Reminiscing EDSA in 1986
The public outrage following the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was the ultimate trigger for the unshackling of the chain of bondage from years of deprivation and fear during the martial law era, culminating in the February 1986 “uprising” of the people.
Like many of us who rejoiced in the ouster of the dictator, the former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, in 1986, the bloodless People Power revolution was a source of well-deserved pride for Filipinos.
Randy David, in his column “Edsa: the battle for the near past,” summed the reason why even reticent citizens got out of their comfort zones and joined the revolution. He said, “What would those ideals and feelings be for those of us who had the privilege to be there? I would say: love of country and pride in who we are, compassion and solidarity with our fellow Filipinos, selflessness, courage in the face of intimidation, the duty to hold accountable those who make decisions in our name, and nonviolent resistance to any form of abuse and oppression.”
We shouted that we had the revolution the Filipino way – with no blood shed! That’s how peace-loving we used to be. It inspired people from other countries to do the same, leading to the downfall of corrupt governments.
Slowly, and at times, painfully, we were able to reclaim our lost honor and dignity with our collective determination to make the fragile foundations of our democracy work. We managed to re-establish our cherished democratic institutions, so badly mangled during the dictatorship when one man ruled our land, shut the voices of dissent and controlled our future. We had our differences but we agreed and remain committed never to allow a return to a dictatorship.
Our Constitution, ratified in 1987 overwhelmingly by 76.30% of our electorates, was built upon the framework of social and political justice and human rights which were denied us under martial law. This is to ensure that the dark era of the oppression and exclusion that characterized the Marcos dictatorship will never visit our much-challenged shores again.
The fundamental law of the land strengthened the judiciary’s power for it to have the capacity to check excesses in the political departments. It was granted extra-ordinary powers. Perhaps it is only the Philippines Supreme Court which has the rule-making power to protect constitutional rights. Under the Puno Court, the rules of procedure for the Writ of amparo, Writ of habeas data and the much-acclaimed Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the only one of its kind in the world, were promulgated.
The right of subsistence fisherfolk to the preferential access to their traditional fishing grounds is a social justice provision under the 1987 Constitution which is one of the core principles in our fisheries and environmental laws.
The right of the citizens, non-government organizations and people’s organizations to reasonable and effective participation at all levels of decision-making, whether political, social and economic, is deeply enshrined in our 1987 Constitution. This is a political justice provision which we, Filipinos, should be proud to claim as our very own contribution to making governance inclusive, accountable, transparent and participatory.
For the first time in our legal system, the right to a healthful and balanced ecology was likewise given special place by the 1987 Constitution, as Section 16, Article II, in the chapter on Declaration of Principles.
This was interpreted by the Supreme Court in the landmark ruling “Minors Oposa versus Factoran.” The Court declared, through then associate justice Hilario Davide Jr., as ponente, that “While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation — aptly and fittingly stressed by the petitioners — the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the well-founded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as state policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come — generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life.
The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.”
It is disheartening that dark clouds are appearing in the horizon that are causing disunity among our people. Extrajudicial killings, bills to reinstate death penalty and lowering of age of criminality and the move to amend the 1987 Constitution are among them.
Let’s bring back the spirit of Edsa where courage, selflessness and love of country and our people prevailed.
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