So yesterday was the 24th anniversary of the People Power “Revolution” of 1986.

I remember it pretty well for someone who was 10 and living in Markham, Ontario at the time.  What I remember was that my Dad called home from work after I got back from school to tell me to record the news for him so he could watch it when he got back from his job as a clerk at Ontario Hydro.

We had the most high-tech of systems at the time, a Betamax video player/recorder with a ‘remote control’ that was attached to the system via a long cord.  I had to do the same thing when Ninoy had died a couple years back (and also to record the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”).  

At the time all I knew was that Marcos was bad because of something called “Martial Law,” and that this huge gathering of people was awesome because no one died and it was looking like it would boot out the bad dictator.

I later learned that some of the issues were the dismantling of the already weak democracy, the targeting of progressives for disappearances, torture, and even extrajudicial executions.

Well now it’s been twenty-four years, I’m a touch older, and being here in Manila I wonder: How much has the ousting of Marcos really changed things?

Marcos was replaced by Corazon “Cory” Aquino and almost everyone supported her at the time.  Everyone thought that things would improve, that the Philippines would finally become that free, independent, and democratic country that Filipinos had been aching for since the time of Spanish (then British, then American, the Japanese, then American) occupation.  It didn’t quite work out that way.  As the Philippine newspaper the “Inquirer” wrote yesterday:

“President Aquino restored democratic institutions but her administration was beholden to the military. This resulted in human rights abuses, including the massacre of 13 farmers on Mendiola on Jan. 22, 1987 and the massacre of 17 civilians in Lupao, Nueva Ecija. One major human rights violation was the failure of Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program which exempted her own hacienda and violated the rights of tens of thousands of farmers.”

That same hacienda, Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Luzon was the site of a massacre in 2004 when the workers there called for better conditions and wages (for some reason they weren’t quite happy with a gross pay of 9 pesos a working day for some).  There still hasn’t been closure for the families of the victims.

And today things are not much better.  The Inquirer compared Aquino and current president Gloria Arroyo,

“While the Aquino administration restored democratic institutions, it failed to dismantle the vestiges of the Marcos dictatorship. In its six years, Task Force Detainees recorded 135 cases of massacres, 1,064 victims of summary executions and 816 desaparecidos (disappeared). In eight years of the Arroyo administration (up to 2008), Karapatan recorded 1,118 extrajudicial killings and 204 enforced disappearances.”

Then like now the problems in the Philippines remain the same.  The country is economically poor (despite being extremely rich in natural resources), the majority of the people, who are peasant farmers, remain landless (with a few families controlling the vast majority of the land), and the true political and economic power comes from beyond the Philippine borders (let’s call it what it is, imperialism).

This May the country goes to the polls and a new president will be crowned—I mean elected.  Arroyo’s hand-picked successor Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro and Aquino’s son Benigno “Noy Noy” Aquino are both in the top three.

*sigh*

When I was ten and heard of People Power, I was really inspired that our people could inspire so many people around the world.  It remains an inspiration still, but it’s tempered with the knowledge that the job was not finished, that the reasons behind the movement remain a problem still.

I’m more aware these days about these things, and I know that we all need to care about what happens to our mother country because no matter what it’s a part of us.

The fight continues.

——

*originally published in Project Balikbayan

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