Revolution is brewing in Cebu | Inquirer News

Revolution is brewing in Cebu

/ 07:59 AM September 19, 2011

On Sept. 21 thirty-nine years ago, president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. He signed Proclamation No. 1081 which  effectively made him the absolute repository of the executive and legislative powers, silenced the people, detained and killed valiant heroes who dared fight the dictator, suspended civil liberties and muzzled institutions including the Supreme Court, and the media, then widely regarded as the “freest in Asia.”

As a freshman student and resident in the University of the Philippines Diliman “commune” in 1970, I was exposed to the frenzied on-campus activities including teach-ins on the state of our nation. We learned about the corruption and machinations of Marcos from encounters with powerful speakers such as then senator, now our hero, the martyred Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.


The martial law era is considered one of the darkest in the history of our Republic. “Under the president’s command, the military arrested opposition figures, including Benigno Aquino, journalists, student and labor activists, and criminal elements. A total of about 30,000 detainees were kept at military compounds run by the army and the Philippine Constabulary. Weapons were confiscated, and ‘private armies’ connected with prominent politicians and other figures were broken up. Newspapers were shut down, and the mass media were brought under tight control. With the stroke of a pen, Marcos closed the Philippine Congress and assumed its legislative responsibilities. During the 1972-81 martial law period, Marcos, invested with dictatorial powers, issued hundreds of presidential decrees, many of which were never published.”

On Jan. 17, 1981, Marcos issued Proclamation 2045, which supposedly ended martial law. But it was plainly farcical as he retained full control of the bureaucracy and the military, with his and his family’s cronies, the new elite, firmly entrenched in their privileged positions.


Massive dissatisfaction, abuse of power and the assassination of Ninoy led the people out of their comfort zones and into the streets to forge unity with compatriots. People Power was born and the rest is history.

The 1987 Constitution is the product of the nation’s collective resolve to learn from the  dark days of the dictatorship. It is pro-people, pro-planet and pro-public participation and expanded the power of judicial review of the Supreme Court which made it an activist court.

In Cebu, a revolution is brewing, with a multi-stakeholder conglomeration demanding public participation and responsive governance through programs that would address the people’s clamor for a more sustainable way of life, amid the global climate crisis.  Curitiba and Bogota are seen as models of sustainability where streets are meant for people and not vehicles.

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, “changed the way Bogota treated its non-driving citizens by restricting automobile use and instituting a bus rapid transit system which now carries half a  million residents daily. Among other improvements: he widened and rebuilt sidewalks, created grand public spaces and implemented over one hundred miles of bicycle paths.” (

To the members of the citizen movement in Cebu, the words of Peñalosa ring loud and clear: “We cannot propose transport solutions unless we know the kind of city we want, and what kind of life we want; for a city is only a means to a way of life.”

Flyover projects of two congressional representatives were crafted and approved (plus more in the pipeline) without the required public consultation and the necessary resolution from the affected sanggunians as required by law.  Moreover, they were done without the master plan adopted and designed through a participatory process.

The flyover projects, seen as unresponsive to the felt needs of the people and the planet, are triggering the unprecedented gathering of stakeholders, onslaught of ideas and creative mass actions and networking to make the political authorities attentive.


The horrendous traffic situation, unprecedented flooding in the city streets, unregulated grant of franchises to operate public utilities and the perceptible growing pollution problem and the one-day “treat” where the 3-kilometer stretch of Osmeña Boulevard was vehicle-free during the launch of the Road Revolution, must have triggered the now-visible display of the citizens claiming their right to live sustainably in Cebu.

Our congressional representatives should take heed and listen to Cebuanos’ sentiments. A friend asked, “Can they show evidence that the existing flyovers have satisfactorily addressed the problem which they had used as basis for justification for constructing those and having us community members use it?” She adds, “In medicine, we give a drug if there is a clear indication for its need.  Then we monitor the response of the patient. If the response is more harmful than good, then we remove it… We do not tell the patient to continue being exposed to the drug hoping that the patient will just get used to the adverse effects of the drug.”

For Stop Cebu Flyovers Movement member Edna Lee, the amount allotted for the two flyovers in Cebu City can be used instead for “eskwelahan, hospital, sweldo sa pulis.”

The Stop Cebu Flyovers Movement, a conglomeration of stakeholders, proposes solutions that are “cheaper, faster without permanently damaging the historical cultural value of our city, our environment, without destroying the essence of life in the community.” It imagines sustainable Cebu as a place with  cleaner air, less congested, safer for children and persons with disability; that is less stressful, where commuting is easy and fun, with green urban spaces where we can interact with each other.

Flyovers, as the Banilad-Talamban flyover clearly shows, can never solve the traffic and pollution woes of Cebu. As Lee aptly puts it, “A sustainable and livable city, with wide pedestrian sidewalks, protected bikeways, and a well-planned mass public transit most certainly can.”

A sustainable planet is now in our hands.  Mabuhay!

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