The 30th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa uprising last Thursday was somewhat different from its earlier celebrations. In the past years, President Benigno Aquino III spoke against President Ferdinand Marcos and his authoritarian administration. This year, however, Aquino focused his anti-Marcos attacks on Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who is running for vice president in May.
Specifically, Aquino frightened his audience with the specter of another Marcos getting elected to high public office in the Philippines. He identified Bongbong as that specter. As expected, Aquino reminded his audience how much his family, his celebrity sister Kris Aquino in particular, suffered under President Marcos. How and why the sins of the father should be visited on the son, and why the electorate should be frightened of the son—Aquino did not explain.
Aquino conveniently failed to mention that Bongbong is an incumbent senator elected by the Filipino people. Therefore, if Bongbong is someone whom the electorate should fear, Aquino’s warning appears to be much too late in the day. Evidently, his warning seems prompted more by his personal dislike for the son of President Marcos, rather than by a genuine concern for the Filipino people.
So Aquino has a grudge against Bongbong because the latter is the son of his father’s political arch-rival. Being so, then Aquino probably has grudges against the other candidates for vice president as well.
There is Senator Francis Escudero, the son of the late Salvador “Sonny” Escudero, a staunch ally of President Marcos. The elder Escudero so idolized the elder Marcos that right after the latter died, and up to his own death, he insisted on wearing the colors of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (the political party of Marcos allies) on all of his shirts. Next is Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, whose late father was very close to Enrile. The Aquino family regards Enrile as the architect of martial law. There is also Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Enrile’s loyal ally who did not mind if the Cory Aquino administration is overthrown by the military.
Bongbong’s opponents in the vice presidential race obviously took advantage of the anniversary of the Edsa uprising and joined this year’s Marcos-bashing spree. And why not? Isn’t it in their best personal interests if the current administration repeatedly urges the national electorate to hate President Marcos, and to equate that hatred with Bongbong? In doing so, Bongbong’s opponents hope to reduce the number of Bongbong’s votes, and look patriotic at the same time. That’s plain and simple political opportunism.
Going back to the 1986 Edsa uprising, while ex-officials of the Cory Aquino administration love to celebrate every Feb. 25, they do not mention the events under Cory’s administration. The reason—the Cory administration was a disaster. It’s report card is drenched with failing grades.
In January 1986, Cory Aquino promised her voters that she would subject her family’s Hacienda Luisita to land reform. As president, however, Cory reneged on her word. In January 1987, farmers who picketed Malacañang to enforce Cory’s promise to subject Hacienda Luisita to land reform were met with violence in the infamous Mendiola Massacre.
Since Hacienda Luisita is owned under a corporate name, Cory later issued Executive Order No. 229 allowing corporate landowners to issue stock certificates to their tenants, in lieu of land reform.
Cory created the Presidential Commission on Good Government to recover alleged ill-acquired wealth from President Marcos and his close associates. Many PCGG agents were abusive. Thirty years have passed and the PCGG admits that it failed to recover some $1-billion from the Marcos family.
Because the Department of Energy was an idea of President Marcos, Cory abolished it. As a result, the Philippines became the brownout capital of the world for two years.
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant could have provided the country with an inexpensive source of clean energy. Cory mothballed the plant in view of fears which turned out to be baseless. Consequently, the country had to pay for the plant without getting to use it at all.
During World War II, the Laurel Republic purchased real estate in the expensive Roppongi district of Tokyo in Japan at a bargain, for diplomatic use. Cory tried to sell that estate in 1990 but she was stopped by vice president Doy Laurel who filed a suit in the Supreme Court.
Cory championed press freedom but she sued veteran journalists Maximo Soliven and Luis Beltran for libel after they published an unfavorable account of what she purportedly did during one of several attempts by military rebels to overthrow her. Although the trial court ruled in her favor, the case was eventually dismissed on appeal.
Since gambling threatens the social fabric of the nation and breeds corruption in all levels of Philippine society, Cory promised to close the gambling casinos during her presidential campaign. As president, however, Cory expanded the operations of the casinos nationwide and paved the way for the state-sponsored gambling establishments rampant in the Philippines today.
Cory Aquino released leaders of the communist insurgency who were detained under the Marcos government. Today, those communists remain at large and continue to destabilize the nation so they can overthrow the government.
The Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari was a virtual non-entity during the closing years of the Marcos regime. Cory urged Misuari to return to politics, and today, Misuari is still creating problems in Mindanao.
Cory committed many other serious mistakes, but those will be discussed in another essay.
If the 1986 Edsa uprising is to be a learning experience, its story should be told in its entirety. That story must include an objective account of the role President Marcos played in it, and a truthful narration of what Cory Aquino did in its aftermath. Unless that happens, the annual celebration of the event will be just another arbitrary date in a meaningless calendar.