For all the “mamamayang Liberal,” what is the significance of August 21? We all know, of course, that it is a special non-working holiday in commemoration of the death of Ninoy Aquino.
But, is that all there is to it? What change did Ninoy’s death bring about for our country?
C’mon, let us take a quick look back at history and, together, let us find out how August 21 has figured in the most critical periods in our annals and how it has managed to change the course of our history.
1971 – Plaza Miranda bombing
On the evening of August 21, 1971, at the height of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, two hand grenades exploded at the exact time that then LP Pres. Gerry Roxas was proclaiming on stage the senatorial and Manila local candidates that the party was fielding for the oncoming midterm elections.
It was an attempt to decimate the LP senatorial slate.
9 died and 95 got wounded as a result of that nefarious incident.
Among those who were seriously injured were then Senators Gerry Roxas and Serge Osmeña Jr., LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, John Henry Osmeña, Genaro Magsaysay, Ramon Mitra Jr., Salipada Pendatun, Melanio Singson, Eddie Ilarde, and Eva Estrada-Kalaw (a Nacionalista guest candidate of the LP), and Ramon Bagatsing, the LP’s Manila mayoral candidate.
A few days after the grim and bloody Plaza Miranda bombing, Marcos assumed emergency powers and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
During the November 1971 elections, Marcos’ senatorial candidates experienced a terrible and unexpected defeat — a sign that Marcos was losing his political grip on the nation that was beginning to turn against him.
In September of 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law.
1983 – Ninoy Aquino assassination
After three years of self-exile in the US, and in spite of then First Lady Imelda Marcos’ prophetic statement that “If Aquino gets home, he is dead,” Ninoy decided to go back to his beloved country. His decision was prompted by two factors: the declining political situation in the Philippines and the deteriorating health condition of Ferdinand Marcos.
Despite all the possible safety precautions that Ninoy took (he used a passport bearing a different name, he took a circuitous route, he wore a bullet-proof vest, and he was escorted by several international journalists during his flight home), Ninoy was gunned down at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
In the back of his head.
At close range.
In broad daylight.
With 1,000 soldiers supposedly sent for his security.
Ninoy Aquino, Marcos’ staunchest opponent and most vocal critic, was groomed by LP to be its standard bearer in the 1973 presidential elections that never took place because of the Martial Law declaration. He was referred to by Sen. Jovito Salonga as “the greatest president we never had.”
The cold-blooded murder of Ninoy sparked widespread outrage among the Filipinos previously cowed by Marcos’ tyrannical rule.
Two and a half years later, further galvanized by the victory of Marcos in a snap election that was marred by blatant fraud and violence, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life trooped to EDSA in what was to be known as the People Power Revolution.
The 21-year reign of the Marcoses and their cronies came to an end when the first family fled Malacañang and was flown to Hawaii.
I didn’t think I would ever resort to this but, to conclude, I am hereby quoting Rigoberto Tiglao (yes, the same Rigoberto Tiglao who serves as the Gloria Arroyo apologist and attack dog that all democratic warriors regard with disdain!).
The tragedy on August 21, 1971 “triggered the events that led to the imposition of martial law and the start of Marcos’ 13-year dictatorship.” The tragedy on August 21, 1983, meanwhile, “triggered the events that led to the fall of that dictatorship.”
2019 – ?!!!
Under the present administration, our democracy is under attack. Sen. De Lima is languishing in jail for 2-1/2 years now due to trumped-up charges, CJ Sereno had been illegally removed from office, and most of the prominent voices of the opposition are now facing sedition and other charges based solely on the testimony of a convicted criminal that Spox Panelo himself once called a liar cum information peddler. The press is threatened, the Church is relentlessly trashed, and the women and the LGBTQ+ community are constantly subjected to disparaging remarks. Thousands have already been murdered – the poor, minors, human rights defenders, farmers, and IPs alleged to be drug users/peddlers/pushers or communists/insurgents. The culture of impunity is back with a vengeance. The administration is also treacherously turning us over to China –on a silver platter, no less. Most importantly, the very fiber of our values as Filipinos is now weakened, damaged or flawed.
In order to restore everything that we have lost, we need to effect genuine change.
Are you now ready to take on that task as part of our responsibility as citizens of this country?
