Statement by the National Union of People’s Lawyers in the Philippines on the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolt
Decades and monuments after, the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt continues to strike a powerful chord in the national consciousness. Today, it resonates sharply amid the seeming resurgence of authoritarian discourse in both word and deed as well as the unsettling applause it draws from not a few.
There is still blood on the streets and the hands of all post-EDSA regimes are sullied. Contrary to comfortably held beliefs, much of the blood is spilled not by unnamed men in the shadows, but under the clear light of day by men whose names we are told to hold in esteem.
The most pervasive violence wrought against the people are those written using the crisp fonts of administrative orders, hastily procured warrants, skewed decisions, and railroaded legislation – signed, stamped, and legitimized by the very institutions that the people struggled to restore during the EDSA revolt in the name of democracy.
By no means are the current brazen attacks on human rights new. The criminalization of dissent, militarization of the countryside, and outright disregard for the lives and liberty of the state’s perceived enemies – emblematic of the Marcos dictatorship – continue despite the EDSA revolt.
Thus, we are called not only to glorify the triumph of the first EDSA revolt, but also to cross examine, as it were, its assumptions and to fact check its significance.
To question its assumptions is to recognize that real societal change takes more than replacing one ruling clique with another. To define its significance is to extricate it from the petty nostalgia of the few who were catapulted to power as a result – to see it as the culmination of a mass movement and resistance that persist up to the present in the face of the continuing violence of our current socio-economic order.
More than three decades after EDSA, do people trust the justice system now more than before? Is the “rule of law” essentially still the “rule against the low”? Can we now dissent and differ without watching our backs?
Are the democratic institutions and processes really faithful to the people they should serve? Are our rights more respected and our safety and dignity from the overreach of State power more guaranteed? Do we now venerate dead false heroes and blindly worship new false yet temporal gods?
Do our people have food on the table, roofs on their heads, shirts on their backs? Can we send our kids to school and be properly educated? Can we rush our love ones to the hospitals without fear of getting killed prematurely by the costs?
Do the farmers have land they they have tilled for generations, the workers a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and our fisherfolk free to have their catch for the day? Do our wives, sisters and mothers need not leave far away and be paid slaves so they can give us a better life?
Is there light at the end of the tunnel for a truly free, prosperous and democratic society, for a just and lasting peace and for the economic and social liberation of the people?
Or is the light coming from an oncoming train driven berserk by the few yet feuding political and economic elite, periodically wrestling to take hold of the wheel, ready to take their turns to run us over and over and over again while they party with glee at the end of the day?