Remember: We defeated a dictator 30 years ago
As we mark the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Uprising, an important point needs to be stressed: The victorious rebellion was both a beginning and an end.
But over the past three decades, remembering EDSA has meant focusing on what didn’t happen after Filipinos kicked out a dictator, on the failed expectations and broken promises.
Virtually ignored is what EDSA accomplished: We defeated a dictator. EDSA ended the 21-year reign of a corrupt and brutal leader.
We overthrew a tyrant who enjoyed so much power, and abused it, and who was in power for a very, very long time.
Here’s one way to look at what we went through:
I was a year old when Marcos became president. I was eight when he seized power by declaring martial law. When I turned 21, the dictator was still there.
In a world where everything moves fast, and presidents typically are around only for six years, it’s probably hard for young Filipinos today to imagine knowing just one president.
And the activists today who oppose Noynoy Aquino, who staged pickets and even came up with creative ways of protesting his government — I actually think “Noynoying is a brilliant idea by the way– can take heart in one fact: PNoy (or Abnoy, or Mr. Sisi or whatever name you wish to call him) will be stepping down from power in a few months.
You won’t have to deal with him anymore.
Now imagine a world where that’s not possible.
That was our world when Ferdinand Marcos was in power. He just wouldn’t go away. He just would not give up his power. And he held on to that power with an iron fist.
Also missing in the way we look back at EDSA is this: The rebellion was the culmination of a long, dangerous, often lonely struggle.
EDSA now looks like a gigantic tidal wave that swept the dictatorship out of power.
But the rebellion began many years before the uprising, and even before the murder of Ninoy Aquino, with small waves, even tiny ripples.
It’s election season again. It’s so much easier to be politically engaged nowadays. In some cases, you can use your laptop or your mobile phone, to check the latest on any political campaign, or to even participate in a heated political discussion.
Imagine a world where Congress and other democratic institutions have been padlocked, where you could be jailed for criticizing government, where the news media have been silenced and controlled.
No mobile phones, no Internet.
Only silence and fear.
That was the world of young Filipinos after Marcos seized power in 1972.
That was the world they sought to change … by fighting back.
And it was a long, lonely dangerous struggle. Success was measured in inches.
It was a struggle to restore student councils or campus papers that were banned after martial law was declared. It was the fight for the right to hold protests, including going on strike.
It was the struggle for the right to publish exposes of an oppressive and repressive regime.
Many of these young Filipinos could actually have chosen to just stay silent.
They could have opted to shut up and play along, to even pursue promising careers that were still possible for middle class families who simply accepted that Marcos was in charge.
But they didn’t.
Many of them paid for that defiance with their lives.
The true heroes of EDSA couldn’t make it to the uprising. Let’s remember them too this week.
In fact, we should remember them always. And it’s important to remember details of their sacrifice, of their individual sacrifices.
Which is why I apologize to the friends and family of Bobby de La Paz. I misspoke in the video. Dr. Remberto ‘Bobby’ de La Paz was not arrested by the military and later killed.
He was shot in cold blood outside his clinic in Samar on April 23, 1982.
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