Edsa at 31: Rape and vengeance

By: Jason A. Baguia February 24,2017 - 09:00 PM


Ferdinand Marcos — dictator; architect of the theft of between US$5 to $10 billion in public money and of the torture of 35,000; incarceration of 70,000; and killing of 3,257 people — was overthrown in a bloodless revolt by Filipinos 31 years ago. The revolution is eponymous with Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa), the Manila thoroughfare where people gathered and neutralized the strongman’s tanks and soldiers with flowers and food, with prayer and song.

A shrine in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady, Queen of Peace marks the avenue today. An oasis of quiet, it is one of my favorite places to visit in bustling Manila. Reigning on the rooftop is a bronze statue of the mother of Jesus Christ, rendered by Virginia Ty-Navarro in bronze and depicted with doves — symbols of peace — perched on the right shoulder and left hand. Reliefs of Christ’s passion, wrought by Napoleon Abueva, dot the shrine’s outdoor steps and landings. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways,” God is quoted in silver letters on the exterior sanctuary wall, “then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Joseph Estrada, movie actor, mayor, senator, vice president and eventually the first Philippine chief executive to be impeached, was removed from office in another Edsa uprising 16 years ago. He was arrested, tried, convicted of plunder, placed under hospital arrest and granted executive pardon by his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Soon after his arrest, Estrada’s supporters staged what they dubbed “Edsa Tres,” a failed campaign to unseat Arroyo. This was a rape of holy Edsa. Of the so-called Edsa Tres, there are two things I cannot forget — first, that of then monsignor Socrates Villegas, Edsa shrine rector decrying its desecration by the hapless mutineers who turned it into a public toilet; second, that of senators playing ancient-era demagogues and instigating the wild crowd to attack the presidential palace.

In the 2010 presidential race, Estrada was the runner-up to Benigno Aquino III, having captured 9 million votes. He is now on his second term as mayor of the nation’s capital.

After completing the term that Estrada forfeited, Arroyo stood for election in 2004. Sometime after she won, an audio recording surfaced, unmistakably of her speaking with an elections commissioner who could not be but Virgilio Garcillano. Why contact — while votes were being canvassed — an official constitutionally mandated to be apolitical? Everyone heard Arroyo ask for Garcillano’s assurance that she would defeat her rival, Fernando Poe Jr. by a margin of at least one million votes.

In the wake of the “Hello, Garci” scandal, private citizen Corazon Aquino, who was president after the first Edsa revolt until 1992, along with senior leaders of the Catholic Church, visited the presidential palace to ask for Arroyo’s resignation. Arroyo did not budge. Ten of her cabinet secretaries pronounced her unfit to stay in office. But with support from politicos and groups especially those allied with private citizen Fidel Ramos, who had turned from Marcos and succeeded Corazon Aquino, Arroyo survived impeachment attempts and prospects of ouster via another Edsa.

These things constituted another rape of holy Edsa. In subsequent commemorations of the 1986 revolution, Arroyo enunciated variations of her mantra that the world applauded the first Edsa, tolerated the second and would not forgive a third one, as if events in Philippine polity were nothing more than episodes of entertainment for a global audience.

Marcos’ corpse was flown back to the country and housed in a plush family mausoleum in the north. A mere three decades following his ouster, his remains were buried with full military honors in our heroes’ cemetery.

So began yet another rape of holy Edsa.

The violation continues in today’s 31st anniversary of Edsa 1986. Malacañang has used an intellectually dishonest argument — the supposed lesser importance of a 31st anniversary following a 30th — as an excuse for toning down celebrations. The Palace has maneuvered for the arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima around this time of the year in a badly disguised effort to veil the political and moral significance of this day.

So the current dispensation’s mouthpieces sound like radical atheists who do not believe in God yet betray their uncertainty by spending their lives speaking of no one else.

You will not win in the end, gentlemen. The more you belittle Edsa, the more you betray your anxiety, and the shakier the ground on which you stand. As long as there are people who humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways, it is only a matter of time before they and those whom they enlighten call you to account for your misrule and topple your tottering power pedestals.

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TAGS: billion, church, EDSA, Ferdinand Marcos, food, holy Edsa, Macapagal, Macapagal-Arroyo, Our Lady, Queen of Peace

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