Beyond EDSA

It may be a sentence so overused many do not even acknowledge it but, indeed, everything is political. Even the most mundane scenarios like riding a jeepney and paying the minimum fare, we can observe how that specific event alone reflects the existing socio-economic situation that our country faces right now. We see that the situation of the country’s jeepney drivers—low pay and unfair jeepney phaseout—is a lived and shared experience among their sector. 

Because of this, multisectoral groups mainly composed of jeepney drivers, union leaders, and transport organizations conducted a week-long transport strike to resist the government’s questionable jeepney modernization program. 

This recent act of resistance shows that the spirit of the EDSA People Power is still alive and well amongst the masses 37 years later. Now that the son of the ousted dictator sits in Malacañang, the people power’s spark must prevail, from the grassroots level to entire communities. 

Debunking the “bloodless revolution” narrative

Commemorating the EDSA People Power Uprising always comes with the notion that it brought something new to the world: that genuine change is possible without taking up arms, or resorting to violence. Traditional history books would occasionally state that it was through bloodless means that Marcos Sr. was ousted from power. Unfortunately, the scenarios which took place before the actual uprising were traumatically bloody with all the state-sponsored harassments, illegal arrests, torture, and extra-judicial killings that happened to innocent citizens and progressive activists who were resisting the dictatorship of Marcos. 

In a series of interviews by UPLB Perspective on Martial Law survivors, we can see how brutal the regime was to activists and innocent individuals. Rolando Santos, former Managing Editor of Perspective, recalled the unjust experience his father, who was a fisherfolk, had to encounter. He was arrested and tortured in Camp Crame due to trumped-up charges by the Philippine Coast Guard, accusing him of his connections with the New People’s Army without any clear bases and evidence. Additionally, his sister was also brought to Crame with the same allegations, where she was also tortured and raped.  

The struggles were not different for the case of farmers, especially in Southern Tagalog. Ka Orly Marcellana, former Regional Coordinator and current Spokesperson of Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan, shared his memories in an interview with Perspective on the harsh realities his cousins and fellow farmers endured during the troubling times of the Marcos regime. He mentioned how they were illegally harassed and tortured with baseless accusations just because they were dissenting against the inhumane policies that the state was imposing on the farmers.

Emphasizing how bloody the regime was, Ka Orly highlighted their experience when their family and him moved to Lopez, Quezon. The 1981 Guinayangan Massacre occurred where more than 6,000 farmers in Quezon Province organized a protest to resist the compulsory and controversial collection of the funds intended for the coco levy fund. This peaceful protest to call out the government’s sense of urgency to address land reform and rampant militarization in the protest turned bloody when soldiers, according to witnesses, killed two farmers and injured thousands on February 1, 1981. 

Thinking of EDSA People Power as a bloodless event erases the sacrifices of martyrs and desaparecidos who offered their lives by standing up against fascism. As recorded by Amnesty International, 70,000 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured during the term of Marcos Sr. Additionally, 3,240 people were killed from 1972 to 1981. And even when the Marcoses got kicked out from Malacañang, their cronies were still rampant all over the country, this allowed them to continue their corrupt schemes. Years after their exile, Imelda Marcos even tried to run for president. And now, three decades later, their children became president and senator. Which begs the question, is the EDSA People Power still relevant? 

Realities on the ground 37 years later 

It is unfair to invalidate the collective effort of the masses who tried to collectively topple down the dictatorship during Martial Law. The narrowest target still is the semi-feudal and semi-colonial structure of the Philippines that did not change even when former President Corazon Aquino started her administration. The country still remained as a neo-colony to imperialist countries like the United States, and with the tremendous amount of debt that the Marcos regime gathered, the Filipino people are left to pay under different rotten administrations that followed suit.

Even when Marcos was ousted, the Philippine government still hindered the legislation of the genuine land reform act which would give accessible land to farmers. Our education system is also still commercialized and colonial which still benefits Western countries and leaves many students deprived of quality and accessible education that must be rooted on scientific and nationalist ideologies. This and other systemic issues of the country continue to plague the people. 

Not so long ago, the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte imposed severe policies which took the lives of many Filipinos. His infamous War on Drugs brought upon extrajudicial killings to innocent people like Kian Delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz. The creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict also put the lives of many individuals, especially activists, at risk because of their red-tagging sprees and illegal arrests against voices of dissent. The Bloody Sunday Massacre and the killings of the New Bataan 5 are some recent examples of the many crimes of the Duterte regime.

Now that Bongbong Marcos sits on the throne, the fascism continues. The inhumane arrest of development workers Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha in Cebu last January is a testament that the state is scared of those that oppose them, that they would go to extremes just to silence their opposition. With all these struggles the people face, worsening inflation and increasing prices of goods and services to top it all off, there is a clear need to resist the status quo and to struggle alongside the masses. 

Building many forms of people power

Just recently, the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), one of the  broadest transportation groups in the country, and Manibela, a coalition of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators, organized a nationwide strike on Monday, March 6. It was originally set for a week until government officials in Malacañang met the transport strike leaders on Tuesday night, March 7, where they decided to end the strike on Wednesday.

This just means that the kind of opposition they made was a force to be reckoned with, since they successfully made Malacañang have a dialogue with jeepney drivers because of the impact of the nationwide strike they organized.  PISTON leader Mody Floranda expressed that in their meeting with Malacañang, they were left with nothing but to study and review the contents of the Department of Transportation Department Order 2017-011 Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) and the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) until December 31, 2023. They also assured that  drivers, operators, and commuters will be part of the entire process.

Floranda stated that although this is not yet an absolute cancellation of OFG and the phaseout program, it can still be treated as an initial success because their calls have forced Malacañang to respond.

Additionally, given the current environmental situation of our climate, the resistance of environmental defenders in Sibuyan Island toward destructive mining projects in Romblon provides additional hope to people that we are one collective that can move mountains. 

In UP Los Banos, the strong and palpable student movement was showcased through the week-long protest fair, or more commonly known as FebFair, where different calls and advocacies were amplified. Through this free and accessible event, the calls were able to reach different kinds of audiences, many of whom probably heard these calls for the first time during the fair. On top of this, demonstrations and protests all over the country continue to call for the abolition of the mandatory ROTC that has been shown to perpetuate values and practices that do harm and showcase a false sense of patriotism. 

Recently the Dumagat-Remontados, a broad group of indigenous peoples, together with progressives walked for 9 days from General Nakar, Quezon to Metro Manila as an act of protest against the controversial Kaliwa Dam. Although they were unfairly blocked by state forces in Mendiola, their message is clear: they will continue the fight against the dam at all costs. 

At the end of the day, we are making history by constantly arousing individuals, organizing campaigns, and mobilizing more to collectively join the fight against oppressive forces in the country. This is the real power of the people, and it needs to be sustained until fascism and imperialism finally ends. [P]

photos by Jonel Mendoza and Michael Ian Bartido

layout by Arianne Paas

1 comment on “Beyond EDSA

  1. Pingback: Beyond EDSA – TAMIRAT WEBPAGE

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