The year was 1986.
I remember it well. Remembered too, the euphoria of people who massed up at the EDSA, arms linked. Nuns facing tanks. Girls handing leis to soldiers.
And somebody called Ramos and Enrile leading the military into what is known as a civilian-backed coup d’etat.
Years before that were the horrors of Martial Law and conjugal dictatorship. Of Imelda’s shoes and jewelry worth billions. Of cronies. Of Marcos seizing businesses and giving these away to his cronies. Of a state-controlled media. Of an extravagant wedding by one of the daughters. Of an abusive and corrupt military.
Of desaparecidos. The disappeared.
Things came to a head though when a well-loved opposition senator, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was murdered August 21, 1983 while he was getting out of his plane that just landed on the tarmac. That spurred a series of events that ended in a highly contested and very violent snap election in 1986, with Ninoy’s widow Cory challenging Marcos in the polls.
What happened next?
The leaders that came after Marcos were saddled with a badly crippled economy and debts that ballooned and tripled during Marcos’ time. Meanwhile, other critical players during Martial Law remain entrenched, occupying plum seats in politics and the corporate world.
During the time of Cory, when democracy was supposed to be restored, human rights violations were as rampant as ever, with news breaking out about families entire families wiped out (the Delos Santos family massacre in Mambagaton, Himamaylan), the bombing of the Bishop’s Palace here, the displacement of thousands of families in upland barangays no thanks to Oplan Thunderbolt.
And the attack against press freedom continued with Cory Aquino closing three radio stations it suspected of being controlled by opposition.
While some oligarchial families affiliated with the Marcoses remain, their wealth untouched, a certain section of the wealthy that were disenfranchised during Martial Law returned to power, their wealth and status restore.
And thus the country, was divided, dichotomized, polarized into two factions: the Yellows and the Reds. And some opportunists in between.
It has been 36 years since EDSA 1. And the dichotomy still exists.
There have been a political musical chair of sorts since then. But the changing of the guards were really just exercises of a proxy war between two families and no changing of literal colors change that perception. All that one has to do is look at the people backing the candidates to know whose interests are being pushed.
And so, as the 2022 polls is nearing, people are flustered why the son of the dictator who was booted out of EDSA, who occupied a proud spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest thief in the world, is a runaway winner at the presidential surveys.
It’s our failure as a nation to learn from the past. We have allowed opportunists to take advantage of the gains at EDSA.
And unless we acknowledge our own contribution to that failure, all that we can do now is gnash our teeth as the vultures are once again feeding at our carcass.