FOR each of the groups that participated in EDSA, the expectations, hopes and aspirations which motivated them were diverse. Thirty-one years, the survivors may now have a better grasp of the event and a better appreciation of whether these have been fulfilled in the light of current developments.
The Yellows- 2017
Some of us are no longer Yellows in 2017. Our perception of EDSA and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled, mostly by those of the recent past administration. For us, EDSA is not an Aquino family franchise, nor just a mere booting out of the Marcos family. And it is not a narrative of entitlements of two families.
For many of us, EDSA was a decades-long seething anger against poverty, injustice and the emerging rule of the oligarchy not only in the economy but throughout the political structures. These were long exemplified by the pre-martial law Liberal and Nacionalista political parties; same faces of a political coin that held sway over the lives of the masses of Filipinos through their brand of traditional politics.
The final capture of the color Yellow was consummated upon the serendipitous exquisitely timed demise of the EDSA icon when an opportunistic son rode on the people’s residual love and nostalgia to win power. Yellow from then on came to symbolize his own vengeful and exclusive “Daang Matuwid” regime. PNoy, in his brimming arrogance, tried to exact from the people who once took part in the EDSA revolution, a certain sense of loyalty and adulation similar to that shown his mother. He failed.
His double standards overshadowed his advocacy of transparent governance, and what we all witnessed was a man who used his power to inflict his wrath upon his political enemies. The economic policies that put the country in the international map, which in essence were inter-generational and a carryover from past administrations, were never properly attributed; in fact, his predecessor was incarcerated for the duration of his term in office.
But the last straw that broke the people’s trust was his refusal to apologize and take responsibility for the Mamasapano massacre that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos.
Some of these Yellows who perceived EDSA to be merely a victory over martial law forces were left disenchanted when the expected change in the status quo and the restructuring of the old order did not occur. And this too is the perception of mostly the millennials with their harsh judgment of EDSA as they have no personal connection to or collective memory of it. The disgruntled former Yellows and the millennials found a common cause in bringing about this elusive change – Ang Pagbabago! – exemplified by a maverick whose language resonated. They found their voice and a champion in DU30, our Davao mayor, whom they catapulted to the presidency running under two main campaign promises of drastic change: the elimination of the illegal drug menace and the restructuring of the government into a parliamentary-federal form.
The Marcos Loyalist Reds- 2017
The hundred yellow ribbons “round the old oak tree” may soon be covered by red ones as Marcos supporters have slowly inched their way to political consciousness in the past few years from their solid base in the Marcos homeland in the north. This resurgence can be attributed to the tolerance and naivete of President Fidel Ramos, a cousin, who allowed the return of the dictator’s remains under strict conditions agreed to by the Marcos family, but which they have reneged on, perhaps with the quiet acquiescence of the FVR administration. This paved the way for the complete rehabilitation of the family by PRRD who has admitted to his own father’s debt of gratitude to the father, Ferdinand, and his own fondness for the son, Bongbong. The son also did his part by demonstrating filial love, a trait much valued by Filipinos. On his run for the vice presidency, the Filipino millennial responded in kind. They are a powerful and versatile force that has clearly distorted the equation—partially alienating the Yellows.
The Military- 2017
Many of the major players have long been put to pasture and some tucked into the recesses of the bureaucracy. But the institution has a long collective memory and it has left behind what could be a dangerous legacy; they were made the protector of a dictatorship and have tasted the license of shared power. And they applied that newfound prerogative a decade and a half later in a caricature of EDSA II, that small original faction of 1986 who once broke away from the traditional mainstream culture with convoluted motivations to fight a common nemesis. EDSA will be a reminder of how their force can either be a tool for hegemony or freedom. And that the military has to be guided by strong moral principles and must equip themselves with a discerning mind to only use their force to serve the people.
DU30’s Red, White & Blue
This clinched-fist symbol of defiance and rejection of the status quo is the emblem of those who populate this group who are mostly the vocal millennials – those who have barely a memory of EDSA 1986 and no experience of the circumstances, events and upheavals that led to it. Most were not even born yet at the onset of the Marcos regime and therefore have no awareness of the piquancy of the period. They were among the first to march the streets of EDSA during the 2017 commemoration. They could have been properly schooled on the history of the EDSA revolution, what dictatorship feels like and how their forefathers fought it. However, the passion and flavor of conflict cannot be imparted. They may have understood the dangers of an iron-fisted leader such as Duterte, but on the other hand, the man speaks their language of defiance of the old order. And his is the only game in town!
The millennials are a force to reckon with and they could be the gamechanger. They have the vigor, the ideas and technology to rally behind a certain political ideology, an advocacy or a cause. But only when properly motivated can they begin to fulfill the promise of their generation which is congruent to the hopes of the majority of the EDSA participants – to free the Filipino from the shackles of poverty, injustice and the grasp of the oligarchy and the traditional practices of politics.
Perhaps it needed the passing of a generation—31years from EDSA—for a new set of players to emerge to fulfill the important aspirations, expectations and hopes of EDSA, without being burdened by the conflicts and biases that brought about that same EDSA.
Perhaps the colors, Yellow and Red, will lose their significance and everything negative attached to them. Perhaps, the rise of a leader who was himself a product of EDSA but tried to heal its wounds is what is needed in this time and age.
The author served under four Philippine Presidents as a member of the Cabinet and several commissions. A Harvard-educated political technocrat, he was one of the prime movers of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP); one of the founders of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP); Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya; and the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI).