Aquino’s lackluster rule) stripped her administration of any pretense to its mantra of reclaiming democracy for the people.
A large portion of a barangay (village) in Lupao, a sleepy town in Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, in that year was razed to the ground–nipa huts torched, a number of both young and elderly residents shot dead, one young girl getting it in the leg (which we found out later in the hospital in the nearby city of San Jose had to be amputated at the knee).
No Maoist rebel, dead or alive, found
It had been reported that New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas were spending time in the village, an information that reached the military, which, immediately sent a new graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to lead casing the joint.
The PMA-grad commander was killed in a subsequent clash with some members of the communist group who apparently had run out of time to leave the barangay–and his men simply had to retaliate.
To make matters worse for the government troops, when the gunbattle stopped, no Maoist rebel–dead or alive–inexplicably was to be found.
Mercifully, the fighting spared an old blind man
I was able to talk to him, introducing myself as a reporter for one of the very few broadsheets that continued to make accountable rights violators of any political color, post-EDSA “people power revolution” (a few other journalists had been invited by various human-rights groups to join their fact-finding mission to Lupao).
The man’s house was one of those set on fire, allegedly by the soldiers who “avenged” their commander’s death.
The 1987 Mendiola Massacre
In 1987, another massacre, this time closer to the Palace by the Pasig River, took place on Mendiola Street.
When the smoke cleared above the din of what had sounded like gunshots (I was covering what began as a rather noisy rally by peasants from provinces near Metro Manila for that same “alternative” newspaper), more than a dozen farmers lay dead, allegedly felled by bullets from weapons fired by government forces.
To be fair, I was maybe hundreds of meters away from the actual “scene of the crime,” the reason why I did not see who pulled the trigger (the peasants, it was reportedly learned later, were not carrying firearms).
The lifeless bodies of 12 or so rallyists would later be taken to Mount Carmel Church in New Manila, Quezon City.
It was the first time for me to see so many coffins in one wake and I had to write about each and everyone inside those caskets, asking relatives about their loss and getting answers through sobs and tears and wails.
Expectedly, the mourners’ mood was alternately sober and angry, partly incensed by accusations that the dead were all communist guerrillas.
The Reds, throughout modern history, have also been punching bags, whipping boys, flavors of the month., etc. of those who make the rules, which they are wont to bend anyway and raising them to the level of ideology, not jurisprudence.
And so for the last 30 years or so, the Lupao “massacre” has not had a closure.
So has the the Mendiola “massacre,” for the last 29 years or so.
These two incidents were easily swept under the rug, with the first Aquino administration being worshipped as a saint and what saint would have blood in his or her hands?
The second Aquino administration, which by June next year would just become a ho-hum footnote to history, like the first one, boasts of a “spotless” human-rights record, simply because it has not admitted to even hurting a fly.
There’s the rub: The Marcoses will have to apologize for their martial law abuses and the Aquinos will not have to be contrite about for the Lupao and Mendiola ”massacres?”
The Marcos regime could do no right, its successor could do no wrong.
And so, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd wants independent presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to repent the human-rights violations of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., without him reciprocating to atone for such same violations of the first Aquino regime.
The younger Aquino is not even asked to acknowledge alleged rights abuses during his six-year watch that, to be sure, would be as ugly as those committed under the rule of the older Aquino, but only to consider looking into reports on such excesses against persons and communities.
In typical cacique fashion, Noynoy defends the record of the first Aquino regime by apparently likening it to apples (sweet) and that of its Marcos counterpart, oranges (sour).
So what is there to contrast and compare, what is there to be sorry about?
Meanwhile, Bongbong is sticking to his guns that if he, personally, has to be regretful about anything in connection with his father’s rule, he would do so.
Both could “correct” sins of commissions and omissions of the past, maybe, sa tamang panahon, even if, in a reversal of fortune, Aquino landed in jail and Marcos landed the vice presidency.
Meanwhile, it is doubtful if the winner of the presidential race four months from now would be as faintly interested in making room for yet another celebration of the EDSA uprising as he or she is seriously contemplating to give the day eternal rest.