By Elena L. Aben, Mario B. Casayuran, and Vanne P. Terrazola
“Peaceful change is the legacy of EDSA.”
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III stressed this yesterday as the nation marked the 31st anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
According to the senator, the historic event that ended the two-decade regime of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos happened “because of the people’s desire for change.”
But he stressed that the struggle for truth, transparency, and respect for human rights continues, and that the people’s “thirst for change” remains unquenched.
“I will always be a partner for change. I will never abandon the dream of making life better for every Filipino,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel, son of martial law victim and former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., also recalled those who suffered and sacrificed their lives during the Marcos dictatorship for the sake of restoring democracy.
Dark, uncertain future
But Sen. Leila de Lima, detained on drug charges, warned yesterday that the country faces a dark, uncertain future if the present Duterte administration continues to trample on the rights of Filipinos.
In a statement marking yesterday’s 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolt, De Lima minced no words in criticizing the Duterte administration over its bloody war on illegal drugs and the continued violation of Filipinos’ human rights that dehumanizes and pollutes the spirit of EDSA.
“Kung magpapatuloy ang mala-diktador na pamamahala at paglabag sa ating mga karapatan, anong kinabukasan ang naghihintay sa atin? Walang People Power, walang demokrasya, walang tunay na kalayaan, kung mananahimik at magwalang kibo lamang and sambayanan sa harap ng katiwalian, karasahan, at pagmamalabis sa kapangyarihan (If the Duterte administration continues to violate the human rights of citizens, what future awaits us? No people power, no democracy, no true freedom if we play dumb to widespread corruption, abuses, and abuse of power.),” said De Lima, who urged the people to keep the spirit of EDSA alive and not to remain silent in the wake of a “looming dictatorship.”
Reacting to De Lima’s call, Malacañang said the lady senator is not the kind of voice the Filipinos need right now.
According to Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, De Lima’s call to keep the spirit of EDSA alive is worthwhile but expressed doubt if her voice is what the people needs.
“I would say that her call to keep the spirit of EDSA, of nation building, and freedom alive is very worthwhile. However, I doubt if she is the kind of, if hers is the kind of voice that the people need at this stage,” he said over Radyo ng Bayan.
“We need people who are truly and sincerely nation patriot, nation builder and, not somebody who takes advantage of political position for their own advancement,” he added.
Former President Benigno Aquino III, who joined the EDSA revolution anniversary celebration at the People Power Monument in Quezon City, took advantage of the occasion to deny that his Liberal Party (LP) is plotting to destabilize the administration of President Duterte.
“Nang-aalok kami ng tulong tas magde-destab? Kalokohan naman yun (We are offering help, then we plot destabilization? That’s pure nonsense),” he said.
The former chief executive said he even “personally” offered Duterte his help when he stepped out of the Malacañang at noon of June 30 last year.
“Sabi ko, kung kami ma’y maitutulong sa inyo – marami sa bagay dito pinaghirapan namin, literal na blood, sweat, and tears, gusto naming mahinog lahat ng ito – handa kaming tumulong,” Aquino told media, recalling what he told President Duterte.
“Ang tanda kong sinabi niya sa akin, time to time daw tatawagan niya ko para humingi ng payo (I recalled that he told me that from time to time he will call up to seek advice),” he added,
But Aquino said Duterte has only called him once, during the National Security Council Meeting in July where he also met former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Fidel Ramos, and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
Aquino, like his late parents Sen. Benigno Aquino and former President Cory Aquino, said he won’t allow a repeat of martial law which paved the way for thousands of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.
“Like I said before, I won’t allow it. We will fight for equal rights. If we don’t fight for it, who else will fight for us,” Aquino, who appeared for the first time in a major event, said.
He also expressed dismay over the hasty decision of the Muntinlupa regional trial court to arrest De Lima, his partymate. He lamented that De Lima was denied her right to defend herself against the charges.
‘Don’t feel despair’
Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, said she firmly believes that Filipinos are capable of fighting another dictatorship by People Power if the situation in the country calls for it.
Robredo said there is no more reason that the people can’t hold a similar democratic movement after they toppled late President Marcos.
“If there was one thing EDSA achieved, it is that people power is possible. We can do so much because of people power,” she said at the forum organized by Kaya Natin! and Jesse Robredo Foundation, Inc. Network.
Robredo, a former human rights lawyer, said Filipinos should not despair amid the “evil that is happening.”
“Don’t feel despair because if we were able to do it during the Marcos dictatorship, there is no more reason why we can’t do it anymore now,” she said.
The 31st anniversary of the EDSA revolution was celebrated in various areas yesterday.
At the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park in Manila, some 15,000 pro-Duterte supporters from Metro Manila and nearby provinces converged to show support for the president’s war on drugs, poverty, and corruption.
Sultan Yusoph Impal Guinto of the Muslim Center in San Miguel, Manila, said joined the EDSA celebration at Quirino Grandstand because they are willing to sacrifice their lives for Duterte.
“Wag nating harangan ang pamamalakad niya sa Pilipinas, kundi dapat ay suportahan natin siya.”
At the EDSA Shrine, militant groups gathered to urge the government to continue with the peace talks with the rebels to pave the way for a “radical change” in the country.
They also cautioned the Duterte administration not to repeat the same mistakes that define the Marcos regime.
The groups belong to Bayan, Alliance of Health Workers, All UP Workers Union, Gabriela, Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (Pamantik-KMU) and the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (Carmma), among others. They asked the Duterte government to show them the fruits of his campaign promises.
Though the EDSA people power successfully toppled the dictatorship, things failed to change in the country after 31 years, Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general, lamented.
“The same ruling elite of landlords, big business, and foreign interests hold on to power and oppress the people. Now, the ruling elite are engaged in political wrangling, hitting back at each other with scandals and counter-accusations. Both factions abuse the justice system for their own narrow ends. Both are guilty of legal shortcuts and politically motivated prosecution,” Reyes said in a statement.
“Ang pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso, panahon pa yan ni Arroyo at Aquino. Sino ang Secretary of Justice nuon? Si Leila De Lima (The filing of trumped up charges was practiced by Arroyo, Aquino. Who was the secretary of Justice then? Leila de Lima),” Reyes emphasized in his speech during the rally.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, also said De Lima’s arrest shows how the Duterte government is becoming authoritarian.
Bayan added that the current administration claims its victory on the promise of change, which it has yet to deliver. (With reports from Raymund F. Antonio, Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos, Jenny F. Manongdo, Jaimie Rose Aberia, and Analou de Vera)