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A rededication is needed

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GOVERNANCE MATTERS
By FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JEJOMAR C. BINAY

Jejomar C. Binay Former Vice President

Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President

By now it is quite clear that the administration is the least concerned about commemorating the February, 1986, EDSA Revolution.

Instead of giving the historic event the attention it rightfully deserves, it has settled for a low-key commemoration at the site of the revolution 34 years ago. A Cabinet secretary was reported as having issued a directive encouraging local governments to send delegations to the event, whose theme this year focuses on fighting communism.

But elsewhere, groups diverse in political persuasions held pocket assemblies, determined to keep the sadly dimming flames of EDSA 1986 alive. On our part, we held a simple celebration in Makati together with EDSA 1986 veterans and comrades in the struggle. The setting was more than symbolic. We staged our gathering at the Ninoy Aquino statue at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, the site of many anti-dictatorship rallies following Ninoy’s brutal killing in 1983. The brazen murder galvanized the people’s opposition to one-man rule and Makati played a major role in the struggle via the “confetti rallies” which culminated in the revolution at EDSA.

This year, we observed EDSA’s anniversary in the midst of what observers describe as renewed assaults on our freedoms.  The media is again under siege. ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network, is facing the very real threat of being shut down. Extraneous issues have been raised to muddy the discussion, but several administration officials and their advocates have candidly pointed to the network’s alleged biased reporting as its mortal sin.

This statement exposes their undisguised contempt for an independent media. It is apparent that a servile press is preferred to an independent one, in much the same way that the Marcos regime exercised control over media during martial law. While tolerating the existence of a few independent newspapers, collectively labelled “mosquito press,” the regime kept tight watch over their content. Those who crossed an invisible line were shut down without compunction. In the case of we forum — which we handled together with Rene Saguisag, the late Joker Arroyo, and several other human rights lawyers — the regime raided the newspaper and filed sedition charges against its publisher, staff and columnists for publishing a series of stories exposing the dictator’s fake war medals.

Summary executions, done in the name of a crusade against drugs, continue. But the drug problem is nowhere near resolution despite the increasing  body count. It cannot be denied that police corruption is a major stumbling block since police officers have been implicated in the drug trade. Yet in the face of public condemnation, these officers have been given the option to retire early and afforded the presumption of innocence. This would have been fine if such a right, enshrined in the Constitution, is extended to all citizens and not only to the PNP. But that is not the case. Suspected criminals and street-level drug pushers, almost all of them from the ranks of the poor, continue to turn up dead, victims of summary killings that show no indication of abating.

As a result, the ranks of human rights lawyers are increasing in direct proportion to the rise in cases of human rights abuses. And like the days of martial law, human rights lawyers are themselves targeted, along with journalists, priests, bishops, and opposition personalities labelled as enemies of the State.

There is growing consensus that the legacy of EDSA is crumbling under the weight of relentless attacks on the institutions and norms that were restored 34 years ago. The challenge is to remind the people of EDSA’s lessons. But their growing indifference remains a hurdle.

The administration’s token gesture to EDSA 1986 finds reinforcement in the public’s indifference to EDSA. Analysts say this is rooted in a sense of frustration. The lives of majority of our people have not improved since 1986. Wide income disparity persists. Perhaps, that is our greatest failure.

The build-up of resentment has also been exploited by sectors out to demolish the vestiges of democratic rule. It has also emboldened segments to downplay, if not rewrite, the story of the 1986 EDSA Revolution, foisting on the public false narratives that exculpate and rehabilitate those who plundered the nation, repressed rights and freedoms, and gave the people the impetus to revolt.

Though our ranks may be thinning, one cannot argue with the fervor displayed by the participants at our assembly. The event was a rededication, a renewal of a sacred vow made 34 years ago to never again allow darkness to rule our land. In the face of threats to our freedoms, we choose to exercise those freedoms. In the midst of growing indifference, we choose to raise our voices. In the face of growing darkness, we choose to shine a light.

jcbinay11@gmail.com

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