Photo Essay

The Myth of People Power.

Election Poster for Cory Aquino,

M (Re

THE PEOPLES POWER MYTH

by

Carl Kuntze

EDSA was once known as Highway 51, and was the quIckest way to get from one

district in Rizal Province to the next. Until they were absorbed into Metro Manila, these districts were autonomous municipalities.Pasay City, Makati, Pasig. Quezon City, Kamuning, and Caloocan. The name was changed to Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue (EDSA) after a town councilman in the mid60's , when colonial designations were being changed to local heros and politicians. The country was becoming defensive about its independence.

EDSA I became a metaphor for the deposement of a dictator.

"Peoples Power" was celebrated around the world as a bloodless revolution. While the story unfolded "in plain sight," the events were misinterpreted and romanticized by the international media as a popular demonstration to restore democracy. It was actually a military coup engineered by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce-Enrile, who dragged

General Fidel Ramos with him. Motives were as convoluted as a Robert Ludlom novel.

Enrile never intended to defect. He was forced to out of fear for his life. Ramos had been promised the promotion of Chief of Staff, a position Gen. Fabian Ver held. Marcos wanted to "promote" Ver to a lower profile job of "Personal Adviser to The President," because of strong suspicions about his role in the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino.

But Ver was reluctant to relinquish power, to accept a strictly ceremonial position. So, the vacillating Marcos "promoted" then demoted Ramos several times building smouldering resentment. Unable to go out in the streets to campaign, Marcos enlisted the TV screen for continuing all day broadcasts, a miscalculation. Heavily medicated, he rambled incessantly like a senile old man, which made even his staunch supporters uneasy. An assassination

plot was uncovered in the palace, a dramatic incident played out on the airwaves. It was a

clumsy attempt by three puny soldiers, who were quickly overpowered and paraded in

2 front of TV cameras, where they confessed to the public. While they didn't implicate Enrile,

military branches were under the Department of Defense jurisdiction, and Marcos held him

responsible, ordering his arrest. Enrile was in The Embarcadero Coffee Shop at The Atrium in Makati for his customary coffee break, conferring with his friends when Jose Flores, who acted as his public affairs officer handed him a note. It was a warning from an ally at the palace of his impending arrest. Enrile gathered up his papers and excused himself.

Although he had nothing to do with the plot, he was apprehensive about the president's growing paranoid vindictiveness. He phoned Ramos and confided his intention to mutiny, inviting the general to join him. The pair barricaded themselves in Camp Aguinaldo, encircled by loyal soldiers. A third protagonist was about to enter the picture: Cardinal Sin.

Reporters from Veritas, The Catholic radio station, apprised him of what was happening. The Cardinal, like Richlieu, The French Prelate of Louis XIII, during the 17th century, seized the moment to exercize his influence, and instructed his flock over the radio to surround Camp Aguinaldo to protect the mutineers. While the pair had designed to take over the reins from Marcos themselves, they were maneuvered into the "noble " posture of penitents defending free elections. Cardinal Sin's own motives were not similarly "pure."

His dispute with Marcos originated when a revenue starved government wanted to tax church investments. The Philippine Catholic Church had part-ownerships in banks, distilleries, real estate, etc. and stocks in major companies. Marcos wanted to make a distinction between nonprofit enterprises (Hospitals, schools, churches, charities) from income from secular sources. The "people" served as human shields, but to this day, they do not benefitfrom any change in government, whether autocratic or elective.

While skeptical television viewers were convinced they were being presented with a

contrived drama, the assassination attempt on Marcos was real. Just who the instigators of the plot were was never established. Speculation pointed to RAM (Reformed Army

3

Movement), young middle level officers led by Colonel Gregorio Honasan, who

was nicknamed "Gringo" because of his fair complexion and Caucasian appearance. RAM

never admitted complicity even after the furor died down. Nothing was ever mentioned as to what happened to the captive suspects,who were probably quietly released. The now it can be told revelations, historical revisions spewed out of the main characters of the drama.

The subsequent prevarications became the source for later reports. The myth of a bloodless revolution persists to this day.

These are not extractions from any secret files, but from published accounts in the local press, ignored by the major international media primarily interested in the big picture. I was also watching TV until it went briefly off the air after the already powerless Marcos threatened to reinstate Martial Law, a threat greeted with great hilarity.

