MR. ALMONTE and a group of former RAM officers are right now dueling over who did play a greater and more heroic role during EDSA UNO, the civilian-backed military revolt that toppled Mr. Marcos. The debate is now public and there would be no nice ending to it. Here is the thing though: The two squabbling parties are not probably aware that there is no public interest in their debate. That the debate had spilled over into the papers offered no guarantee that it would get public attention.
Who did what and who planned what during EDSA UNO (and the tension- filled months before it) is probably one of those issues that the public has gotten tired of. The enough-of-this-EDSA UNO stuff is for real. The recent commemoration of that event was, to use a graphic Tagalog term, nilangaw. The enthusiasm is gone.
I for one look back at EDSA UNO with one question and a mundane one: Are there still negatives of the photos that the late photojournalism great Willie Vicoy snapped of Mrs. Aquino at the Mactan airport tarmac before she boarded the Ayala-owned plane for Manila after the outbreak of the revolt at a military camp?
Manila-bound Mrs. Aquino wanted a photo session with the journalists (foreign and Filipinos) who had covered her fight to topple Marcos — and were with her at the Cebu rally calling for a boycott of the crony firms. Instead of giving a press briefing on what she planned to do to help hasten the exit of Marcos, her words at the airport tarmac were something like these: “Willie (Vicoy) kunin mo kami. Baka ito na ang huli nating pagsasama.” Having covered Mrs. Aquino for what seemed like eternity, I was at the front row of the pack. Willie, a kind and gentle human being who nearly won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Vietnam War, promised to give each and every member of the journalism pack prints and negatives of those photos. His prodigious career ended in an ambush. And we failed to get the “farewell photos” with Mrs. Aquino.
Indeed, even those of us who can relate to EDSA UNO in a profound way, currently hold no dear or cherished memory of that revolt. The millennials, roughly 99 percent of them, do not probably know who Mr. Almonte is. Or what RAM stands for. EDSA, to the current generation, is the gridlocked main road of Metro Manila, not the site of an upheaval that influenced game-changing events across the globe, including the demolition of the Berlin Wall.
Why is EDSA UNO mostly a blur to the current generation? And a topic avoided by those who had lived through the brief post-Marcos euphoria? Many answers have been given.. But the most plausible is this. The democratic restoration that is the universally-appreciated legacy of EDSA UNO also restored the old political and business oligarchy. While EDSA Uno may have helped in the unfolding of iconic global events such as the Velvet Revolution and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it did little in changing our country and just preserved the political and economic status quo.
Just look at the backgrounds of the presidents who came after Marcos, the toppled despot, and Mrs. Aquino, the icon of democracy.
Fidel V. Ramos, the constabulary chief who broke away from his cousin (Mr. Marcos) to help Mr. Enrile, then defense minister, stage the bloodless coup against Mr. Marcos.
Joseph Estrada, a long-time, martial law-era mayor of San Juan in Metro Manila, who was one of the anchors of the political opposition to Mrs. Aquino in the first post-EDSA legislative elections.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of a former president.
Benigno S. Aquino 111, the son of Mrs. Aquino and Benigno Aquino Jr., the opposition figure whose assassination led to the EDSA revolt.
It took a longer time for the Indonesians to topple Suharto. But the cleansing of the old order truly came to Indonesia recently as it elected a popular leader, President Jokowi, with no connection to either the Suharto or Sukarno regimes.
Angela Merkel, a bland scientist and a minister’s daughter whose adult life was mostly spent on research and inside laboratories, is now the undisputed leader of a united Germany – after demolishing the entrenched political royalty of her country.
We are blissfully stuck to the past as the other countries that took inspiration from our original people power revolt have moved on.
The 2016 presidential election may offer no relief and, no break from the past as the gallery of possible candidates are of the standard progeny – political lifers and legacy politicians. Some groups are trying to cast Davao City Mayor Rudy Duterte as an outsider who would bring a fresh governing culture should he win the presidency. Google “Duterte” however and you will know that it is a political family as ancient as Mindanao.
Only the election to the presidency of an insurgent unattached to the old political and economic oligarchy would snap out the general indifference of most Filipinos to politics and civic culture of their country.
A fresh face with bold governing ideas. And a radical departure from the standard-issue politicians which common denominator is this: get elected to the highest office of the land just to frustrate and let us down.