Divided country celebrates day of unity
MANILA, Philippines—Former president Fidel V. Ramos used the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the People Revolution on Saturday to take a swipe at the warring top judicial and executive officials of the land as evidenced in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“This anniversary is supposed to be a day of coming together. But that is what is missing in our country today… because our co-equal, powerful branches of government are so divided,” he told reporters after the program at the People Power Monument in Quezon City.
“That’s why now what we need is cooperation of all Filipinos and that’s something that won’t be attained just by impeachment,” added Ramos, one of the key players in the original People Power revolt. “Because there are still beggars, there are still starving people and there are still jobless people, impeachment will not solve the problem of poverty, iniquity, and lack of jobs and a declining economy.”
He said the disunity in government was not in keeping with the oneness that characterized the People Power Revolution when Filipinos toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos through a largely peaceful uprising.
“I think that’s not the message of Edsa during our time,” Ramos said, referring the wide avenue where the People Power multitudes camped out for a few days.
“After Edsa, we experienced change. We restored democracy during the time of Cory. And during my time [as president], I signed a final peace agreement with rebels like Senator Gringo Honasan and the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari. We completed that in 1995-1996,” he said.
Saturday’s celebration was the first time in years when many key figures from the original revolution appeared, including Ramos, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Gregorio Honasan.
Ramos and Enrile, then Marcos’ defense minister, triggered the popular uprising by appealing for public support after a mutiny led by them failed to oust the dictator, who by then had been in power for 20 years. Honasan, who led a number of failed coup attempts against the government of president Corazon Aquino, was then an aide to Enrile.
People Power veterans reenacted the “Salubungan,” or the fateful meeting of civilians and military troops at the height of the 1986 revolt.
From the gates of the Corinthian Gardens subdivision, former senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino led the civilian contingent, which marched on the short stretch of Edsa toward the People Power Monument, where the main program was held.
The civilians were met by the military group led by Ramos, who marched from Gate 3 of Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with hundreds of military and police troops in uniform.
Two armored vehicles, each festooned with yellow flowers, joined the procession with uniformed soldiers.
Many of them clad in yellow shirts, government employees, church workers, civic leaders, boy scouts and students assembled in front of the monument.
In attendance were President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa and Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome.
Also seen were Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Sen. Vicento Sotto III, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Francis Tolentino.
A helicopter flew overhead and sprinkled the crowd with yellow confetti, drawing cheers and applause. Some of the confetti became compacted in clumps that dropped like bricks, nearly hitting a group of reporters in the media area.
Later, more showers of yellow strips of paper burst from confetti cannons, rendering a yellow mist-like effect that drew gasps and prompted many in the crowd to take snapshots.
Some 2,000 anti-riot troops were deployed to secure the festivities, which started at past 6 a.m. with Mr. Aquino’s arrival.
The “Salubungan” is a symbolic representation of the time the military leadership joined forces with civilian groups and broke away from the Marcos rule to side with opposition leader Corazon Aquino.
Folk singer Freddie Aguilar ended the festivities with an impassioned rendition of the People Power anthem “Bayan Ko,” which anti-Marcos activists sang in demonstrations against Marcos for many years.
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