Dear EDSA veterans: 10 tough questions

30 years have passed since the people’s uprising that surprised and inspired the world.

But look at you now: Begging for attention and blaming everyone else for the flagging EDSA spirit. Even President Noynoy Aquino, the son of the canonized icons of democracy, needed to coerce and bribe local government officials to bring “hakot” crowds to the official EDSA commemoration rites — a la Marcos. And look at what PNoy did: He cheapened EDSA by turning it into a partisan event that’s purely yellow and for the Liberal Party use only.

Meanwhile, the police reprised their Marcosian role by stopping, thwarting and demonizing the one and only rally today in Manila whose objective was to speak truth to power. Not a few of you cheered the way the rallyists were blocked and sidelined.

The truth is, you could help everyone unlock the secrets behind the disenchantment, frustration and disinterest of people about EDSA. And you could start by answering these 10 questions as honestly as you possibly could:

  1. What did post-EDSA administrations do to prosecute and punish the Marcoses, their cronies and the Big Businesses, Big Landlords, the military and police officials and others who enabled the dictatorship?
  2. What steps have been taken to arrest, detain, prosecute, and punish them?
  3. How much in ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cohorts have actually been recovered, and how have those funds been used?
  4. The victims of Marcosian terror and human rights violations have won their landmark class-action suit in court, but why haven’t they been given official recognition and compensation?
  5. What and how exactly do schools teach students about martial law and the Marcos dictatorship? Are the students introduced to pro-democracy heroes and martyrs aside from Corazon Aquino, Ninoy Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin and other superstars?
  6. Have the post-EDSA administrations dismantled all the vestiges of Marcos dictatorship? They include automatic foreign debt appropriations, “no permit, no rally”, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the ban on workers’ strikes, labor export policy, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and the debts used to build it, militarist response to revolutionary movements, and others.
  7. What democratic measures have been enacted to benefit the democratic majority? Has the system allowed genuine land redistribution to empower the peasant-majority and to disempower the few big landlords-cum-political dynasties? Has it embarked on industrialization powered by Filipino entrepreneurs who are eager to transform the economy and create well-paying and stable jobs for millions?
  8. In the second edition of EDSA, was the ousted president and cohorts convicted and punished? What democratic reforms were introduced to crack down on corruption at the highest levels — or
    the top officials only invented novel ways to commit plunder, misuse of funds, “porkification” of the national budget, and abuse of power?
  9. Did the system encourage citizens to keep the fire of People Power burning, or did it call for setting aside demonstrations and democratic action? Does the system respect the rights of citizens to express themselves, to free association, to free assembly and to seek redress of grievances? Or has the system debased, demonized and considered democratic rights as either unnecessary, anti-progress and useful only if favoring the status quo?
  10. Are tyrants and plunderers today scared of EDSA, or are they more brazen, remorseless, shameless and fearless?

We don’t apologize for these tough questions. We have confidence that the generation that fought and defeated a dictatorship would find it easy and liberating to tell the truth.

It is truly sad that EDSA had been hijacked by debased by superheroes and messiahs, along with their sycophants and trolls. We could tell you trusted them with your EDSA dreams and aspirations, and some even continue to do so despite many acts of betrayal. We could tell — and because you yourselves tell it — that you believe the fight for change ends where regime change begins.

Only 30 years after, an Experiental Museum had to be set up to remind the nation of the greatness of EDSA and the evil of dictatorship. The worship of the ruling elite that took the reins after Marcos have taken away shine away from EDSA. By giving up on the fight for change, you gave the rotten system you once dreamed of replacing a new lease in life. Heck, that system has even allowed the scion of the dictator to come close to a return to Malacanang!

Make no mistake, we thank you for your courage and conviction in fighting Marcos, and for teaching us the three greatest lessons of EDSA:

First, the collective power of people from all walks of life can topple the most brutal and most corrupt regimes.

Second, EDSA can usher in regime change, but not system change.

Third, two EDSA-based regime changes are not enough and were always wasted by the ruling elite’s penchant for impunity and betrayal.

These lessons reject and correct the official story lines: That EDSA was only a gift from God, the work of superheroes and messiahs, merely spontaneous actions, and is so unique that citizens should not repeat it or think of doing it better the next time.

We thank you EDSA veterans for the demonstrations, welgang bayan, work stoppages, pickets, rallies, barricades, communes, hunger strikes, factory strikes, peasant marches, and other mass actions. We thank you for building “people power” at the grassroots. We thank you for the books, the songs, the plays, and the idea of a Parliament of the Streets where every citizen could be heard.

We thank your friends, classmates, colleagues, brothers and sisters who became martyrs and heroes for the cause. They didn’t die in vain because you made sure Marcos got deposed.

We thank you EDSA veterans for raising high and oh so bravely the slogans “lansagin ang diktadura” and “ibagsak ang bulok na sistema” long before EDSA. For those slogans capture the aspirations of people under the Marcos dictatorship. It wasn’t enough that Marcos had to go. The Philippines deserved something way better than the system that made his dictatorship possible and last beyond 1986.

But make no mistake, the fight for change did not end when the first post-Marcos regime started. The past 44 years from the 14 years of dictatorship to the next 30 years of elite-led “democracy” showed the intellectual, political and economic bankruptcy of the system. They not only refuse to solve our problems. They actually can’t solve them, because they are part of the problem — whether it us about abolishing political dynasties, implementing genuine land reform, introducing campaign finance reform, or cracking down on corruption.

EDSA, it turns out, was supposedly only the beginning. Just like in the slogans you first popularized. Regime change could’ve and should’ve led to system change, and thus assure us that we’d defeat betrayal, impunity and cynicism.