THERE'S no way that the commemoration of the 1986 Edsa people power uprising can be “simple” and “quiet” like what the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte wants it to be held this year. The Edsa celebration will always be among the major events of the year for many reasons, one of which is that it is the biggest moment for the country in recent history. No way can that be downplayed.
But we know why the Duterte administration is insisting on a “simple” and “quiet” celebration, and it is not about “refocusing,” like what its people repeated many times in a recent press con. The President is not a “fan” of the Edsa uprising and his followers hate the color yellow. He is closer to the Marcoses than he is to the Aquinos, He is more of a reactionary than a progressive.
Yet in that press con the other day, Malacañang wisely used minor figures of the 1986 uprising like Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, and Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, to counter insinuations that the Duterte administration is scuttling the Edsa rites. Concepcion and Alvarez are with the Edsa People Power Commission, the government agency tasked with organizing the annual Edsa 1 commemoration. Its head is Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Concepcion is the son of businessman Jose “Joecon” Concepcion Jr., former trade secretary and founder of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) that was instrumental in exposing cheating by the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections. Alvarez is the wife of former senator Heherson Alvarez, one of the politicians who fought the Marcos dictatorship while on exile in the US.
“Moving forward, my vision is to see how we can continue to live on the spirit of Edsa, maybe in different forms. We can’t keep living in the past,” Concepcion said. I am not buying that justification for the “quiet” Edsa rites.
It is precisely because of what is happening now that we should recover the spirit of Edsa. Moving on would be wrong considering how we are partly reliving now the dark days of the dictatorship. A “simple” and “quiet” celebration would only serve the interests of those who are rewriting the Edsa narrative and making it appear like the Marcos dictatorship was heaven and Ferdinand Marcos was a hero.
Impunity characterized the Marcos dictatorship and we are experiencing creeping impunity now. What we now call “extra-judicial killings” were called “salvaging” then. The Marcos dictatorship jailed political opponents using trumped-up charges. Aren’t we seeing a shade of this act now?
Interestingly, the Duterte administration’s celebration of the 1986 Edsa people power uprising opened yesterday with a wreath aying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Isn’t that the same cemetery where the late dictator Marcos is also buried after the Duterte administration allowed the burial of his remains there?
I think it is now more than ever that the forces of Edsa commemorate the uprising on their own and reassert the causes that made it an inspiration for other struggles against tyranny that broke out around the world.