Posts Tagged ‘people power’

Press Statement
February 12, 2011

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance) congratulates the people of Egypt for ousting the US-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak. After 18 days of relentless protests, and in the face of repression, the people have succeeded in ousting one of the longest dictatorships in the Middle East. The 30-year rule of Mubarak, which was backed by tremendous US military and economic aid, was no match for the millions who rose up and defied state repression at every turn.

May the great unity and determination of the Egyptian people inspire others worldwide in their fight against tyranny.

We hope for the best for the people of Egypt as they enter a new chapter in their history. We hope they will remain vigilant in their fight for genuine freedom and democracy. At the moment, Mubarak ceded power to the Supreme Military Council. This is the new situation confronting the people of Egypt. Many challenges await them, including the just demand for a new constitution and for free elections so that they may choose their leaders, following the ouster of Mubarak. The people of Egypt also desire freedom from foreign dictates and intervention.

What comes AFTER people power is indeed another difficult challenge, as we Filipinos well know. ###

I was a participant of the EDSA 2 uprising which marks its 10th year anniversary this year. I was then part of the youth and student movement and was the chair of the youth group Anakbayan. Here is a brief personal account of my experiences.

What transpired 10 years ago offers a lot of lessons for those who still want to see change brought about in our country. Part of that would have to deal with achieving justice for the victims of the Arroyo regime, the principal political beneficiary of the uprising. Remembering EDSA , after more than 9 years of the Arroyo regime, should not make us fall into cynicism when it comes to “people power”.

January 16 was the start of a period in Philippine history known as the EDSA 2 People Power  uprising which culminated in the ouster of then president Joseph Estrada from Malacañang on January 20. The protests started on the evening of January 16 when youth and students and different groups marched to the Edsa Shrine and held a protest program. The protest was triggered by the Senate’s refusal to open the second envelope that contained information on a bank account allegedly belonging to Pres. Estrada.

I joined the protest actions on January 17, marching with UP students and teachers that some estimate to have reached 15,000 people. We stayed at Edsa till past midnight and returned early the following day.

The youth were considered the most numerous of all the participants of EDSA 2. We were part of the Estrada Resign Youth Movement (ERYM) at that time. There was Anakbayan, LFS, NUSP, CEGP, SCM and other student councils and organizations. We were joined by Mon Pagdangangan (who died a few years after EDSA2) and China Cojuangco (who hosted some of the meetings at her parents’ home in Forbes). Mark Leviste, now vice-governor of Batangas, was also present during some of our meetings.

Black was the official protest color. For some reason, I never did wear black though.

Edsa 2 was the first time I really appreciated the MRT. The train line ferried thousands of people from Quezon City and Manila who wanted to join the protest action. I could remember train coaches emptying as they reached the Ortigas station. It was the fastest and cheapest mode of transportation at a time when the EDSA Ortigas area was closed to traffic. (Fast forward 10 years later, fare rates for the MRT are set to increase by 50-100%).

I remember a lot “balimbings” at that time, those who withdrew support from Erap at the last minute and went to Edsa. Some of them were booed by the people. Others were prevented from speaking on stage.

I spoke before the crowd on the fourth day, it was almost 6am. I was asked to provide some agitation before the march to Mendiola. At that time, not everyone was convinced we had to march to Mendiola, but a good majority was already raring to go. I could tell from the reaction of the crowd during the speech.

We already dispatched an advance team of several thousand activists from various sectors to go to Manila to prepare the people for the coming of the main march in the morning of January 20. That was at the dawn of January 20. The main body of the Bayan forces were already in marching formation from the corner of the POEA Edsa and up along Ortigas Avenue. It was a very formidable and solid looking contingent among the different forces assembled at Edsa that day.

The signal to march was given at 6pm. Then Bayan secretary general Teddy Casino gave the announcement. Another announcement however said that some groups will be staying behind at EDSA.

It was a long march from the Edsa Shrine, to Shaw, to Sta. Mesa then Nagtahan, then Lacson, Espana, Morayta then Recto. Everyone knew it wasn’t wise to go through San Juan. (Four years later, I would join another long march from the Edsa Shrine to Makati, at the declaration of a state of emergency by Arroyo.)

It was still dark when we marched. We hadn’t slept but  none of us felt tired. The people of Mandaluyong lined up along the streets were giving us water and food.

