Robredo: EDSA anniversary a reminder that tyrants won’t succeed

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – As the country marked the 34th year of its return to democracy on Tuesday, February 25, Vice President Leni Robredo said she remained convinced that Filipinos would rise to the occasion if another tyrant attempts to steal their hard-won freedoms.

Robredo expressed her optimism in her EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary message, where she also urged the people to protect and preserve the memory of the historic event amid attempts by some quarters to "erase" it for their personal agenda. 

"Sa harap ng mga kuwentong ito, tiyak ko: mas titibay ang ating paninindigan. Buo pa rin ang aking paniniwala: mas malakas ang mga bagay na nagbibigkis sa atin, kaysa sa mga pagkakaiba o hidwaang pilit tayong pinagwawatak. Magsilbi nawang babala ang EDSA sa sinuman ang muling magtatangkang ikuyom tayo sa loob ng kamaong bakal: Hindi sila magtatagumpay," she said.

(In the face of these [EDSA] stories, I'm certain: our conviction would become stronger. I have full faith: the things that unite us are stronger than the differences or conflicts that are trying to pull us apart. Let EDSA serve as a warning to anyone who would attempt to grip us in an iron fist: They will not succeed.)

Robredo delivered her message as press freedom continued to be under threat in the country. ABS-CBN, which has been on the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks, is faced with a possible non-renewal of its franchise due to expire by end-March, while cases have been filed against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and Rappler's directors and a former researcher.

Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce Duterte critic, marked her third year in detention on February 24, Monday, over what she and her supporters called trumped-up drug charges in retaliation for her vocal criticism of Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign. Another opposition figure, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, is hounded by various cases, including a conspiracy to commit sedition case.

In a statement, hailed the EDSA Revolution as "a catalyst for the restoration of our democratic institutions," and called for "a meaningful commemoration" of its 34th anniversary which he, again, skipped this year.

Protect memory of EDSA

The Vice President said Filipinos today owe it to those who came before them to thwart attempts to alter the peoples’ memory about the Marcos regime. (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history) 

“Ngayon, may mga nagtatangkang burahin ang alaala ng EDSA para sa pansarili nilang agenda. Tatlumpu’t apat na taon pa lang ang nakakalipas: kasama pa natin ngayon ang marami sa nagtipon noon – silang mga sumubaybay sa balita habang nagaganap ang rebolusyon, at malamang ay nakadanas din ng pagmamalupit ng diktadurya,” Robredo said.

(Now, there are attempts to erase the memories of EDSA for their own agenda. Thirty-four years have passed: still with us today are many of those who gathered before – they who watched the news about the ongoing revolution then, who likely experienced the cruelty of the dictatorship.)

“Utang natin sa kanilang huwag bigyang-puwang ang mga kasinungalingan. Ipakuwento natin sa kanila ang kanilang mga nasaksihan. Itanong natin sa kanila kung paano sila nakahanap ng tapang na humarap sa mga tangke, sa baril, at bayoneta, sa mga eroplanong umuugong sa kalangitan, na sa isang iglap ay puwedeng magpaulan ng bomba sa mga nagtipon,” the Vice President said.

(We owe it to them not to give space to the lies. Make them tell the stories of what they had witnessed. Ask them how they found the courage to face the tanks, guns, and bayonets, the airplanes flying in the sky that at any time could have rained bombs on them.)

Robredo herself said she was among the more than 2 million people who gathered in EDSA 34 years ago to call for the resignation of Marcos, whose 21-year rule was marred by corruption, killings, torture, disappearances, and media oppression. (READ: Revise history books, but only to emphasize Martial Law atrocities – Robredo) 

She said Filipinos then were not calling for a perfect leader nor a perfect democracy, but wanted a kind of government that would allow Filipinos to live in dignity and protect their rights. (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law) 

“Nagtagumpay tayo noon, at patuloy nating tinatahak ang landas upang makamit ang mga mithiin ng EDSA. Mulat tayo: Walang perpektong pinuno, at walang perpektong demokrasya. Ngunit hindi tayo nagtipon noon para manawagan ng perpektong pinuno o perpektong demokrasya,” Robredo said. 

(We triumphed then, and we continue to pursue the path to achieve the aspirations of EDSA. We are aware of this: There is no perfect leader and there is no perfect democracy. But we did not take the streets then to call for a perfect leader or a perfect democracy.)

Aspirations

Ang hinangad natin: mabuhay nang may dignidad. Isang gobyernong hindi magsisinungaling, hindi magnanakaw, at hindi tayo aapihin. Hindi tayo papatayin. Sa madaling salita: isang gobyernong gagawin ang sinumpaan niyang tungkulin,” the Vice president said.

(This was what aspired for: to live with dignity. A government that won't lie, steal, and abuse us. One that won't kill us. In other words: a government that fulfills its sworn duty.)

During his over two-decade grip on power, Marcos and his family plundered the country's coffers, with various estimates pegging the amount at between $5 billion to $10 billion. Amnesty International estimated that about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed during the Martial Law years. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Just how bad was corruption during the Marcos years?)

There have been attempts by the Marcoses to revise history to provide an alternative image of the clan especially to young Filipinos who did not experience Marcos rule.

In January, former senator Bongbong Marcos said that school textbooks on the abuses and excesses of the Marcos dicatorship should be revised, sparking outrage especially among state historians.

UP historians had earlier said that the Marcoses wanted to sanitize their reputation in a bid to return to Malacañang via the 2022 presidential elections. 

Over 3 decades after the Marcos patriarch was ousted, his family members have successfully returned to politics, with daughter Imee in the Senate, and other family members holding key posts in the Ilocos region. Imelda Marcos had served as Ilocos Norte 2nd District congresswoman, and also as Leyte 1st District congresswoman.

Bongbong was a senator before he ran but failed to win as vice president in 2016. Robredo beat the younger Marcos by just 263,473 votes, prompting the defeated vice presidential bet to file an electoral protest her. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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