The country celebrates the 37th anniversary of the People Power Revolution on Feb. 25 this year, and the event still remains an important and significant milestone for Philippine society.
It all began with a nonviolent protest in EDSA in 1986 that toppled the 21-year regime of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and eventually led to the installation of President Corazon Aquino.
It was a peaceful campaign that shook the foundations of the dictatorial government and allowed the Philippines to experience democracy and freedom after years of suppression and massive corruption.
The four-day bloodless revolution highlighted the power of the Filipino people to reclaim democracy and reassert the supremacy of human rights. Its nonviolent nature has since been a source of inspiration to many across the world.
It set the example for similar transformative, people-led protests with varying methods and results, such as the 8888 Uprising in Myanmar in 1988 that started as a student movement; 1989’s Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovia, and the fall of the Berlin Wall; and the Arab Spring that took place across much of the Arab world in 2010 to 2012.
Looking back at the People Power Revolution in 2016, San Francisco Chronicle editor Jack Epstein described it as “the revolution that surprised the world.”
“People Power ousted a dictator and ushered in a vibrant democracy that still exists in the Philippines today — in spite of rampant corruption,” he said.
Why is it important to continue commemorating the People Power Revolution, decades later?
Regardless of who is in power, it is important for a nation to commemorate its milestones in democracy to recognize the progress made and to keep relevant lessons in mind to build upon this progress.
It is also necessary to honor these accomplishments to better understand the way in which a society has achieved its positive outcomes, and to provide a source of motivation to keep striving toward the same successes in the future.
The People Power Revolution in particular is a significant event that needs to be continuously renewed in people’s memories because present and future generations need to be vigilant against threats to democracy.
Dictatorships and autocratic governments are threats to freedom, democracy, and human rights.
Such governments oppress their people and deny them rights that they are entitled to.
They limit the public’s access to information, free speech, and basic civil liberties, while also attempting to control media outlets and silence critical voices (as the previous regime accomplished with its suppression of Rappler and ABS-CBN).
Such oppressive control over its citizens strips them of their dignity, rights, and autonomy.
Freedom of expression is a societal requirement for democracy because it provides the opportunity for the public to engage in critical dialogue on matters of public interest, to hold the government accountable, and to advance public debate.
Without freedom of expression, public discourse would be limited to whatever policy makers dictate, and the people would be stripped of their right to shape their own cultures, lives, and destinies.
In a democracy, the public must be able to dissent, criticize, protest, and assemble. Freedom of expression serves as the foundation of a vibrant democratic society, enabling citizens to express their values and beliefs so that others may hear and understand them, to initiate dialogues and debates, and to create a sense of community and collective power.
Through free expression, the people can communicate their will and collectively hold those in power to account.
Freedom of expression is an essential part of any democratic culture, and it is essential for a healthy, equitable, and prosperous society.
The People Power event was not only a manifestation of the freedom of expression, it also serves to remind us all that it is a duty to resist dictatorships and autocracies because everyone – regardless of their political views – should be able to exercise their basic human rights and freedoms and be assured that these will be respected by others, particularly those in authority.
Because when oppressive systems are normalized, this leads to further rights abuses and a subversion of what is true, right, and just.
By resisting dictatorships, we are standing up for what is right, protecting the freedoms and liberties of our fellow citizens, and ultimately striving for a better future for all.
In the decades since People Power, we have seen the need for constant vigilance as we continually work for political stability, economic prosperity, corruption-free governance, and a more vibrant democracy founded on justice, freedom, and equality.
The 1986 People Power Revolution is a reminder of what the Filipino people can do when they come together to fight against oppression and impunity.
After nearly four decades, it remains one of the most iconic and significant events in the Philippines and the world.
It reminds us of the power of the common man to reclaim power, create change, and inspire others to work for what is right.
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Attention, fellow Gen Xers and music lovers of all ages: quintessential Filipino rock group The Dawn has released a new song – “Earth.”
The song asks the existential questions “Can we go on like this? Is this the way we’re supposed to deal with things? Is there a better way?” said band frontman Jett Pangan.
“We’re all hoping that after all these [adversities such as the pandemic] we become better people,” he said.
What’s interesting also about this song is it was recorded during the pandemic and every member of the group had to record individually and share the files with each other.
It’s also the last song that bassist Mon Legaspi recorded before he passed away.
Listen to The Dawn’s “Earth” on Spotify and YouTube, and tell me if it doesn’t make you miss “Enveloped Ideas” and the other hits of one of the country’s longest-lived rock bands (they were founded in 1985).
* * * Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, member of the Manila Critics Circle, and judge of the National Book Awards. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO