Saturday, February 26, 2011

People Power beyond EDSA

25 February 2011

People Power beyond EDSA

We remember EDSA People Power Revolution today with memories of the united struggle of the people during the 1986 uprising against the decades-long tyranny of the Marcos’ rule. The purpose of the EDSA revolt then was beyond bringing down the fall of a dictator but more importantly to break impunity.

However, the impunity that the Filipinos have risen against has not been completely eradicated with the flight of Marcos from the presidency. Instead, it has fragmented into varying forms. As we remember the uprising by the Filipino masses, let us also realize and reflect on how the oppression and the violations have continued beyond the People Power Revolt and into the democracy that we are now enjoying.

EDSA people power brought about the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of our democratic institutions but the next administrations have not been able to progressively root out the systemic causes of poverty, corruption and impunity against human rights.  Rather, we have let down our vigilance to protect our gains and allowed impoverishment to increase, corruption to worsen and impunity to intensify. 
People’s revolution is now sweeping across the Middle Eastern region with the uprising of the people against dictators - President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's 23 years of rule in Tunisia, President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years of power in Egypt and the recent uprising to topple the 43-year reign of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya. However, the challenges faced by states beyond a revolution can be reflected on our own Philippine experience. The country since 1986, has established new structures to ensure that people in the new governance positions - executive, legislative and judiciary - have the knowledge and will to assert human rights as preferred values.

However in spite of these democratic structures, human rights violations have persisted to this day. Festering societal boils have erupted in cases like the Palparan-incited extrajudicial killings, the Ampatuan massacre and the Rabusa-Mendoza exposes of military corruption. 

Torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, massacres, arbitrary arrest and detention are among acts that have been continuously committed in the guise of protecting democracy and sovereignty. Vilification campaigns including threats and harassments against human rights defenders have been a prevailing practice in counter insurgency programs of past administrations.

Economic, social and cultural rights have been consistently trampled upon after EDSA. To date, millions of Filipinos remain in poverty without food, job, housing, health and education security.

Numerous human rights violators remained scath-free. The judicial system remains at the grasp of the select few with millions of resources available to sustain lengthy legal procedures and trials. Perpetrators of human rights violations walk free, many of which have been elected in government – the congress, senate, judiciary and even positions as high as the presidency.

Politicians including previous presidents have continued to redesign the results of elections to sustain their hold on power. The electoral system remains a vast playing field for politicians with ambitions to utilize the resources of the country to fulfill their personal interests. Corruption continues unabated and permeates through the entire government system amidst pronouncements to uphold a corruption-free administration.

Implementation of policies and legislations supposedly protecting and upholding human rights have remained at a standstill. Implementation of legislations such as the Anti-Torture Law, the Cheaper Medicines Act, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and other similar government laws and policies remained unrealized.

In this 25th anniversary of the people’s struggle and victory against the Marcos dictatorship, the causes that propelled the masses to rise against tyranny remain present in every Filipino household. One has to simply look at the day to day survival of each Filipino family to realize that human rights violations and abuses are still being committed every day.

Can this administration empowered by people who want change exercise political will to breakthrough towards ending the impunity against the people's fundamental rights?  Can this presidency will to compensate the thousands of victims of human rights violations during martial law?  Can President Benigno S. Aquino as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the AFP bring justice to the six workers of PICOP and their families whose murders perpetrated by military personnel have been confirmed by a soldier-witness?

These are among the numerous questions hounding the new Aquino administration on this 25th year of the EDSA uprising.

The spirit of the EDSA people power revolution lives in each defiant stand against human rights violations and abuses. Let us continue to relive the spirit of EDSA and struggle forth to ensure social justice, to break impunity and to defend the dignity of each Filipino.

Max M. De Mesa

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