COMMENT: Arroyo revises EDSA. By Patricio P. Diaz

[1] It is an honor to launch this year’s celebration of the four days of the EDSA 1 anniversary in the company of that small band of patriots in uniform who chose to draw their line in the sand 23 years ago today, led by then Secretary of National Defense, now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

[2] If the patriots had not acted when they did—planning boldly, improvising on the way, but always moving forward decisively—then this historical watershed might not even have taken place. And had the Filipino masses not taken their side so quickly, the patriots holed up in Camps Aguinaldo and Crame might have been crushed and the whole episode reduced to a footnote in history.
[3] But our people took to the streets in their support, sa kahabaan ng Edsa, mula sa harap ng Camp Crame at Aguinaldo, na walang sandata kundi ang pusong nagliliyab sa pagmamahal sa bayan at maimtim na paniniwala sa diyos. Together, as one people, we reclaimed democracy.
[4] The world embraced EDSA 1 in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA 2 in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA 3 but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.
[5] Our political stability today is one of the reasons why we have escaped thus far the worst effects of the global recession. We must prevent the world crisis from becoming a Philippine crisis, and protect those most hurt by the global downturn.
[6] Let us honor the boldness of the leaders of EDSA, the boldness of our ordinary countrymen, the boldness of our faith in God. Let us look back to those four days of EDSA 1, not to relive them, for history must move on, but to recall their lessons and refresh our spirit as a people against the new challenges of today.

President Arroyo was criticized for interdicting or forbidding “an EDSA 3” but the media and the critics failed to note that by her speech Arroyo had revised some facts and meaning of EDSA. By design or not, she launched a different EDSA I.

Romanticized

In Paragraphs [1] and [2], she romanticized “that small band of patriots in uniform … led by then Secretary of National Defense, now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile” as the principal heroes of EDSA with “the Filipino masses” taking the supporting role. This is half the fact portrayed as the whole.

The fact is that the rebellious soldiers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) behind Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos – not just Enrile – had their role and the millions of people had their own. They played their roles equally well converging to oust the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bloodless peaceful revolution.

Note well that in Paragraph [1] Ramos was not mentioned as co-leader of the military contingent of the revolution. Enrile had the loyalty of the RAM; but it was Ramos who persuaded some regiment, division and wing commanders to defect – respected as he was as vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Enrile-Ramos military force did not fire a shot against the troops loyal to Marcos under the command of AFP chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver. The millions of people who provided the human barricade at EDSA must have inspired more troops to defect.

Faced with the growing loss of popular and military support and pressured by the U.S. to resign, Marcos capitulated and
left the country. That the rebellious military and people complemented each other to win the revolution, Arroyo glossed over in her romantic speech.

Ignored

In Paragraphs [2] and [3], Arroyo acknowledged that the “Filipino masses” by quickly “[taking] to the streets [without arms except hearts burning with love for country and strong faith in God]” saved “the patriots holed up in Camps Aguinaldo and Crame” from being crushed, reducing the EDSA “episode to a footnote in history”. Eloquently said! People power won the revolution.

But, again, note very well that nowhere did Arroyo mention Cardinal Sin, who rallied the people, and Corazon Aquino, behind whom they rallied chanting “Cory! Cory! Cory!”, with their thumbs and index fingers raised into the “V-Laban” rallying sign of Aquino. The millions came as answers to the prayers Sin and Aquino had promised Enrile. The names Sin and Cory must have become thorns in Arroyo’s conscience.

Obviously, the millions were reenacting the people power that electrified the country during the snap election period. At EDSA they proclaimed Cory as the rightful winner over Marcos as president. And they wanted her installed President.

All these facts of EDSA Arroyo ignored in her romantic speech.

Irrelevant

In judging EDSA I and II and forbidding an EDSA III [Paragraph 4], Arroyo betrayed a troubled conscience behind her irrelevance. Does the world know what’s good for the Filipinos better than Filipinos do? If an EDSA III is necessary, why should the Filipinos be stopped by what the world may think?

Arroyo must have been worried that an EDSA III during her last 15 months as president will make the world “condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable”, her claim that the Philippines is politically stable notwithstanding [Paragraph 5]. So, why worry? The truth is otherwise. 

But she must be worried for knowing she was romanticizing. She had convinced herself [Paragraph 5] that “political stability” had allowed the Philippines to escape “thus far the worst of the global recessions”. What is the relevance of “global recession” to EDSA I? And in spinning away from EDSA I, she reasoned from false cause.

If it is true that political stability is the antidote to economic downturn, what is happening now in the U.S., Europe, and leading economies in Asia could not have happened for they are most stable politically. The threatening global recession is due to causes other than just political.

In his own speech at the Libingan, Enrile said that our challenge today is “similar to what we faced in 1986: The challenge to make difficult decisions, to sacrifice ourselves, to unite, and to take a stand for reform and good government”. (bold supplied). Contrary to Arroyo’s pronouncement, the Philippines is politically unstable.

Is the Philippines affected by the global recession? It is a lie to say it is not. But the effect is in a lesser degree compared to that of the leading world economies because Philippine economy is an insignificant player in world economy. Underdeveloped economies are least affected by the U.S. economic meltdown. 

Why Romanticize

In digressing from EDSA I to global recession, Arroyo wanted to belie the picture of the political instability of the Philippines as painted by her critics although her ally, Enrile, belied her denial. She was just romanticizing.

In [Paragraph 6], she was back romanticizing EDSA I. She rhapsodized the boldness of the EDSA I players, exhorted the Filipinos today to recall the “lessons” of EDSA I but “not to relive them, for history must move on” – only to “refresh our spirit as a people against the new challenges of today”. Empty rhetoric, just rhapsodizing! How can the past refresh today’s spirit without reliving it? Does history every move on?

Why romanticize? To ease her troubled conscience! Saying the truth of EDSA I would trouble more that conscience. Her 8-year presidency has veered more toward Marcos than followed the ideals of EDSA.

Thrust to the presidency by EDSA II, she accepted the same mandate of President Aquino from EDSA I embodied in the ideals of EDSA. These were etched in Article II of the Provisional Freedom Constitution and impressed or imprinted in the 1987 Constitution. She failed to live up to her mandate.

Why romanticize? She is most unfit to speak about, of or for EDSA. Her 6-paragraph speech of 12 sentences testifies to that. In skipping the main celebration on February 25, her critics and media should have commended her for her honesty instead of hitting her for her no-show.

Remember the joke in school? If you cannot solve a tough Math test problem, change the problem.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected])

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