The Philippine National Police’s efforts to block progressive groups from holding a rally at the EDSA Shrine last February 25’s commemoration of People Power 1’s 30th anniversary smacks of Martial Law tactics.
This was the complaint aired by the newly-formed Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) as it led thousands of protesters in a march from the corner of Edsa and Connecticut Street in San Juan City as official celebrations led by President Benigno Aquino have finished.
“Nasaan ang diwa ng EDSA sa pagpigil sa atin? Bakit kailangan nating makipag-gitgitan sa mga pulis upang kamtin ang ating karapatan?” CARMMA convenor Bonifacio Ilagan asked during his speech. (Where is the spirit of EDSA in stopping us? Why must we push against the police to exercise our rights?)
CARMMA was joined by militant groups Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and others as well as Martial Law-era activists and members.
The protest rally sought to remind Filipinos — especially so-called millenials (those born after the turn of the millennium) — of the horrors of Martial Law and how little substantial change happened under subsequent governments since 1986
They also vowed to derail Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential bid, noting that his candidacy seems to be gaining currency among young voters.
The protesters clashed with the police which tried to block them at least three times. At the fourth barrier at the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue, the police brought to bear steel barriers and a truck forcing the militant to hold a program at the intersection.
The protesters questioned the police’s show of force against their ranks, calling it ironic and reminiscent of Martial Law. They also questioned the presence of policemen, saying that there they had more important things to do than getting in the way of peaceful protests.
The police for their part said the protesters failed to present a permit from authorities, citing dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Batas Pambansa 880, also known as the Public Assembly Act of 1985.
“Kung meron silang permit na dala, ok sana. walang problema sa amin. Pero ang utos sa’ amin is that iko-contain lang sila,” police ground commander Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo was quoted by ABS-CBN said. (If they [protesters] had a permit with them, then it would’ve been fine with us. But our orders were to contain them.)
The police blockades were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army as well as fully armed Special Weapons and Tactics teams.
A firetruck from the Bureau of Fire Protection was also present behind the fourth and final police line.
The police, army and firefighters’ combined presence failed to stop the militants, however.
The protesters pushed on with their program, with speakers recalling the importance of protest rallies in bringing down the Marcos dictatorship,
“Ipagtanggol po natin ang tunay na diwa ng pagbabago, at ito po ay hindi ang pagpapalit ng mukha ng nakapuwesto. Ito po ang pagpapalit ng power relations, ng political and social structures.” Ilagan said. (We must defend the true spirit of change. It is found not in the changing of whoever is in power; it is the changing of power relations and political and social structures.
“Ito po ay ang pagbibigay ng karapatan sa inyo, ang karaniwang mamamayan,” Ilagan added. (It is the giving back of power to you, the ordinary masses.)
Youth leader and Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo gave praise to the “brave souls who fought during Marcos’ regime, and continue to do so to this very day.”
Crisostomo also reminded the protesters that the spirit of EDSA is not about the street or shrine itself, but the people:
“Tuloy po ang rebolusyon. Huwag ninyong hanapin sa estatwa ang pagbabago. Wala sa EDSA ang rebolusyon,” Crisostomo said. (The revolution goes on. Don’t look to a statue for change. You will not find the revolution in EDSA.)—by Abril Ayad Ayroso