“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?
I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for…..” –Ninoy Aquino
August 21, 1983: Ninoy’s Homecoming and Death
He didn’t know exactly what awaited him in the Philippines once he gets home.
There was the possibility of his plane getting ordered to turn around. Or house/hospital arrest. Or imprisonment. Or even death. Yet, fully aware of the potential danger that his decision entailed, and against the advice of relatives, friends, and well-meaning political colleagues, he still returned to the Philippines — the only country he considered home. He used to tell his wife, Cory, that he had “always wanted to die for our country,” so if the government would have him killed, “that’s the best thing that would happen to me.”
Ferdinand Marcos was seriously ill, the economy was in shambles, insurgency was becoming a major problem, and the cronies were fighting among themselves like ravenous vultures. Moreover, the opposition was fragmented. Ninoy Aquino, the Wonder Boy of Philippine politics, felt the urgent need to go back home after three years of self-exile in the US. Fearing that a military takeover or armed conflict would ensue should the strongman die or rendered incapacitated by his illness, Ninoy wanted to talk to Marcos, believing that he could somehow convince the latter to restore democracy in the country. (Marcos already ended Martial Law two years prior, but according to Ninoy, ”Without dismantling the apparatus of dictatorship, the lifting of martial law is [just] a cruel deception.”)
Ninoy was warned countless times — by government emissaries, by Gen. Fabian Ver, and by Imelda Marcos herself — that there were intelligence reports of assassination plots against him. Thinking that it was just a desperate ploy to dissuade him from returning to his beloved homeland, he went on with his plan.
“I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis,” he was quoted as saying. He added, “I will never be able to forgive myself if I have to live with the knowledge that I could have done something and I did not do anything.”
Fraternity brothers, Ninoy and Marcos were longtime political opponents, archrivals, bitter foes. Ninoy was the bane of Marcos’ existence, the thorn in his side, his political nemesis, and the greatest threat to his insatiable greed for power. Fearlessly outspoken, Ninoy was known for his legendary charisma, the gifts of gab and eloquence, his brilliance, and his indomitable spirit. Since he became Senator in 1967, he would grab every available opportunity to speak out against Marcos’ authoritarian rule. He was relentless in exposing the Marcoses’ plunder of government coffers, their lavish lifestyle, and their numerous excesses and abuses. He was the most dauntless, staunchest, and most vocal critic of the Marcoses and their cronies.
When Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, in an apparent effort to suppress the growing opposition and to legitimize his extended rule, Ninoy was among the first personalities that he ordered arrested and jailed. He was sentenced to death by the military tribunal based on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms, murder, and subversion. In 1980, after 7 years and 7 months of imprisonment, he was allowed to fly to the US to undergo triple-bypass heart surgery. After a successful operation, he proceeded on attacking the Marcos administration, delivering speeches across the country, and serving as one of the most prominent overseas front fighters for Philippine democracy.
When he landed on Philippine soil on that fateful day of August 21, 1983, Ninoy was assassinated.
His death, which triggered a series of civil disobedience campaigns that eventually culminated in the 1986 revolution, proved that a dead Ninoy could be a more formidable opponent to the Marcoses than the fearless, fast-talking, hard-hitting political leader that the latter was when he was still alive. Ninoy’s death inspired and empowered the masses to go out to the streets and shout, “Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!” It resulted to public outrage that eventually put an end to Marcos’ 21-year oppressive rule.
It changed our country’s history.
August 21, 2018: 35 Years After Ninoy’s Death
Anyone in his right mind would have thought that, considering everything that we, as a nation, had to suffer, had to sacrifice, and had to fight for even with our very lives just to win back our freedom, we would have already learned our lesson. We would have thought that from then on, we, Filipinos, will do everything and anything just to ensure that history will never repeat itself. We would have thought that we now have all the more reason to prove to everyone that we are, indeed, worth dying for.
But look around you.
Holding the highest office in the land is an incompetent, quick-tempered, vindictive, treasonous, misogynistic, narcissistic, tyrannical, foul-mouthed, bigoted psychopath.
More than 25,000 Filipinos, mostly poor and innocent, and all without the benefit of due process, have already been killed in the name of this administration’s War on Drugs. And the war is “far from over,” according to the butcher in Malacañang. “It will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began.”
