‘Relive Edsa, Junk Cha-cha’ is the rallying cry

Lawyer Chel Diokno, peace advocate Teresita Deles, Francis “Kiko” Dee of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (fourth, fifth and sixth from left, respectively), and historian Xiao Chua (second from left) lead the convenors of the #BuhayAngEdsa Campaign Network. —PHOTO BY TJ BURGONIO

Delisting the February 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution as a national holiday is bad enough; attempting to tinker yet again with its “legacy,” the 1987 Constitution, to push the interests of politicians is even worse.  

Moved by that common stand, dozens of civil society groups have banded together to resist any mode of Charter change under the Marcos administration and celebrate the gains of the bloodless people’s revolt that toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and catapulted Corazon “Cory” Aquino to the presidency. The Constitution is now being threatened by a “fake’’ people’s initiative to amend it, the coalition said.

“[We] celebrate Edsa, and as a sign of that celebration, we make formal our stand that we will defend its gains, a major foundation of which is the 1987 Constitution,’’ Teresita “Ging’’ Deles said at the launch of the #BuhayAngEdsa Campaign Network on Monday morning at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani auditorium in Quezon City.

“I see a real hunger of people to want to be able to make a stand together with others,’’ added Deles, the convenor of Tindig Pilipinas. 

For starters, the network is rallying Filipinos to join a “National Day of Prayer and Action’’ at the Edsa Shrine on Feb. 23 to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the revolt and to make known their opposition to Charter change (Cha-cha).   

“We’re inviting people to come,” Francis “Kiko” Dee, deputy executive director of the Ninoy Aquino and Cory Aquino Foundation, told CoverStory.ph. “A lot of people are looking for a space to express their sentiment against Cha-cha, their indignation at what’s being done to Edsa.’’ 

This activity will be followed by a “freedom ride’’ by bikers, skaters and joggers on Ayala Avenue, Makati City, and a retelling of Cory Aquino’s oath-taking as president at Club Filipino in San Juan on the morning of Feb. 25. 

In the evening, a concert dubbed “EdsaKahitSaan” will be mounted at a venue yet to be announced and will culminate in a countdown to 9:05 p.m., the exact time the dictator Marcos Sr. and his family fled Malacanang.  

‘Height of unity’ vs oppression

The convenors described the 1986 revolt as the “height of Filipinos’ unity” against oppression by the Marcos regime, and vowed to oppose any means to rewrite its “legacy,’’ the 1987 Constitution, on the watch of the dictator’s son, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

“In the face of the nation’s pressing problems, Charter change initiatives are divisive, wasteful and unnecessary,” they said in a joint statement. 

Lawyer Chel Diokno, son of then senator Jose W. Diokno who was among those imprisoned during martial law, recalled that Marcos Sr. ditched the 1935 Constitution in favor of the 1973 Constitution to perpetuate himself in power. 

“Forty-one years later, here comes Cha-cha again. They want to set aside the 1987 Constitution to push their own political agenda and personal interest,’’ Diokno said. 

“The Constitution is the heart of our law, and the soul of our democracy. No one, whether they are for or against Charter change, must be allowed to exploit the Constitution to serve their political interest and agenda,’’ he added. 

Certain post-Edsa administrations also toyed with the idea of rewriting the Charter, but none prospered in the face of fierce opposition from the public that was distrustful of the proponents in Malacañang and Congress. 

‘Driven by personal interest’  

Akbayan president Rafaela David said claims that only the restrictive economic provisions would be amended could be a ruse to tinker with other provisions. Any amendment, she said, could open the floodgates for other amendments. 

“This is driven by personal interest,’’ David added. “Worse, it has also become a battleground for squabbles among different political factions.”

Diokno of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation wondered: “Can they use a people’s initiative if it didn’t come from the people? What has come out in Senate hearings is that politics is behind this.’’

The House of Representatives-backed campaign to gather signatures for a petition for a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution appears to have petered out. 

In an ongoing inquiry, senators have found the process to be riddled with irregularities. 

The animosity reached fever pitch when Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate’s electoral reforms committee, accused House Speaker Martin Romualdez, her first cousin, of dangling P20 million to each congressman to coax them to collect the signatures. The Speaker denied this. 

The Commission on Elections has halted its proceedings on the people’s initiative amid the Senate-House squabble, stressing the need to put in more regulations to avoid confusion of the law. 

Deles, a former presidential adviser on the peace process, raised the need for continuing public vigilance given that, she said, Charter change proponents might not stop with the “people’s initiative.” She expressed confidence that other groups would question the matter at the Supreme Court at the right time.  

She said certain politicians “will always find a way to stay in power.’’  

Platform for affirmation

According to Deles, President Marcos Jr.s’ Proclamation No. 368 excluding the 1986 Edsa revolt from the list of national holidays this year brought people’s organizations, NGOs, political parties and artists’ groups together to launch the network. 

The first goal is “to put the Edsa celebration back where it belongs, and give people a platform to affirm the true events and their meaning to our lives,’’  she said.

Dee, a grandson of Cory Aquino and the slain former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., called on Filipinos to organize their own activities, such as “yellow-ribboning, ‘lugawan’ and story-telling’’ in commemorating the 1986 demonstration of people power.

He was recalling the yellow ribbons that adorned trees, posts, and cars as welcome symbols for Ninoy Aquino who was flying home from exile on Aug. 21, 1983, to join the fight against the Marcos dictatorship, and who was assassinated upon landing at the then Manila International Airport.

Yellow ribbons and confetti eventually became symbols of opposition that helped bring Cory Aquino to power.

Read more: Detention, ‘town arrest’ under martial law

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