2003 Remembers EDSA I

Where EDSA I began

THE JOURNEY to Edsa I began with Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. The martyrdom of Ninoy was a shot heard around the world.

On his last day in the US in August 1983 before leaving for Manila and his appointment with history, Ninoy Aquino went to the church near his home in Newton outside Boston, accompanied by Jose Calderon, Heherson Alvarez and Kiyoshi Wakamiya, a Japanese journalist who went with him all the way to Manila. Alvarez recalled that Ninoy told him he believed he could be gunned down by a sniper.

On this 17th anniversary of our first People Power revolution, it is only fitting to remember the man who started the journey for us.

Source: Posted: 0:39 AM (Manila Time) | Feb. 23, 2003
Inquirer News Service (www.inq7.net)

LAST day in his home in Newton, Mass., Ninoy goes to church with Jose Calderon (to his right) and Heherson Alvarez (to his left).
(Source: www.inq7.net)

Untold story of EDSA I: Bamban barricade

Not limited to EDSA

ANGELES CITY - The 1986 civilian-backed revolt that toppled Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship was not limited to Edsa.

The uprising of Feb. 22-25, 1986, also took place 100 kilometers north of that now historic highway. But the story of the "Bamban Barricade" -- as how then Malaya correspondent Elmer Cato called the Kapampangans' version of People Power I -- largely went untold.

Cato, now Central Luzon director of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the story was not reported by the Manila newspapers because "the event was overtaken by the collapse of the Marcos regime."

And yet, he said, the little known episode marked by the formation of a human barricade at the approach of Bamban Bridge, gateway to Marcos challenger Corazon Aquino's home province of Tarlac, was a vital phase in the ouster of the strongman.

This was how it happened in Cato's recollection:

On Feb. 25, more than 20,000 civilians blocked the bridge on the Mabalacat (Pampanga) side.

They stood nervous but alert, their arms tightly linked. Their mission: to stop the advance of a large armored column from the Army's Northern Luzon Command at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City.

The mission of the soldiers, led by Gen. Antonio Palafox, was no less urgent: to reinforce Marcos' loyalist forces at Edsa. (Earlier, Marines sent by then Armed Forces chief Gen. Fabian Ver had been held at bay by the crowd massed on the highway.)

But Lt. Col. Amado Espino Jr., commander of the then Angeles City Metropolitan District Command, had gotten wind of the soldiers' marching orders.

Determined to stop the deployment of Palafox's troops to Edsa, Espino hastily met with local leaders of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Espino had no other recourse because at the time "only the militants had the experience and the organization to mobilize a large number of people for a sustained protest action," Cato said.

Still, Espino - a 1972 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and captor of New People's Army chief Bernabe Buscayno - was not too optimistic about the prospect of support. Bayan had boycotted the "snap" presidential election and was still deliberating whether it would back the uprising.

But an unlikely alliance was ultimately forged. Then Bayan-Pampanga chair Edgardo Pamintuan, its secretary general Alex Cauguiran and Benedicto Tiotuico agreed to mobilize the Kapampangans in blocking Bamban to protect the civilian targets at Edsa.


Cato said that on Espino's orders, Constabulary troops took over the radio stations dwGV and the Cojuangco-owned dzYA, both in Angeles City.

The move initially stirred panic.

The takeover group, escorted by heavily armed troops under Maj. Nestor Senares, proceeded to dwGV along Miranda Street in downtown Angeles. "The people panicked when they saw the Constabulary men alight from the vehicles and position themselves outside the Jao Building," Cato recalled.

Some entered a nearby bookstore-and later emerged with yellow ribbons tied to the muzzles of their rifles.

"Upon seeing they were reformist forces, the people immediately started clapping and congratulating them," said Pamintuan, now general manager of the National Housing Authority. "The people were relieved to know that the soldiers were on their side."

From the secured radio stations, Bayan leaders called on the residents to assemble at Bamban or bring food and water to some 5,000 civilians and reformist forces already there.

Before nightfall, Cato and another Malaya correspondent, Sonny Lopez, were pulled out of Bamban and told to continue airing reformist messages and appeals to reinforce the barricade.

