News Analysis: The Gains and Promise of the People Power Uprising at Edsa

by Oliver Oliveros

MANILA — The country is commemorating this week the 24th anniversary of Edsa People Power 1. Some would not bother celebrating the event because they feel that the country is no better off now.

In 1986, we ousted the Marcos dictatorship but we now have an upstart dictator who is moving heaven and earth to keep herself in power beyond May 2010. We fought against the rampant “salvagings” (a euphemism for extrajudicial killings then), torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and enforced disappearances, and yet these are still being committed with impunity today.

Against the Marcos dictatorship, we fought for our right to organize — to form trade unions, peasant associations, student organizations, among others — as well as our right to strike, to conduct protest actions and demonstrations, and yet now trade unions are being suppressed, peasant associations, student organizations, and other progressive people’s organizations are being attacked and their leaders vilified.

Political activists are either being killed, abducted or sent to jail on the basis of trumped-up charges. In fact, even the religious such as Fr. Cecilio Lucero of Samar, professors such as Jose Maria Cui of Samar, health professionals such as Dr. Alex Montes, and lawyers such as Remigio Saladero are not being spared from the harassment and attacks by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Majority of the Filipino people fought the dictatorship for social justice and their right to a decent living — peasants fought to own the land they till, workers and employees for their right to work and decent wages, students and the youth for their right to education, national minorities for their right to self-determination, the urban poor for their right to basic services, and the ordinary Filipino for access to basic goods and services amid the skyrocketing prices — but after 24 years these are the very same issues the Filipino people are fighting for. The lives of ordinary Filipinos have even worsened as the country sinks deeper into crisis and backwardness, no thanks to the liberalization, deregulation, and privatization policies being pursued by the Arroyo government.

We condemned the dictator Ferdinand Marcos for its puppetry to US designs and interests, and for its brazen corruption but Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is no better.

Failed Promises? Failed Exercise?

A candidate would lay claim to Edsa People Power 1 and promise to revive the “spirit of Edsa” and fulfill its unfinished tasks. He would be lying because there is no one person nor one group who made Edsa People Power happen. It was the product of the persistent struggle by the Filipino masses who were aroused, organized and mobilized by a patriotic and democratic movement, and not by the action of one group from among the ruling elite nor from the middle class.

The ruling elite and one segment of the middle class would want to make the people believe that one person could fulfill the unfinished tasks of Edsa 1 to lull the Filipino masses into complacency and dependence. In fact, they do not want another people power uprising to take place, reasoning that it would shake the political order. And that is where the problem lies.

The gains and the promise of Edsa People Power 1 lie not in its immediate result but in the process of awakening of the Filipino masses and in their realization of the power of collective action. Their political awakening and collective action, which culminated in people power uprisings at Edsa, enabled them to oust a dictator in 1986 and a brazenly corrupt president in 2001. However, it would and should not stop there. This political awakening and exercise of political power would and should reach a new and higher level to enable the Filipino majority to finally end the oppressive and exploitative system and raise the country and its people from the quagmire of backwardness and poverty. (

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