On February 25, the 25th anniversary of People Power I, the well-known revolt that ousted an infamous national leader and sent to international headlines the Filipino nation, will be marked.
Aside from the glory that that popular people’s uprising supposedly brought to its nation, the more glaring attention was put on the successor of the gravely tested president/dictator – Corazon Aquino, the widow of considered martyr Benigno Aquino Jr. who was assassinated three years earlier. Tall tales were told about how the widowed Aquino has suddenly rose from plain house wife to the savior of a nation under the crisis of a dictatorship. These tales contributed in the association of Corazon Aquino with the idea of democracy – an idea diametrically opposed with the principles of her infamous predecessor, fascism and tyranny.
From thereon, that mark in Philippine history has been recognized as an important part of our history. In the succeeding years, it has been commemorated, relished and consistently imprinted on the consciousness of the new generation. The objective is clear: to propagate, even perpetuate the idea of People Power and Cory Aquino as the complete restoration of democracy in a country that has been plagued by a dark 25-year period of dictatorship.
Today, 25 years after that “historic” event, it seems very timely to yet again, reinterpret this event which is now being celebrated under the administration of another Aquino – the son of Corazon Aquino, the “heroine” of the first People Power.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino III has declared February 25 to be a special holiday. All classed in all levels will be cancelled, supposedly to give way for the commemoration of the “historic event” which pedestaled her mother into national consciousness; and which 23 years later after her death, will compel her son to run for presidency and eventually, be elected as the 15th president of the country.
The connections are slowly being completed: Cory and how People Power gave her the status she possesses now, even after her death; Noynoy and how his electoral stint has benefited from the status of his mother after its death last 2009.; today, Noynoy and the 25th year mark of People Power and how he is using this event to further bolster his positive image to the Filipino people.
Undeniably, he is taking advantage of the situation. No classes on the 25th, and whatever will be his gimmick on that day, he only wants one thing – to project himself to all of the Filipinos who will most probably participate in that commemoration in one way or another (they will watch the coverage, read the online news etc., see the event on the flesh) as the son who shares the “noble” traits of her mother who, 25 years ago, again, saved the country from an unpopular tyrant.
Here are other telling hints: especially for this event, Noynoy created what he calls the “EDSA People Power Commission” which is headed by his Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. On the 25th, there will be a grand musical variety show which will feature celebrities from the three major TV networks. As Ochoa has said, this is in line with the aim of the celebration to emphasize unity as its main theme.
At surface value, the idea seems grand and indeed, wonderful. Our favorite entertainers will put out an expectedly grand show. More so, what they will do is something unusual – the “unification” of artists from the three TV networks in putting up that grand show.
However, at a closer look, this show, being the biggest highlight of the 25th year commemoration of Edsa 1, only suggests the odious trait of Noynoy Aquino’s administration. This is an Administration that thrives on and taps positive PRs, highlighting its showbiz, popular connections instead of showing the people the real issues that it faces and must confront. We have been exposed to this characteristic of the current Administration many times already. For several times, we have heard about the President’s romantic links, his “famous” sister’s personal dilemmas and even his manner of spending the holidays. News like these about the President always overshadow more “serious” news about his administration and how it is doing its responsibilities to and how it faces the issues hounding the country. How many of us are aware of the age-old issue of land dispute in Hacienda Luisita, or Noynoy’s questionable pursuit of Public-Private Partnership that only threatens to privatize most of the basic service which the government must be providing to its citizens? Not many people are well-informed about these issues as they are well-updated about the President’s relationship status.
What do these information tells us? Our beloved President is being constructed, being carefully crafted by the media in a very favorable image that can skillfully escape all possible criticisms from its constituents. By focusing on petty issues concerning his personal lives, the people’s attention is being diverted away from the more relevant issues which they should be thinking about their President. Building the hype in petty issues and events like 25th anniversary of People Power and eating hotdogs in a street stall in New York is a good tactic in making the public forgetful and even more ignorant in the startling rate of poverty, unemployment, child labor, and many other signs of economic instability in the country. And if we come to think of it, the love life status of the President does not really seem to have a direct connection with his performance as the country’s top official.
And on Friday, February 25, as everyone takes a break from school or their respective works and witness the grand commemoration of a popular uprising which, by farfetched yet clearly logical connection, is partly responsible in the election into office of our current President, we will again be lulled into the positive idea that our President is a champion of democracy just like his parents and that he will truly save us and our country from its current state of crisis.
Ultimately, we just need to be more cautious, more discriminating and critical in framing our understanding of the present Administration. We must look beyond what the popular media is feeding us, how they are constructing the president’s image within the fabric of popular discourses, just like the discourse of People Power and gaudy Pinoy showbiz. Remember: we are talking about a president here, not just a cheap celebrity. Presidents are supposed to be leading the country in facing its socio-economic and political issues, not answering media interviews about his lovelife or his relationship with his controversial youngest sister.