Preserving the legacy of People Power
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2019 - 12:00am

A few years ago, I had reprinted this column from the book, “The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative” (Imprint Publishing, 2015) that I co-wrote with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. I strongly feel that today’s youth need to be reminded again and again of this  historic turning point:

It was a Tuesday morning three decades ago, the exact date was Feb. 25, 1986. Along with more than a million other Filipinos, we had been staying in EDSA since Saturday. That morning, I was told that Corazon Aquino was going to take her oath as president of the republic of the Philippines. Finally, the 14-year Marcos rule built on lies, oppression, and massive corruption would come to an end. 

Along with several friends and people we connected with, I had been sleeping in my car parked on a side street of EDSA. Food was available because people kept bringing and distributing all kinds of food. Among those that I banded with were party mates from PDP-Laban, colleagues from the Jaime Ferrer for Assemblyman Movement in Parañaque City, former friends from my La Salle college days, and associates in the business world. I was fortunate that I had been active in the Cory Aquino for President Movement and, therefore, had met a lot of opposition leaders. We formed a natural network during those critical four days in EDSA. 

I decided to walk to Club Filipino to witness what I  knew would be a historical occasion. When I got there, the room where the oathtaking was going to be held was already crowded. The entire premises of Club Filipino was also jampacked. I decided to wait at a street near the Greenhills Shopping Center, right in front of Club Filipino, for some companions who were fortunate to have found space inside the room. 

After the ceremony, Nene Pimentel, Jaime Ferrer, Dante Tinga, Zaf Respicio, Lito Lorenzana, and I decided to go somewhere and discuss what had just taken place. We also reflected on what would happen next. 

The inaugural speech of President Aquino on Feb. 25, 1986 was brief but, as always, communicated her message in a memorable way. Here is her speech:

My brothers and sisters, I am grateful to the authority you have given me today. And I promise to offer all that I can do to serve you. 

It is fitting and proper that, as our people lost their rights and liberties at midnight 14 years ago, the people should formally recover those lost rights and liberties in the full light of day.

Ninoy believed that only the united strength of the Filipino people would suffice to overturn a tyranny so evil and so well organized. The brutal murder of Ninoy created that unity in strength that has come to be known as Lakas ng Bayan – People Power.

People Power shattered the dictatorship, protected those in the military that chose freedom, and today has established a government dedicated to this protection and meaningful fulfilment of our rights and liberties. 

We became exiles, we Filipinos who are at home only in freedom, when Marcos destroyed the republic 14 years ago. 

Now, by God’s grace and the power of the people, we are free again. 

We want to make a special appeal to those who have not yet joined us. Do not engage in any further action against the people and instead, be among those who will lend a hand to rebuild the country.

There is now a new generation of Filipinos – the millennial generation – who has very little knowledge of the Marcos dictatorship. And then there are the principal beneficiaries of the Marcos rule – family, cronies, and sycophants – who are trying to rewrite history.

It is critical to remind our people that the Marcos martial law rule was built on lies, oppression, and unparalleled corruption. 

The most brazen lie was when Marcos said he was imposing martial law for the good of the Filipino people. The truth was that when Marcos became president in 1965, the Philippines was the second richest country in Asia, next only to Japan. When he was finally ousted, the country had become the “sick man of Asia.” Marcos imposed martial law because he knew that in a democratic election he was going to lose. But he and his family wanted to keep their power and wealth intact for succeeding Marcos generations. 

Marcos maintained his power through the use of arbitrary arrest, detention, salvaging, and torture. He had tens of thousands, including opposition leaders like Diokno and Tañada, and publishers like Chino Roces, arrested. Then Ninoy Aquino was also detained, exiled, and assassinated. 

One of the principal implementers of martial law, aside from Gen. Fabian Ver, was Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. In 1982, Enrile was quoted as saying: “We presume the priests and nuns charged with subversive activities are guilty until the courts decide whether they are guilty or not.” 

Justice was a travesty under the Marcos rule. The Supreme Court Justice Enrique Fernando had publicly and servilely held an umbrella over Imelda Romualdez Marcos’s head. 

Recently, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chair Andy Bautista has given a partial snapshot of the wealth the Marcoses looted during their rule. The ill-gotten wealth hidden in secret bank accounts are estimated anywhere from $5 to 10 billion. These amounts do not include what the Marcoses spent during their twenty-five years in power. Imelda’s spending splurges in the major shopping centers of the world were legendary. Her shoe collection has become a standard joke by many comedians. 

Every EDSA anniversary celebration, I always repeat Corazon Aquino’s speech in 1999, which concludes with: 

Let me say it now: there will never be a Marcos restoration, not by hook or by crook. This country will always be free and it will always be the country of the People Power Revolution.

This truth is something that the millennial generation needs to learn and understand. It is something that must not be rewritten, but taught in classrooms and other venues. It is one of the most important legacies that the old generation can leave to the new one. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on March 2, 16 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) and an Adult Series session on creative nonfiction on March 30 (1:30-4:30 pm) with Susan Lara at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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