FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) Updated February 23, 2010 12:00 AM
How quickly time flies! It is now 24 years since those four glorious days when our people stood heroically against tyranny, staring down tanks with unyielding faith.
It seems so recent, that day I kissed my kids goodbye and took my proud place on the barricades. But the intervening quarter of a century was not a blur, either. Each year was eventful. Each was different from the other.
In the unfolding of the years, each step had to be figured out. Each moment had to be reinvented. The last four decades constituted an epoch where politics was constantly salient. It will not always be like this. Perhaps, it should not be like this.
As a nation, we need to define a much larger space that is beyond the pale of politics. Politics has consumed the energies and passions of two generations of Filipinos. It is too costly to go on like this. Surely there are more productive things that require energy and passion.
The Edsa Revolution has been diminished in the popular imagination. That is the inevitable toll of historical time. An event so long ago, no matter how glorious, cannot yield the moral reference for all the questions we need to deal with.
That is the reason why the personalities associated with this event have, like seeds thrown to the wind, dispersed in all directions and might today seem to be in contrary positions. That is the reason, too, why many who were on the side of tyranny when the revolution happened might now appear to be claiming the mantle of that event.
The Edsa Revolution has no priesthood to conserve a one-dimensional dogma about that event. It cannot have one. As a historical event, the revolution was multi-dimensional. The event itself resists dogmatism.
There is, however, consensus about the necessity for the Edsa Revolution. It was the only way a dictatorship could be overthrown.
There is no similar consensus about Edsa Dos, unfortunately. The Edsa Revolution was an uprising against a tyrannical political order. Edsa Dos was an uprising against a democratically-installed government.
Lito Atienza is among those most outspoken about the difference. So was the late Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma. Both have impeccable records as advocates of democracy and constitutionalism.
Atienza is a survivor of 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing that nearly wiped out the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party (LP). Through the long years of dictatorship, he worked to keep the LP whole. On the eve of the Edsa Revolution, he was forced into hiding when tipped off as one of the targets of Oplan Mad Dog, a sinister plot to kill anti-Marcos leaders to cause chaos and set the premise for the re-imposition of martial rule. He worked closely with the assassinated Evelio Javier. When he served as mayor of Manila, Atienza put a plaque to recall the Plaza Miranda bombing and a poignant monument to Javier.
He was mayor of Manila when Edsa Dos happened. Putting primary consideration on the rule of law, he stood by the duly-elected president until was forced to move out of the Palace. When his tenure as mayor was ended by term limits, he chose to serve the then duly elected presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In 2005, in the face of a conspiracy to overthrow the Arroyo government hinged on the resignation of the so-called Hyatt 10, Atienza again stood by constitutional dictate. He supported the elected government and opposed those who were then commandeering the LP to the side of the conspiracy. That faction of the LP involved in the conspiracy was headed by a personality identified with a prominent pro-Marcos law firm during the dictatorship.
Estranged from the party he loved and served courageously, Atienza is seeking to reclaim leadership of the city of Manila under the banner of Joseph Estrada’s party. His main rival is Alfredo Lim, incumbent mayor of the city.
Lim, rather ironically, is running under the LP banner. He has wrapped the whole city in yellow bunting to solidify his newfound identity as ardent supporter of the martyr’s son.
But the historical record must be restated in this case. When the Edsa Revolution began to unfold, Lim stood by Marcos’ side to the end. As chief of the Northern Police District, he ordered then Quezon City police chief Jose Dawis to disperse the crowd at Edsa by whatever means necessary. I was at the barricades Dawis was ordered to attack. When Dawis expressed reluctance at attacking unarmed civilians, Lim berated him before his men, relieved him of his post and condemned his career as police officer to oblivion.
When Marcos was evacuated by US helicopters, Lim quickly shifted loyalties. Ironically, he defected to Ramos aide Jose Almonte. When Almonte headed the anti-smuggling unit during the Marcos government, he was nearly killed when he tried to stop a shipment of smuggled goods being escorted out of the port by Lim and his policemen.
When the Mendiola Massacre happened early in the Aquino presidency, Lim was in charge of the police units on the scene. He was never asked to explain his role in the deaths of peasants on the streets of Manila.
Lim defected once again when Edsa Dos happened. In the waning days of the Estrada presidency, Lim was DILG secretary. As such, he was supposed to be the last man to abandon his president. Yet, when the political tide began to turn, he slipped out of the Palace and quickly appeared at the Edsa Shrine — there to be jeered and pelted by the angry crowd.
Politics, we know, is always a swirling tide. But that is not an excuse for the banners of the Edsa Revolution now being waved by unworthy hands.
Little wonder the Edsa Revolution is appearing less and less impressive in the minds of young Filipinos.
Former Manila Assemblyman, General Manager of the National Housing Authority, Manila Vice-Mayor for 6 years, Mayor of Manila for 9 years, and Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources