EDSA 20: “Luhod! Luhod!”

Or how the injunction to kneel before the tanks that fateful Sunday afternoon 20 years ago is being given short shrift these days, at a time when failed mutineers elect themselves as agents of change because of the arms they bear — plus a few words on the delicate dance of Randy and Karina David, husband and wife

The following news item, from today’s Metro pages (Metropolitan Manila, of course, as our friends in the provinces occasionally remind us), may make some of us jumpy. The container van full of explosives may have nothing to do with attempted coups (dynamite fishing is brutal but lucrative, or so I am told). Still, the news is enough to make us wonder about a possible February surprise — and the actual plans of restless officers who have little popular support and less capacity for governance.

A long time ago, when the military leadership was very much a part of civilian government (officers running public corporations, retired generals calling the shots in government agencies, and so on), the middle forces carefully followed the narrow and winding path of non-violence. As we in my college student government phrased our understanding of it: "ubos-lakas laban sa dahas" [loosely: fight violence, with all our strength].

I am distressed to find that, 20 years onward, violence seems to be an acceptable option for some of those I would consider natural heirs of  the same middle forces. Out of frustration over someone we have consistently underestimated, we find ourselves overcompensating, by flirting with the tantalizing possibility of a swift, armed seizure of power. On a practical level, it doesn’t make sense. If it happens, it will certainly be armed, but it will neither be swift nor successful. On the level of principle, a violent strike is fatally inconsistent with democracy. We rail against the President for stealing the elections, and then we turn around and embrace the very violence that negates the very idea of the vote.

I think what made Edsa 1 "happen," 20 years ago, is precisely the renunciation of violence, as a strategy. (Make no mistake; blood was shed during the first flourish of People Power, and four rockets were fired at Malacanang, and five loyalist helicopters parked in Villamor Airbase destroyed. These incidents, however, were, well, incidental; they were a part of the truth of the situation, but only a small part.)

Which brings me to the unusual Randy and Karina show last Sunday. In his weekly column, which he probably wrote early on Saturday, Randy dwelt  on the role of the military in politics. I think on the whole he struck a balanced note, but I must say his first paragraph gave me serious pause.

EVERY time we allow politicians to steal elections with impunity, to rule without accountability, to rob the public coffers routinely, and to lie brazenly — we are creating the conditions for military intervention. Professional armies go hand in hand with strong democracies. We are not a strong democracy; that is why the temptation to play the military card remains strong. Yet, even in the most desperate circumstances, there is no assurance that the public will automatically welcome military intervention. Much depends on the clarity with which the military defines the provisional extraordinary role it claims for itself, as well as on the trust that the people are willing to repose on their soldiers. Trust is earned.

Much depends? That seems to me dangerously close to being words of encouragement for military interventionists. But that is not my point, at least not in this post. On the same day, Sunday, Karina was also in the papers, this time in the news columns. As the keynote speaker in Saturday’s controversial alumni homecoming at the Philippine Military Academy, Karina gave what was generally regarded as a well-applauded speech. Her topic: the role of the military in politics.

The Inquirer’s report carried the following excerpt from her speech: "The challenge to all of us as Filipinos is how to create a strong and legitimate political system that makes military intervention unnecessary; [a system] that allows the military to simply become a professional corps."

But I do recall reading, perhaps in a wire story last Saturday, a longer story on Karina’s speech. One passage, I distinctly remember reading, carried the same pithy line we read in Randy’s first paragraph: "Professional armies go hand in hand with strong democracies." When I read that, I thought, How interesting. The civil servant (and as chair of the Civil Service Commission Karina is the country’s chief civil servant) studiously kept to the neutral path; she did not go beyond the line drawn by that key sentence. The intellectual (one of the country’s most eminent, no less) took more risks in his thinking, because he could.



Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion

3 responses to “EDSA 20: “Luhod! Luhod!”

  1. champ

    Yes i saw the docu last Monday. It was inspiring to see the millions of people out in the streets. A video footage and some pictures were shown in the docu.

    Would like to share the article in Phil Star
    front page today Feb 22, 2006. Here is the weblink:


    Yes he is my Dad. 🙂

    happen to come across this blog while on the internet

    more power.

