left out of EDSA

from carol pagaduan-araullo’s valentine column Remembering EDSA ‘People Power.’   leftist rhetoric that places the “organized progressive forces”  in EDSA in 1986 (an insignificant truth) and credits, or is it, blames, US intervention for the peaceful outcome (a significant untruth).

… EDSA “People Power” was a standoff between two armed camps, that of Ferdinand E. Marcos-Fabian C. Ver and Enrile-Ramos. The US and the anti-Marcos reactionaries as well as the organized progressive forces and the spontaneous masses occupied the gap between the two armed camps.

Violent confrontation between the two could have broken out at any moment so it is misleading to describe it as a “peaceful” phenomenon. Only US intervention and the growing numbers of people on the EDSA highway fronting Camp Crame prevented the Marcos-Ver camp from aggressively attacking the Enrile-Ramos camp.

medyo dated naman, and obscurantist rin, ang reading na ito of EDSA — as dated as the myth of a miracle peddled by cardinal sin, as obscurantist as the left’s refusal to acknowledge its mistake in refusing to support cory and boycotting the snap elections.

yes, america from the beginning warned both the enrile-RAM camp and the marcos-ver camp to desist from violent action, or else.  but marcos defied the americans, ordered marine commander tadiar’s tanks to ram through crowds on EDSA sunday and advance to attack the rebel soldiers in camps aguinaldo and crame, and again on EDSA monday morning when the marines managed to make it into camp aguinaldo (enrile had moved to crame when the people stopped the tanks) and marcos through the vers ordered colonel balbas to fire cannons and howitzers at camp crame across the highway.  both times, the marines defied marcos’s orders — throngs of civilians were all over the place, including their own families — and that was the end of marcos.  the americans, indeed, played a part in EDSA but only in giving marcos a way out of the palace, and that was already on day four, EDSA tuesday, the battle was over.

but what’s truly amazing is the blind spot of the left when it comes to cory and EDSA.  i guess because cory was so burgis and a hasyendera to boot?  they must have hated it when  EDSA practically fell on her lap, awarding her the presidency.  but it’s not as if it was a painless exercise for cory who had to rise above personal issues with enrile who was after all ninoy’s jailer for seven years and seven months.

Before the display of People Power in Ortigas, the idea of Cory meeting with Enrile in the dark of night to plot against the dictator was inconceivable. Not only did Cory and Ninoy suffer unspeakably in the hands (so to speak) of Enrile, Cory was also convinced that she could bring down Marcos (and Enrile) without violence—she did not need a military arm. Enrile, for his part, must have been loath to take orders from a woman who had no experience in running a government; and perhaps he was not convinced that Marcos could be brought down through non-violent actions alone.

But after the awesome display of People Power—when the people risked life and limb to protect Enrile in the name of Cory—the two could behave no less grandly by rising to the challenge and transcending personal interests. Cory rose above her resentment of the military, Enrile rose above his ambition to become president, and space was created where the two could face each other without rancor (if temporarily) and work out a mutually acceptable arrangement, join hands against a higher common cause.

People Power called for Cory and Enrile to reconcile their differences for the sake of the nation, and the two did, not by butting heads but through creative negotiation. No doubt Enrile came to the table with certain demands in exchange for his support. Such as, perhaps, an end to the boycott of crony businesses, and, it would seem, immunity from suit.

As for Ramos, who knows what he asked for. Cory’s anointment in the next presidential election may have been on his list.  [EDSA Uno: A Narrative and Analysis with Notes of Dos & Tres (2013) page 159]

quite funny too is how pagaduan-araullo’s rhetoric on EDSA is sounding like enrile’s who is still upset that EDSA is not celebrated on feb 22, the day of his defection with gringo’s army and fvr’s police forces that set off the four-day uprising.  here, pagaduan-araullo complains that the role of the organized left, the “progressive and revolutionary forces,” is being played down and airbrushed from historical accounts.

But “people power” was passed off as merely the massing-up of people spontaneously responding to the call of Cardinal Sin to support the Juan Ponce Enrile-Fidel V. Ramos mutinous forces. They had been galvanized by the experience of the fraud-ridden snap presidential elections that stole victory from Corazon C. Aquino.

The objective of the emphasis on the unorganized mass of people is to play down the role of people’s organizations that had initiated and sustained anti-dictatorship struggles throughout the dark years. The purpose, then and now, is to airbrush progressive and revolutionary forces from the historical account of the uprising itself.

well, not in my book, where i track what the left, right, and center were up to over the marcos years, the snap elections, the six-day crony boycott, and the four day uprising.   i even quoted from a 1992 joma interview [pages 215, 302], and of course authors like mark thompson.

Jose Maria Sison ~ The masses led by the Party were there!  In EDSA, when there was a call for the bravest spirits to take over Channel 4, 500 Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) members were there, and when I refer to BAYAN, I mean that the influence of the Party extends; I don’t mean that BAYAN is not an independent organization. But the myth that the Party obstructed or was a block, that’s not true. The most progressive  people, 500 of them from BAYAN, went over to seize Channel 4. [Kasarinlan. “Interview: Jose Maria Sison” by Kathleen Weekley. 1992. 74.]

