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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

The success and failure of the EDSA Revolution

The success and failure of the EDSA Revolution

Philippine President Benigno Aquino attends the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the People Power Revolution that was partly ignited by the assassination of his father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, in 1983. (Photo by Joseph Vidal)

Published: February 26, 2016 10:12 AM GMT
Replacing a dictator with a dynasty was not a victory for the Philippines poor

It's the 30th anniversary of the nonviolent people's power revolution that toppled the cruel and bloody Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Ironically, the son and namesake of Ferdinand E. Marcos called Bongbong, who is a senator, is making a strong bid with powerful financial backing for vice president in the May elections. 

For some, it is terrifying to see that a once political T-Rex, thought to be extinct, can make a comeback. If elected, he is only a heartbeat away from running the country should the president have health problems or resigns.

Who would have thought that the bloodiest tyranny and economic disaster to befall the Philippines would ever be so quickly and easily forgotten and overwhelmed by clever and consistent propaganda of the Marcos family and their cronies?

Today, the new generation of Filipinos has little knowledge or awareness of the events and human suffering of that dictatorship that was propped up by the United States. President George Bush Sr. praised to high heavens the Marcos regime for adhering to "democratic principles and processes."

At the same time, hundreds if not thousands of dissenting and protesting Filipinos were being disappeared, tortured and murdered by the Marcos death squads and those of his cronies. The traditional ruling oligarchy of dynastic families who owned and controlled the country, the 1 percent more or less, were driven into exile or jailed and lost their economic power and their business empires were taken over by Marcos and his followers.

The great success of the EDSA bloodless revolution by nonviolent, passive resistance and the accession to the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino was that it was a mass movement and relatively bloodless. It was a protest movement against the dictatorship showing that huge numbers can change the political status quo. The middle class was motivated by social activists and human rights advocates, the Catholic and Protestant Churches and funded by the political dynasties in exile.

The great weakness and failure of the revolution was that it was not a "revolution." It was the return of the exiled dynastic families to power, who had lost their economic power and plotted the Marcos downfall from abroad. 

It was not a revolution like that in the historical revolutions of France, Russia, China, Cuba — violent and inspired by ideology and supported by the poor, the oppressed and the hungry masses and led by the communists and other political groups. 

The left-leaning trade unions, students, young professionals and communist insurgents in the Philippines led the active resistance and street protests and many were killed and tortured by Marcos and his goons. They did not have a popular heroic opposition leader but the exiled elites did, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, who was assassinated as he returned from exile in the United States. 

His arrival was the symbolic return of the traditional ruling elite and the dynastic families to challenge Marcos and claim what they believe was their "rightful privileges and entitlement." The dynastic families were the oppressive landowners and industrialists since Spanish times and they claimed to be of Spanish lineage and to be the true owners of the Philippines by right of conquest. They drew much support from the powerful and very wealthy Chinese-Filipino community.

The great failure of the left, despite the sacrifice of so many, was their inability to mobilize the people behind a heroic popular leader because they had none. The failure of the Aquino presidency was that it was the return of dynastic family system supported by the church. Why would they abolish the system, perverse as it is, that gave them power and influence and great wealth? This is what the left would want.

It would be political self-immolation had the revolutionary government of Corazon C. Aquino declared laws banning family dynasties and nationalization of private estates over 12 hectares for proper land reform and nationalization of utilities and all natural resources.

That was their chance to transform this country to a just and fair nation and give equality to the people. They should have repealed presidential decrees and laws by Marcos that unfairly favored certain industries and cronies.




They did not but they took back control of the industries and the unfair laws now favor them to this day. That is one of the factors that explains why the economic growth today favors the ruling elite and excludes the middle class and the poor. The Marcos regime did the elite families a big favor. The Marcos decrees have not been repealed and few people ever ask why not.

The dark side of the Marcos regime was the death squads and they too continue to this very day as tools of the ruling elite. The evidence is clearly and well documented by Human Rights Watch with confessions from the assassins themselves as seen on YouTube and the Human Rights Watch website.

The record of the murdered human rights workers, pastors and priests and environmentalists and journalists is the undeniable truth that the practice of assassination of the Marcos regime is still imbedded in the Philippine political system.

A presidential candidate, Rodrigo Duterte, using bombastic rhetoric and dire threats littered with expletives favors another martial law regime if he gets elected and is linked to death squads in Davao City. He denies any wrongdoing.

Death squads are already active in campaigning for the upcoming elections as opponents are already getting assassinated. Ferdinand "BongBong" R. Marcos Jr. is in the running for the position of vice president and claims the era of his father was a "golden age" of the new society.

The nightmare for the Filipino people is if Duterte and Marcos win.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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