(Third of a series on ‘Retaking EDSA’)
EDSA was not a revolution. In fact, it stole from the people the possibility of a true revolution.
Some of its diehard believers argue even until today that EDSA was a successful revolution because it achieved its goals of ousting Marcos.
In addition to the problematic argument that EDSA was planned and hence it had a well-defined goal, you end up confronting the equally problematic implication of such a claim: that it was all about Marcos.
EDSA is imaged as a personalistic uprising to banish one man and his cabal, but never to exorcise our society of the debilitating effects of pre-Marcos oligarchic rule and all its structural embodiments that took root in how elites gained authority and power, and how such gained legitimacy.
This is precisely how EDSA unfolded. The elites hijacked the narrative of a people’s anger. The coup of Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos was not about the poverty and deprivation brought about by plundering cronies. Cardinal Sin’s call was to protect Enrile and Ramos from impending arrest. And Cory Aquino’s ascension to the presidency was not about peasants being given back their lands stolen by her cacique class, or liberating them from bondage. It was about her class taking an opening to retake its position as primary beneficiaries of an elitist political economy that was restored after EDSA.
Cory Aquino is painted as the bringer of democracy, when in reality she is the pawn of her clan and her class to make their interests safe and secure, and thrive in a post-Marcos Philippines. The very first thing she did was not to free the peasants from the land and uplift the working conditions of the urban poor. How could she? That would have meant working against her class interest, borne by her and embodied in that piece of land in Tarlac called Hacienda Luisita.
Instead, she immediately returned to the Lopezes their empire, for free, even if such had already been paid for by Marcos on behalf of the state.
And the elites painted this act as part of the return of democracy.
EDSA’s greatest crime to the Filipino people is that it stole the thunder from a growing social movement that directed its wrath against the structures of oppression which festered in Philippine society. The elite forces of restoration effectively painted over these simmering structural challenges with the mirage of a democratic society, of having a constitution and rituals of presumably free elections being a safer alternative to a bloody uprising.
Indeed, one can entertain the thought that perhaps the Filipinos are not predisposed to a bloody revolution. But certainly, EDSA took advantage of this to further cement elite rule now masked as democracy.
Part of EDSA’s narrative is the celebration of mythologies that further affirmed the logic of the lie to make it factual and true.
Ninoy Aquino was deified as a hero, even as later it was shown by a noted historian, Professor Ambeth Ocampo, that he may have even have had the predisposition to support martial law, and even harbored an authoritarian streak, and of wanting to execute corrupt officials.
There were attempts to elevate Cory Aquino to become the patron saint of democracy, bringing the idolatry to a different level when some of her sycophants initiated moves towards her canonization. Yet, declassified US intelligence documents point to a Cory asking the US to bomb rebellious military forces, without due regard to civilian casualties, one that not even the demonized Marcos would have done during EDSA.
The turning of lies into facts, which are clear examples of the early versions of fake news on a grand scale, was structural to the mythology of EDSA.
And the elites whose political fortunes profited from this mythology would continue to propagate this, if only to continue duping the Filipino people into believing that what we had was in fact a revolution that vanquished the darkness of Marcos and led us to the light of the Aquinos and the Liberal Party.
Noynoy Aquino won the presidency despite his being a non-performer because he was an Aquino. Bam Aquino became senator because he projected himself as a Ninoy doppelganger.
And the mythmaking continued even to people like Jesse Robredo who was deified as the paragon of good governance, without any attempt to investigate his own private sins and flaws Leni Robredo is now being projected as an able presidential material even with the glaring evidence of her lack of capability.
And then we have Leila de Lima being projected as an image of every virtuous woman.
The legacy of EDSA is in counterfeited history, excellence, virtue and heroism to sustain a lie that is safe for the elites who stole from the people the possibility of a real revolution.
Loida Nicolas Lewis summed up the mythmaking. It doesn’t have to be true. It just needed to look like that.
It’s about time we retake the EDSA narrative from these fakers.