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Upbeat P-Noy leads EDSA I commemoration

MANILA, Philippines - Twenty-seven years after a bloodless revolt ousted a dictator, it’s time for the nation to “end the cycle of rise and fall” and focus on reforms, President Aquino said yesterday.

Aquino raised the call in a speech during the commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the EDSA people power revolution.

In his message, Aquino also said the rewards of EDSA should not be claimed by only a few and that all Filipinos – especially the young – should take lessons from it and enjoy its fruits.

The ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986 catapulted the President’s mother Corazon to power. Coup attempts threatened the fragile democracy and derailed her efforts to achieve economic growth.

“It is our right to move forward and achieve progress. It’s our obligation to make this happen,” Aquino said in Filipino at the EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City.

“Bear in mind, EDSA is not owned by a few – it cannot be claimed by a few people whose faces we see in newspapers or by those who gathered on this avenue. They just represented the united call of the whole nation for freedom, dignity and justice,” Aquino said.

In the afternoon, the President addressed more than 1,000 orphans for the “Tatak EDSA Salo-Salubungang Pambata” at the Kalayaan grounds in Malacañang.

“Now it’s my turn to tell you, ‘It’s in your hands to do what is right and avoid what is wrong’,” the President said, paraphrasing the same message he said his late father had shared with him in his youth.

The assassination of his father Ninoy in 1983 triggered almost daily protest rallies that culminated in the 1986 People Power revolution.

Aquino told his young audience that his hopes for them were high, that they would not cheat in exams or keep quiet in the face of injustice.

“You can expect us the older ones to guide you and protect your welfare. We are trying to correct whatever is wrong so you won’t experience the nightmare that we had to go through,” he said.

“Let us take the opportunity to be progressive,” he added.

He said EDSA should be about cooperation and not about engaging others in a game of palosebo, a traditional Filipino game wherein a contestant attempts to climb a greased bamboo pole to reach a prize or retrieve a small flag.

“Unlike the palosebo, EDSA is not about who is popular, who is on top or at the bottom; this is not about whose name is on the news’ top-billing. This is about wide cooperation to achieve the change being dreamed of,” Aquino said.

The President said the Philippines has been capturing world attention of late for its economic gains amid the global slowdown.

“Sometimes I think we have been so used to the cycle of falling and rising, that we cannot accept that we can straighten up and be progressive without getting bruised, oppressed or hurt,” he said.

The President said that after the Marcos dictatorship and almost a decade of abuses and corruption in the previous administration, the Philippines was able to move forward and prove to everyone that “hindi natatapos ang laban sa pagbangon  (a struggle doesn’t end with one’s rising).”

He said he was aware of the challenges he had to face in treading the straight path.

“We must take to heart everyday the new culture of not having second thoughts, doubts and fears to move forward,” Aquino said.

The President also related what he called a martial law-era joke that seemed to be directed at Filipinos’ perceived wiliness.

In the joke, passengers of a plane have to make a sacrifice by bailing out to prevent the aircraft from crashing. An American shouted “Geronimo” before jumping out of the aircraft, followed by a Japanese who screamed “Banzai.” When it was the Filipino’s turn, he shouted “Mabuhay ang Pilipino!” and pushed another passenger out of the aircraft.

He said that after EDSA, the joke was no longer on Filipinos.

Fruits of EDSA real

The achievements of the Aquino administration have changed the impression of many that nothing much has improved since EDSA, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said.

“Admittedly, a lot of people have doubts if democracy could really work in a country like ours where there’s too much partisanship and corruption. Some people even think that the EDSA 1 revolt is a historical mistake because our people’s living conditions even deteriorated after the revolution,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento said such perception is now beginning to change under Aquino, “whose family sacrificed so much to make way for EDSA 1 and defeat the Marcos dictatorship.”

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas said he is thankful for EDSA because it allowed the people to choose their leaders and express their sentiments without fear.

“I was detained in 1978 and saw the abuses of martial law as a young student. Democracy allowed us to vote for our leaders and freely express our sentiments without fear,” Treñas said.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco said the Philippines, under the leadership of Aquino, is now starting to reap the benefits of democracy brought by EDSA, as he cited the country’s remarkable economic performance and the government’s extraordinary success in fighting the many social ills that normally accompany democracy.

“We are now second to Turkey in economic performance with a robust stock market with a 40 percent annual return of investments for global hedge fund managers and ever increasing foreign direct investments.

“These are indicators of a democracy that is truly working and a leadership that is truly responsive to the challenges of our democracy,” Haresco said.

“We can never expect the President and his administration to be like superman who can solve all our socio-economic weaknesses without any personal contribution. We are slowly getting where we all want to be, but perhaps our countrymen need to go through more proverbial fires to attain that golden era where everyone has true equity and freedom,” he said.

House Assistant Majority Leader and Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said Filipinos should be “thankful for the heroism displayed by countless, nameless and faceless Filipinos, who, in the face of adversity and threat, showed courage and love for our people and for our nation.”

“In the sight of tanks and guns, Filipinos locked arms to battle violence with nothing but love and devotion to their nation. We should also celebrate the opportunity given to us to rewrite history by closing a dark chapter and opening a new one filled with hope,” Nograles said.

Economic revolution

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, called on the people to join a new revolution aimed at translating the gains of EDSA into new jobs and wealth.

“The economic revolution is now sweeping the planet by storm, with wide-ranging economic activities changing wealth ownership to benefit the common people and nascent middle class, and economic growth that provides for the greatest range of opportunities for different skill levels,” he said.

“We really need an economic revolution to make democracy work,” Angara said.

“Democracy is just a figment of the imagination if the rich still get richer and the poor, poorer. Wealth must be broadly shared. Let’s level the playing field by giving the common people vast opportunities to have access to quality education and jobs so they can live comfortably,” he said.

“We are celebrating a historic event that brought democracy back into our lives. But almost three decades later, we are still struggling to make our democratic and economic systems work,” Angara said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano also said the promises that came with the 1986 People Power Revolution are now being realized.

However, he said this must be sustained so that all Filipinos would feel the benefits of democracy, such as employment, lower prices and better economic opportunities.

“On this momentous day, I join the rest of the country in hailing the indomitable spirit of freedom-loving Filipinos who were part of People Power in 1986, as we continue calling on today’s generation to remain vigilant in guarding democracy and continue to work for a better Philippines,” Cayetano said.

Sen. Loren Legarda said that the fight for the protection and promotion of human rights must continue 27 years after the EDSA Revolution.

“In 1986, millions of Filipinos joined a nonviolent revolution that awed the world. We were able to regain our democracy through peaceful means. Today, we must continue to fight for our rights without trampling on the rights of others. We must support ways by which we can protect and uphold our democracy,” Legarda said.

Legarda said that freedom of expression must continue to be protected and constructive criticism must be encouraged, “especially in public service so that leaders can effectively carry out their mandate.”

“We should ensure honesty, transparency and accountability of government officials, thus we must have freedom of information,” Legarda said.

The Manila Police District (MPD) tightened security in the city yesterday for its EDSA rites held at the Aquino Park at the corner of Bonifacio Drive and P. Burgos Street in Ermita.

Mayor Alfredo Lim and presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz called on the younger generation to know the country’s history by heart.

Aquino-Cruz acknowledged the honors regularly bestowed by the city of Manila to perpetuate the memory of their parents, the late Senator Ninoy Aquino Jr. and President Cory Aquino.

Senior Superintendent Ronald Estilles, MPD deputy director for operation, said the event was peaceful and the city of Manila was, in general, relatively peaceful. (From