It was a hot, lazy afternoon, and we just finished eating lunch.
My mother was chatting with my aunt in the sala while my cousins fiddled with their mobile phones.
I was enjoying my dessert when my millennial cousin asked me a question.
“Kuya, why don’t you like Marcos?”
I answered his question with the facts I knew, that Marcos plundered the country, tortured and murdered thousands of Filipinos when my mother shouted at me and told me in the middle of my explanation.
“Why are you saying these things?! You weren’t born back then, how can you be sure that what you are saying is correct?”
I explained why, and proceeded with pointing out facts, which resulted in my mother becoming aggravated.
She again shouted: “Don’t talk as if you are so sure about what you know! You know nothing!”
This reply stunned my cousin and hushed the entire household; I held my ground and pointed out that my answers are backed by evidence.
In which she again shouted: “Nah! You only know your facts because the yellows won, but if you were alive back then, you’ll understand why Marcos was right to declare Martial Law! The activists are destroying the country by their protest rallies and their rowdy behavior! You don’t know what you’re saying so stop it!”
I was about to say another thing when I realize that the conversation was going nowhere, but perhaps when we are alone, she would listen, so I held my peace.
It didn’t take long for that private talk with my mom to happen; she was relaxing in her bed in the bedroom that we shared when I raised the issue of what happened earlier.
Again, she shouted at me and told me that I know nothing, and I am too young to give an accurate reading of what transpired under Martial Law.
To call what transpired between me and my mom as a classic case of ageism is an understatement; it is more complicated than that, but I digress.
Sadly, that event further alienated me from my mom; being an OFW since I was three years old, I only get to see her for a few weeks every once a year or sometimes once every after two years, depending on her schedule.
And the irony of it all is that perhaps she doesn’t realize that her being an OFW was directly caused by the massive unemployment and underemployment brought upon by the corruption of her “Apo Lakay.”
Despite the unfortunate event, I made sure to answer my cousin’s question; when he visited me in Quezon City (our house is in Cavite), I made sure to lend him my book Subversive Lives by Susan Quimpo.
After a few months, I called him up and inquired about what he thought about the book, in which he answered: “Kuya, I stopped reading it; it isn’t my type.” I asked why but he just said he didn’t feel like reading it.
Come late 2015, and I saw his FB posts extolling the late dictators’ achievements and enthusiastically vouching for his son Bong-Bong Marcos (BBM).
I decided to message him and ask if he would be happy to join me in going to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani and go through their museum, he answered:
“I have to pass kuya, you see… our family didn’t suffer from the Marcoses, perhaps if we did suffer I would have the same beliefs that you do, but we didn’t. Therefore, I see it as a moral responsibility being an Ilocano to vote for BBM.”
It didn’t end there, his sister, then in the heat of the issue and protests being held because of Duterte allowed Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani like a thief in the night, she posted in FB “Guys, MOVE ON NA!”
I felt angry, but I wasn’t surprised because I used to think the way they do.
My family, being Ilocanos, takes pride in whom they consider as the best son of the solid north.
Only after years of critical thinking did I come to realize the folly of my family’s beliefs and mine as well.
The above experiences coupled with the return of the Marcoses in power and Duterte being voted as President, I had to ask the question:
Were there mistakes made after the EDSA 1986 People Power?
There are reasons to believe that mistakes were made in the aftermath of EDSA 1986.
And because of these mistakes, the entire experience of EDSA eventually lost its meaning and value, thus paving the way for embracing fascism under the government of Duterte.
1. The first mistake after EDSA People Power was letting the Marcoses live and come back to the Philippines.
The Philippines is perhaps the only country in the world that allowed its dictator to live, let alone flee and welcome its family back with open arms.
In this light, I would’ve personally preferred the experience of Romania and how they dealt with the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his family.
One can only look at the experience of the Nuremberg trials if one needs to justify their deaths; however, by no means did the country brought the Marcoses and their associates to justice.
The family just strolled their way into the country, run again for an election, and continually enjoys happy beautiful lives.
To note, even as I write this article, Imelda Marcos remains free despite being found guilty.
2. The second mistake after EDSA People Power was not permanently removing from power the people who worked closely with Marcos and his cronies.
After EDSA People Power, the people who empowered and enabled Marcos didn’t get the punishment they so rightly deserve.
A number of them and their progeny’s still held influential positions in government today.
The Cory Aquino government should’ve enacted to permanently ban them and their children from holding power or running in office.
3. The third mistake after EDSA People Power was it never brought to justice the state actors who served as Marcos’ attack dogs.