We marched along Recto to Mendiola. The Estrada supporters scampered. We took Mendiola. We held a program on top of a flat-bed truck. We received news Erap left the Palace. In a few hours, Mrs. Arroyo was sworn in at Edsa We didn’t go back to Edsa to witnesses the oath taking. For many of us, EDSA 2 wasn’t about GMA . The Mendiola march was the climax for us. Around 75,000 joined that march with started at 6am and ended by noon.

Post-EDSA 2

Arroyo’s rise to the presidency would be followed by the arrest of former president Estrada which precipitated “EDSA 3″. Arroyo  was able to retain her hold on power despite a siege of Malacanang. The following year, on Rizal Day, she promised she would not run for office in 2004.

As everyone knows, she didn’t keep that promise. In 2004, Arroyo ran for president and as many believe, cheated her way to Malacanang. What followed was six more years of illegitimate, fascist, pro-imperialist and oppressive rule.

A broad array of anti-Arroyo forces emerged in 2005 and sought the ouster of the fraudulent president. The broad front would muster tens of thousands of people in the streets between the years 2005-2009. Their efforts to remove Arroyo however would be frustrated because of a number of factors both internal and external.

During this period, Estrada was convicted of plunder, but was later on pardoned by Arroyo. Estrada would be a vocal critic and active opponent of Arroyo on issues like Charter change. Estrada forces were an important part of the broad anti-Arroyo united front. Former president Cory Aquino would also be active again in the protest actions before her death in 2009. She joined many street actions and had called on Arroyo to resign in 2005.

During the period of 2001-2010, hundreds of activists were killed, abducted and tortured by the Arroyo regime. The activists and leaders of the national democratic movement bore the brunt of the fascist attacks, from the policy of extrajudicial killings and abductions, to the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) versus street protests.  The ND forces were the most persistent in the anti-Arroyo movement, and many proved by giving the highest sacrifice.

Along the way, we lost many dear comrades and friends. We lost former secretary Josie Lichauco who was a fierce Arroyo critic and was an active street parliamentarian. Sammy Ong, whistleblower in the Garcia scandal, succumbed to sickness.

Ka Crispin Beltran died from an accident, less than a year after his release from detention. He was a huge loss to the entire peoples’ movement.

Fernando Poe, Jr. , the main victim of election fraud in 2004, died in 2005, rendering his election protest moot. Former Sen. Raul Roco also died from illness during this period.

For some people, the experience of the last 10 years may seem like a good argument that EDSA2 was a “mistake”`. We ended up from bad to worse, they would say.

I won’t argue the fact that Arroyo turned out to be a really bad president. She was the worst president since Marcos. Arroyo didn’t just err. She committed one heinous crime after another.

But EDSA 2 wasn’t about bringing Arroyo to power. It was about removing the Estrada regime which at that time was perceived as corrupt. Arroyo was the beneficiary of EDSA 2 because of the principle of constitutional succession. She would have had a chance to effect reforms but she failed miserably. As we again learned, changing the president is not enough to bring about fundamental change. The problems of society require more than changing the Palace occupant. Arroyo, by virtue of her class position and political affiliation, carried the same ruling class and pro-imperialist interests after she was installed as president.

From the experience of the years after EDSA 2, we can see that there’s no single “formula” for sparking “people power”. Oakwood was not able to muster much public support, as with the Peninsula siege in 2007 and the Marine stand-off in 2006. The bases of the protest actions were valid but this did not necessarily translate into mass mobilizations ala-EDSA2. The protests against the Garci scandal (2005) and the ZTE scandal (2008) had good starts but were not sustained enough to lead to a critical mass that could have removed the despised Arroyo regime.

There were some in the anti-Arroyo front that sought to replicate EDSA 2, though mechanically and artificially at times. Some scoffed at the idea of building a sustained mass movement along various issues. “Puro kasi kayo build-up” was one comment I heard during meetings with various groups.

Some wanted a quick resolution to the problem despite the reality that the problem would require greater effort and greater mobilizations over a period of time. There was no quick fix and attempting to mechanically replicate EDSA was often met with failure. Arroyo was most vicious when it came to suppressing any emerging “people power”.

EDSA 2 was the culmination of a series of huge demonstrations months before the January 20, 2001. There was also a broad united front made up of various political forces. And then there was an event that triggered a spontaneous reaction from the people.

There was also the question of who (or what) will replace Arroyo if she is ousted. For many, the EDSA 2 experience was a reminder that constitutional succession is not always the best route to follow, especially since at the time, it was Noli de Castro who would be the immediate successor. While ND forces had pushed for a “transition council” before the holding of elections, there were also various other ideas on who to replace GMA. There appeared to be no consensus on this matter, even among anti-Arroyo forces.

