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UPDATED: Sonny Melencio and Walden Bello on the 30th anniversary of the Edsa Uprising
What is there to celebrate on the 30th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution?By Sonny Melencio
February 25, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- I once had a chance to be a guest at the Rembrandt Kapihan together with a KBL (New Society Movement) senatorial candidate for the May 2016 election. The foul-mouthed KBL candidate went on a cursing spree to lambast an imaginary audience that had made Ninoy Aquino (the murdered father of current President Benigno Aquino, also known as PNoy) a hero of the first "Edsa Revolution". This seemed to be a response to my statement that we were going to celebrate Edsa 1 on February 25 with the usual protest rallies.
The KBL candidate spewed a barrage of crisp curses against the people’s uprising that brought down the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. After Marcos fled the country in 1986, everything went downhill for the country and the people, according to the KBL candidate.
I was with PLM (Party of the Labouring Masses) senatorial candidate General Diosdado Valeroso and our reaction to the diatribe was to explain that we would be celebrating Edsa 1, not for Ninoy Aquino or for the so-called heroes of Edsa 1 which included Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile; we are celebrating Edsa 1 because for a short period, we became witnesses to the first victorious people’s power uprising in Asia. Edsa 1 represented two strong poles and forces of a great movement that converged and merged in February 1986: a massive people’s uprising, in which millions of civilians (the civil society groups combined) participated; and a military rebellion, involving mostly young officers and soldiers.
General Valeroso and I represent the two poles that converged at Edsa. I was with the activist group that went underground and fought the Marcos dictatorship when it was imposed in 1972. General Valeroso was with RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement). He later founded the Young Officers Union (YOU) that continued the resistance against the elitist neoliberal regime of Cory Aquino. I was arrested and tortured by the Marcos minions in the military in 1977. General Valeroso was arrested in the 1990s and jailed for a long time. Today, we have joined forces to intervene in the May 2016 elections: General Valeroso as our senatorial candidate, and I as the chairman of PLM which has fielded him in this election.
What is there to celebrate on the anniversary of Edsa 1?
Edsa 1 started on its own footing, as a confluence of activist and military groups in opposition to the dictatorship. But like the Philippine Revolution against Spain, it became an unfinished undertaking. If the first Philippine Revolution was hijacked by the elite represented by the Aguinaldos, the Buencaminos and the Paternos, the Edsa 1 "Revolution" was hijacked by the elite faction that installed Corazon "Cory" Aquino as its leader. Take note that I put Revolution in quotes to denote that it was not a full-fledged revolution. It was just a regime change; it was not a revolution in terms of social change, where the dominated classes overthrew the dominant classes in the contest for power.
It’s true that after Edsa 1, everything went downhill (though this is different to saying that "after Marcos, everything went downhill", as claimed by the KBL candidate). Cory Aquino turned traitor to the masses and the soldiers who brought her to power. She even reversed her own campaign promises during the snap elections that kick-started the uprising-cum-rebellion.
Cory decided to favour US interests rather than the interests of the Filipino people. This was very clear during the last few months of Cory’s six-year term: she campaigned vigorously for the retention of the US military bases, but lost overwhelmingly to the Senate who voted against retention, with people’s mobilizations and support. Cory turned her back on the farmers, 13 of whom were summarily executed by the police on the bridge leading to her palace. Cory started the privatization of Marcos-controlled corporations and gave it back to the old oligarchic elite, instead of using it for the interests of the people.
These reversals marked the real colour and character of the Aquino government. It was yellow in its cowardice to stand up to foreign intervention and control. It was a mere continuation of elite rule as it maintained most of the Marcos policies that favor foreign interests while ensuring the return to economic and political power of the old oligarchy where her clan belongs. Added to the old oligarchy were the new elite of Marcos cronies who remained in top positions even after the downfall of Marcos.
We know that a big number of young people today view Marcos as a model president, even a hero that befits our accolades. But this is because the youth are reacting to the legacy that has befallen them since the Edsa 1 uprising. This is the generation that has not experienced martial rule, but has experienced a series of failed and failing Edsa regimes (from Cory, the mother, to Pnoy, the son). The youth of this generation does not know what a regular job is. This is a generation that has been lived with the widespread corruption in government, the LRT/MRT mess, the traffic congestion, the criminalities and violence in the streets, and the uncaring attitude of the bureaucracy to their woes and privations. Where can we find Edsa 1 in all this?
We cannot blame the youth for losing faith in the Edsa regimes that have brought them nothing. On the other hand, we need to challenge them for thinking that what is needed is just another Marcos (this time, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr) to turn their situation around.
The lesson is clear: The Edsa spirit is not founded on individual heroes, especially if they come from the powerful clans and interests. Edsa is founded on the masses taking action, and taking power. This is the only way to celebrate Edsa: to continue its fighting spirit, and raising it to another level of struggle - the fight against the entire elite forces, the trapos (traditional politicians) and the oligarchy who have made a mockery of what we have fought for in 1986 and who now block us in our every effort to change society for the better.
Sonny Melencio is chairperson of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) in The Philippines and a former council member of the BMP (Solidarity of Filipino Workers).