Rejuvenating people power

Published February 26, 2019, 12:37 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

Were it not for the non-working holiday yesterday, perhaps many would have forgotten the significance of the EDSA Revolt in 1986. Indeed, gauging by what’s been happening over the years since, it’s easy to see why the EDSA spirit seems to have lost its luster – amid the grinding poverty, rampant corruption, and a host of many other ills plaguing our country.

But there’s no doubt that the euphoria of the EDSA People Power Revolution that dismantled a dictatorship ushered in so much hope for the Philippines. That shining period in our country’s history inspired other peaceful upheavals in Poland, Chile, South Korea, Germany, including “singing” revolutions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic that ushered the fall of communism in the heart of Europe.

Yet 33 years after the historic event that gave the Philippines one of its proudest moments for the “bloodless revolution that surprised the world,” many Filipinos have become disillusioned. For those who expected the bloodless revolution would fulfill the promise of significant and positive change likewise achieved by a bloody revolution as what happened in France, the post-EDSA period has been a big letdown.

The glaring inequality between rich and poor Filipinos has worsened and economic growth has failed to bring about inclusive growth. As millions of Filipinos are mired in debilitating misery and wasting away from hunger, our economy has further increased the wealth of the rich wallowing in luxury.

In 2016, for instance, the wealthiest Filipinos belonging to the richest families here had a combined wealth of $76.6 billion or about P3.62 trillion – much bigger than the entire national budget of government that year. Many see it ironic that as the Philippine Statistics Authority reported in 2016 that 12.18 million Filipinos were so poor they could not eat three square meals a day or afford any of the bare necessities in life, the news came that 11 of the richest Filipinos had joined Forbes magazine’s roster of the wealthiest people on earth.

Not that it is indeed the rich families’ fault or that they are mostly to blame. In fairness, huge sums of money have been donated by the rich for public health, education, housing, and many other social programs to uplift the lives of impoverished Filipinos.

Yet there are some who think the ruling elite should be faulted. With the continuing grip on the country’s economy of big landlords, capitalists, political dynasties, and others comprising the ruling elite, some believe that what transpired in 1986 was merely a “changing of the guard with a different faction of the ruling classes taking power by riding on the wave of the anti-dictatorship movement.”

There are even some who think the 1986 People Power Revolution should have been a violent upheaval because “oligarchs would have been wiped out, or the horror of a bloody revolution would have been such a catharsis that would force serious nation-building.”

Indeed, some are tempted to ask: Would it be better if 1986 had been bloody? Would a better nation emerge from the horrific violence with hundreds of thousands of lives lost like in the US Civil War? Would such violence stun Philippine society into really putting an end to mediocre governance and widespread corruption?

But disillusionment can indeed exist in the aftermath of some revolutions. Just as some Filipinos believe that life during the Marcos era was better than post-EDSA, a little more than half of Czechs still favor communism, according to a 2014 report of the Public Opinion Research Centre.

But amid all the disillusionment, there are still many who don’t view EDSA as a failure. It is even seen as a roaring success because it accomplished what it was all about – toppling a dictatorship. The promise of EDSA was the restoration of democracy and basic freedoms denied the people by one-man rule. Many believe it is unrealistic to say that EDSA also promised good governance. Excellence in governance cannot be attained overnight. It has to be a work in progress. To drive out a dictator in just a short time is easier, as Filipinos found out in 1986. Sadly, we have failed to follow through what EDSA has opened up for the country.

But it is not too late as hope springs eternal. While many of those who actively supported the EDSA revolution have already passed away, much hope can be expected from the Filipino youth of today, especially if they are aware of the events that led to the 1986 uprising.

The youth can indeed change our nation’s quality of life, especially in the coming elections. They can bring about effective governance responsive to the pressing needs of the people. Being the largest single bloc of voters, they can install in the May elections God-fearing, competent, and compassionate leaders who will create jobs and livelihood opportunities and bail out our country from poverty, corruption, inequality, and other social ills.

With today’s digital technology, the youth can utilize powerful information tools capable of reaching millions, influencing them with ideals and aspirations, and mobilizing them to act in unison to bring forth progress. They must bear in mind that in most developed countries, all social and economic progress came about by the power of the people challenging people in power to act decisively in uplifting people’s lives.

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