Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Philippines: 25th Anniversary of the People Power Uprising

Posted by Harry Sims on February 26, 2011

This originally appeared on the Philippine Revolution website. The article pays tribute to the People Power uprisings that took place in Quezon City in 1986, which was a series of tremendous mass actions aimed at removing the Marcos dictatorship.  EDSA refers to Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, where over 2,000,000 people came out in opposition to the regime. There is much to learn from this experience as we watch the political events in the Middle East unfold.

On the 25th anniversary of the EDSA people power uprising

Communist Party of the Philippines
February 25, 2011

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in marking the 25th anniversary of the EDSA people power uprising. For four days, millions of Filipinos staged demonstrations along a stretch of EDSA and other major thoroughfares in the National Capital Region (NCR) as well as in almost all other major cities and towns across the country. These demonstrations ultimately culminated in the overthrow of the 20-year reign of the US-Marcos dictatorship.

The 1986 EDSA uprising is a product of the relentless struggle against the 20-year Marcos fascist dictatorship. For almost two decades, the Filipino people resolutely and untiringly waged resistance in all fields of struggle.

The revolutionary armed struggle waged by the New People’s Army (NPA) under the leadership of the CPP spread throughout the archipelago and dealt heavy blows against Marcos’ military rule. The armed resistance and antifeudal struggles in the countryside inspired mass resistance in factories, communities, school campuses and offices in the cities and town centers. The people’s armed and mass struggles broke the reign of terror of Marcos’ martial law and isolated his military regime.

The 1983 assassination of former Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, Sr. upon orders of Marcos’ henchmen further aroused and encouraged the Filipino people. It galvanized a broad front of anti-Marcos forces. At the core of this united front were progressive and democratic forces composed principally of workers, students, urban poor, women and other democratic sectors. They were capable of mobilizing tens of thousands of people in mass demonstrations from 1983-1986.

By 1986, the situation had come to a head. The US-Marcos dictatorship was completely isolated. The elections in early February were held by Marcos in a last-ditch attempt to legitimize his rule and draw the people away from street demonstrations and armed resistance. Massive electoral fraud and violence, however, succeeded only in further enraging the people. Mass protest actions immediately followed the farcical elections. The ruling class opposition under Corazon Aquino called for civil disobedience. The Marcos ruling alliance disintegrated when fanatical martial law implementors Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos abandoned the dictator and incited a mutiny among the military and police officials.

The Corazon Aquino regime initially rode the democratic wave of the anti-Marcos mass resistance. It released political prisoners and carried out other anti-fascist measures. It would not, however, take long for the fascist ruling state to assert itself. Goaded by the US government, Aquino herself would unsheathe the “sword of total war” in 1987 and order her military and police forces to carry out campaigns to suppress the people’s antifeudal and anti-imperialist struggles. Under the US doctrine of “low-intensity conflict,” paramilitary and armed vigilante groups were set up and unleashed to carry out a campaign of terror in the countryside.

In the next twenty years, the military and police under successive reactionary regimes carried out one campaign of suppression after another. The aim of these military and psywar campaigns is to put an end to the people’s armed resistance and mass struggles. The people are subjected to armed oppression, especially in the countryside, away from the eyes of the mass media. All these campaigns, however, have failed miserably.

This is because the puppet and fascist state leaves the people with very little option but to persist in waging armed and mass resistance. They are burdened by the worsening crisis of the ruling system marked by massive unemployment, falling incomes, spiralling costs of living, landlessness, hunger, mass poverty, homelessness, disease epidemics and environmental disasters.

The successive reactionary regimes under Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo put into place one policy after another in accordance with the IMF-imposed thrust of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization. These policies strengthened foreign control of the commanding heights of the economy, caused the mass destruction of productive forces and slowed down local production, deepened dependence on foreign debt and trade, worsened unemployment and reduced the Philippines into a supplier of migrant labor and call-center agents.

The crisis of the ruling system is bound to deepen and worsen under the government headed by Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. After more than six months under his presidency, Aquino has succeeded only in setting straight the path towards greater privatization and liberalization. He has made clear his preferential treatment for foreign big capitalists and their local big bourgeois and bureaucrat capitalists, even allocating state funds to guarantee their profits. He has allowed foreign oil companies to continue raking in superprofits with relentless increases in the price of gasoline and other petroleum products.

Aquino speaks empty people power rhetoric. At his inauguration last year, he declared that the people “are my boss”. Yet, he has shown no sympathy for the people when his government approved increases in toll rates, train fares and water rates, one after another. He has turned a deaf ear to the people’s demand for land reform, employment, wage increases, decent housing and increased public spending on social services. The Aquino government’s supposed single biggest poverty alleviation program–the Conditional Cash Transfer Program–is nothing but a graft-prone political gimmick that completely ignores the issues that lie at the root of the people’s impoverishment. By engaging in high-style living–buying a multi-million sports car and driving for relaxation–Aquino is rubbing salt on the people’s deep social and economic wounds.

Aquino engages in anti-corruption demagoguery, harping on one of the crucial issues of EDSA twenty years ago. His regime has, however, failed to prosecute the biggest plunderers of the Gloria Arroyo regime. It has also given Arroyo budgetary preference, leaving the people speculating about secret quid-pro-quo Arroyo-Aquino election deals. Furthermore, Aquino’s public-private partnership program is shrouded in secrecy, including the identity of the investor in the planned long-term rental of the property along Roxas Boulevard where the Philippine Navy headquarters stands.

The Aquino government is engaged in peace negotiations with the revolutionary forces under the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Beyond the peace rhetoric, however, Aquino has yet to show determination to address the socio-economic and political issues at the root of the raging civil war. Anti-peace forces, especially among Aquino’s military, police and security officials, have not been put in check and are allowed free rein to sabotage and hinder the progress of the peace negotiations.

Twenty-five years after the 1986 people power uprising at EDSA, the Filipino people still aspire for fundamental changes in the social system. The ruling reactionary state has failed to address the people’s patriotic and democratic demands. The worsening crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system after four regimes point to the continuing validity of the national democratic revolution being waged by the people.

Only through ardent revolutionary struggle can the Filipino people achieve their aspirations for national freedom and people’s democracy

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