Edsa ’98: The Dating Game

Inquirer 3 Mar 1998

At least the level of discourse on the Edsa Revolution has progressed from simple stuff answerable by yes or no – was Cory in Edsa or not? did Ramos hesitate to join Enrile or not? did Marcos order the soldiers to shoot or not? were the Marcoses kidnapped or not? – to a real question: When should the nation celebrate Edsa?

As an astrologer with a fetish for correct birth times, I would say it depends on what we want to celebrate.

If we want to celebrate the defection of the military reformists which led to the display of People Power, then the 22nd it is. What time? Juan Ponce Enrile says 3 p.m., when (according to my chronology) he rejected Gregorio Honasan’s and Eduardo Kapunan’s suggestion that he escape to Cagayan and decided instead to make a last stand in Camp Aguinaldo. Fidel Ramos, however, might prefer a 6:45 birth time, when together he and Enrile faced the press and announced their rebellion. And then, again, if we’re going to be true to story of Edsa, which is all about People Power, I would push for a 9 to 10 o’clock birth time, when the people first got into the picture through Butz Aquino and Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.

But if what we want to celebrate is the inauguration of the new democracy ushered in by Corazon C. Aquino, then the 25th it is. What hour of the day? Corystas would say 10:46 a.m., when she was sworn in as President. Except that at the time, Marcos was still in Malacañang Palace and still held legitimate power. He did not leave the Palace until 9:10 p.m. and he didn’t leave Clark Air Base in Pampanga until 5 a.m. the next morning. Until either time, the old government was arguably still in place. Only when Marcos was really gone did the new democracy begin.

Actually we should be celebrating Edsa neither on the 22nd nor on the 25th but on the 23rd of February, when unarmed throngs stopped the tanks (the first of such encounters) at the EDSA-Ortigas intersection. That display of People Power, captured on satellite TV for all the world to see, not only rendered the tyrant and his army powerless, it also forced the reconciliation, for the sake of peace, of the two anti-Marcos camps (Cory’s end Enrile’s) that were poised to grab power. That mind-boggling manifestation of People Power between 2:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon of the 23rd – and none other – was the high point of Edsa.

So why haven’t we been celebrating that? Basically, because it’s taken this long for our political leaders to acknowledge that Edsa wasn’t just one big blur of miraculous events but a definite series of explainable events with a beginning, a middle, and an ed. There was no miracle in Edsa – no sick were healed, no water turned into wine, the sun didn’t dance, and the Marian apparition is all in the cardinal’s mind. Edsa was about ordinary people in great numbers who dared to confront, unarmed, the military might of the dictator and discovered in the process their extraordinary powers when united by a common intent. Walang himala! As it turned out, the formidable task of removing a dictator was well within a people’s power, and the Filipino people proved it in Edsa.

Everything that happened during those four days, from the Enrile-Ramos defection to the stunning debut of People Power to the Marcos-Ver escape can be explained. None of it happened by miracle. Enrile and Ramos, for instance, didn’t wake up on the 22nd to the voice of God telling them to drop Marcos and join Cory. They defected so that Enrile could challenge Cory for the presidency. Unfortunately for Enrile, the people wanted no other than Cory, and the rest is verifiable history, except that the defectors have yet to straighten out their twisted accounts, allowing instead the Church’s miracle myth to prosper.

The effect has been not only to diminish the people’s part in the Edsa uprising but also to place it beyond the reach of human comprehension and recreation. Unlike other peak human experiences, Edsa is one that we are not being encouraged to recreate in our minds and analyze and learn from. I suspect it’s a conspiracy (shades of Hillary’s right wing), deliberate or not, to suppress what may be perceived as subversive material.

But truth has a way of coming out. And hope springs eternal. At least now (even if it has taken 12 years) we are clear about a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Same time next year, we might even be celebrating People Power. For a change.