What is being commemorated every year is the triumph of the Filipino people, in the truest meaning of the word – millions massed at EDSA with millions in the provinces glued to their radio and TV sets throughout the days and nights taking part in spirit with their prayers – in winning back miraculously, without a drop of blood, from a tyrant their freedom and rights.
The 14-year Marcos dictatorship was characterized by repression and suppression of basic freedoms, rampant violation of human rights and massive graft and corruption. After seven years, the Arroyo regime – to a large degree — is comparable to the Marcos dictatorship.
There is freedom – that difference cannot be denied. But that the Filipinos have to fight for it only highlights the use of presidential powers to repress and suppress freedom and to abet human rights violations and graft and corruption.
President Arroyo, extolling the ideals of EDSA I against this background, will sound hollow — impersonating historic hypocrisy. But her doing so with flourish will not be a surprise. She and the people around her have become impervious to moral sting.
Ramos joined Arroyo to open the 4-day commemoration at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) last Friday, the 22nd of February. Doing a gadfly, he zeroed in his speech on greed and corruption – the pre-EDSA I sins that have come back.
By the direct quotes of his speech from INQUIRER.net and Philippine Star, February 22 and 23, he was clearly chastising the Arroyo government – redeeming himself somewhat from criticisms that by his “win-win” support of Arroyo he has become irrelevant to EDSA I :
“It is customary nowadays to denigrate the EDSA events – perhaps because the greed, the apathy, the corruption we brought down then are once again rearing their heads.” [Observes INQUIRER.net: Thrice he said in his speech that greed, apathy and corruption constituted a problem that the nation needed to address. Ms Arroyo showed no emotion. After Ramos’ speech, she left without delivering her prepared remarks.]
“Around the world, the Philippines included, there are new tyrannies in the form of self-serving leaders, immoderately greedy autocrats and cliques of corrupt officials that we must still confront” – [The reference to the First Family and cronies is just thinly veiled. — ppd]
“History might yet call us to come together again to offer our lives and fortunes on the altar of our civic ideals,” Ramos said, underscoring the need to “banish from our political and economic life” oligarchies, dynasties and opportunists. [INQUIRER.net interpreted this as “a call to action;” the Philippine Star, as a warning of another people revolt.]
But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, exemplifying the imperviousness and dead conscience of the Arroyo administration, dismissed the clear rebuke as something else.
To Ermita, Ramos did “not necessarily” rebuke the Arroyo administration but only “reminded” it “to do something to lick corruption before it got worse.” All that Ramos said had been in the papers. Meaning – they are only rumors and lies? The government has been doing enough to fight corruption.
He was not alarmed by the possibility of another “people power uprising”. Like the past crises, the present ZTE-NBN scandal lacks the elements of developing into another EDSA.
Bunye saw in Ramos speech just a statement of facts about corruption. Quoting Arroyo, he said, “we have come a long way in the fight against corruption”, a continuing “effort at all levels of the bureaucracy.” The lie is as clear as a bright sun-lit day.
Ramos was deploring “immoderate greed, apathy and corruption” in the Philippines today. But they must be seeing another regime, not the Arroyo’s; another country, not the Philippines.
Arroyo and her minions are not only impervious to moral sting. They are insensitive to truth and ideals that have evolved from EDSA, the first and the second. That, above all, is what makes their leading the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of EDSA I a historic hypocrisy.
At EDSA I, the Filipinos launched the historic people power peaceful revolution to redeem themselves from 14 years of Marcos tyranny. United in their quest for freedom and rights, a people – with prayers, not with arms – with the help of God, no doubt, triumphed. That was a historical fact and a miracle.
EDSA’s eternal mandate is unmistakable: Henceforth, good governance founded on freedom and rights should be the cornerstone of national unity, peace and progress. The rulers owe it to EDSA to govern for the good of all the people, not for the promotion of their selfish collective interests disguised as common good.
To be candidly honest with history, the Aquino and Ramos governments did not fully live up to the unmistakable mandate of EDSA. When confronted with political and economic realities, they understandably compromised ideals although obviously keeping the latter to try to rein the first.
In the election of 1998, the very popular Joseph Estrada was overwhelmingly elected president on the promise of a pro-poor government. That was a ruse. In two and a half years, true to the warning of Cardinal Sin, the Estrada government turned into a disaster – incompetent, immoral, corrupt, pro-cronies. The economy went into a tailspin.
At EDSA II, people power intervened – taking over the aborted impeachment – to remove Estrada from the presidency. As vice president, Arroyo became president. She had Estrada charged with plunder – as an example that the highest official of the land is not immune from criminal prosecution for corruption.
EDSA I and II are one in continuity. The criminal prosecution of Estrada upheld morality and integrity in government in consonance with the ideals of EDSA and pursuant to its mandate. After six years of trial, Sandigabayan convicted Estrada of plunder. Instead of making Estrada serve his 40-year life sentence as an example that corruption does not pay, Arroyo pardoned him immediately.
The pardon dealt a death blow to the ideals of EDSA. To avoid irrelevance, Arroyo did not commemorate the 7th anniversary of EDSA II. However, that pardon also made her irrelevant to EDSA I; for, as stated above the two are one. To reiterate, Arroyo’s leading observance of the 22nd anniversary of EDSA I is historic hypocrisy. ("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])