Presidential visit

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

I’VE always loved history, probably because in history there are no surprises. The events have already happened and you know the ending.
Remember the Alamo? I don’t. But go check it on the Internet, if you’re interested.

On Feb. 25, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, son of former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino and slain opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., will be in Cebu to attend the 28th commemoration of the first People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

So he didn’t immediately visit when the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the province in October. He was again a no-show when super typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc on the northern towns last November, leaving a swath of destruction that requires billions of pesos to rehabilitate and reconstruct destroyed and damaged infrastructure, not to mention the loss of livelihood for thousands of farmers and fishermen in the affected areas.
So what’s so important about Feb. 25?


Actually it began on Feb. 22, twenty-eight years ago. Then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, who also happened to be the chief of the Philippine Constabulary, announced that they would no longer support the Marcos presidency.

Earlier in the month, the Comelec declared Marcos as the winner of the snap elections against Cory despite allegations of mass cheating. The local Catholic Church and the US government condemned the elections.

No one wanted to concede (sounds familiar?). Marcos and Cory went ahead and took their oaths of office: Marcos in Malacañang and Cory in the Nayong Pilipino in Greenhills.

Cory called for coordinated strikes and mass boycotts of the media and businesses owned by Marcos and his known cronies. The economy plummeted. There was chaos in Metro Manila.

Perhaps sensing that the tide was about to turn against Marcos, members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, who included Enrile, decided to stage a coup against the man whom they served loyally for 20 years.

Marcos found out about the plot and ordered the arrest of the organizers.

Around dusk of Feb. 22, 1986, Enrile and Ramos held a press conference inside Camp Aquinaldo where they made their announcement that they had resigned from the Marcos Cabinet.

Enrile had already sought the help of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who, right after their announcement, called on the Filipino people to gather at the portion of Edsa between Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame to protect the “rebels” from troops loyal to Marcos.

According to Sun.Star Cebu reporter Elias O. Baquero, who was in Manila covering the event for radio dyHP, the highway was full of people from all walks of life by 7 p.m.

In the next three days, the country showed the rest of the world how a peaceful revolution should be staged.

Don’t get me wrong. There was some bloodshed, but the number was very minimal considering the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, involved in the street uprising. And there was a lot of tension, too. People weren’t sure loyalist troops would not fire at them.

One of the legacies of that fateful four days is the thousands of images showing the resilience (yes, it’s the “r” word again) and faith of the Filipino people.
Who can forget the nuns, on their knees, praying the rosary, as they blocked a tank’s path?

The euphoria went on for months, reaching its peak with Cory’s historic visit to America, where the former housewife, wearing a yellow dress suit, was greeted by a standing ovation as she entered the US Congress.

But the moment had to end. And when it did, the same problems that beset the country during Marcos continue to plague today’s society: poverty, income disparity, government corruption, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. The usual suspects.

To quote Franz Kafka: “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”
So PNoy is coming to town. What for?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 23, 2014.


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