Why did the broad anti-Arroyo front fail to remove GMA despite her extreme political isolation? Why wasn’t there a repeat of “people power”? These are matters that still need to be studied and assessed, not just as a matter of historical record, but also as a matter for future reference should we be faced with a similar situation.

Reasons for remembering

Ten years after EDSA 2 and we see Arroyo now sitting as a member of Congress as she faces possible prosecution for her many crimes. Former president Estrada ran and lost in the 2010 elections, but still got 8 million votes.

Benigno Aquino III is now president and has promised to go after Arroyo, though no charges have been brought against the former president. Estrada was charged and arrested within Arroyo’s first 100 days. Aquino’s first 100 days was marked by a failure to hold Arroyo accountable.

Even under the second Aquino regime, we see that many of the problems we faced 10 years ago remain. The resolution of these problems is made impossible by the dominant class interests within the current regime. Prices, fares and fees are going up. Land reform remains a dream for many farmers. Corrupt officials are getting off the hook. Foreign impositions such as the “public-private partnership”, despite the dismal track record of privatization in the country, are being  peddled as the solution to our economic woes.

Is there still any reason to remember EDSA 2?

There is. We need to be reminded that genuine change requires more than just a change in the presidency, and this holds true even for the current government that replaced Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The entire oppressive system needs to be replaced, and defeating one anti-people regime after another can help truly empower the people and weaken the oppressors, until such time that the people are capable of bringing about genuine change.

We also need to be reminded that the principal beneficiary of EDSA 2 betrayed it and committed grave crimes against the people in her bid to hold on to power. Remembering EDSA 2 should compel us to see to it that Arroyo is made accountable for extrajudicial killings, corruption, election fraud and the sell-out of national interest.

Lastly, remembering EDSA 2 should give us a sense of hope, that a united and struggling people are a powerful force for change. “People power” is and should always be an option for the oppressed. It may be an old concept, but it will never go “out of style”. How and when the next one will happen depends on the unfolding of events, the severity of the crisis and the determination of the Filipino people to seek a better future. ###

Bayan forces will march to Mendiola today, armed with a permit from Mayor Fred Lim. We expect peaceful protests today, the anniversary of EDSA 1.

 

Press Statement

February 25, 2008

 

In the face of worsening crisis, People Power is a necessity

Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

BAYAN Secretary General

 

As the nation commemorates the 22nd anniversary of the Edsa 1 uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, we join all freedom loving Filipinos in affirming the need for continued collective action in the grand tradition of “people power”. No longer can we allow the perpetuation of a morally bankrupt, moribund and fascist Arroyo regime.

 

Mrs. Arroyo says that the world will not forgive the Philippines if another “people power” takes place. How ironic indeed that the main beneficiary of “people power” is the first one to condemn it now. The president should worry less about what other countries may think and worry more about what her countrymen demand.

 

Mechanisms for accountability have been corrupted or destroyed by the regime. Government tells us to go to the courts instead of the streets only because it knows that the wheels of justice are slow in this country.

 

The necessity of people power stems from the reality that the current government will cling to power at all costs. The present regime has totally avoided any accountability over issues of corruption, human rights abuses and gross puppetry to foreign interests. Simply put, this regime will not fold on its own. It has to feel the collective wrath of the people first.

 

People Power assures us that the people have a say in what will happen to the Arroyo regime. Without “people power”, the crisis would merely be resolved by representatives of the powers that be, sans the voice of the people. Our best hope that reforms will be advanced and a better alternative put in place, is if the people can muster the strength to advance their interests.

 

Right now, the momentum for people power is on the side of the anti-Arroyo forces. The widespread mass actions of recent weeks have shown that there is no such thing as “people power fatigue”. The youth, religious, professionals, workers and farmers are all at the forefront of the rising tide of protest against the Arroyo regime.

 

Arroyo’s admission that she knew of the anomalies in the ZTE-NBN deal even before its signing must not turn out to be another “I am sorry” speech from the president. Instead, it should be the basis of the people in seeking accountability from and the resignation of the president. ###

 

My wife gave birth to our first child on Valentine’s Day, one day before the scheduled anti-Arroyo rally in Ayala, Makati. Despite having almost no sleep for two days, I felt great going into the Friday protest action. There’s this unusual high one gets upon seeing a newborn baby (and knowing that Beng was alright through all of it). I guess that’s where my energy came from. There was also the momentum leading up to Friday’s protest that seemed to energize everyone.

