There have been 20 countries in the post-war era that had peaceful “revolutions” similar to our ESDA uprising in 1986 – more accurately, nonviolent, extra-constitutional regime changes, especially transitions from dictatorship to democracy. Thirteen of these were the so-called “color revolutions,” said to have been inspired in some way by the EDSA “Yellow Revolution.”
But it is only the Philippines that celebrates such an event, and as a national holiday, with all the stage spectacles, speeches and parades.
As examples, in our neighborhood there had been two ruthless dictatorships. First was the 31-year regime of Indonesia’s Suharto – who was rated in 2004 as the most corrupt political leader in the 20th century by Transparency International. Respected historians estimated that 500,000 Indonesians, mostly Chinese, were killed by the pogrom he ordered when he wrested power from Sukarno in 1965. About 1,000 Indonesians were killed by the police in people-power-like demonstrations that led to Suharto’s fall in 1998.
Does Indonesia have a holiday to commemorate this peaceful revolution? Nope.
Sukarno wouldn’t even be arrested or forced into exile by the US. He died at 86 years old in 2008 due to heart and kidney complications. He was buried in a state military funeral with full honors, with the Indonesian commandos as his honor guard.
The second iron-fisted dictator in Asia was Korea’s Park Chung Hee, who ruled for 17 years. His Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was so bold and ruthless that it was known to have even kidnapped opposition Koreans abroad. Ironically, Park was shot pointblank and killed in a banquet by the KCIA director in 1979. After a two-year transition in which another military man ruled as an unelected leader, Korea went on to become a fully democratic state. Does Korea celebrate this transition, demonize Park and consider as hero the KCIA director who killed him?
Nope. Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, was even elected as South Korea’s 11th and first female president in 2012.
Lech Walesa during a visit to the Philippines told Corazon Aquino that the movement that overthrew the communists in Poland in 1989 was “inspired” by the People Power uprising she led in 1986. Does Poland have its version of our People Power celebration? Nope.
Fighting during the 1989 Romanian revolution (Revoluția Română) led to more than 1,000 killed, and after a two-hour kangaroo court, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 42 years, was executed, together with his wife.
Does Romania commemorate this historical people-power event? Nope.
We can go on and on, with data on each of the 20 countries that had people-power-like peaceful revolutions. Not one celebrates its extra-constitutional, nonviolent regime change. Significantly, what Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, and Romania, as well as most of these 21 countries, celebrate as national holidays is Constitution Day. In our case, Constitution Day is a “working holiday” and thus, passes unnoticed. No wonder, the Constitution here is routinely defied.
No People Power celebrations
What these countries mostly celebrate – other than religious days – are their independence dates from foreign masters. None of them celebrates the fall of their own dictatorships. There are three major reasons our governments have celebrated People Power since 1987.
First is that EDSA I was such a good template for Cory’s master, the US, to disseminate worldwide to rouse people under communist dictatorships to revolution. The EDSA template would have been swiftly forgotten if there were no EDSA I commemorations yearly, complete with videos of heroic ordinary people, nuns and priests stopping tanks.
The US’ first target was China’s democracy movement, which however, failed. Where do you think that young Chinese got the idea to stand ramrod in front of a tank in that iconic Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989?
Remember also that the 1980s was the height of Reagan’s crusade against the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. The US had actually first focused on Poland, and it has been indisputably proven that the Central Intelligence Agency funneled, starting in 1980, a total of $1 billion to Lech Walesa’s “Solidarity” trade union that was the vanguard of the Polish revolution. Televised scenes and press photos of EDSA I proved much, much cheaper to rouse the Poles.
Indeed, even the US officials and the Yellow Cult have boasted that EDSA I , the “Yellow Revolution” – inspired the peaceful revolutions, especially the “color revolutions” (e.g., Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution), that overthrew communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The inspiration wasn’t just on the level of inspiring morale. Formulating and executing the political tactics for Cory and the People Power movement was the political consultancy group Sawyer Miller, (See James Harding, Alpha Dogs: The Americans Who Turned Political Spin into a Global Business.) After EDSA, the firm’s prestige shot up, their ‘technology,’ even if pejoratively described as the art of the political spin, was studied, their political-consultancy business model adopted by a host of new Washington-based firms.
