GMA: People power became divisive
By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo, whose rise to power was triggered by a popular and peaceful uprising in 2001, said people power has assumed a “partisan meaning” and become divisive.
“The Philippines has come a long way since 1986. We regained our freedom, our national pride and our will to get the country growing. Somewhere along the way, we became complacent. People power gained a partisan meaning which started to divide the nation once again,” she said in a statement read by Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales during the EDSA People Power 24th anniversary rites at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Mrs. Arroyo did not attend the anniversary rites.
EDSA People Power began on Feb.22, 1986 and ended on Feb.25 when then dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family fled to Hawaii on a US aircraft.
President Corazon Aquino assumed the leadership with Marcos’ ouster.
The event was traditionally celebrated on Feb. 25.
“We have to be jolted into mass action once again to realize that sustaining our growth and freedoms meant constant vigilance not only to defend our human rights but also to protect our right to good governance,” she declared.
She said that after EDSA I, the country became weak because of ineptitude and corruption.
“A dysfunctional government resulted in insufficient investments in healthcare, in education, even in the basic amenities such as clean water and electricity to remote barangays,” she said apparently referring to the administration of deposed President Joseph Estrada.
She said the political instability eventually triggered EDSA II which propelled her to the presidency.
“I did not seek the Office of the President, it was thrust upon me,” she said in her speech.
“A few years ago, I declared that one of my goals was to heal the wounds of EDSA. I believe that we have achieved this to some extent. Most of those who used violence to express their opposition have had a change of heart and are now working with the government to fast-track our growth,” she said.
“The few who have vowed to fight the constitutional authority are now seeking their own place in our political system, placing themselves under the rules of the Constitution they used to undermine,” she said.
“EDSA I is a testament to the courage of the ordinary people who trooped to the stretch of the highway in 1986. It is a tribute to the soldiers of 1986 who recognized that true power came from the people and not form the barrel of a gun. It is also the guide to the Filipino soldiers of today who make great sacrifices to defend the freedoms of the ordinary Filipino,” she said.
She EDSA II was a fine-tuning of EDSA-1 and that both had been embraced by the world.
“In February 1986, Filipinos taught the world how to be free again. Today, almost a quarter century after that glorious revolution, we join some of the main players in celebrating the bloodless revolution that has inspired many peoples all over the world to stand up for their own freedom,” she said.
“It was said that civilians did not stand a chance against the dispersal to be done by loyalist troops. But when that was set to happen, the Filipino soldiers took the side of the ordinary people who gathered to collectively assert their right to free thought and free speech,” she added.
“Recognizing civilian supremacy, the soldier stood beside the ordinary man, and we all joined hands as Filipinos reaffirming our commitment to freedom and democracy.”
After assuming the presidency, she said she started focusing like a “laser beam” on delivering results to improve the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
As an economist, she said knew that to reverse years of economic decline, she had to instill fiscal discipline, grow the economy and invest in human and physical infrastructure.
Under her more than nine years as president, she said her government has established a nationwide transportation system that binds the nation together for the first time and the Filipinos are no longer isolated from one another.
Show of force
The Liberal Party said it will have a show of force on Thursday, Feb.25, the culmination of the three-day revolt that ousted the Marcos regime.
“That is the idea of people power. We want to demonstrate it,” LP standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III said.
Aquino said the rally would be at the Araneta Coliseum at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City.
Aquino said he personally “feels a sense of pride and achievement” during anniversary celebrations of the Edsa revolution because of the role his family, especially his parents, played in helping the country regain democracy.
At a rally in Marilao, Bulacan, Aquino said the first Edsa should remind his rivals he was not just an inheritor of a good name of the country’s two democracy icons – his late mother and father.
“Given my experience, I should know how it is to be oppressed and thus the desire to change the situation,” Aquino said.
Aquino said no one could lecture him about life’s difficulties and claim that he could not understand what the poor and the oppressed were experiencing being the son of a privileged parents.
He related that he was only 12 when his father was arrested and jailed when martial law was declared in 1972 and then visited him at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija at age 13.
He was 16 when his father was sentenced death by musketry and Aquino said at that time, “I felt the absence of justice” but was helpless to do anything.
At 23, he said his family came back to the Philippines from exile in the United States to bury their father who was assassinated and at 27, he was wounded in an ambush during one of the coup attempts against his mother.
Aquino said the people must take the coming election as an opportunity to change the system and not be lazy and just “wait for the guava to fall.”
He said then President Ferdinand Marcos wished to stay in power forever and he said many chose to fight Marcos as communist insurgents but in the end the people themselves toppled the dictatorship.
He said President Arroyo now seemed to be no different as corruption was so prevalent.
“Are we going to stand up and change the system or just let it be?” he asked the crowd.
“And once God tells me, finish or not finish pass your paper, I can look (at my parents eyes), I will be looking up, not down to be hit on the head, but proud to tell them that I fought, continued their fight and finished it through the help of the people,” Aquino said.
“Let us tell (our opponents and the administration) that we will no longer allow them to rob us of our future, to rob us of our hope. We are here together, hand in hand, to bring Noynoy to Malacanang,” Sen. Manuel Roxas II. Aquino’s running mate, said.
Meanwhile, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, said he will attend, for the first time tomorrow an Arroyo government-sponsored celebration of EDSA 1.
Binay, running mate of former President Joseph Estrada under the banner of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino-United Opposition (PMP-UNO), said he has accepted the invitation of the organizers and would be joining former President Fidel V. Ramos, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and other prominent EDSA veterans. He said his attendance doesn’t mean he is reconciling with Mrs. Arroyo..
“Before we can have reconciliation, we must first have justice. I am thankful for the invitation, but we should always remember that the 1986 EDSA Revolution was about the struggle against tyranny, oppression and corruption. It’s a struggle that is far from over,” Binay said.
Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for his part, Jr. urged city residents to rekindle the spirit of EDSA by working to eradicate social ills.
“Let us continue to remember that the EDSA revolution had served as model for people power movements across the world, especially in Poland and the Soviet Union,” he said. Aurea Calica, Jose Rodel Clapano and Reinir Padua