“Yung EDSA ’86 ba, kailan naganap?”
“Hindi ko po talaga alam, sir.”
The PCIJ asks young people what they know about the 1986 People Power revolution.
EIGHT YEARS ago in 2003, the PCIJ had exposed how the soldiers themselves were arming the enemy, by selling bullets and guns at fat discounts to rebels. To make matters worse, the transactions transpired at the very heart of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) command: the General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.
That early, a New People’s Army (NPA) cadre code-named Ricky visited Aguinaldo on and off to purchase wares of war from soldiers. The bullets went for P5 a pop, even though the government at the time spent P14 to make or purchase each one.
The sale of guns and bullets by some soldiers to rebel groups and warlords is an old cottage industry, according to contacts from the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Then and now, government arsenals have become a dipping pond for rebel groups, thanks to soldiers given to making quick money.
MORE THAN a decade ago, idealistic young members of the Philippine military had formed groups like the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and the Young Officers Union (YOU) and rushed out of the barracks to defy their commander in chief, strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos. This week, the nation marks the EDSA People Power revolt, a civilian-backed military uprising that led to the ouster of Marcos and the return of democracy to the Philippines, which most Filipinos had hoped would mean a fresh, clean start not only for the armed forces, but for the entire country as well.
Indeed, for the last 25 years, the Philippines has managed to hold on to democracy, however flawed its version has been. But reforming the military has proven to be an even more difficult task.
BANGKOK — Anti-government protesters make up a sea of yellow and the other side, red. Look familiar? To Filipinos, yes: Yellow, after all, is the Pinoy color of protest, bringing back the angry-turned-euphoric days of the civilian-led revolt against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986. Red, meanwhile, was favored by the Marcos loyalists.
The political divisions in the Thai political drama are quite different from 1986 Philippines, not least because the anti-government groups actually want to go back to a time of fewer elective positions in government and argue that democracy has not worked in this country. But several other scenes unfolding here trigger memory buttons for Filipinos, who consider themselves veterans in the culture of protest.
ON THE very day when Filipinos were to mark the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising that ended Ferdinand Marcos’s strongman rule, Marcos-style dictatorship sprang a surprise by making a comeback: this time, in an attempt to prevent another popular revolt. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a “state of national emergency” after preempting a group of soldiers’ plan to turn their backs on her and join thousands of protesters in the streets.
LATE IN the evening of July 7, 2005, Cory Aquino together with four Roman Catholic bishops paid a call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Malacañang Palace. It was not a social visit. Far from it. The presidency was then in the throes of crisis. Arroyo’s legitimacy was under fire: barely a month had passed since the public release of wiretapped conversations where she was heard talking to an elections official, supposedly about padding the results of the 2004 presidential count. Many Filipinos found the whole affair scandalous and believed the president had no other option but to resign.
TWENTY YEARS ago, at the height of the people power revolt, Imelda Marcos, then holed up in Malacañang with her anxious family and a phalanx of remaining loyal troops, contemplated the possibility of her imminent, and vertiginous, fall. At about the same time, Cory Aquino, who had returned to Manila after taking shelter in a Carmelite convent in Cebu when the uprising broke out, was insisting to worried family and friends that she should join the throng that had gathered at Edsa despite the security problems that would pose.
Photos by Lilen Uy IT WAS the night of February 22, the beginning of what would become Edsa 1. There, in the midst of a sea of protesters that would later swell to nearly a million people, was three-year-old Alfonso Tomas ‘Atom’ Araullo. He wasn’t alone, of course. The little boy was riding on his […]
HE IS a practicing lawyer, but Jose Luis Martin ‘Chito’ Gascon also wants it known that among his professions are as “democracy activist” and “social reform advocate.” After all, he has been no mere spectator in watershed events in contemporary Philippine politics.
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