WHEN the Edsa uprising broke out into the open on Feb. 23, 1986, I was in the countryside. There was no internet or social media then and traditional media could only offer us in Cebu very meager information about what transpired along Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (Edsa) where the major camps of the country’s armed forces were located.
Then Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin and Corazon Aquino, the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s opponent in the snap presidential elections that he called to deodorize his regime and whom he cheated of a win, had called on the people to mass at Edsa to protect a small group of military men led by then Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos and then Defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile holed up in one of the camps. Sin and Aquino are no longer around to remember that moment while Ramos and Enrile are old.
My memory of the Edsa revolt was the meeting we held to discuss the prospects of an Aquino government. We had spent many years of our lives fighting the dictatorship and imagining a number of ways the Marcos dictatorship would fall. The favored route was protracted people’s war. That it was about to happen through an uprising caught us off guard.
Would radical change be effected by an Aquino government? There was hope but this was drowned by the fact that the Aquino-led “rainbow coalition” was dominated by a faction of the same ruling elite that Marcos belonged to but which he marginalized during his rule. Aquino herself belonged to the landlord class. How could she effect genuine structural change in the country’s political and economic setup?
She didn’t. Instead she restored the status quo ante, rebuilding the bourgeois democracy that Marcos and his faction of the ruling elite destroyed. No genuine land reform. No nationalist industrialization. US imperialism, which helped her take power, did a strengthening of its own, perpetuating the semi-colonial and semi-feudal setup. The factional ruling elite were one again in ruling the people.
Which means that nothing much changed in the socio-economic and political setup in the years after the 1986 Edsa uprising. The rich enriched themselves further and the poor remained poor, even becoming more impoverished. The poor’s disillusionment soon targeted the Aquinos and the “yellow revolt” or the Edsa uprising that they represented (summed up by the term “dilawan”).
And that made easier the surfacing of at least two things, historical revisionism and the jettisoning by the people of the liberal democratic mindset.
A good chunk of the populace, for example, are willing to trade basic human rights for the fanatic embrace of the leader they idolize. And the Marcos image is being spruced up. The people’s disillusionment is complete.
The reason I compare the popular mindset to a pendulum is that it does not seem to stop swinging from side to side. When the peak of its swing is reached, it will swing back to the other side. That’s why I still cling to the hope that the mindset and values dominant during the Edsa years will eventually be re-embraced by the Filipino people.