By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.
To Messrs. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan, Feb. 22 is the day that should be commemorated as the start of the EDSA Revolution because that was when they broke away from the tyrant Marcos.
Mr. Enrile’s rebels fired no shots on Feb. 22. Instead, they sought cover from Marcos’s shell fire. They attacked no military camp on that day. Instead, they holed up in them. They let out no cry for freedom that Saturday night. Instead, they let out a cry for help from the same civilians they oppressed. And they want the Filipino people to remember Feb. 22 as the day the EDSA Revolution began.
A revolution takes place over time and all over the land. The Philippine Revolution of the 1890s, waged initially by eight provinces, lasted two years, from 1896 to 1898. The Philippine Revolution of contemporary times was not fought for just four days and only on a stretch of highway.
The revolution might have had its beginning on April 6, 1978 when the oppressed citizens staged a nationwide noise barrage to let the dictator hear their loud protest against his tyrannical rule. Or it could have been sparked on Sept. 21, 1983 when people marched from all points of the national capital region chanting “Lansagin, lansagin (demolish),” converging at Liwasang Bonifacio, where they raised their clenched fists and sang “Bayan Ko” (My Country) with fervor before the monument of Andres Bonifacio. It must have been reminiscent of the gesture of defiance of the hero and his followers at Pugad Lawin.
And the revolution was waged by countless men and women all over the land, victims all of military ruthlessness, the same military men who proudly claim to be the heroes of the Revolution.
Many say that the EDSA Event was the culmination of the long bloody struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. It was only a high point of the Revolution, not its culmination.
So euphoric were we that we forgot to rehabilitate the democratic institutions Marcos methodically destroyed and neglected. Due in part to President Cory Aquino’s political naiveté, no military torturer, no oppressive political warlord, no thieving Marcos relative or crony was sent to jail. Democracy remained a dream in many pockets of the country during her presidency. Warlords in Isabela, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Cavite, Danao City, Mindoro, Marinduque, Lanao, and Zamboanga not only remained unrestrained and unperturbed, they continued to oppress and terrorize their subjects. Their scions now rule their respective fiefdoms.
Early in Mrs. Aquino’s presidency, Chino Roces, who came up with the “One million signatures” campaign to persuade Cory to run for the presidency against Marcos, had to remind her that the people’s triumph over Marcos was anchored on the call for a new moral order. In his response to the president’s conferment of the Legion of Honor, Roces said:
“Please allow me to remind you first: that our people brought a new government to power because our people felt an urgent need for change. That change was nothing more and nothing less than that of moving quickly into a new moral order — a moral order led by you, Cory.”
Cory could not have led the nation to a new moral order because she packed her Cabinet with men who were accessory to the Marcos dictatorship. At one time, those directly involved with the recovery of ill-gotten wealth — the Justice Secretary, PCGG chair, and Ombudsman — lawyered for Marcos’ cronies. The succeeding years saw her increasing capacity for condoning wrongdoing and accepting into our folds those who betrayed public trust — even those who mocked the laws of the land. Many of those who pillaged the nation’s wealth during the Marcos years were allowed to remain in control of certain industries, undisturbed by the PCGG. There were cronies whose fortunes grew fabulously during the Marcos years, who never fled, and rightly so as they and their business empires remained untouched, uninvestigated, undisturbed by the Aquino Administration.
It was public knowledge then who the jueteng king of the entire nation was, but no action was taken against him. Just as there were two Law firms known during Marcos’ dictatorship of winning all their cases because of their founders’ closeness to him, there too was a Law firm during Cory’s term to which corporations in conflict with the law ran because its managing partner was her relative.
Many regional and provincial military commanders protected and headed the gambling, drug trafficking, and carnapping and kidnapping syndicates, but they remained free to continue their nefarious activities.
And so, just a year after people power chased the tyrannical and insatiably greedy conjugal dictatorship out of the country, the people allowed remnants of the Marcos dictatorship to sneak into positions of power. In 1987, the people elected Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, and Edgardo Angara, accessories all of the Marcos regime, to the Senate. It was Cory herself who included Angara in her 1987 senatorial slate.