The narcissistic observance of "Peoples Power EDSA I" is a sop to the population to give them the impression that they catalyzed change by boisterous rioting in the streets.

The second demonstration "EDSA II" to oust the previous President Joseph Estrada also succeeded because the top military heirarchy once again shifted their allegiance, this time, to his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Estrada did not distribute graft as equitably as they would like. For any insurrection to succeed support had to come from the upper echelons, the oligarchs, the church, and the business community.Even middle level rebellions such as RAM were doomed to failure. The aborted Oakwood mutiny was an example.

May 10th, 2004was election day once again. Earlier, there were six candidates contending, one of whom, an actor (Like Estrada), but unlike Estrada, with no experience in public office. Another, a preacher, ditto. The actor, Fernando Poe, Jr. had a wide movie following who threatened to take to the streets if he was blocked from office. His opponents tried to disqualify his candidacy by questioning his citizenship. His father, also a movie idol, was a

Spanish citizen, his mother, an American. It was a clumsy effort. Poe was native born . He

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elected to spend his life in The Philippines . He practiced his profession and paid taxes there, gratifying constitutional requirements for citizenship. The manner he handled his campaign was unpromising. He did not keep track of fund raising, nor the manner they were disbursed. Many times, he did not show up where he was announced. His supporters expected him to use his own money, even his private plane for campaigning. Despite the "wealth" accumulated from his movies, he did not have enough to buy his way into the

office. The incumbent, President Glorlia Macapagal Arroyo had government facilities at her disposal. She had an enormous advantage, not just the capacity to dispense political favors, but Military helicopters to take her to electioneering rallies, or to disaster sites, where she could be seen disbursing relief. Where he did show up, he frequently clashed with media. He lost the election amid clamorous claims of vote-rigging by the incumbent. The figures they cited where the count was dubious was is regions with sparse population.

Given the ambiguous morality in most of the population, it was probable, there was cheating in both sides, but not in abundant numbers as to change the outcome.

Fernando Poe, Jr. died of a stroke shortly after the challenged election. There were

suspicions of a Borgia-like conspiracy, and poisoning. But his licentious life style while he

was making movies was more likely the cause. Another factor, the opposition preferred to

overlook was the multiplicity of candidates. I believe there were three others left standing, only one of whom with a decisive base, but they siphoned votes from the principal candidates. What is surprising is that FPJ garnered the votes he did. He lost the election by the slimmest of margins. If it was disappointment that killed him, it could have been the betrayal he experienced from self-serving "friends," when he entered politics. His supporters were eating him alive.

15 responses

  • Michel González Brun

    Michel González Brun said (13 Nov 2008):

    Your work is exceptional!!! Not just in this story but everything that I have seen thus so far!!! Thank you sharing your work!

  • Vanessa Kubach

    Vanessa Kubach (Deleted) gave props (26 Nov 2008):

    This is exceptional. Thank you.

  • Frank Summers

    Frank Summers   gave props (27 Nov 2008):

    Very Interesting essay. I love history and this was informative.

  • Ted Gorczyca

    Ted Gorczyca gave props (1 Jan 2009):

    very good story and photos

  • Joy B

    Joy B gave props (12 Feb 2009):

    This is fabulous, and oh, so interesting.

  • Sk Wier

    Sk Wier gave props (25 Feb 2009):

    Excellent photos and article! You should be working for Time magazine!

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (22 Oct 2009):

    Great photo essay, Carl. Glad to accidentally stumbled on this. You have more knowledge of what really happened during that time than me. Great work. I gonna give this link for others who are really interested. Thank you.

  • Scott Pugh

    Scott Pugh gave props (24 Oct 2010):

    Terrific commentary on what is portrayed and what really happens.

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight gave props (4 Feb 2011):

    Unbelievable . . . but very true.

  • ajtiM

    ajtiM (Deleted) said (8 Mar 2011):

    Sad story about dirty politics...

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (17 Apr 2011):

    Why can't I vote?

  • Dzmitry Parul

    Dzmitry Parul said (3 Aug 2011):

    unfortunately, this can be seen from outside only - if you are inside - you have to be part of it from either side

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (10 Sep 2011):

    Hell YEAH! Rad! To bad I can't vote.

  • Yaz Hawkins

    Yaz Hawkins said (25 Jan 2012):

    I read every word, your work is excellent! We all know politics is a dirty business everywhere. Thanks for telling this story.

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (24 Nov 2012):

    Mighty powerful!!!

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