February 25, 1986 marked the end of the three-day People Power Revolution to oust Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos from power. He had ruled as president for 21 years, extending his reign of power by declaring Martial Law from 1972 until 1981, and this era in Philippine history is widely remembered for its corruption and human rights abuses. Many were wrongfully imprisoned while a countless number of individuals went missing and were never heard from again.
From an economic perspective, the country took a tumble as well. In 1965, the Peso-Dollar exchange rate was just P3.9 to $1, but by the end of 1986, it was pegged at P20.53 to $1. The Philippines was in absolute chaos and in the midst of a reckless downward tumble.
The tipping point for the masses, however, was the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 as he was disembarking from his flight to the Philippines after spending years in exile abroad. His death was linked to the Marcos administration and is regarded as the spark that started the revolution. Over two million Filipinos eventually flocked to EDSA in February 1986 to protest against the Marcos rule and he eventually fled to the United States, effectively ending his 21-year reign.
The fact that the People Power Revolution was a peaceful one amidst all the violence that the masses had to endure over the years made it even more noteworthy. It caught the attention of the entire world, inspiring other nations to start movements for democracy and peace. The Philippines was shining in the global spotlight and many expected that it would flourish in the coming years.
Today’s youth, whether it be for better or worse, were not yet around during the People Power Revolution. All that we know about this landmark moment in Philippine history comes from secondhand information relayed by stories from the older generations, books, and the media.
Interestingly, the opinion of the youth is divided on the matter of the revolution. I have met several people who believe that the Marcos era was good for the Philippines, including the grandson of a renowned anti-Martial Law activist. Though I disagree with the notion that those 21 years produced a positive net effect on the country, the fact that contrasting opinions are in place gives the youth a chance to discuss the era from a more critical perspective and learn from the mistakes of those who came before us. Whether or not two sides agree on the topic of who the good guy was during Martial Law, both can agree on the common goal of a better Philippines.
29 years after the People Power Revolution, can Filipinos really say that much has changed? Sure, Marcos is no longer in power, but the past few Presidents have been perceived negatively by the public. One of them, Joseph Estrada, was even thrown out of office in the same manner that Marcos was, but is now serving as the Mayor of the City of Manila. Currently, there are mounting threats of a rally against the current president, Noynoy Aquino, who is curiously the son of Ninoy. This stems from his mishandling of the Mamasapano massacre that saw 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force die in an attempt to take down a high-ranking international terrorist. Before that, the country was engulfed by corruption scandals involving several politicians, most notable Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay. The negative aura surrounding this country’s government just never seems to fade away.
What’s disappointing is that these politicians who are now ruling this country were around during the Martial Law era and witnessed the abuses and corruption. Instead of using the experiences from the 1970s and 80s as a basis of what not to do, some have instead used it as a blueprint. It is hard to fathom how some still have the audacity to be corrupt despite all that has happened in the history of this country. Not all government officials are crooked and there are many who continue to provide hope to the people, but as long as corruption and poor governance persists, then the 1986 People Power Revolution would have been for naught.
The people won the battle against corruption 29 years ago, but the problems that plague society still persist. It is time for everyone to rise up to the challenge once again and even the simplest actions such as making an informed vote can go a long way. The bad eggs in the government are resilient and continue to spawn left and right year after year, but they have to go, and this time, they can hopefully be taken down for good.