Thirty-three years ago, a corrupt dictator – Ferdinand Marcos- was deposed in a matter of four days without bloodshed. It was an event that was totally unexpected. It happened three years after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino which consequently heightened the resistance against the dictatorial regime. It happened two weeks after a snap election which was denounced by the CBCP as fraudulent. It was triggered by bungled coup attempt and the call of Cardinal Sin for the people to come to EDSA to prevent loyalist troops from going after the coup plotters holed up in Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo. It came to be known as the People Power revolution which installed as president Cory Aquino – the widow of Ninoy Aquino.
For many, it was indeed a miraculous event. It was our Exodus. It was a manifestation of God’s intervention in our country’s history. God was revealed as liberator, on side of the poor, who “cast the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” It was time when we were proud to be Filipinos. EDSA was touted as our gift to the world, a proof that it was possible to peacefully end despotic regimes. Thus, it became an inspiration for non-violent resistance all over the world. Several years later, we witnessed the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the emergence of democratic regimes in Eastern Europe, in Latin America and in South Africa.
Yet, over three decades later, we look at our country and ask, was it really a revolution? Did EDSA change and transform our country?
The Marcoses are still around around. Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has received a hero’s burial. Imelda Marcos is still scot-free in spite of being convicted by the Sandigan Bayan. It is believed that the Marcos billions financed the vice-presidential candidacy of Bongbong Marcos and the senatorial candidacy of Imee Marcos who is being endorsed by Rodrigo Duterte out of gratitude for having supported his presidential candidacy.
We have a president who idolizes the former dictator and has followed his example by exercising hegemony and total control not just over the executive branch but also the legislative and judiciary branches of government. He has imposed perpetual Martial Law in Mindanao. He acts as if he is above the law and can say anything he likes. The extrajudicial killings already claimed that lives of over 30,000 people in less than three years – casualties on the so-called War on Drugs and the counter-insurgency war. This has surpassed the EJK that took place in 14 years of the Marcos dictatorial rule. Peace remains an elusive dream in spite of the peace agreement with the MILF and the BOL. The peace negotiations with the NDF/CPP/NPA which started 32 years ago have not prospered and have once again collapsed and this has led to the escalation of the armed hostilities. We continue to be led by corrupt and incompetent politicians whose only concern is to enrich themselves and their families and perpetuate themselves in power, making a mockery of the anti-dynasty law in the constitution. The opposition has been intimidated and emasculated. Those who dared to stand up to the president – like Leila DeLima and Antonio Trillanes III have been harassed and arrested by false charges. The media is constantly under attack while false news proliferate in the cyberspace. The clergy – including bishops - continue to receive death threats and three priests have already been assassinated. Meanwhile, majority of the people remain poor. The prices of goods continue to rise. The poor are victims of violence, injustice, violation of human rights. They are the most vulnerable to calamities due to the destruction of the environment and climate change.
Looking back over the years after EDSA, we realize that there was no genuine revolution. There was a restoration of democracy – but only in form but not in substance. What was restored was elitist democracy – with a self-serving political class motivated by wealth, power and privilege – perpetuated by an electorate most of whom lack conscience and intelligence, easily fooled by empty promises, that can easily be bought and that can be captivated by candidates who are popular (boxers, entertainers, actors) even if they are incompetent. Fifteen years after EDSA, there was another EDSA II which ousted a corrupt and incompetent president. But things remain the same. Why is this?
We lack genuine selfless leaders who have integrity, principles and competence. We lack compassionate and courageous servant-leaders, with vision and wisdom, capable of inspiring everyone to work for the common good and with a program of transforming our political and economic system and structures and bringing about genuine justice, peace and progress. But we cannot blame everything on the kind of leaders that we have. We deserve the leaders we have elected. They reflect who we are – the worst version of ourselves. Change and revolution begins in each one of us. What is required is a moral revolution. To be able to recognize good and evil within and outside ourselves, to overcome our selfishness and greed, to undergo a process of conversion, to reject all forms and manifestation of evil, to become more honest and compassionate. We need to undergo a process of purification.
I believe that EDSA was our Exodus – it was a moment in our history that we as a people experienced God’s liberating intervention. But as the biblical story reminds us, the people of God had to journey across the desert for forty years before reaching the promised land. Why did it have to take that long? Because liberation from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule was the easy part. The inner liberation – the spiritual-moral liberation takes time. Structural revolution or transformation has to be accompanied by moral, inner revolution and transformation. The present authoritarian regime that came to power with the promise of change – pagbabago - will not last, it will surely come to an end. But unless we undergo inner change as a people, we will have more of the same.
There was a time when we were proud to be Filipinos. Now many of us are ashamed to be Filipinos. I hope that someday, we will be proud once again of who we are.