I FIND it hard to grasp the reality that “EDSA” happened 34 years ago. In part perhaps because it’s hard for me to grasp the fact that I am nearing the so-called “dual citizenship” age, and harder to grasp the fact that I am now three years older than my dad was when EDSA happened. I mention my father in particular because EDSA was something he was never happy about; I remember him telling my brothers and I to stay away from EDSA because it was risky, adding (in a resigned tone) that “It’s over for Marcos anyway.”
He felt that we who were joyous about EDSA would end up disappointed; and while in some ways he was wrong about that, in some ways he was right.
Of course, me being me I didn’t heed his “instructions” to stay home; and because the UP Campus faculty housing unit we were staying in had no grills on its windows, I escaped that way and found myself back in EDSA.
Even before the crowds gathered at EDSA, I was already at Camp Aguinaldo. You see, I was the legislative assistant to then Assemblyman Rene Cayetano (RLC) who, in turn, was one of the three or four closest political allies of then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.
That’s why the day Enrile, RLC, Gringo and others holed themselves up at the GHQ, I was at the Aguinaldo gate, together with the Cayetano kids, but I was disallowed from entering the camp. It was when I got home that night and told everyone of my “experience” that the instructions were issued to stay home and stay away from EDSA.
My dad forgot that I was a middle child.
If there is any lesson from EDSA that should not be forgotten, what should it be? To me, it is that no amount of tanks and armed soldiers can keep a people down and cowed if they resolve to collectively stand up. And collective it must be, because most soldiers always lose their resolve when confronted with the order to shoot masses of countrymen. Three years after EDSA this became more evident in Europe as parts of the Iron Curtain started to fall and the military might of the Soviet Union and its allies could not contain the yearning to be free.
Many of those aspiring to be strongmen use fear to keep critics at bay and maintain control. But many times the instruments of fear are more imaginary than real, and once that is exposed then levers of control are demolished forever.
Of course, one of the most serious critiques of EDSA will always be that it was a small number of Filipinos gathered around parts of Metro Manila who decided on their own (and maybe with a little help from Ronald Reagan) to throw out the results of a presidential election and install someone who had lost. That’s true, and that’s what coups are all about, and yes EDSA was a coup later legitimated by a plebiscite that adopted a new Constitution and by all succeeding electoral and political exercises under that new basic law.
Our nature – family and friends are important, we do not wish to offend – makes us a very patient people, bending like bamboo to the wind. But EDSA showed that we too have our limits and when the limits are reached even the Armed Forces gives way.
Because ultimately if we are truly a democratic and republican state — no matter how ill-governed at times — then it is the collective voice that matters.
Governments indeed must always be afraid of the People.