Sunday, January 20, 2008

ON EDSA II ANNIVERSARY: EDSA II FORCES, ERAP GROUPS UNITE IN ANTI-GMA PROTEST

The seventh anniversary of what is now known as the EDSA II or People Power II uprising was marked by a coming together of political blocs that were not and could not have been seen talking to each other seven years ago: the EDSA II forces, on the one hand; and the pro-Estrada forces, on the other.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 49, January 20-26, 2008


The seventh anniversary of what is now known as the EDSA II or People Power II uprising was marked by a coming together of political blocs that were not and could not have been seen talking to each other seven years ago: the EDSA II forces, on the one hand; and the pro-Estrada forces, on the other.

Seeing them together was unimaginable seven years ago, because EDSA II had for its aim the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada. But on the seventh anniversary of EDSA II, which was marked Jan. 18 with an indoor activity at the La Salle Greenhills School (LSGH) and a march to the EDSA Shrine, the two political blocs that had clashed in 2001 were gathered for the common purpose of delivering the statement that: “Seven years is enough! Gloria must go!”

Estrada has always taken pride in the fact that he won in the 1998 presidential elections by a plurality of 10 million –- which is said to be the largest plurality ever to propel a candidate to Malacañang. He assumed the presidency on the basis of a populist “platform” and a professed love for the “Filipino masses.”

But early on in his term he had been criticized for his closeness to the Marcoses and their political allies –- remnants of a dictatorship that was toppled in 1986, in what is now known as the EDSA I uprising. He would later on be under more fire for graft and corruption –- which would constitute one of the grounds for impeachment charges lodged against him in 2000 together with bribery, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

The refusal of his Senate allies to allow the opening of the second of two envelopes containing evidence relevant to the impeachment proceedings triggered a walkout by the prosecution panel and the audience, as well as an evening noise barrage, on Jan. 16, 2001 – signaling the start of a four-day popular uprising that would bring down the Estrada regime.

All through these, Estrada insisted he was the “real president of the Philippines,” pointing out that he had not resigned but merely stepped down.

His arrest in late April, 2001 provoked what his supporters called the “EDSA III uprising.”

Estrada was tried for plunder in a trial that would drag on for more than six years. He would be convicted, but pardoned, in the end.

In a statement after his release following the grant of executive clemency, Estrada said:

“I believe I can best continue to repay our people the blessings that God has so graciously given me by supporting from hereon the programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are intended to attack generational poverty and hunger. We must now as a nation attend to our people’s continuing clamor for food on their tables, roofs above their heads, and better education and health care for their children.”

Seven years of “deceit”

On the seventh anniversary of the EDSA II uprising, Estrada’s supporters and the groups that ousted him in 2001 were together in sending the message that seven years of the Arroyo administration are enough.

“This government has been deceiving us for seven years,” said Bro. Armin Luistro, president of the De La Salle University (DLSU) System, during the indoor activity at LSGH.

“A government that bases its false claims to victory on an election that has legitimacy problems of its own has no right to govern us,” he also said.

Erning Ofracio, an urban poor leader from the Kilusan para sa Makatarungang Lipunan at Gobyerno (KMLG or Movement for a Just Society and Government), told about a text joke he had earlier received, in which a man told his daughter that liars do not grow tall, and get protruding teeth and moles on their faces.

“Anak daw po ‘yon ni Presidente Diosdado Macapagal” (That girl is said to be the daughter of President Diosdado Macapagal), Ofracio said. “Pero ang batang ‘yon ay Presidente na ng Pilipinas” (But that girl is now President of the Philippines.)

Danilo Ramos, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), talked about the peasantry’s worsening poverty and hunger under the Arroyo administration, and reminded the audience about the Fertilizer Funds scam of 2004. “Y’ong pondo para sa abono, iniabono sa kampanya” (Funds meant for fertilizers to fatten the soil were used for fattening campaign funds), he said.

Josie Lichauco, convener of the Concerned Citizens Group and former Transportation and Communication Secretary, discussed the various corruption scandals under the Arroyo regime.

Vergel Santos, editor of Business World and a board member of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), talked about the Arroyo regime’s repressive measures: the “Strong Republic” policy, Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, and the Human Security Act.

When Arroyo was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001 she promised, among other things, “government by example.”

But early on in her continuation of Estrada’s term (2001-2004), Arroyo had come under fire from people’s organizations for her government’s refusal to address long-standing economic demands such as a P125 legislated wage increase for private-sector workers; and for inaction amid relentless increases in the prices of basic commodities like water, power, and petroleum products due to the policies of privatization and liberalization imposed by the Bretton Woods Twins. Human rights violations especially extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances also started to escalate early on.

By 2003, Arroyo’s name had been enmeshed in no less than ten large-scale corruption scandals.

Having spent only three years continuing her predecessor’s term, Arroyo was constitutionally allowed to run for the 2004 presidential elections –- where she won amid allegations of massive fraud.

Discrepant figures in the election returns and certificates of canvass cast doubts on the credibility of the 2004 presidential elections. In the end, however, she was proclaimed winner by more than 1 million votes against her closest rival, the actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died without seeing the conclusion of his electoral protest.

In mid-2005, Arroyo faced a major challenge to her government following the surfacing of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes.

The “Hello Garci” tapes were a series of wiretapped and recorded conversations in which a voice similar to Arroyo’s is heard instructing an election official –- widely believed to be former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano -– to rig the presidential polls. There is a specific instruction that a victory of “more than 1 M” be ensured for the woman.

Both Arroyo and Garcillano were forced to admit that they talked to each other during the counting period following the 2004 polls. They have however denied rigging the said elections.

The surfacing of the “Hello Garci” tapes triggered widespread demands for Arroyo’s resignation or removal from office. Here the EDSA II forces and the pro-Estrada groups found a common cause.

Human rights violations would become rampant from 2004 –- underscored by present figures from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) pointing to more than 880 extrajudicial killings and more than 180 enforced disappearances since 2001. Likewise corruption would also worsen –- with the latest cases being the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corp., and the distribution of “cash gifts” to congressmen and governors in a Malacañang meeting last October.

Arroyo has been the subject of three impeachment complaints citing her for bribery, graft and corrupt practices, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution –- the same charges against Estrada. All impeachment complaints were thrown out through the sheer tyranny of numbers at the House of Representatives.

Jan. 20, 2008 marks Arroyo’s seventh year in office –- making her the longest-serving Philippine President since the late Ferdinand Marcos.

March to EDSA Shrine

The participants in the Jan. 18 commemoration –- Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Black & White Movement, KMLG, Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ), Concerned Citizens Group, Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Filipino Masses’ Forces), and Kubol ng Pag-asa -– marched to the EDSA Shrine after the indoor activity at LSGH.

They intended to light candles at the EDSA Shrine -– the site of the People Power II uprising where seven years ago, policemen trooped after then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Panfilo Lacson was forced by his officers to withdraw support from Estrada. This time, however, the ralliers were stopped by the police from going near the shrine.

“We were the ones who put Arroyo in Malacañang, but now we are prohibited from setting foot (at the EDSA Shrine),” said Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.

The ralliers settled for lighting candles along the sidewalk. Bulatlat

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