"Sonny and I transformed dwGV into Pampanga's version of Radio Veritas," Cato said.

His recollection of Lopez's first announcement on radio was: "This is the revolutionary government announcing the takeover of this station."

By early evening, Pamintuan said, the men and women at the human barricade had numbered in the thousands --students, farmers, office workers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

This was not counting the hundreds of others gathered on the sides of MacArthur Highway from the commercial district of Dau to the town proper of Mabalacat.

With the huge crowd, Cauguiran said, there was "no way for the loyalist troops to make it through."

Yet tension was high in the area lighted only by torches and vehicles' headlights. The number of reformist troops was not enough to protect the barricade in case the loyalist soldiers decided to force their way.

In fact, Cato said, Cauguiran anticipated violence.

"Not only was there just a small number of reformist troops, there was also no place for the people to seek cover in that dark, desolate stretch between Mabalacat and Bamban should the situation get out of hand," Cato recalled.

Several US Air Force CH-53 helicopters more known as the Jolly Green Giants flew over the Jao Building that same night.

Still on radio, Lopez cracked a joke: "Ayun na yata sina Marcos at mukhang dumaan na po sa atin (It looks like Marcos and company just went past us)."

Cato said he realized seconds later that it was no laughing matter.

The choppers, bound for Clark, the base of the US 13th Air Force, were actually ferrying the members of the First Family on the first leg of what was to be their exile.

Cato and Lopez subsequently left the station and went to Bamban.

"We wanted the crowd to mass outside Clark and prevent some prominent loyalists from linking up with the Marcoses," Lopez said.

But by that time the people had heard confirmed reports that Marcos had fled Malacaņang, and the human barricade had been dispersed.

"The people were already celebrating the downfall when we made it there," Cato said.

Source: Bamban barricade
Posted: 0:40 AM (Manila Time) | Feb. 23, 2003
By Tonette Orejas
Inquirer News Service (www.inq7.net)

People Power anniversary on EDSA sparsely attended

Holiday mood

IMAGINE a celebration of People Power I without people.

The sparse attendance at Tuesday's 17th anniversary of the 1986 civilian-backed revolt that toppled the strongman Ferdinand Marcos was so obvious that reporters covering the activities rightly observed there were more police, street vendors and members of the media around.

An annoyed Fidel Ramos was moved to criticize the Macapagal administration's "so disappointing" preparations for the anniversary of the event that saw hundreds of thousands of people blocking Marcos' tanks.

"Halos walang tao (There was hardly anyone)," Ramos, a key player of the uprising, told reporters at the Club Filipino after attending the morning flag-raising at the People Power monument on EDSA.

"Sayang (Too bad)," he said, and pointed out that "compared to other celebrations in previous years," Tuesday's attendance was "minimal, almost zero."

"Maybe next year it might be really zero," warned the former President.

The absence of a crowd reflected the mood of the day, a public holiday.

In his homily during the noon Mass at the EDSA Shrine, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin lamented the fact that 17 years after People Power I, peace and "economic democracy" continued to elude the Philippines.

"Is there nothing left of the EDSA revolution, except the myth?" he said.

"We can hardly call our nation a model for peace-loving nations," Sin said. "We can hardly claim the title of being the example in the family of nations in sustaining our democracy. We are not. There can only be political democracy through a well-grounded economic democracy."

The Mass was attended by around 500 people led by President Macapagal-Arroyo, who has just arrived from Kuala Lumpur where she attended the Non-Aligned Movement summit.

But the Philippine National Police fielded some 600 riot cops and members of Special Weapons and Action Teams from the Central and Eastern Police Districts.

In remarks delivered at the end of the Mass, former President Corazon Aquino expressed frustration.

"We find our people today tired and disillusioned, desperate for the magic formula that will bring back the glory of February 1986 when we became the darlings of the world," said Aquino, who took power after Marcos fled to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.

Still, she said, it was a "false impression" that EDSA I could solve all the country's ills. She said people could make it relevant "by doing what we can, every day in any way, to make things right."

"In the end," she added, "people power is about assuming responsibility for ourselves and for others."