In a blatant disregard of the Hague tribunal’s ruling on the Philippines-China dispute over the West Philippine Sea, our islands are now generously given to China – and on a silver platter, no less. The ass-licker in Malacañang continues to kowtow to China despite the bully-nation being the source of tons of illegal drugs, smuggled goods, illegal Chinese workers, blacklisted contractors, and casinos that are granted easy access into the country, and of “friendly” loans that are potentially part of China’s debt-trap diplomacy.
Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator who made our countrymen’s lives a living hell during his dictatorial reign, and whose economic sabotage left us with an external debt that we are all still paying for until the year 2025, is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – no thanks to the dictator-wanna-be in Malacañang who thinks that Marcos is the best president our country has ever had.
Marawi, once a thriving city, was transformed into a virtual ghost town when it became the battleground between IS militants and government troops, where countless soldiers and civilians perished. This happened after a loose cannon in Malacañang dared the Maute Group to attack Marawi. The firefight prompted Duterte to declare Martial Law, not just in Marawi but in the entire Mindanao, and despite the conflict eventually being resolved in October of last year, ML has been extended twice. It will take effect until the end of this year.
This administration continues to aggressively campaign for federalism through constitutional amendment amid its apparent unpopularity, the citizens’ disapproval, and the warning of their own economic managers that the shift could have “dire consequences” and could “wreak havoc on the economy.” In an effort to get Filipinos talk about federalism, Asec. Mocha came up with a jingle video popularly known as Pepedederalismo. She got the Filipinos talking, all right.
Sen. Leila de Lima is languishing in solitary pre-trial detention for exactly 544 days now. For fearlessly launching a Senate inquiry into the spate of killings happening under the guise of a drug war, the Fentanyl-addict in Malacañang vilified and demonized her in an attempt to break and silence the unbreakable Senator.
For the adversarial positions she held against the various policies of this administration, Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Her colleagues at the SC acted on the quo warranto petition filed by SolGen Jose Calida – a petition that was not only baseless but, more so, unconstitutional. The entire proceeding was believed to be part of an effort to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Instead of improving tax collection measures (In 2015, only 25 of the top 50 richest Filipinos are on the list of top 500 taxpayers.), the TRAIN Law was passed and implemented regardless of its debilitating impact on the poorest of the poor – our most vulnerable socio-economic class. The poor are “made to pay for the government’s failure to collect from the wealthy.” That’s the TRAIN Law, in a nutshell, according to former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.
Oligarchs, in cahoots with political dynasts, continue to control and run the country despite Duterte’s promise that he would “destroy oligarchs embedded in government.” Our current DPWH Secretary and Duterte appointee, Mark Villar, is a perfect example of an oligarch, while members of political dynasties include the likes of Cayetanos, Arroyos, Marcoses, Estradas, and, yes, Dutertes.
The government appointees of “the best president in the solar system” are “only the best and the brightest.” Take, for instance, Mocha and Andanar of PCOO, Cesar Montano and Wanda Teo of DOT, Bong Go (the national photo bomber), Vit Aguirre (Jack Lam extorsion and his plan to make Janet Lim Napoles a state witness), Nicanor Faeldon formerly of Bureau of Customs, and so on. This should be expected when people are appointed out of “utang na loob” instead of their merit. “Even a whiff, or a whisper, of corruption and you’re out,” Duterte warned. Government officials sacked due to corruption should not worry, though. Under this administration, terminated appointees can still be recycled.
P6.4B worth of drugs actually smuggled in Oct. 2017 and another P6.8B “speculatively” smuggled this month. On both occasions, what were most conspicuous and interesting are the President’s deafening silence and utter lack of interest. When will his “relentless and chilling” War on Drugs come in?
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now out of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and, miraculously, out of her neck brace and wheelchair, too! She is now the Speaker of the House of Representatives after she overthrew Bebot Alvarez as a result of the most brilliant and totally unexpected political machinations. She could also be our next Prime Minister under the Federal form of government. By the same token, Jinggoy Estrada is out of detention and will “most probably run in next year’s mid-term elections to reclaim his Senate seat.”
Sr. Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian missionary who has been staying in the country for 27 years now, was ordered by the Bureau of Immigration to leave the country. Davao’s most-feared thug in Malacañang claimed that Sr. Patricia is an undesirable alien and that her presence “poses a risk to public interest.”
