June 23, 2018, 10:20 am
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EDSA without Digong

YESTERDAY, the Filipino people – or at least a small minority of them – celebrated the 32nd anniversary of what recent history calls EDSA People Power Revolution. It was when some 2 million Filipinos converged on Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA) near Camp Crame and
Camp Aguinaldo and demanded that Ferdinand Marcos dismantle his authoritarian rule and return the country to democracy. 

The nation’s No. 1 Filipino – President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte – was absent at the main celebration near the People Power Monument on EDSA. The fact that it was his second absence from such annual celebration, and that it was preplanned, says much about how Duterte regards the EDSA “revolution”.

Duterte’s instruction to government officials is to open the celebration to every sector of Philippine society. He even wrote a message, extolling how Filipinos, more than three decades ago, “have shown the world how a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history.”

The President said the event “has become the enduring symbol of our determination to fight for what is right and – during our country’s most crucial and trying times – to defend and uphold our cherished democratic values.”

He called on the people to uphold unity and solidarity, and “further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights, and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedom.”

These words and ideas are good to hear, but their real meaning is hollow because President Duterte was not personally at EDSA to utter them. These platitudes cannot gloss over the reality of disdain that the Chief Executive, and millions of other Filipinos, feel about EDSA and its direct beneficiaries, the Aquinos.

Chairman Rene Escalante of the National Historical Commission said the President wrote him explaining that he would be in Davao on Feb. 25. “We invited the President and he wrote to us that he has an important event in Mindanao so he won’t be able to join us,” Escalante said.

 How can the Filipino nation celebrate a “revolution” that changed the course of history with its leader conspicuously absent? It’s just like President Xi Jinping snubbing the celebration of the October 1, 1949 victory of the forces of Mao Zedong over the Kuomintang, thus establishing the new China. It is also like US President Trump refusing to attend a July 4th grand parade, for no compelling reason.

Instead of fostering unity among the people – as a “revolution” anywhere in the world must do – the EDSA People Power event has divided the nation since Day One of its commemoration.
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