“People power” is a political term denoting the populist driving force of any social movement which invokes the authority of grassroots opinion and willpower, usually in opposition to that of conventionally organised corporate or political forces. “People power” can be manifested as a small-scale protest or campaign for neighbourhood change; or as wide-ranging, revolutionary action involving national street demonstrations, work stoppages and general strikes intending to overthrow an existing government and/or political system. It may be nonviolent, as was the case in the 1986 Philippines revolution which overthrew the Marcos régime, or may resort to violence, as happened in Libya in 2011. The term was first used by members of the 1960s “flower power” movement which initially protested against the Vietnam War.
In the Roman Republic the power of public opinion was a constraint on the Roman Senate; according to Polybius, “the Senate stands in awe of the multitude, and cannot neglect the feelings of the people.”
- What then are the true boundaries of the people’s power? The answer cannot be simple. But for a rough beginning let us say that the people are able to give and withhold their consent to be governed — their consent to what the government asks of them, proposes to them, and has done in the conduct of their affairs. They can elect the government. They can remove it. They can approve or disapprove its performance. But they cannot administer the government. They cannot themselves perform. They cannot normally initiate and propose necessary legislation. A mass cannot govern.
- THE REVOLUTION
- The People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA Revolution and the Philippine Revolution of 1986 or simply EDSA 1986) was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, mostly in the capital city of Manila from February 22–25, 1986. There was a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and alleged electoral fraudas tge same is being witnessed in Uganda. The nonviolent revolution led to the departure of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the end of his 21-year totalitarian rule, and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines,Will Bobib Wine’s People Power Movement drive out the old man before 2021??.
It is also referred to as the Yellow Revolution due to the presence of yellow ribbons[red ribbons for Uganda’s case] during demonstrations following the assassination of Filipino senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. in August 1983. It was widely seen as a victory of the people against two decades of totalitarian, repressive rule by Marcos, and made news headlines as “the revolution that surprised the world”.
The majority of the demonstrations took place on a long stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, more commonly known by its acronym EDSA, in Metro Manila from February 22–25, 1986. They involved over two million Filipino civilians, as well as several political and military groups, and religious groups led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, along with Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the Archbishop of Cebu. The protests, fueled by the resistance and opposition from years of corrupt governance by Marcos and his cronies, culminated with the dictator and his family fleeing Malacañang Palace to exile in Hawaii. Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, was immediately installed as the eleventh President as a result of the revolution.
HOW IT ALL STARTED[NOTE ALL EVENTS IN THIS STORY ARE RELATED TO WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN UGANDA]
Sit back and get ready for another whirlwind chapter of the story.
Ferdinand Marcos was a very intelligent man just like Museveni, and his brilliance can be backed up with the years he served as congressman, senator and senate president. He won the presidency in 1965 for having an anti-Japanese platform, a move that few would take in a world still recovering from World War 2.
As president, he had a clear vision of what the Philippines under his regime should be. In a way, we could say he jumpstarted the economy to modernity.
However, things started to become messy when he was on his way to his second term. It was said he won the elections because he cheated, leading to a massive student protest called the First Quarter Storm. Many other factors finally forced Marcos to declare Martial Law, a move that both enraged and satisfied the Filipino public.
The Martial Law years were a quiet and grim facet in Philippine history. In many ways, the Marcoses failed to live up to their promises. Nepotism and cronyism were very rampant in public positions, which allowed many of the Marcos’ cronies to accumulate ill-gotten wealth as the same is being witnessed in Uganda with Museveni’s government. The Marcoses themselves were not clean and accumulated wealth beyond their means thanks to access to the public coffers.
At this point, the popularity of the once brilliant Ferdinand Marcos was shadowed by the failures of Martial Law. A falling economy, the cracking credibility of the president, human rights violations, deaths… all these led to a breaking point in the Marcos regime. But it was the death of Marcos’ staunch political opponent Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino that finally forced people to the streets, the first stages of the massive people power of ’86.
In an attempt to quell the public, Marcos declared a snap election. He declared himself winner despite news of fraud exposed by international media. He was set to be inaugurated as President of the Philippines on 25 February 1986. The situation was tense: the opposition vowed changes if Marcos took his oath. Marcos meanwhile was ready to arrest officials who were ready to defect.
