[OPINION] False idols, choosing sides: History repeats itself post-EDSA

When I heard that the remains of President Ferdinand Marcos would be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani on November 2016, I decided to protest on my own in front of the cemetery. I was not intimidated by the police presence, the Marcos loyalists gathered inside the premises, or the death threats I would receive that night. I knew that by voicing my opinion, I was standing up for something worthy: that the idea of burying a disgraced dictator under the grounds reserved for honoring our fallen heroes is disrespectful of our history.

That incident was unfortunately a sign of things to come. Never has the Filipino mindset been more disconnected, misinformed, and even forgetful of our collective history than today. Villains are being rewritten into heroes. False idols are being turned into faultless legends. The truth is branded as a lie.

The EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 was not about choosing one political family over the other. It was not about which color would prevent you from being persecuted by the other side. It was about overthrowing a tyrannical regime, ending more than two decades of human rights abuses, corruption, and cronyism. It promised that “change is coming” before that line ever became a brand.

The EDSA Revolution represents how societal change can be achieved without violent means. It also shows how a nation with a storied history of division can unite with a common goal for a better life. It presents that freedom is worth fighting for, that every Filipino deserves the opportunity to exercise their rights responsibly in the pursuit of a better life.  

Yet after more than 3 decades and 6 administrations, our country is still suffering from the same mistakes. The same names have remained the dominant forces in national and local politics, only with new faces and bolder promises. Instead of caring about societal issues and facing them together, Filipinos are focused more on calling names and assigning colors.  

While these issues, among many others could be attributed to the political and social environment that goes back to the era of Spanish colonization in the Philippines, the EDSA revolution was meant to begin a decades-long transition to a landscape that truly lives up to the ideals of a democratic society. 

Resolving issues such as poverty, economic inequalities, and human rights violations takes more than one administration to accomplish. Yet through the decades, a large portion of Filipinos have experienced so much suffering that they crave for quick fixes

This creates a dilemma that takes strong leadership, visionary innovations, and unbending political will to address. Despite marketing themselves to be fit for the job, none of our recent national leaders has instilled the necessary changes in the past 3 decades. For a nation so desperate to see genuine change, can you blame it for repeatedly choosing someone just because he or she has the image of an outsider to the system?  

There is no doubt that in some cases, the reoccurring issues are actually getting worse. For instance, the style of misinformation and propaganda from decades ago has evolved into fake news and trolls that plague social media in the Philippines. The cronies of the incumbent President are being positioned to take over businesses out of gratitude. The same freedom that previous generations fought so hard for is now being shamelessly abused, almost without any respect for anything or anyone.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and our country has become a living example of it. Yet even with the questionable decisions and numerous scandals that mark the current administration, I refuse to believe that our country (or any part of it) is a lost cause.

We cannot change the past, and under no circumstances should we dare to revise it. But we can still change the future, albeit not without remembering the days gone by. We have too many examples of injustices from our collective modern history to keep making the wrong choices. We have simply ran out of excuses.  

We need to stop choosing sides because we all belong to the same side: the side that wants a society where our rights can be exercised and are respected, and opportunities for a better life are accessible for everyone in a just and fair manner. We need to stop listening to what the political oligarchy wants – the Marcoses, the Aquinos, or whatever their surname is, and make them listen to us. 

The EDSA Revolution gave us the opportunity to truly show the power of the people. We Filipinos have failed to live up to the spirit of that event in the past 34 years. But we still have time to change that.  In fact, the only people that can stop us from achieving it is ourselves. – Rappler.com

John Leo Algo is the Program Manager for Climate Action for Sustainability Initiative (KASALI) and the Science Policy Advisor for Living Laudato Si Philippines. He is also an environment researcher and citizen journalist.