How We are Saved By EDSA

And here is why I believe that the EDSA Movement is indeed God’s gift to the Filipino people, and why it is different from other revolutions out there: it sired a peaceful demonstration, but more than that, it was cultivated by the Church as a labor of Love.

A month ago, I was reading Alexis Tocqueville’s treatise on the French Revolution. It was a pessimistic view of the politico-social revolution that shook France. In one chapter, I read that Louis XVI wasn’t a real tyrant; in fact, he championed the liberal cause, as Nicholas later would in his lifetime. The revolution also occurred at the time of great prosperity for France. Only during a brief period of economic decline (which is usually the catalyst for the fall of these dictators), did the revolution, lead by elements of the middle class lawyers, erupt.

Inspired by this, I wrote my first political post: Anti-Thesis: Why Revolution Will Not Succeed in the Philippines. At that time, I was frustrated by Trillanes’ foolhardy barricade of Manila Peninsula Hotel, when he could have put his energies to better use with a rebellion in the provinces (I still think that). I was also trying to analyze just exactly what went wrong with the would-be uprisings of 2005 and 2006. Applying the Tocqueville formula, I reasoned out that revolutions could work only on consenting governments, whose organs have already begun to show cracks.

I came to EDSA. I reasoned that Marcos blew his chance to crush the People Power “insurrection” when he had the chance. Doubtless, he would have earned the ire of the international community, as Myanmar’s generals are being denounced now. Taking it further from a political perspective, I also said that the Aquino assassination almost had nothing to do with what happened in ’86, as if it did, why did it take long? It took two things to change my perspective—first, was stuart-santiago’s comment that the Aquino assassination was the trigger that began the awakening of the people, and the rising tide of unrest that pressured Marcos to call for snap elections. Second was Postcard Headlines’ post about the slow, painful transition between the old system and the new. It took me a while to synthesize, but while writing on Love, it dawned on me. Of course.

We made several mistakes about EDSA. We thought that it was a political exercise of the will of the people, and an act of successful disobedience against a legitimated tyrant. We thought that, in this moral “parliament of the streets” we could compel corrupted rulers to step down. And when Czarina Arroyo hosed down the demonstrations of priests and nuns in 2006, put down the would-be coups of 2003, 2005 and 2007, we had been substantially crushed, and defeated as a people. We have suffered political fatigue, because we feel that our efforts have come to nothing since she is going to win anyway, that our people have done little to change.

In this way, we have belittled the real value of EDSA. Our revolution, first of all, is not only a political uprising—it is a movement. It is a socio-moral revolution that aims to change the political structure from within; through its people, its traditions, and its ideas. This People Power Movement did not begin with the massing of people in EDSA Street, or with the oft-overlooked Enrile-Ramos military coup. It didn’t even begin with the death of Aquino. It began with the first time Ninoy publicly denounced Marcos, and our great statesmen-senators spoke out against the growing excesses of the soon-to-be dictatorship.

What Aquino cultured was a “grassroots movement”, aimed at the hearts and minds of the Filipinos who were paralyzed by decades-long oppression from Marcos. It didn’t start right away, and it took many, many years to take root, but the spirit of EDSA was slowly growing within us. If this were not so, Aquino’s assassination wouldn’t be so much of a catalyst that brought a beleaguered nation to rise up. And here is why I believe that the EDSA Movement is indeed God’s gift to the Filipino people, and why it is different from other revolutions out there: it was a peaceful demonstration, but more than that, it was cultivated by the Church as a labor of Love. I will explain later.

Our biggest mistake is to think that we won our EDSA Movement. It hasn’t even ended. Movement-revolutions are amorphous in form and take decades to complete. The Civil Rights Movement spearheaded by Martin Luther King took many, many years to finally end segregation between blacks and whites, and even now is being challenged by the distrust of the “true Americans” with the new minority—the Hispanics and the Asians. When Cory Aquino took power, she was immediately beset by Marcos elements in the military, and civil society. She was challenged by the rightist rebel Gregorio Honasan, and betrayed by the EDSA alumnus, Enrile. The traditional politics that flourished under Marcos didn’t change (ironically, Marcos himself made a negative social revolution), even after the local governors and officers were asked to resign their posts.