Several protest actions prior to the Ayala action served to drum up support for the big event. There were also important public announcements coming from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, the UP community and other concerned sectors.

The Ayala rally had less than a week of preparation. Plans were only solidified on Wednesday, two days before the mass action. Still, the turn out was really encouraging.

We estimate the crowd to be anywhere from 10-12, 000 people. There were the militant groups, the Makati employees, priests, seminarians, nuns, religious, lawyers, students,  artists, urban poor, workers, farmers, Opposition figures, business folks and of course, the media came in full force (though they weren’t exactly rallyists, we felt their “participation” just the same).

Four bands performed, even if they were given one day’s notice. First to rock the stage was Bobby Balingit of the legendary WUDS. He got the Makati crowd, including the mestizas and business types, up on their feet dancing (and to think Bobby hails from the punk tradition of the 80s).   Next on the stage was Brownman Revival who gave a rousing rendition of “Maling Akala” that got the crowd electrified. Clenched fist raised, Dino Concepcion chanted “Makibaka! Huwag Matakot” as the group wound up the Marley classic “Get up, stand up”.

Veteran rock group The Jerks delighted the crowd with Sayaw sa Bubog, Rage, and Isa pang Kanta. The band Talahib rounded up that day’s performers.   

The politicians were there but they had the good sense of not taking too much of the limelight. It was a good move on their part and it helped neutralize the Malacanang propaganda that this was all politicking.

Bayan delivered one of the biggest numbers among organized groups, but the Makati people (community residents and employees) probably made up the biggest bulk of the participants. The Opposition, including the Edsa 3 coalition, also delivered a big crowd that day.

Confetti rained on the protesters. Last time we saw that was February 24, 2006 when a state of emergency was declared and Bayan forces regrouped in Makati.

A man on a makeshift skateboard rolled ahead of Bayan’s marching forces. The guy has been a common sight during Bayan rallies especially in Manila. I remeber first seeing him in a Free Satur rally last year.

There were various creative placards and signs that day. The biggest one was “Moderate your greed. Exterminate your breed”, which hung near the stage. The extermination obviously referred to the greediest of ‘em all, whose picture appeared in the giant tarp. Bayan had colorful placards too, being featured a day before on the news as spoofs of several TV series.  A business group had a sign which simply said “Bring it on!”, a response to threats by Malacanang to unleash the BIR on anti-Arroyo business groups.

The media provided another highlight. The set up of ABS-CBN made you think they were covering the Myx Mo concert series. The cameras, including the ones mounted on cranes, were simply awesome for a rally. Astig and Dos! ABC 5 had their satellite dish at Paseo and Ayala. GMA 7 brought its big vans the size of a small house. Our hats off to all media people who covered and in a way, “joined” that day’s rally.

My pet peeve is how rallyists (and I’m not just referring to one group in particular) try to smother the TV cameras with flags. Instead of having a huge crowd as the background for news reports, what we see are flags competing with each other for 10 seconds of fame, at the expense of the bigger interest of the rally organizers ot project the numbers of the crowd. We’ve been trying to correct this as far as Bayan is concerned, but some groups assembled along Paseo that day just don’t seem to understand that it is better that TV viewers see the big crowd than see just flags in the background.

Joey de Venecia did put some effort in his speech. He’s a businessman and speaking at protest actions is probably a first for him. He did good though and the crowd appreciated him.

Two ordinary folks approached the main stage where I was standing, They had a plastic bottle with coins. They said they were collecting Piso para kay Jun Lozada. They turned over their humble collections for that day to the emcee, Bibeth Orteza. Scenes like that give you an idea of the sincerity of the people gathered that day.

Another rally is set on February 25. We hope this one would be bigger and better.

Kasama ako sa EDSA2!

January 16 marks the start of a historic period in Philippine history known as the Edsa 2 People Power uprising which culminated in the ouster of then president Joseph Estrada from Malacañang on January 20. The protests started on the evening of January  16 when youth and students and different groups marched to the Edsa Shrine and held a protest program. Dormers from the University of the Philippines Diliman even marched from their school all the way to Edsa, arriving a bit late but just in time to claim their mark in history as among the first to march to Edsa that night.

 

I joined the protest actions on January 16, joining the march of UP students and teachers that some estimate to have reached 15,000 people. We stayed at Edsa till past midnight only to return early the following day.

 

We were part of the Estrada Resign Youth Movement (ERYM) at that time. There was Anakbayan, LFS, NUSP, CEGP, SCM and other student councils and organizations. We were joined by Mon Pagdangangan (may he rest in peace) and China Cojuangco (who hosted some of the meetings at her parents home in Forbes).

