Edsa Babies Unite!

“Edsa’s promises of change remain unfulfilled. Twenty-five years after Edsa, we continue to seek for more democratic reforms, human rights protection, economic progress, and political empowerment.”

The drafting of this speech is a collective effort. Thanks @kabataanpl. Delivered February 23, 2011, House of Representatives

I rise to speak about the 25th anniversary of the 1986 People Power and its impact on young people.

Madame Speaker, dear colleagues, mga kababayan.

EDSA or Highway 54 is a very important and famous road in the Philippines. It connects the north and south expressways. The three biggest shopping malls in the world are located here. The police and military headquarters are stationed here. Financial centers are established in Makati-EDSA and Ortigas-EDSA. But most importantly, it was the site of People Power in 1986.

This week marks the 25th anniversary of People Power. Madame Speaker, I was only a kindergarten student in 1986 but the impact of that event was felt and understood by my generation. We may be too young to remember the details of the Edsa Revolt but the stories of heroism, courage, and the militancy of the Filipinos in 1986 were taught to us by our parents and teachers. Before Egypt 2011, there was Philippines 1986. Before Tahrir Square, there was Edsa.

Before I proceed, let me use this opportunity to pay tribute to the millions of Filipinos who valiantly fought for democracy during the dark days of Martial Law. Their sacrifice and arduous struggle led to the restoration of many rights and democratic institutions after 1986.

Our generation grew up while the Philippines was undergoing a transition after 1986. The nation-building process proved to be a daunting task. We were told to contribute to social change by learning from the brave students and youth leaders who participated in Edsa 1986. In many ways, our actions in 2000-2001, which led to Edsa Dos, were our unique attempt to repeat the victorious revolt of the people in 1986. It was our response to the challenge posed by our elders and by the historical circumstances to display our sense of social responsibility.

Today our young people who were born after 1990 have little or almost no direct knowledge of the symbolic importance of 1986. Like us, they learned about Edsa in books but at least our formative years were shaped by the political events prior and after Edsa 1986. There is a need, therefore, Madame Speaker, to refresh our memory about Edsa 1986. It is our duty to share the stories of Edsa to the new generation.

So what does Edsa mean? What is its relevance to Philippine politics today? What should the young learn about Edsa?

I urge the youth, especially the Edsa Babies, to join the celebration by making a pledge to serve the people. This is the core lesson of People Power — a radical weapon of the oppressed against the oppressors. I hope the People Power veterans would always remember that subversive meaning of the Edsa Revolution; and I hope they would share that important legacy of Edsa to the young generation.

While it is commendable that Malacanang has taken the initiative to celebrate the anniversary of People Power, it should not prevent us from using the memory of this historic event to assert our just demands to Malacanang. In light of the various assaults to the people’s democratic rights – price hikes, dwindling budget to social services, dire poverty, and so on – the need to reactivate the hopeful legacy of People Power is now more pertinent than ever.

With all due respect to the President, he may be the son of President Cory who is an Edsa icon, but this doesn’t exempt him from being a target of People Power politics. We, definitely, have the legacy of People Power to use against President Noynoy’s anti-poor policies like fare hikes, dole-out programs, and the lack of substantial reforms in governance.

People Power versus LRT/MRT fare hikes. People Power versus the demolition of the San Roque community in North Triangle. People Power versus corruption in the bureaucracy.

The name Edsa enjoins us to not forget the past. Edsa is the acronym for the name Epifanio de los Santos, a historian and one of the chroniclers of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Remembering Edsa as a protest landmark is easy since it only refers to the immediate past. The bigger task lies in using the memory of radical Edsa to challenge the oppressive present.

EDSA, the people’s highway, is quickly evolving into an anti-people thoroughfare. The state, afraid of the People Power past of EDSA, now prevents the people from walking, crossing, and marching on EDSA. The street which witnessed two fantastic uprisings in 1986 and 2001 is now a death zone for innocent jaywalkers (bawal tumawid, nakamamatay), and political protesters.

I am quite worried that the Malacanang-sanctioned list of activities to celebrate People Power strips the event of its rebellious potential. It is sad that the memory of People Power is being used to prettify the image of the President. The official People Power anniversary has been reduced into a partisan activity of the President’s party.

Edsa’s legacy is far too important for our nation to be reduced to mere pageantry. Its promise of emancipation is very important for the masses who genuinely yearn for substantial freedom, justice and peace. We should not allow the meaning of Edsa to be monopolized by politicians and bureaucrats in power.

Edsa’s promises of change remain unfulfilled. Twenty-five years after Edsa, we continue to seek for more democratic reforms, human rights protection, economic progress, and political empowerment.

Thus I make this appeal to my fellow youth: Let a hundred unofficial People Power activities bloom. Let a thousand People Power debates contend. Bombard Edsa with our demands for genuine change, freedom, and pro-people governance.