The bully in Malacañang has been attacking and threatening the media because of their critical reporting on the relentless killings that his brutal war on drugs both entail and incite. He also tried to curtail press freedom by advising them to tone down their reporting.
According to the Commission on Human Rights, the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples such as the Lumads are considered sacred. However, the real estate agent in Malacañang said that, to help the Lumads generate wealth, he would personally invite investors to develop the ancestral domain areas in Mindanao. Under this administration, 30 Lumads had already been killed and at least 30,000 were forcibly evacuated “due to aerial bombings to pave way for the entry of foreign corporations and big local businesses.”
The CPP rejected the guidelines of the peace talks proposed by the government. Duterte, the habitual promise-breaker in Malacañang, “has been responsible for repeatedly terminating peace negotiations,” according to CPP founder and NDFP political adviser, Joma Sison. “We can no longer negotiate with an administration headed by Duterte,” he added.
The favorite punching bag these days of the blasphemous tenant in Malacañang is the Roman Catholic Church, along with its leaders, its Bible, and its God. The worst attack he has made, so far, was when he called our God “stupid.”
Duterte is notorious for making sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and even racist remarks and insults, and for acting vindictively against his female critics. Among the most notable victims of the filthy-mouthed wimp in Malacañang are Sen. De Lima, CJ Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, VP Leni, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, and Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Pia Ranada.
Under this administration, we are now experiencing a rising inflation, rising unemployment, rising debt, rising power rate, rising prices of basic commodities, rising fuel costs, and rising interest rates. And all these are not mere fake news being fabricated by the babbling liar in Malacañang.
Our democratic institutions are being demolished. “Congress is a rubberstamp, the Senate is a circus, our legislators carry on with their political plays as if the EJKs are not a thick red line that takes everything off the table. Both the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman are embattled, and the CHR’s existence is jeopardized by the specter of a new constitution.”
Finally, look at what Duterte has spawned in this country: historical revisionism and/or historical amnesia, widespread apathy, aggressive ignorance, unspeakable cruelty, smug complacency, misplaced nationalism, pervasive hopelessness, crippling fear, wretched ungratefulness, and pure, unadulterated stupidity.
All these could not have happened if we did not put someone like Duterte in Malacanang.
So, if Ninoy were alive today, do you think he would still consider the Filipino worth dying for?
I saw this FB post on a friend’s wall the other day. I didn’t know if he wrote this himself or if he just copy-pasted this from his ka-DDS. What I knew for certain was that I couldn’t let this go unanswered. However, what was supposed to be a short comment to rebut his statement became a lengthy article –an article that’s only fit for a blog. Read on! 🙂
True, we apparently see different sides of the picture.
YOU CALL YOURSELVES SILENT MAJORITY, I ONLY SEE A LOUD MINORITY.
You see a loud minority, I see a group of courageous Filipinos who are willing to stand up, to go out into the streets, and to make their voices heard in the face of all these blatant attempts to twist, distort and revise our history. I see a group of fearless Filipinos who are trying to fight for truth and justice despite the fear of being bullied, harassed, threatened, humiliated, bashed, mobbed, badgered or stigmatized by online trolls, rabid Duterte apologists and Marcos loyalists. I see a group of dauntless Filipinos who will go to battle with everything that they’ve got to ensure that they will never again go through the same hell that they experienced under Marcos’ tyrannical rule.
YOU HATE MARTIAL LAW, WELL I LIKE THE MARCOS ERA.
You like the Marcos era, well I detest and loathe it. Marcos was a despot, a tyrant, a dictator. He plundered our coffers to the tune of $10 billion. Under his close watch and on his specific instructions (research about the Gen. Orders he issued), 70,000 were jailed, 35,000 were tortured, 3,257 were killed, and 769 were gone without a trace. He was an autocrat who abolished the Congress, destroyed our institutions, persecuted his critics, trampled over our most basic political and civil rights, clamped down on all media entities, and sequestered countless private companies to enrich his family and his cronies. He was an unrepentant liar who fabricated stories about his medals and his role during the WWII, the source of his massive wealth, his reason for declaring ML, the real socio-economic condition of the country, and his excesses and abuses during his reign of terror. He was an economic saboteur who left us with a jaw-dropping external debt of $28.3 billion (debt that we are all paying until year 2025) and the humiliating title, “The Sick Man of Asia.” He was a power-hungry oppressor who made a new Constitution to legitimize and accommodate his desire to take control over the country, beyond the constitutionally-mandated maximum of two 4-year terms in office.
