Pangilinan: 'Real change' lies in 'people power'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan said on Friday, February 24, that "real change" lies in the power of the people to affect governance.

In a forum held to commemorate the 31st annivesary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the Filipino people should actively engage with government for the country to attain a "developed nation" status, according to Pangilinan. (WATCH: The relevance of the 1986 EDSA People Power today)

"Other countries needed 20 years of consistency in policy [for] reforms to follow through. How do we ensure continuity? Move and address our nation. Today I believe the 'war on drugs' should be refocused [to] 'war on poverty' to reach a 'developed nation' status," said the senator.

According to Pangilinan, change can only happen if citizens actively participate in governance with the help of committed government leaders. He said he had seen this happen in Naga City under the leadership of then mayor Jesse Robredo.

Naga was a third-class city when Robredo took over as mayor in 1988 and rose as first-class city again by 1990. (READ: Jesse Robredo: Profile of a mayor)

He believes that organizing communities is what will empower people and what will eventually spur development.

EDSA's legacy

Vice President Leni Robredo, former National Security Adviser Jose Almonte, former Commission on Elections chairperson Christian Monsod, and journalist Raissa Robles were also speakers at the event. (READ: The essence of EDSA: Change begins with us)

For Pangilinan, the biggest legacy of the revolution is the restoration of democracy.

"Kapag ang ating mga mamamayan ay sama-samang nanindigan at kumilos, kahit sino pa siyang diktador, wala siyang batbat sa taumbayan." (When our people stand and act together, whoever the dictator is, he is nothing compared to the people.)

Former University of the Philippine student leader JP delas Nieves said that as part of the youth, he knows that the freedom he enjoys now is the result of the People Power Revolution.

"I know that the freedom and democracy the youth enjoys now is the gift of the people who stood against the dictatorship, and not by any politician," Delas Nieves said. (READ: Youth told: Don't forget why EDSA happened)

For former President Fidel V Ramos' national security advisor, Almonte said that freedom comes with great responsibility.

"The 1986 People Power Revolution was not merely a people's collective against a tyrannical regime. It was a people's war to recover dignity and freedom," the former national security adviser said.

"The [revolution] is a model because it is without bloodshed. It ensured that no life, no ideology [should] take away human life," he added. (READ: EDSA30: The Parody of People Power)

'Nasaan ang people power?'

Pangilinan, who also chairs the opposition Liberal Party, took the opportunity to hit the administration with the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima – which happened on the same day of the forum. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)

"Thirty-one years after the Filipino people kicked out a ruthless dictator, we mark the 3rd day of EDSA People Power Revolution with the arrest of the most vocal critic of the President. Nasaan ang (Where is) people power?" he said.

De Lima was arrested Friday morning over drug charges filed against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before a Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court. (READ: 3 women judges to hear De Lima drug cases)

The administration's celebration of EDSA was "simple", with President Rodrigo Duterte choosing to skip the main event at Camp Aguinaldo on Saturday, February 25. (READ: Duterte on EDSA anniversary: No group has monopoly of patriotism)

Duterte, who ranks Marcos as one of the country's best-ever presidents, last year allowed the Marcos family to bury the former leader's remains at the Heroes' Cemetery, leading to a series of large protests. (READ: TIMELINE: The Marcos burial controversy)

The 71-year-old firebrand has not ruled out using martial law to prevent what he describes as the country's slide to a narco-state status. Since he assumed office in June 2016, there have been more than 7,000 deaths linked to the "war on drugs."

Ramos earlier said that there is an emerging culture of impunity in the Philippines due to the spate of killings related to the government's war on drugs. (READ: Impunity in PH? Ramos says 'it's starting to be like that')

"EDSA teaches us that life is precious. Our goal is to enhance and strengthen dignity of the human person," said Almonte.– with reports from Feline Milan/Rappler.com

Feline Milan is a Rappler intern