This week, the nation observes the 29th year of the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising that resulted in the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the start of democratization process in the Philippines. As we rise from the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy, it is crucial for the nation to remember what Edsa truly stood for: the power of the people to defend democracy, justice and peace.
Unholy but expected alliance
Unfortunately, our commemoration of the spirit of Edsa’s is marred by the intention of a current crop of political opportunists and vultures to exploit it. In the mold of former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, rogue religious leaders infamously known as the “Mitsubishops,” Peping Cojuangco, Kit Tatad, the extreme left, and the recent addition, widely discredited Ed Kabalu and alleged MRT extortionist Al Vitangcol, this unholy but expected alliance of Arroyo and Napoles minions, hypocrites, fraudsters, and political has-beens are shamelessly hijacking the people’s grief, anger and confusion over the Mamasapano tragedy. Under the promise of “transformation” and “transition”, they take advantage of the unfulfilled promises of Edsa by calling for a “new people power.”
We in Akbayan Party urge the people not to yield the spirit of Edsa to the perversion of those who intend to use it for their own selfish aspirations for power. Akbayan also caution the people to exercise vigilance and not to let their rightful indignation over the Mamasapano incident be disrespected and abused by those who want to pursue narrow ends.
Edsa as a democratic and radical struggle
The Edsa People Power uprising is a democratic struggle containing a radical if not insurrectionary dimension, which is the continuing source of its political relevance. While this ushered in a democracy that is limited and wanting in many ways, nonetheless it restored many democratic institutions and civil liberties, and opened new opportunities for social movements to continue the struggle for genuine social change.
There is nothing democratic or radical about the “Edsa” orchestrated by Gonzales, Peping and their cabal of charlatans. It is not people power. It is trapo power. These people, through their consistent actions and affiliations, have proven to be morally bankrupt and incapable of leading the people to fulfill the promises of Edsa. Gonzales and the anti-RH Law “Mitsubishops”, defenders and beneficiaries of the past regime, continue to be the most ardent defenders of Arroyo. Peping Cojuangco is closely linked to Vice President Binay who is accused of large-scale corruption, while Tatad, the incorrigible trapo and serial liar that he is, is a well-known Marcos crony who disreputably wrote the declaration of Martial Law and announced its imposition. They are not a continuation of the struggle and heroism of the great multitudes of workers, farmers, youth, women, academics, and church and media people who offered their freedom and their lives to defeat the Marcos dictatorship. Moreover, they do not represent the voices clamoring for truth, justice and peace over the tragedy that has befallen Mamasapano.
People power vs. regressive forces
Thus, in the spirit of Edsa, and amid this troubled times, we urge the people to denounce these regressive forces and their unabashed attempt to step on the Mamasapano dead to rise to national relevance. At this critical juncture in our history, the Filipino people must instead mount a new and genuine people power in direct opposition to these people, who for most of their being have only instrumentalized, abused and appropriated the people’s just struggle for social change.
We likewise reiterate our call for truth and justice for all those felled in Mamasapano. We believe that the strongest way to refute the opportunistic calls of these self-styled “people power leaders” is for President Aquino to assert his solid leadership on the issue and take decisive action to unearth the entire truth and provide justice for all its victims. All relevant layers of authority and accountability, from the PNP, the AFP and including the President himself, must submit themselves to scrutiny for what appears to be serious lapses of judgment and of command at critical times of the encounter. The same must go for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While we continue to trust its desire to shift to peaceful politics, it must put flesh to its commitment to peace, justice and accountability to regain the people’s faith and moral confidence.
Maximize reform potential
Akbayan is not unfamiliar with people power. Our leaders have participated in two Edsas which ousted a dictatorship and a corrupt regime. We believe that people power is a legitimate, democratic right of the people. Let us, however, not make a sham of it, and lose whatever gains the nation’s democracy has achieved by following the provocation of opportunists, vultures and usurpers. In the final stretch leading to 2016, a real Edsa people power can also take the form of maximizing the reform potential provided by this conjuncture and ensuring that the reforms we have won in the last five years are institutionalized and made irreversible. Some of this includes the gains in governance reforms like the participatory budget process, people’s plans in providing decent housing to Informal settlers, increased measures on social protection, and our legislative victories (i.e. RH law, Marcos Compensation Law, Land Use Act, etc.) This, we believe, is key to realizing the unfulfilled promises of Edsa. We continue by making a strong and firm commitment to truth, justice and peace on the Mamasapano incident, and to saving the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which remains to be the only option for peace in Mindanao, justice for the Moro people and genuine autonomy within the republic. ###