(By: dinggol araneta divinagracia-Ilonggo Nation Global Federation - February 25, 2016)
As we celebrate every 25th day of February the anniversary of EDSA-I People's Power Revolution; it is but fitting that we also recall for posterity, the roles conspicuously played by our "Kasimanwas" of the Ilonggo Nation in this important chapter of our history, thus:
The Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA is a long span of highway in Metro Manila-Philippines. It connects Roxas Boulevard (named after an Ilonggo from Capiz, President Manuel Acuña Roxas) in Pasay City and the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City; traversing the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan/Pasig and Quezon. It was named in honor of the great Filipino scholar and patriot Epifanio de los Santos.
EDSA made an indelible mark in the annals of world history, as the venue of a relatively bloodless revolution emulated by freedom loving people around the globe under the yoke of tyrants. It created a new phrase in the dictionary, the famous "People's Power Revolution".
Unknown to many, the Ilonggos were greatly instrumental in the events leading to the successful EDSA-I People's Power Revolt.
During the decade of the 1960's, an aggressive young war correspondent named Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, together with Fr. Jose Blanco, S.J -as reported by Quijano de Manila in the book "The Aquinos' of Tarlac -were seen hiding atop a water tank tower to evade arrest by Indonesian military as suspects in providing arms, on behalf of a western foreign power, to rebel forces fighting Indonesian President Sukarno's regime.
Later, Ninoy became Senator of the Philippines, after his under age controversy to qualify as senatorial candidate was put to rest by the one vote of Senator Rodolfo "Roding" Ganzon of Iloilo City. The "Timawa" Ilonggo Senator, then Chairman of the Electoral Tribunal in the Senate broke the 50-50 deadlock justifying that if the Tarlaqueño wins the election, by the time of his induction, he would be of age as Senator, under the provisions of law.
In 1968, Senator Ninoy Aquino exposed the Jabidah Massacre, an unexpected turn of event that ultimately aborted Malacañang's "Operation Merdeka", the covert Sabah invasion project headed by Major Eduardo Martelino of Kalibo, Aklan who styled himself as "Abdul Latif Martelino".
The Jabidah massacre expose' catapulted the brilliant and charismatic Ninoy, as the "Darling of the Press" --and with the support of the opposition; his wealthy and politically influential family and by the Ilonggo oligarchy that controls popular tri-media outlets, he became the "Numero uno contra " to strongman Marcos reign of power.
As the country was at the brink of total anarchy, when Malacañang had to contend with both the left and the right of the political spectrum; on September 21, 1972 President Ferdinand Marcos began the revolution from the center and declared martial law --"Para sa Ikaunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan" as he announced the birth of the "New Society". One of the first arrested was Senator Benigno Aquino and was incarcerated for many years together with other politicos, professionals, members of media, academe, business, student, religious and labor leaders vocal against Malacañang. And yes! the untouchables who used to operate their nefarious activities with impunity, including notorious illegal drugs manufacturer, a Chinese national named Lim Seng who was publicly executed by firing squad.
Apparently, first few years after martial law declaration, the Filipino people were contented; with the visible massive concrete infra-structure projects, nationwide developments and relative peace and order situation and with improving economy. Notwithstanding, harsh and sometimes fatal implementation to student, peasant, professional, religious and labor activist groups, by some sectors in the military led by young PMA officers, who would later in conscience turn around to advocate reforms in the AFP.
Unfortunately, the son of Batac, due to critical failing health (the true condition kept secret from the general public) became just a mere figurehead, so to speak. People he trusted and close to him, both personal and professional, were at the helm of government and practically running the affairs of the state. It is regrettable indeed, they indulged in massive institutionalized graft and corruption, and grave human rights abuses; the malfeasance just like rats on board a sinking ship, eroded whatever Ferdinand Edralin Marcos envisioned as his legacy for history --due to command responsibility.
Then on August 21, 1983 the indomitable spirited Ninoy, coming home after being released in prison for a critical heart operation in the U.S. was assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.The airport was the jurisdiction of the Aviation Security Command (AVSECOM) under PAF Gen. Luther Araneta Custodio of Silay City, Negros Occidental. Thereafter, instant condemnation of the brutal assassination flooded the airwaves and mainstream global news media. Locally, however, news were curtailed or maneuvered by the regime, even the tremendous crowd that brought Ninoy to his resting place was scarcely publicized.
Three long years had passed and due to controlled military, suppressed media plus inherent "Bahala Na" attitude of Filipinos, the sentimental massive outburst and public outrage of Ninoy's brutal slaying obviously simmered down, his martyrdom relegated to the dustbin of history.
Then on February 11, 1986, the incumbent Governor of Antique was assassinated outside the Provincial Capitol in San Jose. The impunity with which opposition Gov. Evelio Javier's public execution was carried out in broad daylight, in plain view of his constituents by the butchers in the military establishment was too much to bear. The Filipino people's cry "Tama Na! Sobra Na!" was heard loud and clear from Aparri to Tawi-Tawi. A few idealistic officers in the AFP could no longer swallow series of these barbaric acts and wanted reform with concrete radical action. The Reform the AFP Movement (RAM) led by Jose Almonte with Rex Robles and Billy Bebit of Iloilo, Gringo Honasan of Sorsogon, Red Kapunan of Capiz, Victor Batac of Bohol, and other RAM boys planned to attack and takeover Malacañang. However, another Ilonggo, a Major in the Phil. Military Academy in Baguio, loyal to his Commander-in-Chief revealed the brewing coup-de-etat to the Presidential Security Group, who lost no time arresting suspected members involved.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, whose close-in security were positively identified the leaders in the failed coup, has no choice but break-away with his benevolent benefactor in Malacañang. He then publicly exposed their own shenanigans; seek the support of "Kumpadre Fidel" and the two joined forces against Apo Ferdie. The AFP Vice-Chief of Staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos was obviously not satisfied with benefits, privileges and promotions accorded him by his presidential second cousin.
As Sec. Enrile and Gen. Ramos, with a few loyal supporters barricaded themselves in Camp Crame along EDSA, awaiting for the "Sword of Damocles" to fall upon their heads, the military might of the government was fast approaching to end the treasonous drama. Then ... the "Miracle of EDSA" occurred, sabi dah!
Only two weeks after Ilonggo Governor Evelio Javier of Antique was slain, and as God wills it! --another Ilonggo, a prelate from New Washington, Aklan named Jaime Cardinal Sin would broadcast over Radio Veritas to appeal public support for the besieged Camp Crame group and thereafter, effectively instigated what has become to be known as "EDSA-I People's Power Revolution". And the rest is history...
When "Ninoy" became a dream and "Cory" the reality after EDSA-I; when the plain housewife was transformed into Her Excellency Corazon C. Aquino-President of the Philippines, she depended to Ilonggos; Franklin M. Drilon as Executive Secretary, Justice Raul M. Gonzales as Tanodbayan (Ombudsman) and Solicitor General Frank Chavez to face the tentacles of the deposed dictator.
In an article published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ilonggo Political writer Amando Doronila wrote that: People power movements have been an Imperial Manila phenomenon. Their playing field is EDSA. They have excluded the "provincianos" from their movement with their insufferable arrogance and snobbery ... ignoring the existence of the toiling masses and peasants in agrarian Philippines.