I suspect that Sawyer Miller was even directly contracted by the CIA, as that Hardin book read: “When the firm’s principal David Sawyer died in 1999, (US) Sen. Daniel Moynihan stood up on the floor of the US Senate to mourn him, saying, among other things, that Sawyer ‘helped to open up the governments of Eastern Europe and Latin America by introducing mass communication into their electoral processes.”
The US also realized in EDSA I how the media could be so powerful in fomenting revolutions, especially that new media – the 24-hour Cable News Network.
EDSA would be the first revolution covered live on TV. Exhilarated after helping a revolution in the Philippines, journalists lusting after a Pulitzer Prize, would rush to whatever country seemed on the verge of a revolution.
While the EDSA template failed in China, it was remarkably successful in Eastern Europe and even the Middle East, starting with Poland and Romania in 1989 to the “Arab Spring” revolts in the 21st century.
Falsely portrays a united nation
The second reason why we have been forced to celebrate the 1986 EDSA I: It was through this and its accompanying demonization of Marcos and martial law that the Yellow Cult has tried to paint the scenario of a national consensus that removed the strongman from power.
It was an utter embarrassment for us as a nation, really, for the US to intervene in the ‘revolution’ by fooling Marcos that he would be flown to his home province of Ilocos Norte. Instead, he was flown to Hawaii in a forced exile.
The scenes of former National Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and then Armed Forces Chief Fidel V. Ramos staking their lives at Camp Crame, preparing for Marcos’ attack, of the helicopter squadron defecting just as they were thought to be positioning to attack Camp Crame, the crowds stopping the tanks in the street – all these images of high drama had to be shown on TV again and again to justify the revolution, to create the illusion that this was a national revolution.
However, the first presidential election after EDSA I, in 1992, provided hard proof that the country was so divided over EDSA and Marcos’ fall.
Marcos widow Imelda garnered 10 percent of the votes, while his top crony, Eduardo Cojuangco, received 18 percent. If the two had gotten together instead, they would have gathered 28 percent of the votes, bigger than Ramos’ winning 24 percent or Miriam Santiago’s 20 percent. Isn’t that enough proof that a big part of Philippine society didn’t support EDSA I and wanted the Marcos regime back, even if just through his wife and top crony? Thirty years after, Marcos’ “Solid North” and Imelda’s Eastern Visayas, and swathes of Mindanao continue to refuse to be part of the “people” of the People Power uprising. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s strong showing in the polls, even if this is unsurprising since he is running against political pygmies, especially Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes 4th, is proof that for many Filipinos, Martial Law wasn’t the era of the Dark Lord, as Aquino portrays it.
I have explained in my column Wednesday what is the third reason for People Power celebrations: It conceals the reality that the ruling Philippine elite continues to screw the masses, regardless of whether the nation is ruled by a democracy or a dictatorship.
It is not coincidental that the EDSA I celebrations have religious undertones. In ancient and medieval times, religion served to conceal the fact that the pharaoh, the king, or the emperor, together with their clans, exploited the broad masses of the working classes through the lie that these rulers were anointed by, or even sons, of their deity. The EDSA I celebrations portray the fiction that we are a nation of equals, and we have become poor (“condemned”) only because of Marcos (“the devil’), and were saved by Cory (“the Messiah”).
On the other hand, countries that had people-power types of regime changes don’t have such annual people-power celebrations because they were honest and clever enough to realize that such would only exacerbate the division in their countries. After all, even dictatorships that had lasted long had to be supported by a significant section of their nation, and their fall would, of course, alienate those sections.
The EDSA I celebrations have only been divisive for our country, as its spokesman Aquino has been. We should stop this inanity if we are to be united as a nation in the coming years.
President Aquino actually made things worse for some people, just as he is stepping down soon this year. Since 1987, the February 25 EDSA I commemoration had been a working holiday. Aquino, however, issued a proclamation in July last year making it a nonworking holiday, which will every year thenceforth add to the misery of millions of laborers paid on a daily, no-work, no-pay basis. (The laborers and the contractor working on a renovation in a friend’s house were livid. Even if the contractor was willing to pay double as required by labor laws, his workers couldn’t be let into the subdivision, because it was a nonworking holiday! His workers would spend a day doing nothing, earning nothing.)
It was intended to be a big political ad for the May elections: Aquino’s candidates Manuel Roxas and Leni Robredo would be on the event’s stage with him, and portrayed as the crusaders for People Power whom Filipinos need to support.
That’s a big blunder, though. After 30 years with the country remaining poor, Filipinos have gone tired of this People Power nonsense.