But away from government offices, the Filipino people who had had enough of Marcos finally decided to take matters in their own hands by marching through the streets.
22–25 February 1986
In the morning of the first day of People Power, the Marcos’ household staff were gussying up Malacañang Palace for the inauguration. Cory Aquino, who took up the opposition banner after her husband Ninoy died, was meanwhile rallying up an act of civil disobedience in Cebu,.
To combat the threat of arrest, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile mobilised the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), whose assassination attempt of Marcos failed, and informed embassies and the media of the Marcos’ government’s arrest plot. That afternoon, Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos and more army troops defected.
Enrile and Ramos declare open rebellion by 6pm at Camp Aguinaldo. In front of media, Enrile said ‘We are here to take a stand. If anyone of us will be killed, I think…all of us must be killed. We’ll stay here until we are all killed.’ Meanwhile Ramos said ‘The president of 1986 is not the president to whom we dedicated our service… He has put his personal family interest above the interest of the people.’
Men, women, students, priests, nuns, businessmen and ordinary citizens were to be seen holding placards and staying in Edsa on a vigil. More people flooded the streets at the call of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin through Radio Veritas, the only local media outfit to broadcast the ongoing revolution. The cardinal specifically asked the people to avoid violence and bloodshed.
By Sunday noon, the second day, there were around 350,000 people in Edsa. Tanks threatened the resolve of those who were in Edsa, but they stood their ground, saying ‘Hindi puwede! Mamamatay tayong lahat dito!’ Some say it was at this moment, when people from all walks of life linked arms and did not budge from where they stood, that People Power came to be.
Marcos’ forces attempted to break through the human chain. At the last minute the tanks would stop and retreat. Many non-military troops also attempted to turn the revolution bloody, but the same people in the human chain would stop them.
On the third day, Monday, Cory and the opposition lawmakers were preparing for her oath taking. In Edsa, the atmosphere was at times so tense because of the presence of Marcos military men. But in general, there was a festive mood as showbiz names, lay people, activists with flags, musicians, foreign media, vendors and dancers shared the street.
By Tuesday, talks of the flailing Marcos regime spread. The opposition had designated Club Filipino as Cory’s inauguration venue. At 10:46am Cory Aquino took her oath to the office as witnessed by opposition lawmakers and the Supreme Court senior justice. An hour and a few minutes later, Marcos held his own inauguration at the Palace. His plans were kept secret, but he and America had already arranged for his escape.
When rumours of Marcos’ escape spread, soldiers and nuns alike clapped and rejoiced. Duty and tension had kept them from eating for hours. But as the day of reckoning was drawing to a close, everyone was feeling the exhaustion of the stand-off. At 9:52 when it was announced Marcos has fled the country there was laughing, crying and noise. Some who wanted to vent out their anger rushed to Malacañang and looted the Palace. Many people lingered on the streets to celebrate victory.
The difficulty with history is that people have the tendency to forget. 28 years after Edsa Revolution there are fewer people who can recall the significance of those four days in 1986. There are many programmes today that emphasise the importance of the revolution for the benefit of those who are too young to recall it or for those born after the revolution.
These programmes only attempt to instill the significance to the new generation. But I think it is the duty of those who have lived through, not just Edsa Revolution, to pass on the story of Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law. In this way, we can work as a collective; a bayanihan to pass on these memories and experiences so that future generations may learn from it.
I was there at the centre of it all; a hopeful Filipinos who dreamed of a more prosperous Philippines after Marcos. As of now, that dream is yet to come true. But if I tell this story again and again to the young ones who can still make a whole world of difference, I’m sure in the future they will see their own dreams come true.
That thought alone is enough for me to be motivated to share my take on the Edsa Revolution. I hope it is the same with you. We have had Edsa Dos and even a controversial Tres, all of which did not necessarily fulfill our dreams. But the real lesson to be learned and that needs to be taught from generation to generation is that collective action will get us somewhere.
That’s all for today! Talk of liberty made me want to liberise myself from this house and maybe spend some time with my grandkids somewhere. Luneta Park for an afternoon, maybe? We’ll see. As for you, I’ll see you our next date with history!
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