Thirty-one years have passed since the EDSA Uno uprising, but what is its significance to millennials like me who were not yet even born by February 1986?
Despite not being able to live through the horrendous Martial law years and glorious moment when Marcos vacated the Palace, three decades were more than enough for the youth to modestly forge its own opinion.
According to many, the spirit of EDSA meant the restoration of democracy while others claim that it was mob rule by the minority. It is true indeed that history has two sides and many have difficulty discerning which is accurate and verifiable. This is so because there are forces conspiring to muddle the facts. All the more it would be complicated for many to extract the bitter lessons of history.
To make an acceptable appraisal of EDSA Uno will require us to not only revisit the past but also correct the narratives of the past. What is clear is that, many influential figures have been selling the narrative that EDSA was about a supposed rivalry between two dominant political families. However, People Power was never about their professional rivalry but the enduring saga of a nation that desired no less than their deliverance from tyranny and the inauguration of systemic change.
Change that is not limited to the rigodon of politicians residing in Malacañan Palace but change that can dispense profound impacts on the distraught and victimized lives and livelihoods of millions.
That is precisely why the fatalities of Martial law is not limited to the selfless freedom fighters and the victims of human rights atrocities but also the broad masses of our countrymen who were shackled by abuse and dismal poverty.
It is only appropriate that the poor majority of our people benefit from the “restoration of democracy” brought about by their own courageousness when arms and limbs immobilized the tanks of the Marines along Ortigas.
The crux of the matter is that who benefitted from the peoples’ collective quest for change? Many would emphatically claim that it was the Aquino clan. This is correct but not quite. The true beneficiaries of the “restoration of democracy” are the rent-seeking owners of corporations, commercial banks, plantations, mines and factories that schemed to enrich themselves at the expense of their lowly employees during the Marcos dictatorship and not surprisingly, continued to do the same under Aquino’s “democratic republic”.
The glaring proof of this contrivance is the absence of substantial reforms in the Aquino administration’s policies despite establishing a revolutionary government after quashing Marcos’ constitution. Aquino dismissed the fact that her ascension to power was brought about solely by a popular uprising of the people, a full manifestation of the sovereign will of the people and not of her own doing or her “special advisers” based in the skyscrapers of Ayala.
To name a few, up to this day the scourge of contractualization brought about by PD 442 of Marcos remains enforced, at the same time as PD 232 or the Education Act of 1982 is still the legal instrument used legitimize the ludicrous cost of private tertiary education. PD 232 galvanized the belief that education is a privilege and not a right of the people.
Even the Aquino administration’s supposed crowning glory, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program was proven to be a sham by Corazon Aquino herself when she introduced the Stock Distribution Option which landlords like herself availed to circumvent the transfer of land ownership to the peasants.
Another classic example of how Aquino contradicted the will of the people to please her “special advisers” was when she opted to honor Marcos’ $26.7 billion public debt even if most of it were odious debts.
That is why whatever efforts meant to confuse the youth of what actually transpired before, during and after EDSA Uno will soon meet its end.
It is intelligible to deduce that the oligarchic few maneuvered to situate their economic and political interest front and center in the post-Edsa regime and labeled it a democracy to dupe us into believing that there is an distinction between the Marcos dictatorship and Aquino’s elite democracy when there was none in the economic sphere.
Thirty one years have passed but the issues of the ordinary folks not only remain but have even worsened. Prices of basic necessities continue to skyrocket; social services are privileges of those who can afford, poverty is inescapable because workers despite toiling incessantly remain contractual, live of meager wages with scarce benefits and the government’s only decent employment program is to shove all of us to work as welders and baristas abroad.
To top it off, political dynasties remain supreme with a wider reach and the guiltless Marcoses have been restored to power.
The promised democracy of EDSA is essentially a democracy of the elite, with absolute freedoms to deceive, enslave and exploit us as they please. And our only freedom is to elect which among the politicians we prefer to exploit us next, every six years.
This is not the sort of democracy we want, much more to commemorate and celebrate. The youth desires a truly democratic society founded on the principles of social justice and progress for all.
A society free from lies and distortions of the elite and the politicians they bankroll. Now is the time for the youth to correct the narrative of the past and reclaim EDSA from the elite.
Joanne S.Lim is a spokesperson of Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK)
The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsCentral.PH.