>This year’s anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt may not have only imparted the spirit of People Power to a new generation of Filipinos, but may have revived as well the battle between a new generation of two influential clans, the Marcoses and Aquinos.
On Saturday, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III took another swipe at the Marcoses, this time at Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who claimed that the Philippines could have become another Singapore had it stayed the course with Marcos’ late father Ferdinand Sr. “We were far from becoming another Singapore. Were it not for EDSA [People Power uprising], we probably could have become another Libya,” Aquino said to applause, during his speech at the awarding ceremonies of the Philippine Legion of Honor in Malacañang. Aquino also said that while it is “not my intention to reopen old wounds” with the Marcoses, he was “obliged to set the record straight with my own opinion.” He was referring to Sen. Marcos’ claim last Tuesday that had the Philippines remained under Marcos’ rule, the it would have become another Singapore. “My father had done so much and helped so many. The country progressed under him. Had he not been ousted the Philippines would have become another Singapore,” Sen. Bongbong Marco said. One generation ago in 1986, the elder Marcos was ousted in a four-day peaceful revolt, widely known as the EDSA 1 People Power uprising.
The revolt ended his 21 years of power, including nine years of Martial Law. The popular uprising also installed Aquino’s late mother Corazon “Cory” to the presidency. Also in his speech, President Aquino took potshots against Bongbong for talking about the unfulfilled promises of the EDSA revolt. “It has recently become fashionable in some circles to talk about the unfulfilled promises of EDSA. Some have even dared to say that maybe one-man rule was not such a bad idea. Never mind the oppression and never mind the lack of liberties. By now some say we could already have become another Singapore. That some is just one,” he said. “It is true that much remains to be resolved but at the same time, who could deny what we have already achieved? Are we not better off today than we were a generation ago? Have we not finally regained the respect of the global community as a beacon of democracy? Are we not on the way to becoming a more equitable society?” he added. Second swipe Aquino’s speech at Malacañang on Saturday was the second swipe against the Marcoses during this year’s commemoration activities of EDSA 1. Last Friday, Aquino vowed to sustain the unity of Filipinos by showing good governance and fighting graft, but took potshots at the Marcos and Arroyo administrations. Before this week’s “word war,” the children of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and Corazon Aquino had been civil with each other. While still on campaign trail for the presidency, Aquino had said he had no problem with Marcos’ children, including then senatorial bet Bongbong Marcos. Aquino on Friday took a dig at former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who was ousted for betraying the nation’s trust. He said Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 supposedly to quell a rebellion, but ended up ruling with an iron fist while his family and cronies enriched themselves. “Ang dating tagasunod ni G. Marcos unti-unti namulat sa katotohanang hindi ang kinabukasan nila ang tinataguyod niya kundi ang makasariling interest lamang ng kanyang pamilya. Unti-unting napansin ng Pilipino habang nabawasan ang pagkain sa mesa parami nang parami ang mga sapatos sa Cabinet ni Gng. Imelda Marcos,” Aquino said.
(Even Marcos’ followers woke up to the truth that Marcos was promoting not their interest but his family’s. Hungry Filipinos noticed that while they had less food on the table, then First Lady Imelda Marcos’ cabinet was filling up with new shoes.) In the Arroyo administration’s case, Aquino said many officials in the past decade betrayed the public trust by spiriting away the nation’s money. “Sa kasamaang palad, ayaw man aminin ng ilan, hinddi nangyari sa nakalipas na dekada ang dalawang bagay na ito. May naging taksil sa kanilang katungkulan. May mga naglimas sa kaban ng bayan. Kaya naman todo kayod ang inyong pamahalaan sa pagpapatupad ng reporma upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng taumbayan,” he said
(Unfortunately, while no one will admit it, responsible governance and proper spending did not take place in the past decade. Some officials betrayed their duty and robbed the nation’s coffers. This is why our administration will institute reforms to meet the people’s needs.) Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Arroyo, now Pampanga congresswoman, had ruled the nation from 2001 to 2010. Aquino ran for president in May 2010 polls on a platform attacking graft in the past administration. No Singapore
Aquino said he does not think the Philippines would have become another Singapore had Filipinos stayed the course with Marcos. “Singapore is one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia. It is a place where poverty has become an exception and where there is growing room for artistic expression, which was not the case during Martial Law. During those dark years, inequality worsened and free expression was stifled. We were far from becoming another Singapore. Were it not for EDSA, we probably could have become another Libya,” he said. He said Saturday’s awardees could attest to the dark days under Martial Law. Fr. James Reuter, SJ, was tried for 12 days in Camp Aguinaldo for editing and publishing “The Communicator,” a full-page paper on Martial Law. He was put under house arrest for two years, Aquino said. He added Napoleon Rama shared a prison cell with his father, the late former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., for sponsoring the “Ban Marcos” resolution, which would have prevented the Marcoses from running for the top post under a new Constitution. The late publisher Joaquin Roces, former Sen. Ninoy’s mentor in journalism, was also detained in Fort Bonifacio during Martial Law for “bravely publicizing the unsanitized truth about the Marcos regime,” President Aquino said. According to him, the late Teodoro Benigno Jr. (a leading Filipino journalist) had established the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines to help balance the Marcos-controlled media. Aquino feted the late US Rep. Stephen Solarz for helping change US policy towards the Marcos regime from collaboration to distancing itself from Marcos. “They, along with millions of Filipinos acted in 1986 to take back and win back our democracy. I thank the awardees for the sacrifices they undertook to restore democracy in the Philippines. It is those sacrifices that we owe today. The revolution did not end in 1986 nor will it end after this 25th anniversary,” he said. Real challenge Aquino said that after the EDSA revolt, much of what needs to be done will be difficult and will be met with some opposition. “It will not be achieved merely by marching in the streets,” he said. But he said he has taken steps towards doing what needs to be done. He said he already issued Executive Order 23 imposing comprehensive restrictions on commercial logging in an effort to preserve our environment. Also, he said he ordered reduced perks for those in government-owned and controlled corporations “to remind everyone they are mere stewards of the people’s money.” The administration also sought to intervene in what he called the “unjust plea bargain” in the case of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia “because this (if) allowed would have made a mockery of our justice system.” “All of these will be resisted by certain quarters that will be affected adversely by these actions. But these are the things that will eventually fulfill the promise of EDSA. And it is imperative we like those that flooded the streets in February 1986 persevere so that these things are achieved at the soonest time possible. We owe it to those who sacrificed for our freedom. Most of we owe it to those who would come after us to make a freer, fairer and more prosperous society. With your help we will succeed,” he said. — LBG