In February of 1986, millions of Filipinos made history as they took to the streets in a protest that lasted for three days to win back their freedom and overthrow the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In the event now famously known as Edsa 1 or People Power Revolution, this historical moment was one of the shaping factors of our nation, that showed the courage of Filipinos in fighting back (even if it meant risking their lives) against a tyrant’s abuse of power.
It also shows the patriotism of Filipinos, and their love for country and fellowmen. This is true as Marcos wasn’t the last president to be overthrown by the people through public demonstration. President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was also overthrown in January 2001, in the event known as Edsa 2.
But why do politicians get overthrown anyway?
This is how politics works: during the campaign period, candidates act a certain way–more charming and charismatic, and would say absolutely anything to win the trust of the people and gain their votes. But as it happens, once they have won, they suddenly have a shift in attitude and their true colors and intentions come to light.
Thus, the people’s call for these politicians to be removed from office. More often, simply voicing it out doesn’t do much, that’s why massive demonstrations happen.
After experiencing the tragedy of martial law, Filipinos have learned a thing or two on who, and who not to vote for. They look for red flags or “a la Marcos” attitudes in each politician who runs for office.
In the case of President Duterte, Filipinos voted him into power believing he could make improvements to the country, just as he did in his hometown, Davao City, where he served as mayor for over 22 years.
But as time passed, a series of unfortunate events have happened: the extreme human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs; the forced shut down of ABS-CBN; the attacks on Rappler CEO Maria Ressa; the Anti-Terror bill; the campus militarization of the University of the Philippines; the threats and red-tagging of activists; and the resurgence of internet trolls pretending to be in support of the government in order to silence its critics.
People can’t help but notice the parallelisms between the Duterte and the Marcos administrations.
“Duterte’s regime is considered de facto dictatorship, even without martial law being proclaimed as Marcos did,” said Shtefany Ezra Quisumbing, a freshman Political Economy student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
“Both (Duterte and Marcos) are dictators who surround themselves with rich and powerful people in order to get away with anything they want,” said Eloisa Tandoc, a freshman Political Science student at the University of Santo Tomas. “Both of them labeled citizens, even those who haven’t been proven guilty, as enemies of the state. They justified the killings. Both built a landscape ruled by fear and violence.”
With all of these abuses that mirror the events of the martial law era, Filipinos are having none of it. “We join rallies because we cannot bear to remain silent in times like these,” said Jake, a student at Far Eastern University. “People are dropping dead on the streets and their rights are being abused. Alangan naman wala tayong gawin.”
While some of the youth take their criticism on the streets, some utilize the power of social media.
“Social media reaches an insane amount of audience, pati yung mga nasa ibang bansa. Beware lang na may makasagupa kang trolls,” Jake continued, referring to the so-called “troll armies,” social media users whose main purpose is to harass and red-tag online critics of the administration.
In early April 2020, Twitter shut down hundreds of troll accounts defending the Duterte administration’s COVID-19 response, stating that they were found to be in violation of the social media platform’s policy on manipulation and spams.
In September 2020, numerous troll accounts on Facebook were also shut down, which were allegedly linked to the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army. A number of people also came forward with their stories of being hired as troll armies (all anonymously, for fear of retribution) stated that they were paid based on the number of posts that they needed to publish, all in favor of the administration.
Open our eyes
For Quisumbing, it doesn’t matter where we choose to express our voices, just as long as we don’t remain silent. “The problem lies with the citizens who still choose to turn a blind eye to this. It is high time that we open our eyes, and not be swayed by his words or promises. What we want is action. Are you really going to entrust your life to the same man who would not think twice about taking another’s?”
“When we hear Edsa, the first thing that comes into our mind is not rarely ever the highway, but the revolution of 1986,” Jake said. “Na kahit anong danasin ng Pilipino sa kamay ng mga pasista, lalaban at lalaban ang masa para sa karapatan nila.”
For Quisumbing, Edsa is something that serves as an inspiration to all Filipinos. “We might not have witnessed the event firsthand, but it is something we can look back to and serve as a reminder that we can all fight for what is right,” she said. “We no longer watch and sit idly by as we are being mistreated by the administration. We do the best we can in letting our voice be heard–rallies, even in cyberspace, and this is just the beginning.”
“Edsa is a reminder that despite our differences, we can be united as a country. It is a reminder of the power of Filipinos when they unite and work together, especially in the battle for freedom and against oppression,” said Tandoc.
It is safe to say that Edsa, in the perspective of today’s youth, is not just an event that our country experienced back in 1986, but is now more of a mindset of standing up for our rights.
In this time of great injustice and poor governance, just like our grandparents, mothers and fathers who fought for our freedom on that fine day in 1986, we, the so-called “future of the nation,” are now the ones who are standing up and speaking out, and we will not stop fighting until goodness, justice, and freedom prevails.
This is our Edsa.
The author is a student of University of Santo Tomas