People Power message: Democracy has no political color
The “unknowns” on the opposition senatorial team for midterm elections in May have a message for Filipinos as the country marks the 33rd anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution on Monday: power resides in the people and democracy has no political color.
“Let us forget the Yellow-DDS [divide],” Samira Gutoc-Tomawis said in a speech during a campaign rally at the People Power Monument on Edsa, Quezon City, on Saturday, using the Duterte administration’s code word for the Liberal Party and its followers who were associated with the democratic movement that led to the popular revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in February 1986.
“DDS” is social media shortcut for “die-hard Duterte supporters,” referring to the followers of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte not coming to Edsa
The President is not expected to come to the anniversary program at the People Power Monument on Edsa, Quezon City, on Monday.
Malacañang said the President might skip the celebration because he had much work to do.
An admirer of Marcos, the President has not attended a People Power Revolution anniversary since assuming office in 2016.
A late surge by the Liberals during that year’s presidential election failed to derail his populist campaign and his victory gave rise to DDS, the equivalent of Marcos loyalists during the rule and even after the fall of the dictator.
“DDS, come and join people power. You are Filipinos, too. You are human beings, too,” Tomawis said, echoing the democratic campaigners’ call to supporters of Marcos as the revolt began on Feb. 22, 1986, and the United States began withdrawing support from the dictator.
“Let us take to heart the message of people power: no one is too small. So on May 13, your votes are the cure to [another] creeping dictatorship,” Tomawis said.
‘These are dark times’
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, another senatorial candidate on the oppostion team Otso Diretso, explained the Philippine situation under President Duterte in a talk with reporters during the rally: “These are very dark and challenging times. People have died, independent foreign policy is gone, the institution of democracy is being undermined, and the ultimate goal of that is to remove people from the equation, and that is precisely what dictatorship is all about.”
He went on: “Every dictatorship tries to separate people from power. The challenge for us there is to make sure people recover the power they have. The Constitution is very clear that sovereignty resides in people and all government authority emanates from them.”
The challenge for the opposition is much greater than it was for the democratic movement of the ’80s.
With the press muzzled by Marcos, the Catholic Church took the role of common communicator and aided the opposition in building support for the electoral challenge to Marcos mounted in 1985 by Corazon Aquino, widow of the Liberal Party’s Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., whose assassination in 1983 galvanized the resistance to the dictatorship.
The power of that resistance pushed vote counters to walk out of the canvassing of the presidential vote and disclose the fraud that enabled Marcos to clinch victory.
When things came to a head toward the end of February 1986, it was the voice of the Church that summoned the Filipinos to Edsa to protect the cornered military rebels, and the people power buildup that followed proved too much for the dictator to resist.
No strong leader
But today, the Church has no leader like Cardinal Jaime Sin and the opposition has no champion with a voice that can overpower the social-media-generated energy of DDS.
Still, opposition senatorial candidates Romulo Macalintal and Chel Diokno insisted Monday’s anniversary of the People Power Revolution was a time to learn lessons from history.
“During Edsa, we were able to kick out a dictator,” Macalintal said. “But many have not learned. Corruption continues. So many people ask for change, but they vote for the same old [politicians].”
The election lawyer left a message for voters in May: “Save your vote for honesty and integrity.”
“This is a good time to remember what happened [during the Marcos regime]. It is high time [we brought] back truth and justice to the country,” said Diokno, a human rights lawyer.
“It is you who deserve a life ring because you will save the country,” he said, repeating a message to voters he uttered during a debate with administration candidates last week.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Edsa People Power Commission, Spirit of Edsa and other government agencies are leading Monday’s celebration, which has the theme “Edsa 2019: Pagkakaisa Tungo sa Pambansang Kapayapaan (Unity Toward National Peace).
A job fair, Mass and exhibit of paintings depicting the 2017 siege of Marawi City are among the highlights of the celebration. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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