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Written by Raymond Santos Estrella on Tuesday, 24 February 2004. Posted in 2004

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and a proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

—Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

People Power Day, first of all, is not just another day of respite from our regular daily routines. It is not another opportunity to sit back, relax, and catch up on much needed sleep. It is, more than anything, a day to be cherished for this, in my opinion, has been the culmination of that greater struggle for freedom of the masses.

Independence Day, indeed is one of the most important days of our nation. This fact I will not disturb as the heroes of the Revolution might rise up from their graves if I were to say otherwise. That was the first time in history that we Filipinos became a nation, that we discovered our common destiny as a people, that we became one. That was the day we asserted our common destiny as a nation against the oppression of our Spanish conquerors.

However, I believe that the EDSA Revolution is more important than any other day in our brief national history.

I come to this conclusion because EDSA was where we fought not against any alien threat but that which was more close to us: that of our own fellowman. Here was a man who held near absolute power over the land. Ferdinand Marcos was not one to lightly contended with. With the powers vested in him by the 1973 Constitution and its subsequent amendments (which were through his own machinations), he ruled the country with an iron fist of oppression clothed with legal legitimacy. Philippine History, it seems, was waiting to be made.

One by one, Marcos’ most ardent supporters defected to the call of the people, the call for reform on a grand scale unheard of before. Never was there a revolution like this where thousands of unarmed civilians of all classes flocking to EDSA in order for their voices to be heard as one.

They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely and this is just another instance for the record books. However, I have my inhibitions in labeling the whole Martial Law and subsequently rigged snap elections as such. This, as the Supreme Court has said in one of its decisions regarding the issue, is unprecedented. These were circumstances which have never been heard of both in Philippine and US history. To think that one of our own could so abuse his position and altogether sever his ties with the sovereign people is a hideous thought.

This horror notwithstanding, the bravery of the Filipino, in my opinion, must never be underestimated. We are generally a kind people, hospitable, eager to share what we have even with strangers. However, I know that we can and do rise to greatness when the occasion calls for it.

Two things still bother me, though.

First, that we have to be pushed against the proverbial wall before we wake up and show what we’re made of. I don’t know where we get it. Maybe we’re an inherently masochistic race, who knows. I don’t mean to evangelize a bullish attitude but it just seems to me that there have been safeguards and alerts which were triggered before Marcos rose to power and yet history has shown that the path was virtually open for him to assume that near absolute dictatorial rule over the county. We could have prevented all the martial law oppressions much earlier.

Second, history has and is again about to repeat itself. We have voted an incompetent president six years ago by the name of Joseph Estrada and we’re about to do the same with FPJ. Sure, we got rid of Estrada with the whole EDSA II thing which, ironically, became one big street party. Signs of the times, huh? And when the masa was unhappy with GMA, they conducted EDSA III in the hopes that she too would abdicate. That turned out to be a big fluke.

Now that FPJ seems to be the likely winner of this year’s elections, what are we to do if he fails our expectations (or lack of them)? Do we go to the streets again and stage EDSA IV? I don’t think so. That seems to be an altogether simultaneously easy and odd way to change the chief executive to suit our likes.

People Power, in my humble opinion, is not a party. It is not a failsafe device that we can just call on if we are in desperate economic and political straits. People Power should be remembered for its original intents and purposes: to show that the Filipino is and always will be sovereign. We must, like in the words of Lincoln above, ensure that we continue the unfinished work of those who have come and gone before us in order that their deaths may not have been in vain. We must guarantee that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

* * * * *

Been a bit depressed the past few days. Haay…

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Raymond Santos Estrella

I guess I should really make a proper writeup here. Something witty or maybe a joke to add some levity. I’ll come back to this when I have time. If you have any suggested copy that I can insert here, drop me a line.

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