In a couple of years, members of the Marcos family came back to the country, not surreptitiously but in pomp and pageantry. Soon after, Imelda Marcos and her children sought public office — and succeeded. The cronies who fled with them on the night of Feb. 25 followed shortly after. They laid claim to their sequestered assets, eventually recovering them.
Francisco Tatad and Blas Ople, lead trumpeters of Martial Law, were elected senators of the realm. Gregorio Honasan, notorious military torturer during Martial Law, became a senator also. So did Panfilo Lacson, who was an officer of the dreaded Metropolitan Intelligence and Service Group under the command of the fearsome Col. Rolando Abadilla.
The greatest consequence of the self-assuredness of the Aquino Reign and the people’s apathy was the emergence in national politics and eventual election to the presidency of the incompetent, indolent, boorish, consummate womanizer, boozer, and gambler and Marcos worshipper Erap Estrada. That culminated in the return to power of the surrogates of the Evil Empire, facilitating the cronies’ recovery of their ill-gotten wealth and the dropping of criminal charges against Marcos’ men, kin, and cronies.
Once again, we became the laughing stock of the world. We were quick to correct our folly though. Outraged by widespread corruption, wanton cronyism, and nightly bacchanalia in Malacañang, we booted Erap from office in another four-day display of people power, no thanks to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who suppressed her legendary bellicose personality in favor of a meek and submissive posture while scams and immorality swirled around Erap’s presidency.
At her inauguration, President Arroyo stated that her views on her program of government converged on four core beliefs. One of them pertains to the character of Philippine politics. She declared:
“We must change the character of our politics in order to create fertile ground for true reforms. Our politics of personality and patronage must give way to a new politics of party programs and process of dialogue with the people.”
Almost right after the speech, she launched the candidacy of her son Mikey for vice-governor of Pampanga, a position the boy had no preparation for (he aspired to be a movie actor) and a province with which he had no affinity. He was not born there, he did not grow up there, and he did not speak the language.
She immediately indulged in the politics of patronage by appointing wholesale the First Gentleman’s cronies as heads of government entities like PAGCOR, the Public Estates Authority, the Manila International Airport Authority, Port Authority, and the LRT without regard for their qualifications for the jobs. She named former classmates in Assumption College to the boards of government entities and sequestered private companies regardless of their lack of experience or exposure to the industry they were to operate in. She used media facilities like the government-owned NBN and the sequestered RPN and IBC for publicizing her every official act. Government agencies and corporations put out big ads in the dailies greeting her “Happy Birthday” like they did for Marcos and his lady. Billboards went up at all Public Works project sites to make known to all passersby that they were priority projects of the President. One of her appointees to her first Cabinet was Lisandro Abadia, the same Abadia accused of misusing on a grand scale the funds of the Retirement, Separation Benefits System of the Armed Forces. She dismissed the recommendation of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission for the filing of criminal charges against former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, with whom the President was known to be personally close.
Two months later, she named among her candidates for the Senate: action stars Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid, basketball legend Robert Jaworski, the husband of Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos, and the husband of Megastar Sharon Cuneta.
The Marcoses, their satraps, and their hero-worshipers are now in power and once again our democracy is in peril. Some people gathered on EDSA on Feb. 25, hoping the commemoration of the EDSA Event would galvanize People Power against the forces of evil. No such show of power materialized.
Maybe to the millions who were part of the EDSA Event, it also brought to mind Tita Cory’s Reign of Errors and Ate Glo’s Rule of Immoderate Greed. The loyal warriors of our democracy and freedom will have to find a new site to inspire people to join their cause. Perhaps Padre Faura in front of the Supreme Court where the Rule of Law has become a travesty, or on Sgt. Esguerra Street in front of ABS-CBN where the Freedom of Speech is threatened, or on Roxas Boulevard in front of the Chinese Embassy where our Republic is in danger of extinction.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a retired corporate executive, business consultant, and management professor. He has been a politicized citizen since his college days in the late 1950s.