Arroyo: Glory of EDSA I gone

Arroyo: Glory of EDSA I gone
Says People Power now partisan

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Claiming that the “Glorious Revolution” had deteriorated into partisanship over the years, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday made her final appearance as the nation’s leader at ceremonies commemorating the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Ms Arroyo led officials in raising the flag at the People Power Monument on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) in Quezon City, which kicked off the day’s activities to mark the 24th anniversary of the uprising that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and installed Corazon “Cory” Aquino as the President.

“The Philippines has come a long way since 1986. We regained our freedom and our national pride, but somewhere along the way we became complacent. People Power gained a partisan meaning that started to divide the nation once more,” Ms Arroyo said in her speech.

Thursday was Ms Arroyo’s last appearance at the EDSA I anniversary because her term ends on June 30.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Christopher Carreon of the EDSA People Power Commission, Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa and Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Oscar Inocentes joined Ms Arroyo at the ceremony that started at 7:30 a.m. with the singing of the national anthem and the flag-raising ceremony.

The Quezon Symphony Band then began playing classic Filipino songs, at which point former President Fidel V. Ramos, a key player in the 1986 uprising, emerged from the crowd and shared the stage with Ms Arroyo and the other officials.

Ms Arroyo said the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution should be commemorated not for the partisanship that came in its wake but for its spirit that presented the “greatness” of Filipinos to the world.

“People Power is not partisan. It is not about whose politics one supports. It’s about the heroism of the many who held strongly to their faith in the Filipino and who have sought a new Philippines that stands proudly beside any free nation in the world,” she said.

Ms Arroyo said EDSA I inspired many people worldwide to “stand up for their own freedom.”

“The world embraced EDSA I in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA II in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA III but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable,” she said.

Then the Vice President, Ms Arroyo was catapulted to power in January 2001 in another military-backed revolt that ousted President Joseph Estrada on charges of corruption, incompetence and inefficiency. It came to be known as EDSA II.

In May 2001, followers of Estrada stormed Malacañang in a violent but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ms Arroyo—an event that partisans of the deposed leader like to call “EDSA III.”

Ms Arroyo said her administration had partly succeeded in accomplishing its goal of bringing disparate sectors together in the aftermath of People Power.

“A few years ago I declared that one of our goals is to heal the wounds of EDSA. We’ve achieved this to some extent,” Ms Arroyo said.

“Most of those who used violence to express their opposition have had a change of heart and are now working with mainstream society to fast-track our growth,” she said in reference to some of the rebel military officers involved in the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, who have since rejoined the government.

“The few who have vowed to fight the constitutional authority, many of them are now seeking their own place in the political system, placing themselves under the rule of the Constitution,” she added, referring to detained rebel officers Danilo Lim and Ariel Querubin who are running for Senate seats in the May elections.

“Peaceful revolution is a hallmark of the Filipino’s struggle. It’s also our guide now as we wage war on various fronts—against poverty, against hunger, against ignorance. People Power is the course that we will use to win this war,” she said.

A portion of EDSA’s northbound lane and White Plains Avenue was closed to traffic to make way for the anniversary celebration.

In an ecumenical prayer, four religious leaders called on all candidates in the May elections to be inspired to work for the country whether they win or lose.

And as with all EDSA anniversary celebrations, yellow confetti was scattered around the People Power Monument.

She has stayed away from the anniversary celebrations since July 2005, the height of the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal, when Cory Aquino and civil society leaders called for her resignation.

In 2007, Ms Arroyo marked the anniversary by laying wreaths at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Last year, she chose to attend a jobs fair at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration just across the street from the EDSA Shrine.

In 2006, the commemoration was canceled after Ms Arroyo declared a state of emergency following the discovery of a coup plot planned for the eve of the EDSA I anniversary.

Danilo Lim, one of the leaders of the violent coup attempt against then President Aquino in 1989, was to have led troops in a protest march on Feb. 24, 2006, in what was euphemistically called a “withdrawal of support” from Ms Arroyo.

He was sacked as commander of the Army’s elite First Scout Rangers. He is detained at Camp Crame national police headquarters and is running for senator as a guest candidate of the Liberal Party (LP).

Interviewed at the People Power Monument, Mayor Belmonte said the legacy of EDSA I was enduring despite the passing of its most popular icons, Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin.

“The courage of Filipinos who were there at EDSA was never gone. That was the moment that signaled an important part of our nation’s history,” he said.

Belmonte was president of the Government Service and Insurance System during the administration of Aquino, who died in August 2009.

He was recently sworn in as an LP member and is seeking to represent Quezon City in the House.

Asked if he thought EDSA I had lost its relevance after 24 years, Belmonte said: “EDSA lives on. It doesn’t die because icons even from the ranks of ordinary people prove that the EDSA spirit is alive.”

He said that even with Sin and Aquino gone, democratic processes were alive and well.

“Nonetheless, it’s good that we are reminded that we have that one shining moment in our nation’s history,” he said.

In Manila, officials and employees laid wreaths at the monuments of Aquino and her husband, the martyred Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

“Let us not forget the sacrifices of the Aquinos in order for us to have the democracy we now enjoy,” Mayor Alfredo Lim said in a speech.

Rafa Lopa, a nephew of the late Aquinos, represented the family, particularly LP standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, at the event.

Lim called on those who witnessed EDSA I to remember how Ninoy offered his life for the country and how Cory and her children suffered during his incarceration by the Marcos regime.

He urged the youth to learn their history by heart and to not forget the heroes of democracy.

Lopa said the Aquino family recognized that without the love of country showed by ordinary citizens, EDSA I would not have happened.

According to Lopa, Noynoy Aquino did not originally intend to seek the presidency except that his mother’s death triggered a clamor for him to carry on the legacy of his parents.

Lopa also said the massive public support for Noynoy also meant support for the country’s change for the better. With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Tina G. Santos

The ProPinoy Project