Mark R. Thompson ~ BAYAN was caught off guard by the foiled coup, and, although some of its members joined the crowds that protected the military rebels, its role in the people-power insurrection was insignificant.  [Anti-Marcos Struggle. 1996. 157]

Jose Maria Sison ~ The highest concentration of progressive forces was at Malacañang. During the days of the downfall of Marcos, from February 22 to 25, probably 80% of the people in EDSA went there spontaneously, or came from the unorganized sector. … 20% of the people were, you might say, progressive, and most of that 20% came from the progressive mass organizations. Around Malacañang, the percentage was higher, even up to 90%. Kilusang Mayo Uno, KADENA, and the League of Filipino Students concentrated there.  [Kasarinlan. 74]

insignificant naman talaga ang presence ng “organized progressives” sa EDSA.  even if they had not shown up, the four-day uprising would have proceeded and ousted marcos without bloodshed anyway.  and while it is true that the struggles of the left during martial law deserve playing up (as it is played up by leftist pundits in mainstream and social media to this day), even more so does ninoy’s suffering and sacrifice.  imagine how much darker and uglier and dirtier the conjugal dictatorship might have played it if there had been no ninoy in jail who kept the protest alive in the hearts of many many filipinos, unorganized but totally opposed to marcos and martial rule, too, and surely our numbers were greater than the left.  naturally, the balance of power post-EDSA “overwhelmingly favored” the “unorganized” coryistas.

sa totoo lang, i would love to engage with an “organized progressive” who has read EDSA Uno the book.  i thought the left did a great job in mendiola.  EDSA monday pa lang, day three, nandoon na sila, freaking the marcoses out (so to speak).

Apparently brought by rumors that Marcos had fled the country, several hundred people gathered near Mendiola Bridge, only to find the usual dense row of barricades still in place, along with combat-ready Marines wearing white armbands.

There were at least 50 soldiers toting Armalites and grenade launchers; a sand-bagged emplacement on one side of the bridge behind the wire sprouted what looked like the muzzle of an M-60 machinegun, with a long belt of ammunition trailing onto the pavement.

Far from being daunted by the sight of arms and troops, the people started doing something which would have been unthinkable (and possibly fatal) just weeks ago: they started dismantling the barricade.

While the Marines watched, the iron horses (so long a famous symbol for frustrated demonstrators) were dragged towards waiting companions who started tearing them apart with rocks, small pliers and bare hands.

“A remembrance,” said one man as he displayed a strip of barbed wire he had twisted off. Strips were bent into circles and then decorated with yellow ribbons.

About four of the iron barriers were stripped bare before the Marines fired warning shots into the air (a student said later that someone had thrown a rock at them), sending people scampering down CM Recto Ave. [Alan C. Robles, “Mendiola Barricades Disappearing” The Manila Times. 25 February 86]

i gather “the people” referred to were leftists, i mean, organized progressives?  it would be nice to get some confirmation.  but here’s a gem from lino brocka, the activist and national artist.

Lino Brocka ~ Minsan pa, maniwala ka, nakatayong ganyan ang mga sundalo, nariyan naman ang puwersa ng BAYAN. Hintayan. Tense talaga. Biglang may tumawid sa tulay mula sa BAYAN side papunta sa mga sundalo. May dalang pagkain. Alam mo ba ang ginawa ng mga sundalo? Ibinaba ang mga baril nila at pumalakpak! Pagkatapos, kumain sila nang kumain. Diyos ko, sabi namin, tao rin pala sila. Gutom na gutom! Eh ayun, matapos nilang kumain, tinanganan uli ang mga baril nila!  [“Lino Brocka’s Election Drama” The Sunday Times Magazine. 16 March 86]

and then there was this, on the night of EDSA tuesday, an hour after the marcoses had escaped via US choppers.

10:15 P.M. • As the mob dismantled the barbed wire structures, the militants stood up, tightened their ranks, and dispersed. Why did they disperse? Why did they not lead or join the mob that “conquered” Malacañang? [Gus Mclat “Savoring a Glorious Moment in History” Sunday Magazine of Malaya. 23 Mar 86]

good question.  though i think it was quite a class act, haha.   and smart.  otherwise they would likely have been blamed for the unorganized looting of malacanang that ensued an hour or so later.

Ninotchka Rosca ~ Romeo Candazo of Selda (Prison Cell), the organization of former political prisoners, said: “ … you have to appreciate the dilemma of our people. They went to EDSA only to be confronted by the faces of those who tortured them. It was a heavy trip.” [Endgame: The  Fall of Marcos. 1987. 144]

yes, EDSA was a heavy trip for the left, but it’s been 30 years.  time to level up the discourse.


  1. Batang-Genyo, Alah Eh

    The China-inspired Left missed the boat on EDSA revolt in which they have the golden chance to help topple the sacred elite and reversed the evils of capitalist democracy just as Vietnam did and the Great Mao Tse Tung during the Cultural revolution. Unfortunately, China has embraced capitalist democracy and CCP- class struggle is irrelevant now, I cannot see how can they level up to be a force for progressive development in the light of EDSA failure to take power from the local imperialists.