COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
(First of two parts)
The revolt that took place ten years ago still brings many people in awe as to why it happened the way it happened, especially those who maintain that political revolts must be tainted with blood, at least marred by violence. The Enrile and Ramos camps were minimally manned though armed, but since they were separated by a sea of humanity from General Ver’s men, no exchange of fires ensued. Our soldiers at last displayed heroism and fair play by not shooting—with or without President Marcos’ order—when civilian lives are at stake.
Looking back to that event, it may be a mistake to rationalize so unstructured, unplanned, and unorganized an uprising for worldwide acceptance. That the uprising rose without anyone masterminding it could be history’s unraveling of a new phenomenon: People Power. It could even be God’s way of revealing that changes are not perpetrated by individuals but by the collective, and that through history, it is the people who should be given credit as heroes and not those self-aggrandizing men who pose as political leaders.
However, there are a few things that can be explained in the Edsa Revolt of which I would like to consider. First is the number of participants that can be deduced through logic. Second is the level of awareness of the people that we can speculate. Third is the atmosphere that prevailed that can be understood in a cultural context.
The millions of people that flocked to Edsa was not an unlikely number for a mass assembly at that point in time. In fact, if the country is not an archipelago, more people from the Visayas and Mindanao would have swarmed the streets. That greatest mass action the Philippines had ever had was national in character so it took on a national scope.
When Martial Law was lifted in 1981, Section 4 of the Bill of Rights was restored. People started organizing. Student leaders from the Greater Manila area traveled across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao delivering speeches and urging students in the colleges and universities to restore genuine student government and revive the student paper. But the assembly fever was not confined only among students. It spread along the wide section of the populace; from the political opposition, factory workers, urban poor, farm workers, artists, to the religious.
Suddenly, like a reflex action to Martial Law’s repression, mass mobilization became sporadic though less organized and much localized, as they were carried out by interest groups. The succeeding two years saw in the national scene the mushrooming of cause-oriented groups and workers unions, but mass mobilization was still specialized though the participants were increasing in numbers.
The gathering of opposition forces while ensuring pluralism followed only in the next two years right after Aquino’s assassination. Mass mobilization became multi-sectoral, ecumenical, cross-sectional and non-partisan. The businessmen of Makati even marched to the streets in what we call the “confetti revolution.”
The People Power at Edsa was in effect a culmination of a gradual exercise in protest. Since the issue at stake was national in character, that is, the result of the snap election of which Marcos again had won; the people who merely watched rallies and strikes eventually stood up to be counted. So the numbers rose. (To be continued)