Estrada at Edsa
Editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 25, 2000
TWO groups that were thrown together at Edsa by the common cause of toppling a dictatorship 14 years ago will gather today at opposite ends of the historic highway. One group, led by two of the principal players of the revolution, former President Corazon Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin, will be at the Edsa Shrine for the official celebration, hoping to rekindle the spirit of the Edsa Revolution. The other will march near Camp Crame, seeking to mount another revolution.
No theme has been announced for this year's celebration by the Edsa People Power Commission, which organized the annual celebration. But if the activities lined up for the day are anything to go by, then it must be national unity and reconciliation. President Estrada, who is the main guest at the official rites, will sign ''a pledge of unity'' that the commission has put together to recognize the ''unsung heroes'' of the Edsa Revolution. The commission has invited those who were at Edsa as well as those who could be there only in spirit to sign the pledge so that the nameless millions who took part in that proud and historic event ''won't remain nameless anymore.''
Quite ironically, Mr. Estrada's presence at the celebration is one of the causes of division. ''Mr. Estrada does not belong to any commemoration of the people's uprising … because up to the last moments of the Marcos dictatorship, he was loyal to the Marcos family,'' said Fr. Joe Dizon, spokesperson of the Sept. 21 Committee, one of the organizers of the alternative celebration. The Promotion of Church People's Response, an ecumenical organization of Catholic and Protestant bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople, has declared the day ''a day of judgment and protest'' against the Estrada administration and also called for Mr. Estrada's exclusion from the celebration. ''Celebrating the Edsa anniversary with the Estrada regime is like dancing with wolves in sheep's clothing,'' said the group's spokesperson.
Apparently even some priests and religious are not yet ready to forgive or forget Mr. Estrada for his past association with the Marcoses. Neither, it seems, is Mr. Estrada ready to say sorry for it. But he has extended his hand in conciliation to those who fought against the dictatorship at Edsa. For one thing it was he who established the Edsa People Power Commission to ''institutionalize'' the celebration. He has also done what his two immediate predecessors were reluctant to do: declare Feb. 25 as a national holiday. More than this, he is the President, and a president always has a place in the commemoration of great and proud moments in the nation's history. Indeed, Mr. Estrada has more right to be at the celebration than the fence-sitters of the leftist movement who folded their arms and watched the unfolding drama, hoping it would end with the state and the middle and upper classes they detested annihilating each other.
To deny the President the privilege of ''being one with the heroes of Edsa,'' as he put it, is to ignore the fact that the revolution was fought not only to throw off the yoke of one-man rule but also to restore democracy. For all his many faults and despite his dangerous flirtation with authoritarianism, such as when he tried to squeeze the life out of a critical segment of the press, Mr. Estrada is the democratically elected President and one whose electoral victory nobody can question. Only a few people other than his friends will say he has been a good chief executive, but the nation is stuck with him. And unless he commits more serious mistakes, he should be holding office for the next four years and four months, according to our Constitution. Until then, it would be mere wishful thinking to talk of impeachment or revolution.
Still Mr. Estrada should take to heart the one lesson Edsa taught rulers of this generation, which is that even the most patient people can only take so much abuse of power, corruption, cronyism and extravagance. Once their patience snaps, they will exercise their final option by mounting a revolution. That's one more reason Mr. Estrada should be present at the Edsa celebration.