The meaning of the 1986 EDSA uprising

/ 08:26 AM February 25, 2013

Twenty seven years ago, People Power broke out in EDSA leading to the ouster of dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and restoring a democratic government under President Cory Aquino.

To us Cebuanos,  the EDSA revolt was very memorable. On Feb. 22, 1986 when the EDSA uprising started in Metro Manila, Cory Aquino was in Cebu City leading a huge opposition rally in Fuente Osmeña.


When the dictator finally fled to Hawaii on Feb. 25, the Cebuanos like most Filipinos, deliriously celebrated the event. I was witness to people dancing on the streets and plazas and some could not contain their emotions.

People Power in February 1986 did not blossom overnight. It was a product of many years of collective struggle against the Marcos dictatorship waged by the political opposition, the moderates as well as the radicals, the above ground and the underground – participated in by all sectors of society – the students, the priests and nuns, the Christian and Muslim fighters, the urban poor, the peasants, the professionals, and the indigenous peoples.


The brutal murder of opposition leader, Senator Ninoy Aquino, on August 21, 1983 and the massive cheating in the 1986 snap elections shortened the fuse that finally ignited the EDSA uprising in those heady days of February 1986.

Lasting lesson

The historic lessons of the EDSA revolt could not be obliterated simply because we have not been able to solve all our national problems since 1986.

The 1986 People Power gives a lasting lesson to tyrants and budding autocrats that the people will not tolerate any form of dictatorship – whether from the lunatic fringe of the right or from the dogmatic radical left.

The 1986 People Power gives a valuable lesson to corrupt officials – whether national or provincial – that corruption does not pay and that punishment by the court or by the people is always a certainty.

The 1986 People Power gives us the unforgettable lesson that political power whether exercised alone or through a family dynasty is not lasting especially if such power is used not for the common good but to fill up the pockets of the family.

And if there is one lesson that the people must learn from EDSA is that the ouster of a dictator could not be completed unless we cure our national amnesia.


It is a sad thing to note that despite massive human rights violation committed by the Marcos regime and the plunder of government funds by the dictator and his cronies, the Marcos family has returned with a vengeance with the election of Imelda as congresswoman, her daughter as governor, and her son as senator.

It is heartening to observe however, that the martial law abuses and atrocities and the role of Marcos and his cronies will be made part of the school curriculum so that our youth will learn the terrors of martial rule.

Historical revisionism must not be allowed.

Juan Ponce Enrile, in his sanitized autobiography attempted to revise history by claiming that his “ambush” in September 1972 was real, the exact opposite of what he announced to the whole world in February 1986 that his “ambush” was fake and was staged to justify the imposition of martial law.

That Marcos destroyed Philippine democracy by imposing martial rule and committed gross violations of human rights is no doubt a historical fact.

Today, President Noynoy Aquino signs the Human Rights Compensation Bill which grants monetary awards to those who suffered under martial rule.

The terrors of martial rule and the triumph at EDSA in 1986 must always be instilled in the national consciousness especially in the minds of our youth.

Students must be taught the value of patriotism. They must be made to realize that people and people alone are the motive force of history.  They must learn to be assertive without being licentious, militant without being reckless, and must be ready to expose and oppose any wrongdoing of every government because in the words of the  great Roman poet Juvenal, “a society of sheep is an invitation to a government of wolves”.

The coming May 2013 elections is a continuation of the 1986 EDSA revolt.

If the citizens will wisely use their ballots for the victory of honest and deserving national and local candidates, then all our sacrifices in EDSA will not be in vain.

– The author,  Atty. Democrito Barcenas (left), is a former political detainee and one of the human rights lawyers in the forefront of Cebu’s opposition to Marcos rule in the 1980s. He headed the Friends of Noy-Mar movement in Cebu during the 2010 election and is currently a spokesman of the Liberal Party Cebu chapter. /Democrito C. Barcenas

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