I was in EDSA in February 1986. I went because I wanted to see an end to the 21-year Marcos dictatorship, and I felt the huge crowd that was forming there could be the straw that would break the camel’s back.
I was a few days shy of 20, and like many of my generation I was already aware of the sins of the regime. Since high school we had been reading the “mosquito press” — newspapers like Malaya and We Forum that were smuggled in by classmates with the tacit approval of some teachers — that exposed the atrocities of the Marcos administration.
In a way, EDSA was a chance for us, the “martial law babies” who were born in the mid-60s to the 70s, to redeem ourselves. We had grown up knowing no other President, and we naturally believed what we were shown on the media: that Marcos was the best President we had ever had and that he deserved to be in power for the rest of his life. We were the children who sang the “Bagong Lipunan” hymn with fervor because that’s how we were taught to do it.
So when we found out that we were being duped we wanted payback. And EDSA was our chance to get it.
Make no mistake about it, then. The people who were at EDSA in 1986 were not there for Cory Aquino. We were there for the country, for our families, for our (future) children, and for ourselves. That we would later be betrayed — again and again — was immaterial to the moment.
When Marcos and his family finally fled, our euphoria was indescribable. That we did it with little bloodshed made the victory even sweeter. We showed the world that a peaceful revolution is possible. For the first time, we could say without fear of being contradicted: “Ang sarap maging Pilipino.”
In my opinion, and perhaps this is shared by many of those who were in EDSA, that kind of people power was a one-off. It was spontaneous, sincere, and was brought about by the unique circumstance of a people being oppressed for two decades by a dictator.
That was why when the so-called “EDSA Dos” came along in January of 2001, I was not so thrilled. Then-President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial was still ongoing, but 10 senator-judges had walked out on January 17 after their 11 colleagues voted not to open an envelope that may have contained damning evidence against Erap.
I was no fan of Estrada’s, but I also did not want his trial to be short-circuited. I wanted him to face the full force of the law — but the right way. Another revolution at EDSA was no way to get justice. By then, “people power” was hollow and had become synonymous with shortcuts and the refusal to follow the rule of law.
In fact Estrada’s exit was questioned by the international community, and it took some creativity for all three branches of government (along with the media, the so-called the fourth estate) to justify Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ascent to the presidency. The tumult that characterized her subsequent stay in office is perhaps the best argument against “EDSA Dos” as she struggled to hold on to power. Perhaps because of this, Cory Aquino would later apologize to Estrada for her role in the uprising.
So now, two People Power uprisings and what do we have to show for them? A country still struggling with a host of problems, a people still burdened and oppressed by traditional politics and its practitioners, the aptly nicknamed trapos. I’ve heard that some groups are trying to force a third People Power on February 25, the anniversary of the first one. As a “veteran,” let me say that this so is ill-advised it borders on the insane. For one thing, there surely won’t be enough people there. President Duterte still has the support of the majority of the people, so any call to depose him will fall on deaf ears.
And even if another mass uprising does succeed, where would it take us? Back in the hands of the trapos, the very people we voted against last year. We don’t need another People Power; we need the resolve to follow through on decisions we had already made. We already had a third People Power, and it was when we voted for Duterte.