The present constitution is not the end product of the EDSA Movement. It was a guiding force, legitimating the movement-revolution, and initiating change through land reform, education, and the release of formerly restrained freedoms, to name a few. But that was only the beginning. The Filipino outlook turned away from submissiveness, to militant activism. Under Aquino’s administrations, demonstrations multiplied. Sadly, however, we felt we had won, and some of us just stopped working on our EDSA. It continued to ground its wheels, but slower.

Now, a lot of us have become staunch critics of the so-called EDSA Dos (which I refer to as the “January Uprising”). We “corrupted” the spirit of our EDSA, and “created” a new monster—Czarina Arroyo. I believed the January Uprising was a mistake. But, though the intentions were misguided, and the execution was faulty (or at best, crude), it wasn’t. It, and the “May Day Uprising” (EDSA Tres) are actually signs of how far the People Power Movement had taken root in the people. The Movement, in these two separate acts, attacked traditional politics at its heart. Yes, most of the energies were misdirected, but it was a sign of growing change.

“But the January Uprising created Czarina Arroyo”, you might say. Yes, and no. Like a boil swelling to painful degrees before bursting, so too do the rot of the old system begin to cry louder, and become harsher, as they are brought to the surface. As the EDSA Movement gains in strength, its enemies grow crueler, and less merciful. Czarina Arroyo is actually a reactionary, a product of the old system’s attempt to counter-evolve. Do you know why you can’t quit now? Do you know why, at this point in time, you can’t give up the spirit of EDSA? Because it’s actually winning!

It seems unbelievable, seeing Czarina Arroyo successfully begin to implement decrees and acts aimed at her greatest enemy, EDSA. The traditional politicos have banded together to restrict liberties, reinforce their power, and stamp out traces of the movement. The KAMPI faction booted out De Venecia, because he was a “wild card”. The military executioners are no longer distinguishing between “right” and “left”—they’re just spraying bodies all over the countryside. And even as we speak, government agents are beginning to woo senators and opposition leaders, with promise of bribes and prestige—to pursue Charter Change (aiming at EDSA’s legal instrument, no less).

They’re getting desperate! Because, as much as they try, they can’t seem to gain legitimacy from a people whose Church leaders continually exhort the multitudes to their individual struggles for reform, and whose junior army officers are constantly rising in arms, and whose members in the civil society are constantly in the streets, protesting the new abuses, the new sacrilege. We shouldn’t look at the increasing mercilessness of the laws and the acts and the brutalities. We should look at the miracles of Fr. Ed’s election, as well as Gov. Padacan’s, and the many others. Even as they try to overturn these blessings, we grow stronger. They’re afraid of us, because even among their ranks, people have begun to change.

It may sound fantastic now, but let me tell you about another repressive autocracy. The greatest rulers (and they were emperors!) of this kingdom tried to stamp out the movement that it saw was destroying its foundations from within. In persecution after persecution, these reforming leaders tried to stamp it out, but it only made the movement stronger. In fact, the movement boasted that it was at its greatest when the persecutions were at their worst! Until, politically weakened, the kingdom buckled. The movement had taken it at its heart, and transformed it to its own. And at the site of the martyrdom of one of its great leaders, Saint Peter, was built the Basilica, still the seat of Christianity’s leaders.

Mon Casiple, in a recent post, wrote that we have begun to live in dangerous times. There is no telling to what extremes Czarina Arroyo would go to in preserving her power. My reply is this: we live in glorious times. We live in the time of persecution. We are continuously frustrated by the seemingly impenetrable wall of Arroyo’s tyranny.  But that’s what happens when we try to change at the heart.  99% percent of the time, we lose.   And it’s all worth it for that 1%.

We are reshaping our nation through painful experiences. They are necessary, as they will make us stronger.   And we are not changing them through the force of arms.   We are changing them in the small acts of Love: from Ed Panlilio’s tending of the flock in Pampanga, to the martyrdoms of our priests in the countryside.   “Brick by brick, stone by stone”, we shall succeed.

We must be vigilant, yes. We must be vigilant to reap a victory that is just within our grasp, from a revolution-movement whose effects our forefathers from Rizal to Bonifacio would never have imagined possible. I know, we will enter our darkest hours when the movement is at its strongest, but it can’t be helped. We are reshaping a nation, and in every transition there are so-called “birth pangs”.

Theirs is a politics of despair and cynicism. Ours is based on the three Christian virtues: hope, faith and love. That’s right- it’s a Christian revolution. Who do you think will eventually prevail?