fact-checking EDSA 86
On the 25th anniversary of People Power in the Philippines, we who stood before immobile tanks, most without gasoline or lacking spare parts, tanks with no intention of running anyone over; we who would have scattered to the four winds at the first shot should (sic); we should bow our heads if not in shame then in tribute to the first truly people power revolution in history.
there’s an editing error there, but like nery says in Fact-checking people power:
This idea carries two assertions of fact that can be checked against the historical record: that Marcos’ tanks had “no intention of running anyone over,” and the people at the intersection of Edsa and Ortigas “would have scattered to the four winds at the first shot.” The effect is again to diminish the significance of Edsa, and specifically of the crucial encounter on Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Edsa and Ortigas avenue between the tanks and a crowd of unarmed, praying civilians.
exactly my sentiments. thanks, john : (ehem)
Fortunately, there are many sources we can use to fact-check the events of Edsa 1986, and my retelling. First on my list would be Angela Stuart Santiago’s Edsa 1986: The Original People Power Revolution, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection at www.stuartxchange.org. This wonderful resource is essentially a chronology of the revolution, stitched together out of the many accounts (from periodicals and published books, plus a few personal interviews) that came pouring out after Edsa. It has its limitations; its use of excerpts assumes the same level of credibility for the various sources, but surely (to give only one example) Stanley Kramer’s “In Our Image” is a problematic account. Also, in its attempt to pay tribute to the masses, to the people in “people power,” it minimizes its coverage of the rampant use of religious, specifically Marian, symbols that filled Edsa like votive candles. But it is the place to start. (There is a companion work, “Walang Himala: Himagsikan sa Edsa,” also available online.)
yes, i realize how unpopular karnow and In Our Image are with pinoy scholars, so i actually used him sparingly and only when his facts were supported by other sources. i wouldn’t have used him even; my first chronology’s sources were purely pinoy, but my publishers wanted foreign titles, too. about minimizing coverage of “the rampant use of religious, specifically Marian, symbols that filled Edsa like votive candles,” actually what i minimized, deliberately, were accounts that waxed miraculous about the four days, attributing the success of people power solely to divine providence. as for Himagsikan sa EDSA: Walang Himala (the correct title, but nonoy marcelo played around with it sa layout of the cover), yes, a companion piece that’s an updated chronology, but also an essay that attempts to draw conclusions and give credit where credit is due. i wrote it in tagalog for wider readership, but have since realized, been told, that i should write it in english because the elite, and most of the media, the movers of philippine society, who might read at all don’t read tagalog at all, so i have this english version (
of which The Original People Power Revolution is the intro but the body is the same manuscript posted on edsarevolution.com which has the original intro and foreword by nick joaquin) that’s just waiting for a closing chapter (when i’ve finished my lola’s book, soon soon soon) , but which needs updating, given recent (better late than never) accounts by the rebel military that belie their first soundbites during and after EDSA 1, which is part of the history na rin. complicated talaga. incidentally, since this is about fact-checking, cannot not comment on nestor mata‘s ‘Dumbest myths’ (1) in today’s malaya, where he quotes from carmen guerrero nakpil’s Exeunt(2010):
“As a conspiracy of American foreign and economic policy-makers and Filipino politicians, business, the clergy, dissidents of all persuasions, EDSA succeeded because it removed a common enemy, Ferdinand Marcos, from the scheme of things.”
it’s an old story whose other proponent is the tribune’s herman tiu laurel, who has written a lot of columns to the effect that EDSA was orchestrated by the americans. not true. EDSA was a purely filipino operation. if they tried to orchestrate anything it was that RAM take over the armed forces, but even the americans must have doubted that the people would take it sitting down, enrile preempting cory. ronald reagan’s trouble-shooter philip habib knew that something was brewing but he failed to get a handle on it. they knew about the coup plans for sunday but they were as surprised as marcos and ver when enrile and ramos, backed by RAM, defected on saturday. the defection (day 1) caught the americans napping, people power (day 2) knocked them out. it was already day 3, the battle was practically won, when the americans finally intervened in earnest, and only in the matter of marcos’s exit, and only when marcos through tommy manotoc asked the u.s. embassy for help. intelligence reports from the CIA may have helped the rebels during the four days, but if the Americans had completely stayed out of it, EDSA would have happened anyway, and it may have ended more decisively, maybe with marcos answering for his crimes in philippine courts.