EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

It’s been 37 long years and each year that passes, that Tiger Moon Revolution known as the historic EDSA People Power fades further and further away from our collective memory and it isn’t just because of the passing of time.

Sadly, it’s about broken promises, failed dreams, disillusionment because, to a certain extent, we’re just back to where we were.

In fact, in the 50th year since martial law was declared in 1972, the Marcoses have successfully returned to power.

In fact, one of two ranking military officers who defected from the administration of Marcos Sr., then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile – and whose defection triggered the peaceful demonstrations that toppled the dictatorship – is back in Malacañang serving the late strongman’s only son, Marcos Jr.

The Tiger Moon Revolution

Back in 1986 nobody would have thought it would be like this decades later.

Nobody could have prepared then president Ferdinand Marcos “for the wretched little show that awaited him on Tuesday, Feb. 25,” so goes the story. It was a date chosen, the story continues, because the numerals added up to seven, Marcos’ supposed lucky number.

“But not, it would turn out, in this Year of the Tiger,” Nick Joaquin wrote in his engaging account of the 1986 People Power Revolution titled The Quartet of the Tiger Moon: Scenes from the People Power Apocalypse.

That day was the inauguration of Marcos as the supposed winner in the Feb. 7 presidential polls and it happened at high noon, an hour supposedly for state funerals.

But while Marcos took his oath, he never became president again. “As the erstwhile strongman raised his right hand in solemn oath, the television coverage was abruptly cut off,” Joaquin, who had used the pen name Quijano de Manila, wrote in his book.

Disgruntled Filipinos and government officials would not allow it. Days before, they were already camping out on EDSA to protest Marcos’ supposed victory in the recent polls.

“Thus began the epic vigil on the highway during those four white nights of the tiger moon,” Joaquin narrated.

The Aquino administration

Corazon Aquino, the widow of Aquino, then became president, and a new constitution was approved in 1987.

Economic growth rate increased steadily from 3.5 percent in 1986 to 4.3 percent in 1987, peaking in 1988 at 6.7 percent.

She instituted reforms which brought the economy back on its feet but her administration was tumultuous, with numerous coup attempts, and she was unable to put enough lasting, structural changes in governance, paving the way for the same elite-driven economy to continue.

It was the same with succeeding administrations even though it could have been a chance to create stronger institutions – from the judiciary to education to health – to create a more inclusive economy for the Philippines and to get millions of people out of poverty.

The judiciary was particularly important because a strong judiciary would have brought to justice the perpetrators of martial law, those involved in the torture of tens of thousands of activists and the cronies as well the full recovery of ill-gotten wealth. Education, too, was equally important because it would have reminded students of what happened during the years before EDSA of 1986.

But Corazon Aquino’s administration was mired by destabilization plots and bad politics, including infighting among its men and women.

The 1987 Constitution

Her term also left us a new constitution, the 1987 Constitution which abolished the two-party system and allowed corrupt officials to return to power through a multi-party system, as veteran journalist Tony Lopez pointed out.

Look at the Senate now, for instance. We now have plunderers, ex-convicts and influence-peddlers in what was once an institution occupied by statesmen and ladies and gentlemen of the old school.

The number one senator, in fact, complains of not being able to womanize because of his duties as a lawmaker. He may have been joking but nobody is laughing. Actually, even the jokes from our lawmakers are now devoid of intellectual humor. What a joke this institution has become.

Thus, in the years that followed, it was still more of the same, isolating the poorest of the poor, the farmers, the fisherfolk and those who live on hand-to-mouth existence. This, while big businesses thrived and expanded, some at the expense of underpaid workers and employees. Actually, every administration seems to have its own set of favored businessmen.

Business itself was not the problem. It is the collusion between greedy and dishonest business people and corrupt government officials that is wrong. It’s the reason we have laws formulated to favor businesses and give them monopolies of certain sectors.

And because most Filipinos are busy trying to survive the daily grind, we have forgotten how this nation once fought so hard to restore democracy in the country.

Against this backdrop, political patronage and corruption, which lead to inequality, are still rampant.

The result is that we have an electorate tired of the same old banana republic, one which has always been under the same elite rule and which continues to see one of the highest inequality rates in the world.

Moving forward

A country’s development is forever a work in progress but I hope that we move forward and not in circles or in an endless roundabout.

As the nation observed the 37th year of EDSA yesterday, may we remember the constant need to strengthen our democracy.

To do this, we need a strong leader with the political will to strengthen our institutions and improve our socio-political environment and the spine to say no to big business when they are asking too much.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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