By JEJOMAR C. BINAY
Former Vice President
Over the years there has been a concerted effort to downplay the significance of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
This initiative is being promoted by forces out to revise our history. And they are emboldened by the unfortunate but undeniable lack of interest in commemorating the 1986 EDSA Revolution, especially among our youth. The thinning crowds at the annual celebration organized by a government-created commission and, of late, the absence of key national government officials and EDSA veterans at the event make the loss of interest more palpable.
How do we keep the spirit of EDSA 1986 alive? The key is remembering. We erected the People Power Monument and the Edsa Shrine at the original sites of the uprising, but too little attention has been given to immortalizing the spirit and lessons of EDSA in our national narrative. The measure of this neglect – or failure – is the boldness by which the very forces behind decades of tyranny and oppression proclaim the 1986 EDSA Revolution as a failure. For many, EDSA is but a fading memory, remembered more for its traffic gridlock than its historic significance.
Those of us who were present at EDSA, and who faced down the tyrant’s forces during the decades of martial law, all made our own sacrifices. I was a human rights lawyer, a marked man along with my associates. We endured arrest and detention, and some even made the supreme sacrifice.
I will always be proud to say that I was a part of the movement that grew to become the force that made the 1986 EDSA Revolution possible. Former President Cory Aquino, our icon of democracy, will always be remembered as the glue that held the nation together at the time of utmost despair. But few know of the raw courage she showed during the revolt, when she defied the counsel of her political advisers and addressed the crowd at EDSA, impervious to the threats of sniper fire. During that tense meeting, I can still vividly remember Cory reminding us that our struggle will not be victorious unless we were ourselves willing to make the supreme sacrifice.
We overthrew a hated dictatorship. But much work still needs to be done in improving the lives of the people and restoring their dignity.
Since 1986, we have lived in a nation with two faces. We have one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, but millions live in poverty.
We are an agricultural country where the farmers are among the country’s poorest. Our lands yield bountiful harvests, yet hunger remains a national malady.
Extra-judicial killings continue, and killers operate with impunity. These assassins spare no one – women and children, the elderly, journalists, politicians, and priests.
What do we need to redeem the promise of the 1986 EDSA Revolution?
A healthy economy that would create jobs and opportunities for our people. We need social inclusion, a government of care and compassion, a nation where citizens receive the benefits of citizenship.
More importantly, we need a rededication to the rule of law and human rights. We need a governance that upholds and respects the inherent dignity of every Filipino.
Every year, national leaders issue official statements extolling the values of EDSA and calling on the people to protect freedom and democracy. These are all empty rhetoric when their actions erode the very freedoms and values restored by the revolt. One does not extol the 1986 EDSA Revolution and at the same time harass critics and encourage disrespect for the rule of law.
It seems foolhardy to expect a conversion on the part of those whose actions undermine the gains of EDSA. Then again, EDSA teaches us that freedom is not something we expect to be handed to us by would-be tyrants. Freedom is something we fight for.
EDSA is about transformation and sacrifice, about overcoming our fears in the face of naked power. EDSA is about making a stand. And it begins with us. If we start rededicating our lives to a higher purpose, if we begin by recognizing the inherent dignity of every Filipino and saying enough to abuse and oppression, then we may yet rediscover the spirit of EDSA.
We must keep the fire of the 1986 EDSA Revolution burning. For as long as there is oppression and violations of human rights, as long as human dignity is devalued and debased, there will always be people willing to stand up and even make the ultimate sacrifice.