 

Our official ride was a passenger jeep from a driver in Sampaloc who lived beside the Anakbayan HQ. Our cell phones could be described as “pangkaskas ng yelo” by today’s standards. And we didn’t really have a lot of resources except for a portable table, some chairs, and a tent we borrowed from some local politician (God bless him). But we had that fire burning in us, the strong desire for change.

 

We had our speakers in the main program. We did our photo-ops, including the memorable brown envelopes at the steps of the Shrine.

 

We got by because of the support of many friends and allies. We had our field HQ at the 17th floor of some building in Ortigas through the help of some friends. Nope, not Linden Suites (that’s what Gloria used). We held office in a much older building. We could only use it after office hours of course. We had some late meetings at that place.

 

Black was the official protest color. I did hear some stalls in Robinsons’ galleria running out of black clothes, even the more expensive ones. I never did wear black though.

 

I remember a lot “balimbings” at that time, those who withdrew support from Erap at the last minute and went to Edsa. Some of them were booed by the people. Others were prevented from speaking on stage.

 

I spoke before the crowd on the fourth day, it was almost 6am. I was asked to provide some agitation before the march to Mendiola. At that time, not everyone was convinced we had to march to Mendiola, but a good majority was already raring to go. I could tell from the reaction of the crowd during the speech.

 

We already dispatched an advance team of several thousand activists from various sectors to go to Manila to prepare the people for the coming of the main march in the morning of January 20. That was at the dawn of January 20. The main body of the Bayan forces were already in marching formation from the corner of the POEA Edsa and up along Ortigas Avenue. It was a very formidable and solid looking contingent among the different forces assembled at Edsa on that day.

 

The signal to march was given at 6pm. Our forces were ready and in formation and we started moving. Some smaller group I think identified with Roilo Golez wanted to march ahead of everyone else. Some overeagerness I think.

 

It was a loooong march from Edsa, to Shaw, to Sta. Mesa then Nagtahan, then Forbes then Morayta then Recto. Everyone knew it wasn’t wise to go through San Juan.

 

It was still dark when we marched. The sun had not risen. None of us felt tired. The people of Mandaluyong lined up along the streets were giving us water and food.

 

We marched along Recto to Mendiola. The Estrada supporters scampered. We took Mendiola. We held a program on top of a flat-bed truck. We received news Erap left the Palace. In a few hours, Mrs. Arroyo was sworn in at Edsa. Nope, we didn’t go back to Edsa to witnesses the oathtaking. It wasn’t about GMA to begin with. The Mendiola march was the climax for us. Around 75,000 joined that march with started at 6am and ended by noon.

 

After the rally, I remember resting inside a movie house along Recto, watching the Joyce Jimenez-Rica Paralejo flick “Balahibong Pusa”. I slept through most of it. I also discovered I wasn’t the only activist who thought of taking a snooze in the movie house.

 

Some lessons I learned since that time include:

 

  1. There’s no single formula for people power. It’s always about the existing conditions at a given time and how subjective forces interact with these conditions. It is difficult to artificially replicate these conditions in the hopes of getting the same results.
  2. From its very name “people power”, we can conclude that the only thing constant in these upheavals are the people. The most decisive force is the people. Mass movement ang kailangan, more than anything. The fact that Malacañang is still terrified sh*tless by the mere mention and hint of people power tells us that this is still the most effective weapon in combating tyranny. What irony though that they are terrified by the force that brought them to power in the first place.
  3. It was never about Gloria. To those who say that Edsa 2 was about bringing Gloria to power, please, give us a break. It was never about her. She just happened to be the main beneficiary but we sure as hell did not spend four days shouting at Ortigas just so she could be president. Do we regret what we did? NO. But maybe one regret was the lack of a better alternative at that time. Sure, Gloria turned out to be a really bad president but at that time, people had high hopes and were willing to give her the chance to do some good. She blew are her chances.
  4. I don’t really subscribe to the theory of people power fatigue. That is a cynical way of trying to explain why the anti-Arroyo forces have failed to muster the people power necessary to replace Arroyo with a better government. There are many problems facing the anti-Arroyo front, but people power fatigue doesn’t even rank high among these problems. There’s the basic problem of unity and struggle within the anti-Arroyo front, the ability to unite on alternatives, the clashing political and economic interests and so on.
  5. The Arroyo government will do everything to prevent a repeat of people power, even if this means widespread bloodshed. We have seen it before. It gives us something to ponder on, and prepare for.