Akbayan Youth on the 25th Anniversary of EDSA and the Marcos burial issue

The corpse of Ferdinand Marcos remains preserved in a mausoleum. It is a spectral remnant of a past that refuses to let go: a time when Marcos fashioned himself to be a leader who used “utopian causes” to centralize power and justify his authoritarianism. 

For Akbayan Youth, Marcos’s corpse is the ultimate metaphor for the society he sought to create: a society that masked social tensions through the sheen of artificial order and discipline.  The EDSA People Power revolution, which we commemorate, was the result of these tensions – tensions Marcos could no longer contain. It was the climax a 25-year struggle of ordinary freedom-loving Filipinos.
Unfortunately, many of us are detached from the memory of People Power because of the country’s sorry state. In this time of extreme poverty and social inequality, it is easy to pass off the revolution as a failure. Akbayan Youth understands this desperation, for we acknowledge that the country is still an elite democracy.

Despite this, we strongly oppose the rehabilitation of Marcos’s memory as a response to today’s problems. Recently, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claimed that, had his father stayed on as president, we would have been like Singapore – a sentiment echoed by his supporters and sadly, by some our fellow citizens. The good senator and his supporters also conveniently neglect their hero’s poor human rights record.

Their statements are dangerous and distort history. Ferdinand Marcos ran a brutal government that fundamentally limited the freedom and liberty of many Filipinos. Those who opposed him cannot simply be dismissed as undisciplined children who sought to foment discord in society. Many of them fought for the restoration of democracy and the marginalized: those who suffered under martial law-era cronyism, corruption, and brutality. There is simply no excuse in the world to rationalize the illegal detentions, disappearances, and killings that occurred under Marcos.

Apart from massive human rights violations, the Marcos government also engaged and promoted widespread corruption, leading to the emptying of our coffers and the ballooning of our national debt. Indeed, the Philippines remains poor today, but much of this poverty is a result of actions and policies that can be traced back to the Marcos regime. The debt burden of Cory Aquino and other post-EDSA presidents was a result of a Marcos-era economy designed to enrich cronies and family members. No amount of nostalgia for an “orderly past” will change this.

Akbayan Youth, as a progressive youth organization committed to the development of Philippine institutions, remembers the EDSA revolution not only as the end of a corrupt and violent regime, but also the beginning of long-term redemocratization.

The building of a functioning democracy is an ongoing process. Akbayan Youth, together with its mother party, Akbayan are committed to a long-term struggle that aims to turn the dream of EDSA into reality. In contrast to the defeatist stance of some, we are striving for the modernization of institutions that urgently require the intervention of civil society. We are not simply waiting for a benevolent dictator to do things for us.

As an activist youth organization, Akbayan youth believes that the time for complaining is over. For those who want change, the solution is not to glorify past authoritarianism, while neglecting opportunities for genuine change in the present. EDSA will, indeed, become a failure if young people do not participate in the building of a vibrant democracy. The end of authoritarianism opened opportunities for citizen’s participation; it is our task to make the most out of this. Otherwise, there will be no one else to blame.

We will only bury Marcos’s rotten corpse once we have exorcised the ghost of the political passivity he encouraged.  ###