The youth and reflections on EDSA

MISREADINGS | Ted Aldwin E. Ong

Instead of lighting candles, joining motorcades and throwing confetti in rallies to praise the 1986-EDSA People Power, a group of youth leaders spent time over the long weekend to reflect on the state of our nation in a Heroes Hub Youth Camp. They discussed how they can become instrumental in building a better future for our country.

Around 50 youth leaders from different islands in the Visayas deliberated the factors and events that played up in all post-EDSA administrations in order to comprehend the current political and social environment especially with another elections in the offing.

Youth events such as the Heroes Hub organized by Dakila and the Active Vistas Center are what I call “back-to-basics” because through the years it was observed that these kinds of gatherings had become unappealing to the current generation. The perception is inaccurate, however, for the youth participants were active and they were assertive in presenting their views, observations, criticisms, and analysis of today’s events. They have recognized their accountability and responsibility as citizens and as the hope of our nation.

I find the activity a necessary interruption from the virtual world where both the millennials and “millenniors” are dominant netizens. The face-to-face engagement has enriched the knowledge of the participants on particular issues that affect the youth sector from the different islands. It was after all a platform offered for the youth to have an open mind and to participate in a critical discourse on social issues and to nurture the creative ideas and innovations that will help provide solutions to societal concerns.

I had the opportunity to share some political and social analysis that I have gathered from social scientists and experts since the assumption into power of Mr. Duterte. The discussion provided a more in-depth understanding of the prevailing political environment; what were the opportunities that we missed; what are new opportunities for change in relation to the upcoming mid-term elections; and prospects on the remaining years under the Duterte administration, especially if the Federal Project will be set aside or a Martial Law will not be declared nationwide.

In a nutshell, the political and social analysis will help us appreciate the causes and circumstances why we are where we are today. But we don’t have to dig deeper in order to understand our situation. We are a citizens who are confronting persistent attacks on our democracy and freedom in spite of the restoration of democracy brought about by the 1986 EDSA.

The violations committed by our leaders across post 1986 EDSA administrations on our basic human rights is what made EDSA “bitter-sweet”. This is the reason why we continue to fight against new oppressors – the type that the post-EDSA produced and re-energized 33 years down the line.

I was asked about my thoughts today about the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. The same question came vividly back to mind when we were asked by our social science professor just six years after EDSA – Was EDSA a revolution or was it merely a hand-over of power from one section of the ruling elite to the other? From Marcos to Aquino or from Marcos cronies to Aquino loyalists?

What is clear on my mind is that a revolution is a transfer of power from one class to another. In most cases concerning revolutions, the other class must be the working class. Hence, for me the 1986 EDSA was merely a change of hands by those who are at the ruling elite – the traditional sector who holds the power: capitalists and big business, landlords and politicians, the clergy, the military, media, and even a section of the Left.

These sectors are well-described in the old book, entitled: “The History of the Burgis” by Mariel N. Francisco and Fe Maria C. Arriola. The late columnist Teddy Benigno has also expounded on this subject in his 2001 article, “The Philippines’ elite” – a newspaper cut out that I still hold on record.

There is a need to refresh the understanding of the youth regarding the basic power relations in society in order to allow them to comprehend the realities of our political economy and identify who are shaping our future. By this, I believe, future actions of the youth for change will be more grounded on reality and not driven by illusion.

The current occupant of Malacanang Palace, Mr. Duterte and his family is a beneficiary of EDSA. While Noynoy Aquino rooted for Mar Roxas as his successor in the 2016 elections, the challenger Rody Duterte was understood as somebody who is totally out from their mold; hence, an alternative to the status quo. However, he practically represent a slice of the pie that also symbolize the Aquinos and the Roxases.

This is the reason why Mr. Duterte won the presidency. It is a common misconception that it was the poor and the marginalized in society who overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Duterte and placed him in power. What a mistake. It is rather the rich and the educated sector who ensured his victory as illustrated by statistical analysis after the 2016 elections.

The poor remains powerless in all post-1986 EDSA People Power administration and that includes the Duterte administration. The war on drugs clearly illustrate this claim and what is happening today is nothing but a charade of inter-elite and intra-elite rivalry.

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