Second of two parts
The first part of this column reminds readers that EDSA 1986, that moment when Filipinos boycotted crony corporations and went out to the streets in defiance of a dictator, ready to face tanks and almost certain death, has become so skewed, so muddled, by patronage politics and political bias.
It also proved to me that there is even more reason to talk about EDSA, the better to understand our behavior for or against it, the better to pin down who is at fault really, for the post-EDSA state of the nation.
EDSA 1986’s freedom
Everyone – the left, right, center – tends to blame EDSA 1986 for things that it cannot be, was not at all, responsible for.
The task at hand for EDSA 1986 and People Power, was to get the dictator to surrender, get him to leave Malacañang. The task was freedom. On the page, and for all intents and purposes, freedom was restored.
Which is to say that sequestered properties were given back to the families like the Lopezes, which is to say that television and radio could finally go back on the air, without the risk of being taken off the air if they are too critical of government. Which is to say that people could walk the streets, deep into the night until the wee hours of the morning, without fear of being arrested for breaking the curfew.
The freedom that EDSA1986 gave us allowed for television shows that were fundamental to the nation’s political education. That freedom allowed for political talk shows after the evening news: Randy David and Louie Beltran, Dong Puno and Jullie Yap Daza, Teddy Benigno and Oscar Orbos.
Sure, in the beginning the tendency was to be kind to Cory Aquino and her government – it was after all just getting its act together, and certainly after 14 years of Martial Rule, even the media needed to find its rhythm, so to speak.
One remembers how it was at this time that we got to listen to original Filipino music on freed FM radio: Neocolours, Ogie Alcasid, Dingdong Avanzado, The Dawn, alongside the critical-hilarious stance of APO Hiking Society (long before the current version of Jim Paredes). There were newspapers and tabloids and magazines, and these could be critical if they wanted to be.
I was growing into adulthood in a space where we were free to think what we wanted, and create what we felt like, there was AM and FM radio, there was music and books and publications, there was television. People were thinking and creative, and one could feel it in culture.
And it was only possible because of EDSA1986. It only happened because of People Power.
If that is the thread that we follow, then the only reason this column exists, the only reason a newspaper like this can exist, the only reason you might be reading this online, is because of EDSA 1986.
This is why I celebrate EDSA.
Of course 30 years hence it is clear that what the people got post-EDSA was a specific kind of cultural and political freedom that did not necessarily mean the alleviation of poverty or the end of inequality.
We knew this by January 22 1987, when the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas with other activist organizations marched to Malacañang to demand genuine agrarian reform, and clashed with State military and police. Thirteen activists would die that day, allegedly from shots fired by the Marines (if you are to believe Alfredo Lim).
We knew this as soon as Cory Aquino revealed her haciendera colors, and made sure that her family’s Hacienda Luisita would remain untouched by the land reform that she was imposing on everybody else.
We’ve known this all these years, because we’ve seen how elections don’t change nation, because those who win, year-in year-out, are the same people, the same names.
And certainly five years of Noynoy Aquino has ruined democracy for us even more. Because democracy has become nothing but a campaign slogan, and freedom became nothing but a strategy. One that banks on numbers and statistics that are contradicted by life on the ground.
Then I realize that at least I have the freedom to think that. That at least I grew up in a space that has taught me not to fear thoughts that are contrarian, not to fear thinking that goes against the grain. At least I have the freedom to write, and speak, even when I know of so many journalists who have died exercising that freedom.
We are to blame
That kind of impunity – the killing of journalists, the disappearance of activists, the displacement of the Lumad, the militarization of their communities – that is not the fault of EDSA1986.
The elite’s continued domination of our political hierarchy, the corruption of government officials, the dysfunctional systems of government, the patronage politics – that is not the fault of EDSA1986.
All the questions that militant activists ask of EDSA 1986, all the assertions that they make about what has happened since … those are not questions to ask of EDSA1986.
Those are questions to ask of us. Because really, post-EDSA1986, what did we demand of government? What did we demand of ourselves? How do we take a stand on issues: do we continue to look at people and their names, versus their ideas and track records?
Post-EDSA1986 did we learn enough to vote differently, to vote not for the elite and wealthy? To vote not based on personalities, but based on programs and platforms? One remembers Jovito Salonga losing terribly to Cory’s anointed Fidel Ramos.
Post-EDSA 1986 has our media leveled-up the discourse, and matured to the point of playing a fundamental role in forcing us all to open our eyes to the injustice in nation, and push us to act on these injustices? Are media truly independent, or are they in the pocket of a politico or an oligarch, or both?
I don’t know that we have a lot of questions about EDSA 1986 still, the history has been written, history is clear about what happened on those four days in February 1986. We have a lot of questions for us, for those of us who have survived it, and have stopped asking questions about nation, have stopped digging deep enough about issues, have stopped … thinking really, about where we stand in the greater scheme of things and the changes that we have yet to see in nation.
But of course we don’t like turning upon ourselves.