YOU SEE VICTIMS, I SEE PEACE AND ORDER.
You see peace and order, I read and research and listen about the horrors and atrocities of ML. I know the agonizing stories of Primitivo Mijares, the author of The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, (and his son, Boyet, who was tortured and killed in front of his father), of Archimedes Trajano who was severely tortured, mutilated and dumped on a roadside after he questioned Aimee Marcos about the latter’s appointment as the National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay, of Hilda Narciso who was repeatedly raped by military men while in detention, of Liliosa Hilao who was raped and tortured in front of her 16-year-old sister (Her dead body bore cigarette burns on her lips, injection marks on her arms, bruises and gun barrel marks. Her internal organs were removed and her vagina was sawed off to cover signs of torture and sexual abuse). There are countless more (some remain faceless and nameless up to this day) who suffered water cure, electric shocks to genitals, Russian roulette, strangulation, cigar and flat iron burns, and other brutal torture methods at the hands of Marcos’ torture units.
YOU HAIL NINOY AS A HERO –A MARTYR, WELL HE IS A COMMUNIST SUPPORTER.
You see Ninoy as a communist supporter, yes I see him as a martyr whose assassination ignited the fire of Filipinos’ fury and upheaval against the Marcos’ regime. Any well-read and judicious Filipino knows that the murder, subversion and weapons possession charges hurled at him right after the declaration of ML were all fabricated. Now, if successfully negotiating with Hukbalahap’s Luis Taruc for the latter’s unconditional surrender is being a communist supporter; if consistently and brazenly criticizing Marcos for the latter’s tyrannical rule, corruption and other excesses is being a communist supporter; if exposing the summary execution of the 26 Muslim young men in what was to be known as the Jabidah Massacre is being a communist supporter; if deciding to come home against the advice of the people around him, because he believed that the Filipino is worth dying for, is being a communist supporter; if one’s death triggered a long-awaited transformation in many Filipinos –that they finally found the collective courage to rise against a dictatorship after years of shameful and fearful stupor—is being a communist supporter…. then, yes, I guess Ninoy was indeed a communist supporter.
YOU FLAUNT YOURSELVES IN THE STREETS BECAUSE OF THESE MARTIAL LAW VICTIMS, WELL WHY DON’T YOU DO THE SAME AND BLAME CORY AQUINO FOR THE MENDIOLA MASSACRE?
Yes, we flaunt ourselves in the streets because of these Martial Law victims, and we will continue to do so until the Marcoses’ attempts and efforts to crown the late dictator as a hero are completely thwarted. We also attacked the Cory administration for the Mendiola and the Hacienda Luisita massacres; the Ramos administration for its widespread militarization and its pro-imperialist, pro-bureaucratic and anti-people’s policies and programs; the Estrada administration for its shameless corruption and booty capitalism; the Arroyo administration for the Ampatuan Massacre and the plunder and graft and corruption cases filed against her; The PNoy administration for the Kidapawan Massacre and the Mamasapano Encounter; and now, the Duterte administration for the unabated extrajudicial killings, his inaction over the issue of China’s bullying and island-grabbing, his family’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad and in the smuggling of illegal drugs in the country, his idolatry of the late dictator and his propensity to be a dictator himself, his support to the release of big-time plunderers and to the absolution of his erring allies, his refusal to divulge his bank and medical records, his potty mouth, controversial statements and humiliating behavior that have a damaging effect on our relationships with other nations and with each other, his political appointments based on patronage instead of merit, his promotion of a culture of violence and impunity, and his obstinate efforts to silence and thwart dissent. As Philippine-loving citizens, we will continue to be vigilant and clamorous and fierce watchdogs of this country —regardless of who is at its helm. I hope you do your share, too.
YOU BLAME BONGBONG FOR WHAT MARCOS DID, WHY NOT BLAME BIMBY FOR THE BUNGLES OF HIS GRANDMA AND UNCLE?