  2. Thanks, Beatrix. I appreciate the link, and I hope others will too. Your father was a brave and prescient man. Unfortunately I did not hear him that night, perhaps because he was simply ahead of his time. I mean literally. If he made the appeal at 7pm or so, Ramos and Enrile were still in the middle of their presscon, Butz Aquino was still on his way to a ATOM birthday party, and Cardinal Sin was probably still at the Loyola House of Studies in the Loyola Heights campus of the Ateneo de Manila, at the ordination of new Jesuit priest Louie David SJ. That makes his act all the more remarkable: While other people were still processing the information Ramos and Enrile were relaying, he had already come to the right conclusion: People Power was needed to save the day.

    What a wonderful legacy.

  3. Champ

    Thanks John.

    My parents and two other couples (the Javellanas and the Mapas) went to Camp Aguinaldo right after the break away of Enrile and Ramos from the Marcos administration. He asked to be put on air to appeal for the support of fellow concerned citizens.

    Here’s a transcription of that particular excerpt from Radio Veritas Broadcast of February 22, 1986
    (i have a tape and a Cd version of it and the full version of that fateful night. do email me your mail or email add if you want a copy.cheers.)

    A Citizen’s Call for a Million People

    As we observe the 20th anniversary of EDSA I this year, I could not help but share this letter, and a copy of the radio broadcast calling for “People Power.” This has become for us a family treasure and a beautiful legacy of courage and love from our Dad. This we can proudly pass on to our children’s children,

    On that crucial day of February 22, 1986, our dad, Wency L. Reyes, together with his close friends, Gerry B. Javellana and Tony L. Mapa, and their respective spouses, Tina, Bobbie and Marilyn, went to Camp Aguinaldo upon learning of the breakaway of Gen. Ramos and Minister Enrile from Marcos. They were able to get in to Camp Aguinaldo at around 7:00 pm before the gates were closed. There, our Dad, as a Filipino citizen, went on air thru Radio Veritas and made his call for support of a million people. Below is a transcription of the broadcast as recorded from the files of Radio Veritas:

    (His Excellency Jaime Cardinal Sin gave his statement on radio some two hours later, around 9PM)
    Date: February 22, 1986
    Time: Approx 7:00 pm
    Radio Broadcast: Radio Veritas 846
    (See attached CD – radio broadcast from Radio Veritas )

    Original (Tagalog)

    Radio Veritas (June Tania): Isa po sa mga naririto sa ating tabi mga kaibigan ay isa pong ginoo from Paranaque, Metro Manila. Siya po ay si Ginoong Wency Reyes. Good evening sir.

    Wency Reyes: Good evening.

    Radio Veritas: I understand na kayo po ay napasugod po rito sa Kampo Aguinaldo at ano po ang dahilan?

    Wency: Nagpunta po kami dito ngayong gabi sa Kampo Aguinaldo kasama ng aking mga kaibigan at kasamahan na mga God-fearing people, na who loves peace and democracy and we would like to give moral support to Mr. Enrile and General Ramos. And I am making this appeal to all those concerned people who love peace, and justice, and democracy to give moral support to this gentlemen here in Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. Salamat po.

    Radio Veritas: Mr. Reyes in what way, papaanong paraan maari magbigay ng moral support ang mga listeners.

    Wency: Sa aking palagay po, kung tayo ay makakapagraise tayo ng one million people by tomorrow morning ay magiging safe ang ating mga gentlemen na naririto ngayon.

    Radio Veritas: Okay mga kaibigan. Wency Reyes of Paranaque.

    Radio Veritas: Isa pong lady ang naririto po sa ating tabi ngayon. Siya po ay myembro ng Cory’s Crusader. Si Bobbie Javellana. Bobbie Good evening

    Bobbie Javellana: Good evening.

    Radio Veritas: We are now on air at Radio Veritas. Anong reason at ikaw ay napatakbo rin dito?

    Bobbie: Concerned lang po ako sa nangyayari. Gusto lang po ako manawagan sa mga kapwa ko po Cory Crusaders sa Paranaque na kung pwede po magsadya rito at magdala po ng pagkain at nangangailangan po sila ng pagkain rito sa Kampo, mga sundalo po. Na kung pwede po, pwedo ho sila magbigay ng kanilang moral support.

    Track 1: Edsa Radio Veritas – full 2/22/06 RV broadcasts
    Track 2: Edsa Radio Veritas – Wency Reyes
    (Track 2 is a segment of Wency Reyes’ on air radio broadcast from track 1.)

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