TODAY there are no classes in our schools to commemorate the February 1986 Military Mutiny led by Juan Ponce Enrile, minister of National Defense, and Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, vice chief of staff of the AFP. Their “political divorce” from the Marcos Administration started the historic People Power Revolution which brought down the dictator and installed Corazon Aquino as the seventh president of the Philippines.
The People Power at EDSA was discussed lengthily by “As I See It” last February 18. Now, I am giving you the series of events and the colorful people who made it happen. Ferdinand E. Marcos; an Ilocano; a Liberal-turned Nacionalista; bar topnotch, astute politician, favorite of CIA; voracious student of history; master of Filipino psychology; called himself decorated World War II hero; anti-communist.
He defeated Diosdado Macapagal in 1965 presidential elections. His bid for presidency was funded by the super rich Lopez family. Marcos was a man of destiny. He became the first Filipino to win re-election in 1969. He said, “This nation will be great again.” He developed a “kennel” loaded with followers, his “tutas” (puppies).
By operations of law, Marcos should vacate Malacanang and the presidency in September 1972 but he declared Martial Law. Reasons: to establish a new society, to attain a democratic revolution, to have constitutional authoritarianism, to democratize wealth, to discipline the oligarchs, to bring forward the rebellion of the poor, to reform the political system, to have participatory democracy, to put an end to the politics of conflict, to make life for the Filipinos authentically human. How touching! So there goes Presidential Decree 1081, as read by Pres. Secretary Kit Tatad.
Filipinos were made to believe that they were brought to heaven. But, it turned out that they were falling from heaven. Not all Filipinos were sleeping with nightmares. The political opposition, the fighting press, the militant students, the organized masses and the enlightened professionals were still awake. The number one political rival of the Apo was Secretary Benigno Aquino, scion of a landed family in Tarlac, a Manila Times reporter when he was 17, mayor of Concepcion at 22, governor of Tarlac at 30, and senator at 35. But, Marcos ordered him arrested; he was allowed to go to the US for a heart by-pass operation; he was a scholar there; he was with his kids and Tita Cory.
Marcos secret weapon was his “Maganda”, Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Beauty queen (in Leyte only), aspiring singer, governor of Metro Manila, Minister of Human Settlements, ambassadress of “whatever”, patroness of the arts and culture, giver of position and favor. She said, “I’m going to spend the rest of my days as First Lady being mother to the poor. The only people who will be hungry are the lazy ones.”
On the other hand, Ninoy Aquino and his Laban friends opposed Marcos dictatorship. “The Filipino is worth dying for… We must teach our people to respond, not merely to react… we must tell them, to the point of being repetitious – we must criticize to be free because, we are free only when we criticize.”
After 10 years of Martial Law, the New People’s Army followers were said to increase up to 7,000 in 50 provinces. The military was with Marcos. Chief of Staff Fabian Ver was the bang-bang man. He was Marcos’ cousin, driver, bodyguard and most trusted guy. The military was expert in making anti-Marcos characters disappear; famous for illegal detention, torture, and summary execution a.k.a. “salvaging”. The priests and the religious worked more openly with the resistance groups and political detainees. In Negros Occidental, Ka Bishop Tony Fortich was in the frontline. Father Frank Fernandez was motivated to take his choice. Fr. Vicente Pelobello made good with his knowledge of the Church of the Poor. And, so many of them… They were part of a “bubbling social volcano.”
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund made our economy undergo drastic restructuring. Our sugar industry was hit. It was a painful stab to the sugarcane planters, and it was atomic bomb explosion to the sugarcane workers. A handful of rice was for breakfast and lunch combined, and dinner was just a long sleep! I knew this because my parents were sugarcane workers.
The Philippines became a nation of migrants. The Pinoys became our best export. There was heavy oil tax imposition. In 16 years of his administration, Marcos spent 275 billion pesos, more than eight times what his predecessors have spent in 444 years (only 33 billion pesos) – from Magellan up to the time of Pres. Diosdado Macapagal. Utang dito, utang doon! Walang utang na loob! Lahat utang sa labas! Wala ka nang makapitan. Kapit ka na lang sa tutong!
In 1986, I was a teacher in public school (Dona Montserrat Lopez Memorial High School). I was teaching Communication Arts, Theater Arts and Journalism. I must admit, I was carried away by the turn of events. I started my class with a prayer and with a song, “Gising na bunso ko… Umaga na yata… Nagtitilaokan ang manok sa lupa… Gising na bunso ko… Kundi ka kikilos lilipas ang araw nang walang natatapos.” I was a “black listed” teacher!
Ninoy Aquino is right. “We must preserve yesterday’s heritage, fight for today’s ephemeral interests, but die, if need be, for tomorrow’s hopes. Human liberation is the result of man’s participating responsibility and of responsible participation!”
A hot salute to those who still believe in the spirit of EDSA 1986!