Sought for comment on Sin's homily, Vice President Teofisto Guingona said Ms Macapagal should now concentrate on improving the lives of the poor, and not on waging war. He was referring to the President's hawkish stance vis-a-vis the US-Iraq conflict as well as the communist and secessionist rebellions in the country.

"Domestic policy should extend to foreign affairs, not the other way around," Guingona said.


Ramos assailed the authorities' apparent disinterest in the Edsa anniversary: "Sayang naman at nakalimutan ng mga lider natin kung ano ang dapat gawin sa araw na ito (It's too bad that our leaders have forgotten what we celebrate today)."

He told reporters, however, that he would still attend next year's commemoration. "I hope some of you will be here because the Edsa People Power Commission (PPC) that was established by a presidential order has institutionalized this event," he said.

But Dodi Limcaoco, Ms Macapagal's adviser on ecclesiastical affairs, said the commission in charge of the yearly commemoration should be congratulated "for a job well-done and for a simple but meaningful celebration despite limited resources."

Limcaoco said that contrary to Ramos' comments, "the events were given importance."

He also said Church officials had wanted the celebration to be peaceful and politics-free: "They wanted religious events, which include a Mass, inside the shrine. We respected that."

But Ramos said that "with due respect to everybody," the occasion was "not to be celebrated with just religious activities" because "Edsa I and II were upheavals and uprisings by the people regardless of religious affiliation."

It was initially thought that Ramos, a Protestant, would not attend the Mass at the Edsa Shrine. But he arrived halfway into the ritual.

Among the other officials present at the Mass were Senate President Franklin Drilon; Public Works Secretary Bayani Fernando; Agriculture Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan; and PPC co-chairs Vicky Garchitorena and Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo.

Garchitorena and Romulo left the shrine shortly after the Mass and did not speak with reporters.

Chief Supt. Reynaldo Velasco, deputy director of the National Capital Region Police Office, said the situation was peaceful and under control.

Around 100 members of the militant group Sanlakas massed in Cubao but were prevented from marching to the Edsa Shrine.

Riot police stood guard against protesters in Cubao, in front of Camp Crame, on White Plains Avenue and at the gate of the Corinthian Gardens subdivision.


Sin noted how at each EDSA anniversary the people were led to say that they should do something about the country's ills, only to forget their words later.

"Until when shall we allow our analysis to lead us to paralysis?" he said. "There is not much more time. Our inconclusive congressional debates must end. The stalemate of conflicting private interests must stop. Time is running out.

The cardinal said that while the EDSA anniversary called for a celebration, he was sad because Filipinos seemed to "specialize in tearing one another and bringing ourselves down."

"But if we concentrate on tearing down, we will have no energy left for building up," he said.

He also said it was time for the people to honestly work to improve their lives.

"We dream of people setting aside destructive factionalism and working together, to make economic democracy and political democracy truly the first priority in our agenda," the Cardinal added.

Aquino said there was no shortage of Filipino heroes. She cited the taxi driver and security guard who returned money they had found, as well as Ernest "Che" Guevarra, a young physician working with families displaced by the fighting in North Cotabato, who recently earned the Reebok Human Rights Award for 2003.

"All is not lost in our society," she said.

Pastor "Boy" Saycon, an occasional critic of the Macapagal administration and himself a PPC member, said Ramos' concerns were "valid."

"Why can't we celebrate EDSA peacefully while giving it the importance it deserves?" he told reporters after the Mass.

Saycon noted the omission of "regular programs" included in previous celebrations, such as the wreath-laying ceremonies at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"Even the planning for the flag-raising was late. Initially, there was no proposal with the board," he said.

He added: "The celebrations are important and we should recognize the unity shown at EDSA I [among] the Church, the military and the people. The government should take care of the participation of the people."

Rick Samaniego, another PPC member, admitted the lack of preparations. But he said this was because PPC head Chris Carreon resigned for personal reasons on Jan. 10, and Garchitorena was laid low by surgery at around the time.

Samaniego said the commission wanted a "simple and peaceful commemoration."

He also said "everyone" was invited to attend the celebration "as long as they don't bring placards and megaphones."

Posted: 11:46 PM (Manila Time) | Feb. 25, 2003
By Alcuin Papa and Armand N. Nocum
Inquirer News Service (www.inq7.net)

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