Part of the country is under martial law. ABS-CBN is about to get shut down. A conservative American president with Hollywood ties has a “great relationship” with our president. No, it’s not the 1970s. The year is 2020. Cue the record scratch and freeze frame. You’re probably wondering how we got here.
That’s as good a question as any to ponder on for the 34th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the historic ousting of a dictator in 1986 that inspired similar uprisings around the globe. February 25 is a day when Filipinos honor the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause and celebrate how countless others continue to take part in defending our democracy. But the current President has his own tradition. Just like always, he’ll be sitting this one out. Him often being physically absent yet always pervading online, this begs the question of whether the youth will follow in his footsteps. Let’s get a vibe check.
The son of a member of Ferdinand Marcos’ Cabinet, a politician backed by Marcos cronies, and a loyal friend to the Marcoses — it’s no surprise that the strongman would say “Maghanap uli kayo ng Marcos” in a speech addressed to the Philippine Navy last year. The substantial amount of ill-gotten wealth and atrocities against human rights remain insubstantial to the eyes of the 74-year-old fanboy. Despite the president’s divisive sentiment, Patrick Joshua Villegas says the EDSA Revolution still captures the imagination of the Filipino youth. Patrick is the Regional Coordinator of the Southern Tagalog chapter of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, which was the single biggest student union in the country in 1970. It played a big role in organizing youth protests which the Marcos administration answered with violent dispersals. It’s easy to guess that they’re not big fans of the current administration.
The President takes cues from the Marcos playbook and adds his own spin to it. Both championed a golden age of infrastructure in order to smokescreen a worsening economy. Staunchly implemented policies favoring their patrons and pals contributed more to the deterioration of the Philippine economy.
Duterte is not just a steadfast supporter of the late tyrant but also a copycat. Patrick says it’s highly alarming how there’s a monopoly in power in the government under their administrations. Filipinos deprived of effective services and economic stability are subjected to the normalization of state-sponsored killings of disadvantaged minorities and oppositional critics.
Critics like IBON Foundation. In the beginning of February the research group filed what is believed to be the first case of red-tagging submitted against any government official in our country. Red-tagging is a distinctive Philippine propaganda tactic of labeling government critics as terrorists in order to persecute and put their lives in danger. The administrative complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman came after an episode on The Chiefs where the PCOO undersecretary called the group a communist front. This claim was a rebuttal to the IBON research head’s presentation of numbers suggestive of failing economic policies defining Duterte’s legacy.
IBON graphic artist Chill Parallon, 25, states that the President takes cues from the Marcos playbook and adds his own spin to it. Both championed a golden age of infrastructure in order to smokescreen a worsening economy. Staunchly implemented policies favoring their patrons and pals contributed more to the deterioration of the Philippine economy. And both have enacted Martial Law (in part or in full) thereby weaponizing the law in order to silence the legitimate calls of those who had it worse under their regime.
When asked whether young Filipinos think the comparison is good or bad, he admits he can’t speak for the whole Filipino youth but hopes it’s not a flattering image. “Disinformation to discredit facts and history, especially in the age of social media, can be very powerful,” he adds.
The past couple of years had us uttering, “Here we go again.” It’s disheartening, sure, but it’s best to keep our chins up. Chill keeps in mind that we have come a long way in defending our rights and liberties. Even before the EDSA People Power, many civil society and progressive organizations have been working to defend these rights. We must not fail to look forward and continue to struggle in order to ensure that the generation after us will be born in a better country. Patrick states further that our history challenges us to be more critical thinkers and pursue advocacies.
Let’s do like the renegades do. Let’s re-examine our allegiance. Is it to our country, its president, or simply ourselves?
Unlike Harley Quinn, we can’t all get emancipated in an hour and 49 minutes. For the rest of us in the real world, it’s a life-long project — one that can get easier by being a student of the revolution. For Chill, the EDSA People Power serves as a reminder of how powerful the people can be when they band together to achieve a common goal. It was beyond colors and politicking. It was essentially a movement of people fighting for their rights. It’s an example of what the Filipino youth, as one of those in the frontlines of the Philippine mass movement, can do in ushering genuine change for the country. Patrick agrees that it highlights a need for the active participation of the Filipino in solving the problems in our society.
In the time of K Camp’s Lottery, let’s do like the renegades do. Let’s re-examine our allegiance. Is it to our country, its president, or simply ourselves? The EDSA Revolution, like any (Tiktok) challenge, is a fruit of collective action. Here’s a classic that deserves a bass boost on the 25th: The people united, will never be defeated.