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Constitutional democracy is EDSA People Power’s enduring legacy

By presidential proclamation, Feb. 25, the EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary, is observed as a special non-working day to enable the citizenry to reflect on its significance.

But this year, by virtue of Proclamation No. 167 issued by Malacanang Thursday evening, Feb. 24, 2023 was declared a special non-working holiday to celebrate this historical event instead of Saturday, Feb. 25, “provided that the historical significance of EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary is maintained.”

The restoration of democracy is the most important outcome that the nation is celebrating.

When the entire country was placed under martial law on Sept. 23, 1972, both houses of Congress were shut down; newspaper and radio-TV facilities were closed; curfew was enforced; public assemblies were prohibited; and political dissenters were arrested and jailed. As noted in a Supreme Court decision, these actions were taken in response to the serious threat to the State posed by the communist insurgency.

A snap election was held on Feb. 7,1986 that was contested by then incumbent President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. and Corazon C. Aquino, widow of the slain opposition Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. The Batasang Pambansa declared Marcos as winner; mass protest rallies and a civil disobedience campaign ensued.

On Feb. 22,1986, then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos announced that they were breaking ranks with the Marcos administration, a move supported by then Manila Archbishop Jaime Sin. After a massive crowd at the EDSA-Ortigas Avenue junction halted the movement of tanks, it became apparent that military and public support had shifted against the Marcos regime. On Feb. 25, 1986, Mrs. Aquino took her oath as President at Club Filipino. She formed a commission to draft a new Constitution that was ratified by the people in a plebiscite on Feb. 2, 1987.

Elections were held for the House of Representatives, the Senate and for all local government units. By then, the Supreme Court had been reconstituted with the appointment of new Chief Justice and several associate justices. The restoration of constitutional democracy was completed. The 1987 Constitution has now been in force for 36 years, the longest period of uninterrupted constitutional democracy in the Republic’s history.

People Power has acquired a unique and distinct Filipino character. Filipinos demonstrated to the world that through unity and solidarity, it is possible to bring about regime change without violence and bloodshed. The exercise of People Power shifted from protest rallies to the voting precincts as millions of Filipinos elected six new Presidents to each serve a single term of six years.

A free press has also flourished anew, even as the inception of social media has spawned disinformation. The right to privacy has been enhanced; digital transformation and internet connectivity have broken down physical barriers and linked geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas with the metropolitan centers of the country.

Through disastrous typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the Republic of the Philippines stands strong and resilient upon a bedrock of constitutional democracy that is the EDSA People Power Revolution’s enduring legacy.

Let these excerpts from Rafael Zulueta Da Costa’s Like the Molave reflect the Filipinos’ aspirations for progress and a better life: “Like the molave, firm, resilient, staunch/Rising on the hillside, unafraid,/Strong in its own fibre; /The glory hour will come./ Out of the silent dreaming,/From the seven-thousandfold silence,/We shall emerge, saying: We Are Filipinos.”

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