Art By Lia Dimalanta
Art By Lia Dimalanta.

This article would not be here if not for 38 years ago

Ever since Marcos Jr. stepped into the Malacanang, the EDSA People Power anniversary has been shoved aside and stripped of its importance. However, try as they might, one cannot fully cover up the sins of the past—especially when the people are adamant in remembering.

By Benildean Press Corps | Saturday, 24 February 2024

It is no question that the EDSA People Power Revolution wholly changed the course of Philippine history. The gravity of the revolution lied not only in its peaceful nature, but also in its symbol of dedication to freedom—both in thoughts and speech. Millions of Filipinos gathered along the EDSA strip offering flowers, songs, chants, and prayers as the barrels of guns trained on them, all with the goal of toppling the Marcos Sr. dictatorship. 38 years later, the late dictator’s son is back in power, and it is clear that he is trying his best to slowly bury his family history. 


As early as 2023, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. already showed that he had the means to bend dates to his will. For the 37th People Power Anniversary, he declared Feb. 24 as a special non-working holiday rather than the 25th. At the time, he cited his reasoning to be because of “holiday economics,” in virtue of creating a long weekend. Though some may take this at surface level, the present development of events fully exposes his thinly-veiled intentions: to fully scrub away the memory of EDSA People Power. 


Erasure and evasion

In October 2023, the Malacanang confirmed that the anniversary would no longer be part of the  list of special non-working holidays. The main reason given for this was simply because it fell on a weekend. However, Black Saturday—which lands on a Saturday—and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary—landing on a Sunday—maintain their spots on the list of holidays. Given how closely intertwined the EDSA anniversary is with Filipino history, one would think that what the date stood for would be more valuable than what day of the week it will land on. 


Marcos Jr.’s office said in a statement that it “maintains respect for the commemoration of EDSA People Power Revolution.” But to maintain respect means to revere the bloodless movement and all the victims of his father’s iron ruling—which they have yet to apologize for or acknowledge. In their attempt to downplay this decision, they are inadvertently sending out the message that the Filipino people are easy to con. 


On Feb. 14, the Koalisyon Laban sa Cha-cha—referring to charter change—also spoke on this, saying that “the leaders we entrusted with power do not fully implement the Constitution and provide necessary implementing laws because of a selfish agenda.”


Controlling the narrative

On Feb. 25, Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan declared the implementation of a “no permit, no rally” in Manila. This fully ignores the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of speech, as stipulated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Hypothetically, if the government had any bias against a specific cause the people are fighting for, what is stopping them from rejecting the rally permit altogether?


It is also interesting how after all the sociopolitical concerns rising within the country—such as the call to reject the jeepney phaseout and the fight to approve the SOGIE bill—why now, specifically during the EDSA commemoration, is this policy being passed? This action may as well translate as doubling down on Marcos Jr.’s agenda of steamrolling the past. This also echoes ex-Manila mayor, Isko Moreno’s outgoing mandate back in 2022. 


To control what the people may or may not speak up about means controlling the predominant narrative. A lot of speculation can stem from these declarations, but one thing is certain: Marcos Jr. will not give up the presidency without a fight, and he will continue to fight tooth and nail to flower his reputation. This is very much evident in his January 2023 talk with Børge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum (WEF): “For us, to defend ourselves politically, someone had to enter politics and be in the political arena so that at least… not only the legacy of my father, but even our own survival required that somebody go into politics.”


Senator Imee Marcos also shares this mindset. In a vote canvassing for the presidential and vice-presidential elections in May 2022, she said they are “very grateful for a second chance.” She went on to detail the hardships her family went through after 1986—specifically because of a barrage of graft and corruption cases.


“Matapos ‘yong 1986 kung ano-anong kaso ang hinarap namin bukod pa do’n sa pangungutya at pang-aapi, sabihin na natin, eh medyo hirap talaga ‘yong pamilya namin for the past almost four decades,” she reasoned.


One of the cases she may be referring to was the 1998 Hawaii court case involving the late Marcos’ estate. There, he was found liable for human rights violations and had to compensate over “9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances,” according to AP News.


Based on records by Amnesty International, that number is only 8.4% of the estimated 70, 000 people imprisoned, 34, 000 people tortured, and 3, 200 people murdered.


Red-handed with red-tagging

This isn’t the first time narratives surrounding the EDSA revolution have taken heat. When Adarna House released their #NeverAgain children’s book bundle back in May 2022, General Alex Paul Monteagud, Director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) was quick to accuse the publishing house of “radicalizing” children. The bundle featured five illustrated books, namely EDSA by Russell Molina, Si Jhun Jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara Ang Batas Militar by Augie Rivera, Ito Ang Diktadura written by Equipo Plantel, Isang Harding Papel also by Augie Rivera, and The Magic Arrow by Bolet Banal, which all talked about the Martial Law era.


This pattern of finding literature as a threat can also be seen when Popular Bookstore was graffitied with “NPA Terorista” in March 2022. The Morato-based store is known for selling books that discuss politics, history, and nationalism, first founded by Joaquin Po Sr., a businessman vocal in his criticism against Marcos.


In a post made by the bookstore, they said that “books are not bullets and bombs. Books are for education and enlightenment.” This notion still rings true—how fragile could a government be to be threatened by ideas on paper? When a government starts to oppress the flow of information, it marks bad tidings for the freedom of thought, speech, and expression among its citizens.


Smothering an eternal flame

Despite the political grip tightening on the throats of activists, different groups will still continue to celebrate the dictator’s exile—specifically the Buhay ang EDSA Campaign Network. This network is composed of various people from different walks of life: non-governmental groups, church leaders, social activism organizers, and more. Despite the largeness of the network, they all show true unity in upholding the importance of the EDSA anniversary.


Participants, encouraged to wear yellow, are prompted to assemble at the Ninoy Aquino Monument on the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. This is followed by a concert at the People Power Monument, where goers will count down to 9:05 p.m.—the exact time when the Marcoses officially left Malacanang Palace. 


This only goes to show that no matter how hard the Marcoses try to bury the horrors of the past, history will forever be unchanged and remembered as long as people defend its memory. A foundation built on lies and secrecy is no stable one. It is one that looks down upon the intellect of its nation, and one that steps over the dignity and respect of those it governs.


Although the EDSA People Power Anniversary is not considered a holiday this year, there is no stopping the Filipino people from celebrating freedom. If not for the EDSA Revolution, we would not have movies like Dekada ‘70 or books like The Conjugal Dictatorship. If not for the EDSA Revolution, we would not be able to speak freely, think freely, or hope freely. If not for the EDSA Revolution, this article would not be up.


Do not be afraid to remember.

Last updated: Sunday, 25 February 2024