We blame Bongbong for many of the crimes committed during Martial Law, but we also hold him accountable for the sins he committed henceforth. He continues to whitewash the Marcos dictatorship’s crony capitalism, of which he had been a part. In 1985, when he was 26 years old, his father appointed him chairman of the board of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat). In 1986, after they were ousted, government auditors discovered that Philcomsat was one of the many corporations and organizations used to siphon ill-gotten wealth out of the country. To this day, he continues to shamelessly live off the fruits of the legendary Marcos plunder while arrogantly peddling the lie that his father’s unbelievable wealth is legitimate. He continues to commit a grave injustice to the Martial Law victims when he said, “Pera-pera lang ang habol ng mga ‘yan”, referring to the 9,539 human rights victims in the Hawaii class suit who won the case against the Marcos estate. He continues to play dumb and innocent, while we all know that he is hardly that.
YOU SEE EJK TODAY? WELL, ALL I SEE IS IT IS HIGH TIME SOMEBODY DID SOMETHING.
Yes, we see the state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings today. How can’t we? In just a span of more than a year, the death toll has already risen to 13,000! It is high time that somebody did something, you said? You are absolutely right. Our growing problem with illegal drugs is a menace that is adversely affecting every fiber of our society, and we all have to act now. The drug lords, drug pushers, drug coddlers and narco-traffickers must be meted out with the most stringent penalty under the law, as they destroy the lives and future of their victims especially the youth and the most vulnerable. The drug users, on the other hand, should be considered as victims or, at the very least, as seriously ill members of society who need immediate treatment. Unless they commit crimes punishable by law, they should not be jailed. Nor killed. They should be rehabilitated.
DON’T EVER IMPOSE YOUR TWISTED MIND ON US.
The last time I checked, we are still living in a democratic country. And under the democracy we enjoy (which the Martial Law victims paid dearly for), we have the right to express ourselves freely. We have the right to speak — or in our present digital age, to voice our opinions, beliefs and convictions using our preferred online social medium. We also have the right to organize. We are not imposing our views on anyone because we know that we can only do so much, especially in as far as educating the open-minded is concerned. You might also want to write an article about your blind support of Duterte and Marcos and, I assure you, I won’t allege you of imposing YOUR twisted mind on us.
As we celebrate today the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, let me address these few questions to our beloved millennials:
What would you feel if you can’t watch your favorite TV shows because all the media networks are closed down except for a few that are government-controlled?
What would you feel if all your activities on all your social media accounts are being closely monitored and censored by the government, or worse, if you’re not allowed to have any account at all?
What would you feel if you can’t stay out beyond 12 midnight because of an imposed curfew?
What would you feel if you are put behind bars if you so much as say, write or post something about your candid, but negative, observation about how things are run in the government?
What would you feel if you can’t openly meet with your classmates to discuss a school project for fear that your meeting could be charged as an illegal assembly?
What would you feel if your friend, after joining a rally, is found tortured beyond recognition?
What would you feel if your girlfriend, sister or mother is abducted and raped by a high-ranking official or his son or even his driver, and that perpetrator is walking around scot-free?
What if your father is sbrutally killed because he refused to sell his land to any one of the president’s relatives or friends?
I was just thirteen years old when the EDSA People Power Revolution took place in 1986. I, along with my parents, were monitoring the events unfolding in EDSA from our little home in Bataan through our transistor radio.
I sat in rapt attention as June Keithley Castro reported over Radio Veritas and later on, Radyo Bandido, a blow-by-blow account of the revolution — the official announcement of then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos of their withdrawal of support of the Marcos regime; the crucial role that then Army Col. Gregorio Honasan and his allies at the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) played by way of rebellion; Butz Aquino’s decision to bring the August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM) leaders, members and supporters to Camps Aguinaldo and Crame to support the rebel soldiers; and, of course, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s historic call to the Filipino people to leave their homes and proceed to EDSA to support Enrile, Ramos and their troops in their fight against the dictator.
I sat in awe as hundreds of thousands of people came pouring in from both near and far to heed the call of the Cardinal until the part of EDSA from Ortigas Avenue to Cubao was filled with a multitude that reached an estimate of three million.
