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Remembering People Power

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2021 - 12:00am

The exact date was Feb. 25, 1986. It was a Tuesday morning three decades ago. Along with more than a million Filipinos, we had been staying in EDSA since Saturday. That morning I was told Corazon Aquino was going to take her oath as president of the Republic of the Philippines. Finally, the 14-year Marcos martial law 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 partymates in PDP-LABAN, colleagues from the Jaime Ferrer for Assemblyman Movement in Parañaque City, former friends from my La Salle college days, neighbors in my subdivision and associates in the business world. I was fortunate that I had been active in the Cory Aquino for President Movement and therefore I had met a lot of colleagues and opposition leaders.

That morning I decided to walk to Club Filipino to witness what I knew would be a historical occasion. When I got there, the place was already crowded. I decided to wait at a street near 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 taken place. We also reflected on what would happen next.

After a while some of us were called to attend a meeting with Cory Aquino in a house located very near EDSA. In this house, we waited for the news that Marcos had finally fled the country. Here President Cory also announced her first Cabinet appointees.

The inaugural speech of President Cory 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 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 fulfillment 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 were six of us together that February morning. Since then several have passed away, notably Nene Pimentel, Jaime Ferrer and Zaf Respicio. 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 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.

The struggle to return democracy did not end in EDSA. It is a continuing struggle that will require “eternal vigilance.” On Aug. 20, 1999, former President Aquino addressed a rally on Ayala Avenue, Makati protesting a Charter change that was perceived to erode democratic institutions. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

“We are a peaceful people, but a freedom loving and moral nation as well. Right and wrong are beyond political calculation.

“Our children must see that stealing does not cease to be wrong because the loot is successfully hidden. Our children must see that the mastermind is not innocent because his hired guns are afraid to finger him. Our children must see that might does not make right but that given time and determination, right is irresistible.

“We will not surrender the guarantees and good government for which we paid dearly.

“We will not so easily allow the dismantling of what took the democratic resistance many years to recover under martial law, and succeeding years after EDSA to rebuild:

“Our democracy from the grip of tyranny.

“Our country from the pocket of thieves.

“Our economic wealth that was stolen and mortgaged from the people who are back in power today.”

We must never forget the legacy of People Power.

*      *      *

An invitation to young writers:

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on Feb. 27 with Rin Chupeco, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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