DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Feb) — Declaring she is “not a fan of President Duterte” and that the letter she wrote is “not a biased commentary,” Mayor Sara Duterte on Friday accused Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) of being “truly, madly, deeply worse than a hundred President Dutertes.”
“You preach about freedom as if you invented it, as if it is your gift to us. Let me tell you what freedom is. It is to live a life that is free from your selective moral standard. This is what the meaning of EDSA is,” she said in a statement e-mailed to reporters by the City Information Office Friday morning.
The President’s daughter was reacting to a letter of Villegas addressed to the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, that the glory of the four days in February 1986 — a culmination of years of fighting the Marcos dictatorship that eventually led to the ouster of then President Ferdinand Marcos –“now flickers in the darkness of fear and terror again.”
“Thirty-one years after EDSA1986, I hear our people ask: What shall we celebrate? What is there to celebrate? By the corner of Edsa and Ortigas, I want to sit and weep as I remember the four glorious days of February 1986 now dimmed. The glory now flickers in the darkness of fear and terror again. The songs of peace now drowned by the cuss words of hate that invite murder. The bloodless revolt now stained by the blood in our streets and gutters. The statistics of unresolved murder continues to rise and not a single one has been investigated and brought to justice,” Villegas said.
“Four days of bloodless revolution! Wow! Now eight months of relentless killings of the poor in the name of ‘change’! It is a nightmare, Your Eminence! It is a shame,” Villegas wrote.
“The dictator ousted by people power is now buried among heroes. The lady of 1,200 pairs of shoes is now a representative in Congress. History books are rewritten. Historical memory is revised. The hero is now a villain. The plunderers are now heroes,” Villegas added.
“Timan-i ninyo ning gabhiona ni”
Known to be at odds with her father (President Duterte, while serving as mayor of Davao City for 22 years and Vice Mayor to Sara for three years, had repeatedly acknowledged he is afraid of his daughter Sara), Sara said she was “so disturbed” by Villegas’ letter to Cardinal Sin that she decided to “take out my pen from retirement and practice once again the only talent that I have, writing.”
She recalled that on the night of February 25, 1986, when the Marcoses’ were flown out of Malacanang for Clark Air Base en route to Hawaii, “I was playing in dreamland when my father interrupted my slumber and told me to get dressed because we have to go downtown.”
“While we were huddled in the car, he told us, ‘Timan-i ninyo ning gabhiona ni. Ayaw ninyo kalimti’ (Remember this night. Do not ever forget),” she said.
Sara was then three months shy of her eighth birthday. It is not indicated in her letter if her grandmother, Soledad Roa Duterte, was in the car. Soledad was among the leaders of the opposition to Marcos. Rodrigo Duterte was then a Fiscal of the city government who prosecuted criminals and critics of Marcos, some of whom eventually became his friends (Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr., a political detainee then, joined him as Chief of Staff when he was appointed OIC Vice Mayor in 1986).
“I have a memory of myself standing on the stairs of the San Pedro church bell tower, listening to the incessant ringing of the bells. I did not understand what was happening, but I surmised that it must be something very important because my father had to get me out of bed to watch cheering and partying adults on the streets,” Sara wrote.
The dictator Marcos was proclaimed winner of the February 7, 1986 snap Presidential elections against Corazon Aquino, widow of Senator Benigno Aquino who was jailed by Marcos and assassinated on August 21, 1983.
The proclamation was widely protested because of allegations of massive fraud and a civil disobedience campaign was mounted with Cory Aquino in Cebu on February 22, 1986 when then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos announced in a joint press conference their “breakaway” from Marcos.
Aquino was scheduled to proceed to Davao City from Cebu on February 23. Thousands of Davao City residents who were against the Marcos dictatorship were preparing for the rally but with the change in plans brought about by the Enrile-Ramos breakaway from Marcos, the massing of supporters along EDSA and the uncertainty of those hours, the Marcos opposition in the city offered to give her sanctuary, even offering a seat for her revolutionary government.
Sara said her father “perfectly understood what the spirit of EDSA is, otherwise, he would not have told me to never forget that night of 31 years ago. And I now believe that he understands it better than you do.”
She said “the celebration of the 1986 EDSA revolution is important but only to commemorate what we did for our country on a certain period in our history.”
“I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else. These are the elite and their friends, including Archbishop Villegas,” Sara said.
Didnt’ start with Duterte
“Oh, dear Archbishop. How dare you say that my father has singlehandedly defaced the memory of the EDSA revolution,” Sara wrote, adding that from 1986 until her father assumed the Presidency, the nation has been “hounded by corruption, crime, territorial war of gangs and druglords, extrajudicial killings, narco politics, terrorism, protracted rebellion, abuse of power in government, political bickering and the entry of foreign mafias.”
“It surely did not start when President Duterte took office,” she said, adding that Duterte won the Presidency “because you ignored what was wrong with this world. All you desired was to put into power a leader who walks and talks like you — someone who is definitely not Rodrigo Duterte.”
“When your friend failed as a President, I cannot remember you calling it the rape of EDSA. You just swept it under your glitzy rugs and you moved on, back to business — back to acting as if you can save us all from hell,” she said, adding Villegas’ group is “sadly a bunch of delusional hypocrites.”
“While all of you were up there riding high on your horses, you failed to notice that many of us down here empathize with what Rodrigo Duterte is saying because it is the hard truth. It is truly without the air of hypocrisy that we smell from your kind.
How dare you call us pimps of the EDSA spirit and yet it is you who cannot accept what has happened to our country since 1986. How dare you say that we are trying to prostitute the meaning of EDSA.”
Villegas’ letter did not specifically name Duterte.
Villegas said: “For as a long as there is a child willing to right the unrightable wrong; for as long as there is a young man willing to reach the unreachable star even if his hands have grown weary; for as long as there is a war weary soldier willing to smile at a colegiala who bravely puts a flower into the muzzle of his gun; for as long as there is a priest willing to offer the Mass for the healing of this broken and bleeding land— this land may be ruled by tyrants and killers, murderers may win in elections, plunderers may grin at the ignorant voters they had cheated, trolls may keep hurling invectives at their peace-loving countrymen, commanders may prostitute the meaning of EDSA —we will still celebrate.”
“For EDSA is not about the enemies of peace and democracy but the faith and bravery of a people who called upon the Lord in their distress and whose cry the Lord has heard from heaven. EDSA is our people’s cry and our God’s loving reply,” Villegas wrote.
He told Sin in his letter: “In your final years, Your Eminence, you saw how that spirit was diluted and some even wanted it reversed. But you were firm to remind me even from your sickbed that EDSA is heroic courage and will always be. What the pimps of that spirit have done cannot remove the purity of EDSA’s valor and the nobility of its lesson. The EDSA spirit is pure and worth celebrating always. It is people who have raped it,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)