by Levy Abad
What happened to us? Where did we go wrong? I remember back in 1986; I was with friends at EDSA (Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue) during the height of the EDSA uprising that toppled the dictatorship. People were full of hope that real (radical) change was coming, that finally there would be nationalist industrialization and agrarian reform to address the basic problems of the country. There were a lot of progressive people in government as a result of the uprising. Naturally, some people on the right wing of the political spectrum felt threatened. The military establishment became restive and Gringo Honasan, one of the leaders of RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement), launched a coup d’état on August 28, 1987, that shook the (President Corazon) Aquino regime. The effect of this coup was noticeable since progressive elements were slowly leaving or were told to leave the government. By November 12,1986, Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia, leader of the Militant KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), or May One Movement, and a major player in the anti-dictatorship struggle, together with his buddy Leonor Alay-ay, were abducted and killed.
On the fateful day of January 22, 1987, twenty-two thousand farmers who were marching and demanding land were mowed down at the foot of the Mendiola Bridge, killing thirteen people and injuring countless others. This became known as the Mendiola Massacre. All these successive steps of the Aquino regime were indicative of the plan to declare a total war policy (1987) against its own people and to protect foreign interests. I remember clearly that on the day when the massacre happened, I heard staccato gunfire along Claro M. Recto and Morayta Avenue, near Far Eastern University. I saw panic-stricken, bloodstained, and shoeless peasants entering the university campus. The gates were shut by the security and people where running back and forth. I thought that a revolution was starting; I mean, the real revolution of the people. The Aquino regime in its first year in power never showed any indication that it was going to implement decisive changes in the economy and government. If there was any change, then it was the consolidation of globalization. Globalization means liberalization, contractualization, and privatization, among others.
The presidency of Fidel V. Ramos (1992–1998) was a period of consolidation of the foreign monopoly interests. It was during this time when the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) was implemented, which was in line with the calls for globalization. Then came President Joseph “Erap” Estrada (1998–2010) whose time was marred with a lot of scandals. But to his credit, he could honestly claim that he won the elections overwhelmingly. Nevertheless, just like his predecessors, his administration did not show any indication that it would implement the then ratified Freedom Constitution. The people continued to clamor for change.
After several years came EDSA 2. I was with the Southern Tagalog (south of Metro Manila) contingent and the first ones to arrive at EDSA. I also had a chance to sing with the workers cultural at the EDSA Shrine stage, where Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took her oath as the new President. Once the streets were filled with the mobilization coming from the regions and the capital, people from the city started to gather. It never took long for the Estrada government to relinquish power and the mantle of authority was transferred to Macapagal-Arroyo (also known as GMA), who held power from 2001 to 2010. She became President through the power of the movement and so, in my analysis, was the most unstable of all.
During the 2004 elections, Fernando Poe Jr., a famous movie star, ran against GMA. He was believed to have won the election by a wide margin; but due to fraud, the GMA regime held sway to the great dismay of the people. GMA was accused of influencing the outcome of the elections and was in the center of the “Hello Garci Scandal.” This was the period when the movement started growing in strength, and marches on the streets for reforms were really becoming humongous that both lanes of Commonwealth Avenue were usually filled with thousands of people. Given this situation, the prevailing regime became tainted with political killings allegedly executed under the so called “Oplan Bantay Laya” (military plan) that targeted political activists such as priests, pastors, nuns, students, lawyers, doctors, workers, and peasants numbering around 1,920. I learned from some peasant leaders that the regime did this to terrorize and paralyze the people’s movement against neo-liberal policies. Movement, as mentioned here, was the clamor for comprehensive social change with industrialization and genuine agrarian reform as its core, as contraposed to the sham agrarian policy being implemented up to the present.
(to be continued in the next issue)