Mostly Black

by - 25.2.11

(intended for publishing on Feb 25, 2011 - 25th year anniversary of the Philippine People Power Revolution)

Here goes another....

Clashes between Libya's security forces and protesters which has killed hundreds of people and injured a lot more since last Tuesday look a lot like Tunisia and Egypt's revolution.  It seems the oil-rich country's longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi/Ghadafi might follow the fate of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak ouster after the uprising of the people...

Or it may require a much bigger show of strength. In the process, they might have few allies to count on: Not the country's military whose loyalty leans more to Gaddafi, nor necessarily even world organization leaders...


This scene is not new to me. On this date - twenty five years ago, when I was a 5-year-old kid, my fellow countrymen ousted the 20-year running authoritarian regime of then president Ferdinand Marcos via a long campaign of bloodless civil resistance. I was five but I know and I still remember the news, I could still sing the song that echoed years after the event.

Flashback: There was no denying that Marcos was a good president, a brilliant lawyer who amazed even those who were ahead of him in the government. He enhanced the infrastructure of the Philippines by constructing roads, buildings and other primers necessary in an industrial country. He continued a good job until it came to a point where he still wanted to do more...but given the limit of staying in power as a president, it wasn't enough. On September 23, 1972 he declared martial law giving him full authority over the military and the national treasury...suppressing many civil liberties most notably the freedom of the press. However, staying in power made him do the opposite of what he started.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - A quote that seems to be an appropriate description for one who almost became a great president. It has also often been joked that  the saying "Behind many great men there is a great woman," is also applicable to Marcos only in the opposite should read "behind a corrupt man is a corrupt woman" pertaining to his wife, Imelda Marcos. Herself the symbol of the extravagance of her husband's political reign most notably her collection of 2700 pairs of shoes.

To many, the era was a nightmare. The peso devaluated and it was from there that it continued to plunge. People were disappearing suddenly and never again heard of, opposition jailed and exiled or worse, killed. One of them was an outspoken senator who was being groomed to run against Marcos for presidency---Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., father of incumbent Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and husband to former President Corazon Aquino. He sought exile in the US for health issues sometime in 1980 but was unsettled hearing stories of unrest in his homeland. Even while away, he continued his campaign and pleas to the Marcos government to change the wheels of the government and bring back democracy. Hearing that Marcos got ill, he expressed the want to return to the Philippines despite everyone's warning...asked about  his thoughts on death threats, Aquino responded "The Filipino is worth dying for."

On August 21, 1983, still debated if he had actually set foot on Philippine soil or was still going down the airstairs, gunshots were heard (watch videos pitched in by foreign media). Here, watching them, my conspiracy theorist instinct says that the military men supposed to escort Ninoy did a good job blocking the video and photo equipments of the people aboard...we knew from the photos and videos that Ninoy lay there on the ground with another man.  Supposedly the killer-for-hire who gunned Ninoy down, Ronaldo Galman also died on the spot. Many believe him to be the fall guy of a bigger plot...himself a victim.

Now, a little over 27 years, the question; who is behind the killing, still hangs like a spider web on the corner of our minds...well, at least to those who have interest in the issue. There were individuals, military men convicted but the head behind  who ordered Ninoy's killing is still to be told. Knowing that soldiers never squeal, the truth is close to impossible. Don't get me wrong...Ferdinand Marcos is not dumb to let Ninoy die, there are rumors and bad as it may be this is where I'm leaning; Marcos wanted Ninoy to be the next leader of the country. His cronies thought it would be bad for them so eliminating Ninoy is the best they could do. 

Twenty-five years and five presidents after, here I look at what Ninoy would have wanted for the Philippines to be. For me and most of my colleagues, his efforts and the meaning of EDSA are wasted. True, we are not under the rule of a dictator, we can roam the streets  as late as we want without fear of the military...but think again, we are afraid that some criminal might come after us, that even though we lock up our house, someone might break in...worse, though Martial law has not been declared...many of those who opposed the government have gone missing and never heard of again (era of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). 

Back then, there were corrupt officials and they really amassed millions, but now, massive corrupt practices are very obvious, particularly in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, even the most insignificant public official is corrupt, you can see their houses or learn of their trips abroad and wonder about their salaries...well, I do for one. How much does a barangay captain get anyway? In the fight against corruption, we drove away a few but we now face a thousandfold.

We broke loose from the iron hand of a dictator, we can say we have democracy in that sense...but that's that. Sad. EDSA I has become just a commemoration of a historic event  with meaning that even the youth of today doesn't know. Heck! Even adults don't give a damn to the sacrifices of Ninoy, the greatest president we Filipinos never had.

Let Tunisia, Egypt and hopefully Libya, should it be successful in ousting Gaddafi learn from the Philippines. Ousting a dictator per se, will not guarantee the nation of being liberated into democracy. It's what the people will do after that matters.

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  1. good editorial. let me put my 2c in. i am afraid that the reason behind the phil's inability to rise from the ashes so to speak is that election after election our people vote the same people over and over again. it's the same politics these people are playing, except they do it under a different affiliation.

    enough of the same politicians. get new blood, new ideas and hopefully the people would be more vigilant of their officials making them toe the line.

  2. lots of history there. it is very hard for a country to rebuild after ousting their leadership. i wish the phillipines, egypt and any other country well in doing so.

  3. Hoping peace all over the world!