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Stepping away from the era known as the ‘EDSA Revolution’

The 1986 revolution marked a new era of democracy and freedom. Forgetting that fateful year puts this era at risk of an end.

The EDSA Revolution of 1986 served as a monumental change not only in the Philippines but also worldwide when it set a precedent for a bloodless mass movement that toppled a two-decades-long dictatorship.

In the 2019 Midterm Elections, the Philippines witnessed a landslide win for administration candidates, most of which were labeled as trapo, inexperienced, and puppets to enable the president to influence both the executive and the legislative. With the 2022 National and Local Elections having seen the rise of the Marcos family to the presidency once again—just 36 years after the nation ousted them—a question prevails on everyone’s mind: How vast will the changes be in the Post-EDSA Era of the Philippines?

Something new

Over the years, especially as the 2022 elections unfold, a shift in the country’s political sphere is observed. Although the EDSA Revolution ushered in new hope and some changes—freedoms of speech, association, and peaceful assembly, among others—many Filipinos today would tag the revolution as a failure.

However, Philippine Air Transport and Training Service College of Aeronautics Political Science Professor Felizardo Sumpay counters that EDSA is not a “failure” as others might think, “The essence of EDSA is still there. Maybe it’s [just that] the expected reforms are not being implemented.” 

Although not a “failure,” the lack of reforms being implemented, along with the manifestations of some factors—prolific political dynasties and the constant party-switching—make it safe to assume that the country is now shifting toward a Post-EDSA Era.

Adding to these manifestations, Sumpay highlights the complacency that led to the “downgrading” of the essence of EDSA. As much as the revolution is taught in subjects such as Political Science and Philippine Constitution, it is not enough. For Sumpay, EDSA education should not have been discussed only for a week at most. Rather, it should have been an advocacy by the government to deeply contextualize what had happened so that there would not be any distortion of the country’s history.

What makes it new

Given the gradual shift, characteristics of what the Post-EDSA Era entails can now be seen as the nation progresses into the future. One of the characteristics Sumpay highlights that characterizes the era is the blatant historical revisionism of the Marcos family or what others might consider as “Marcos rebranding” that is heavily fueled by social media.

Another characteristic that Sumpay explains is the infiltration of the elite in the political arena. However, he points out that this is not the fault of the electorate but of the system which allowed the elite to return to power.

Naging pabaya, naging complacent sa context siguro ng history,” stresses Sumpay.

There was carelessness and complacency in the context of preserving the correct version of history.

 With this, he furthers that the essence of the revolution should have been taught similar to how the lives of heroes such as Jose Rizal is taught today. If taught this way, the electorate would have been aware of what really transpired during both the Martial Law and EDSA Era. They would not have resulted in looking merely into the personalities of politicians—which Bongbong Marcos admittedly used to sway voters—but rather look into the data and track record the candidate has when electing politicians into power.

Unfelt changes

Beyond changes in leadership and government, the EDSA Revolution of 1986 brought a set of reforms that the nation enjoys today. Along with a counterreactionary constitution—the 1987 Constitution—changes such as the freedom of speech, press freedom, and freedom to protest have been enshrined and heavily protected after the EDSA Revolution.

Amid the “unfelt” changes that Filipinos have expected, there also needs to be a reflection on the aforementioned freedoms the new constitution has enabled the Filipinos to relish. Because of the EDSA Era, people can now raise political questions without fearing unwanted consequences unlike during the Marcos Era.

“It is very relevant, significant, and timely that we have to understand the essence and value [of EDSA]…if i-apply natin ngayon, ang ganda ng essence [ng EDSA]. [As an example], anybody can go to the court and question the validity of martial law,” says Sumpay.

The professor, however, agrees that there is no actual structural change that was felt by Filipinos during both the height of the EDSA Revolution and today. Even if a new constitution was brought forth, the changes the Filipinos wanted to see still remain to be changed up to this day.

“The system was replaced, [pero] hindi naman natin nabago sa Constitution natin ‘yung election practices natin. Again, that is structure. We still have this problem of the so-called ‘partisan’ politics sa Pilipinas. ‘Yung issue ng political elections natin, practices, agencies of the government na corrupt, [hindi naman nabago],” he explains.

(The system was replaced, but the new Constitution didn’t change the election practices in the country…The issue of our political elections and practices, corrupt government agencies, they weren’t changed.)

A look into the future

Looking beyond the identified factors by Sumpay that characterizes the EDSA Era, analysis by Department of Political Science Full Professor Dr. Julio Teehankee cites that authoritarian contamination, populist politicians, constant party-switching, and the landslide win of the Duterte administration’s bets back in the 2019 Midterm Elections are also characteristics of the Post-EDSA Era.

Sumpay agrees that authoritarian contamination is seen in the country. He lays these out as “having little to no civil rights, limited political debate and participation, undisputed leadership, historical support backed up by an internal security—commonly the military.”

The professor then cites the prolonged community quarantine, quo warranto removal of then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, silencing of critics, employing military generals for key civilian government agencies, and the cases of red-tagging, as manifestations of authoritarian contamination. These further affirm that the current political sphere in the country already manifests degrees of authoritarianism.

With  people getting tired of seeing the elite elected in various positions, the professor states that populism will continue to be an issue in our country. He furthers that while it is “authoritative and fascist” in nature, these politicians still get the votes of the masses because this makes them feel represented.

This pattern of voting for people who are supposed to represent the masses, even if there seems to be no evidence of competence nor credentials to back it up, is just a result of the unfulfilled promises that left people to clamor for change even up to this day. The feeling of getting represented by someone who “understands” the plight of the masses led to the rise of “maka-masa” candidates such as former Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, incumbent Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, among others.

Meanwhile, to stay in power, many of these candidates take advantage of political party-hopping.  This happens as the likelihood of winning and subsequently expanding their powers through chairmanships and appointments is much greater if teamed up with the current administration who has the machinery, budget, and connections. At the end of the day, preservation of their interests still prevails over their so-called promises to “represent the masses.”

Although not aligned with the current administration, a known and prominent example of a constant party-hopper in the Philippines is Domagoso. For the 2022 elections, Domagoso shifted from the National Unity Party to Aksyon Demokratiko. However, he is also known to be a former member of different political parties such as Nacionalista and United Nationalist Alliance, among others.

Admittedly, there are big changes after the EDSA Revolution. Filipinos were given the rights and freedoms that they fought for, and a protective Constitution was ratified. However, there is a current shift toward an era where the essence of EDSA is left and forgotten by most. In an era that is scarily characterized by trapo politicians, authoritarian-esque manifestations, historical revisionism, and the return of the Marcos family in Malacañang, would there be a “brighter future” in the Post-EDSA Era?

By The LaSallian

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