By the time this piece comes out, it will be the day after the anniversary of Edsa People Power. Since this is being written well before that day (in anticipation of a surgical procedure which will incapacitate both my hands for some time), I have no idea how our historic 1986 People Power revolution will be publicly commemorated, or even just quietly remembered, and by whom.
It’s natural to expect, and will be quite understandable, that our country’s incumbent chief executive will avoid having anything to do with the celebration of the landmark event that ousted his father from power 37 years ago—despite several executive orders (EO) mandating its wide celebration nationally to promote and sustain awareness, issued by his predecessors, including the one he recently succeeded.
In fact, it would be very reasonable to expect him to exercise his powers to eventually consign to oblivion any remembrance of that destiny-altering chapter in our nation’s checkered history. But honestly, who can blame him for being unequivocally loyal to his dynastic family, and a dutiful son to his namesake father, whose unlamented 21-year rule he has unabashedly called our country’s “golden age”?
Given all this, the Filipino people, for reasons we can only speculate on, have ostensibly expressed their electoral imprimatur giving the son an opportunity to redeem the family’s tarnished past and rehabilitate its name, especially among the still skeptical members of the international community.
To learn about official plans to publicly commemorate Edsa I tried to access online Edsa People Power Commission, the government agency specifically tasked to oversee its annual celebration. What greeted me was “This site can’t be reached… www.officialgazette.gov.ph unexpectedly closed the connection.”
However, some of the links related to Edsa were still intact. A significant one was Executive Order No. 47 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 24, 2017, described as “Further Amending Executive Order No. 82 (s.1999) As Amended, Institutionalizing the Legacy of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
The EO (which superseded a previous EO of President Joseph Estrada in 1999) stipulated that the Commission shall, among others, “initiate the activities that will expand awareness of the principles and values that the Edsa People Power Revolution stands for… plan, organize and implement the yearly commemoration of the 1986 Edsa Revolution every 25th of February.”
The EO speaks for itself, but the other day, when I checked with one of the previously appointed private sector representatives of the Commission, he said he was not aware of any official government plans to celebrate it this year, or if the Commission was still active. Aware of its present sensitivity, I didn’t pursue the subject any further.
It is a given that history is subjectively written by the victors of any conflict. But once the objective facts are firmly established by third parties and accepted widely, it would be counterproductive, and even ridiculous, to try to sweep the truth under the rug, or worse, fabricate contradictory stories, today being passed off creatively by some purveyors as “alternative facts.”
As an example, to claim that the infamous Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered as part of the “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II, never happened, is to invite not only incredulity but condemnation by the world at large.
But this is precisely what former Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed in 2005, calling the Holocaust a myth in a speech before thousands of his countrymen. As expected, this elicited an international outcry of condemnation, especially from Israel, the European Commission, and Germany in particular. This is what awaits fantastic claims to erase or contradict authentic historical events. (Still, nowadays a lot of fake news and “alternative facts” frequently manage to gain traction in segments of the population in many countries.)
I keep harping on the dangers of historical revisionism because it not only hurts a leader’s credibility, but in the long run serves to erode a people’s confidence in an objective view of their own history, ultimately undermining their rational perception and good judgment.
As a good example to the contrary, if Germany as a nation did not fully accept accountability, apologize sincerely and take concrete steps to make appropriate amends for the genocidal atrocities committed by its wartime leaders against the Jewish people, who knows what kind of damaged relationship would exist today between Germany and Israel. But because both countries recognized history as it actually happened, they have been able to reconcile genuinely with the past, and today are staunch allies, two of the most solid and progressive democracies in the world.
By the same token, instead of simply ignoring or trying to deny significant events which are now an indelible part of our country’s history, the incumbent chief executive, who ostensibly has the mandate of the Filipino people, can make up for the past, or at least mitigate it by seizing the opportunity to lead his country to a genuine “golden age” via transformational leadership—with a single-minded, people-centered vision.
He can initiate this through voluntary financial restitution to the families of the officially recognized but still unindemnified victims of martial law, and finding an appropriate, face-saving way to recompense the Filipino people for the billions misused and lost in the numerous behest loans soured by bare-faced corruption, for which they have been paying the country’s international lenders continuously for decades through their taxes (that’s all of us).
Admittedly, this will take some doing, and calls for an unprecedented act of statesmanship, but it is the true path to redemptive national reconciliation and to effectively move on from the past. It can also pave the way to that elusive “golden age” which Filipinos have never really experienced. Otherwise, it is only a pipe dream which may never be realized.
And for starters, let the present dispensation with its eager sycophants refrain from abolishing the laws and dismantling the institutions, landmarks and monuments celebrating the “one brief shining moment” in 1986 which most dramatically demonstrated to the whole world the indomitable spirit of the Filipino people, in whom all power in a democracy—our democracy—ultimately resides.
Belated but most sincere Edsa Day greetings! —CONTRIBUTED