Remembering the People Power Revolution

Article by Razel Suansing

The People Power Revolution that occurred 32 years ago established the potential impact of a peaceful method of protest in contrast to the 20 years of authoritarian rule set by the Marcos administration prior to the revolution. After Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 23, 1972, citing civil disobedience as the primary justification, the Philippines saw an ultimate authoritarian rule as emergency powers were imparted to Marcos which gave him full control of the military and the authority to suppress and abolish the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and many other liberties that a Filipino citizen would commonly enjoy. Marcos used this power to dissolve the Philippine Congress and crush all media establishments that would criticize his actions. Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was Marcos’s most vocal critic and his assassination served as the last straw for many citizens under his regime. Through the peaceful demonstrations along EDSA, Filipino civilians were able to overthrow the regime wearing yellow to pay tribute to Ninoy Aquino and his efforts to act against the government.

When asked why education about an event that occurred 32 years ago is still relevant in academic institutions today, Mr. Van Der Merwe, an 8th grade teacher who teaches this event as a part of the curriculum, stated, “It is important, if you live in the Philippines, to understand a little of the history of the country. It helps you to understand the roots of a country’s struggles and triumphs. It gives you an appreciation for what you have today as a result of the struggles that past generations have gone through”.

However, Mr. Van Der Merwe believes that this event is not only relevant in the Philippines as its underlying theme resonates with other revolutions in other countries. He states, “if you study the underlying themes and concepts regarding revolution, then the People Power is relevant to all, regardless [of the country you live in]. The abuse of power, corruption, [and] democracy are all concepts that are important to understand, as we will live in a world that is ever changing yet never seems to fully learn from past mistakes. Not all the events are the same but there are [events with] obvious links between the PP”.

An event like the People Power Revolution cannot lose its relevance because of the susceptibility of countries to repeat its mistakes as seen in history. An understanding of this event creates a newfound appreciation for the liberties that society enjoys at this time. Mr. Van Der Merwe states, “it seems that the younger generation is not being reminded of what the country went through. They don’t have an appreciation of what freedom is, as a result of not learning enough of what people went through during the Marcos years. This is merely a perspective and [may] not [be] the truth. I am not sure if this is the case in all parts of the Philippines. There is still division in this country and many people [are] living with wounds from the past. The impact is still strong, but I think it is diminishing. The younger generations must be reminded and taught about the past in order to not follow the same paths.“

In the journey to effectual change, many lose sight of the fine line between stern legislation and unethical action. The Philippine society as well as other societies around the globe must not lose sight of the past and continue to stay vigilant when encountering government action that does not act in accordance to their rights. Many should learn from the past so as not to undergo and relive the oppression that leave many with wounds that cannot seem to heal.