I sat in horror when I heard that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver sent armored tanks, carriers and heavily-armed soldiers to disperse the burgeoning throng in EDSA.
I sat in tears when, after Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar warned the crowd that he would open fire if they don’t disperse, people responded by singing “Bayan Ko,” praying the rosary, and offering the soldiers flowers and food.
I sat in immense relief when not a single shot was fired. The EDSA People Power Revolution — our revolution – was later hailed as the first non-violent, bloodless revolution that the world had ever witnessed.
I sat in excitement as the late Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel, in an inauguration at the Club Filipino, were sworn into office by Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee as the duly-elected President and Vice-President, respectively.
I sat in jubilation when the news broke out that, after the crowds stayed to serve as human barricades both in EDSA and Malacanang for four days, the Marcos family and their closest allies finally left the Palace and fled the country. The entire world rejoiced with us. Bob Simon, a CBS anchorman, even said, “We, Americans, like to think that we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well, tonight, they are teaching the world.”
I sat in solemn silence when it was all over. Still overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, I thanked the Almighty for His guidance and protection in allowing the voice of the people to prevail without bloodshed, in ousting the dictator that put us in hell for more than a decade, and in providing hope and a ray of sunshine for a nation that has been shrouded in darkness and misery for far too long.
During that entire time, I was just sitting within the relative safety of our home.
But at that tender age of 13, I already knew what drove those hordes of people to EDSA.
The nightmarish tales of disappearances, tortures, killings, warrantless arrests, detentions and other horrendous acts of human rights violations and abuses against political leaders, student activists, journalists, church personalities, and virtually anybody who would dare challenge the people in power during Martial Law were my father’s favorite topic back then. (My father used to be an activist in Manila before my mother, afraid for his safety, whisked him off to the province.) He told me everything he knew about how the Marcoses and their cronies would blatantly and wantonly plunder the public coffers and ransack and sequester huge local companies until they had almost drained the country and its people of all their resources. He also introduced me to the tyrant’s insatiable greed for power when Marcos pressured the Constitutional Convention to replace the 1935 charter, which would have disqualified him from seeking another four-year presidential term. Marcos also made sure to maintain his tight grip on power when, during the snap elections a few days prior to the EDSA revolution, widespread practices of fraud, vote-buying, intimidation, violence and tampering of election returns were reported.
We, Filipinos, could be long-suffering and forgiving, oftentimes, to a fault. But there would always be that proverbial straw that would break the camel’s back.
In our case, it was the treacherous and ruthless assassination of Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983. That event, which triggered a series of civil disobedience campaigns that eventually culminated in the 1986 revolution, proved that a dead Ninoy could be a more formidable opponent to the Marcoses than the fearless, fast-talking, hard-hitting political leader that the former was when he was alive. Ninoy’s death inspired and empowered the masses to go out to the streets and shout, “Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!” It resulted to public outrage that eventually put an end to Marcos’ 21-year oppressive rule. It changed our country’s history.
Today, exactly thirty years after that fateful day when democracy was finally restored, I have to ask myself. And again, you, my dear millennials.
Have we, as a nation, adequately learned our lessons from that dark part of our history?
Or are we like some people who try to bend history itself? To conveniently forget? To forgive the perpetrators without a single person held accountable for the atrocities of Martial Law? To reinstate the same people who had been principal players during the dictatorship?
If you want to hear it, in a nutshell, here goes.
According to the historian and writer Alfred McCoy, “the Marcos government appears, by any standard, exceptional for both the quantity and quality of its violence.”
70,000 were incarcerated; 35,000 were tortured; 882 went missing; and 3,257 were murdered.
The country’s foreign debt of US$7 billion in 1965 when Marcos was first elected President ballooned to US$25 billion in 1986, the year he was ousted.
PCGG pegged at US$10 billion the total amount of the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family during their 21-year reign. Of that amount, only US$4 billion had been confiscated and returned to the treasury. The remaining US$6 billion is yet to be recovered.
Despite all these glaring statistics, though, people, mostly those your age, are still singing a totally different tune. Many of our young voters are fooled into believing that the Martial Law era was the best part of our history, and that a Marcos scion should be catapulted back into power.
Ninoy and Cory Aquino, along with the thousands of Martial Law casualties, must have been rolling over in their graves right now.