This perhaps is one of the most unacceptable things that EDSA was guilty of, as it abandoned the quest for justice for the victims of the Marcos’ regime. Some victims even experienced seeing their former torturers on the MRT and bumping into them as if nothing happened.
4. The fourth mistake after EDSA People Power was it never bothered enforcing the inclusion of the study of Martial Law in ALL schools and Universities.
Our academic institutions’ sense of Philippine history encompasses from the discovery of the Philippines only until world war two, the entire experience of Marcos’ Martial Law was relegated as an aberration, a nightmare as if it is meant to be forgotten.
It is recognized not as a reality that happened but a shameful traumatic past that our academic institutions believe our students are not ready to deal with.
Our nations’ education is stuck in denial mode. At the same time, the Marcos camp spews one historical negationism after another through social media, and I believe they already won the entire framework of the discussion through the narrative that democracy does not work for us.
5. The fifth mistake after EDSA People Power was it failed to admit its shortcomings, creating a perception of elitism instead of the opposite.
Unfortunately, and as much as I would hate to say it, the entire narrative of EDSA People Power is romanticized and venerated too much for its own good. While it is understandable that it protects its framework of being a part of history as an effect of democracy in action, it failed to account for the steps it lacked after the event.
It forces the view that the event and the ideology behind EDSA People Power are mutually exclusive when they are the same.
The entire 1987 constitution stands behind the fact that its essence and foundation rests behind the ideology of EDSA People Power and democracy.
We cannot blame our people if EDSA People Power is currently viewed as pointless because they are the ones who are hit the hardest, not the Marcoses.
6. The sixth mistake after EDSA People Power is that the Cory Aquino government concluded its reign with more questions than answers and was perceived as ruling with weak and timid leadership.
It was no secret that the Cory Aquino government became highly dependent on the military, particularly from the amount of coup-de-etat it survived.
Furthermore, Ramon Mitra was snubbed by Cory Aquino. There was also the issue of why Fidel Ramos, one of the original Rolex 12 of Ferdinand Marcos and also a mastermind of Martial Law, became President under the watchful eyes of Cory Aquino.
I once asked a former activist and a detainee about what happened, why Fidel Ramos got the blessing and support of Cory Aquino.
She answered that Cory owes her life to Ramos as he was instrumental in her survival and her government’s survival.
There were many elements inside and outside the government who are just as happy to remove her from power, bring back the Marcoses or replace the form of government.
Perhaps Cory didn’t foresee that Ramos will bring back the Marcoses to the country; however, because of this event, her government is perceived as weak and half-measured, especially in terms of land reforms and implementing justice.
7. The seventh mistake after EDSA People Power is that the Cory Aquino government didn’t build enough symbols to represent what democracy and freedom are all about. In contrast, Marcos’ buildings are considered his legacy and perhaps a continuing one if his family comes back in power.
Germany had markers in each street where the houses of Jews who were taken away to concentration camps, tortured, and gassed in World War Two.
There were monuments and symbols all over the country to remind everyone of their tragic history.
In the Philippines, only a handful of symbols stands, only a handful of memorials that people can neither see nor feel.
In Vietnam, tourists are required to visit their historical places of remembrance, whereas, in the Philippines, it is as if the vestiges of Martial Law are forced to be forgotten.
This is why my mother and my cousins have good enough reasons to believe that the EDSA people power of 1986 is almost considered a myth or just a pretext and not worthy of serious study.
One painful comment I heard from the former activist and detainee is when she said that: “Nothing really changed after EDSA, the country is still practically the same”
I would’ve wanted to say that she’s wrong or that there are still many things that changed after EDSA.
Still, I decided against it, knowing how she lost a lot of people she loved in a Maoist revolution that practically failed, then get out of it and live through it, I empathize with where she is coming from, and I cannot blame her for thinking the way she does.
And I honestly believe that this is where Duterte, despite his shortcomings, was perceived to at least ruffle some feathers in Philippine politics.
That even former Martial Law activists swore their allegiance to him despite their better judgment.
Filipinos have become nihilistic, disillusioned, and more so disenfranchised from any chance of belief in real change in the system that they are more than happy to embrace totalitarianism if only to create an illusion of structure in a very fragmented democracy where power and justice only reside in those who have money.
Perhaps because it is easier to believe in the utility of totalitarianism rather than exist nihilistically.
They thought: “Might as well give that power to someone who already enjoyed it for years, at least he is being true to himself, let’s take the bad with the good and see what happens.”
Only that, Duterte proved more deceitful than Marcos.
Suppose people will do another EDSA; this time, it has to be done the right way. In that case, it is first to be humble enough and acknowledge EDSA’s shortcomings, or else our country will risk another Duterte/Marcos in the future.