There it stood. And I was wondering if it would be moved this time. We had ordered sinigang; so I assumed the bottle of ketchup would stay put. But I was wrong. And so on we went, Chairman and I, over dinner, discussing the meatier stuff: dismantling the Marcos dictatorship.
Sometimes we compared notes. Chairman was in UP Diliman, while I, the Secretary-General, was from DLSU. I was the firebrand, the militant one, willing to say that if efforts failed to remove Marcos by civil disobedience, then the effort should level up to more militant measures, if not armed ones. Chair would try to convince me to keep things within the parameters of peaceful non-violent civil disobedience. We agreed to disagree.
At times I would relate to Chair on-the-ground versions of our little debate, like my Tondo experience. I headed the Cory campaign in DLSU, and we made several mini-campaign sorties into Tondo. On one of those trips to Tondo, several men came forward and cried out, “We will support you and vote for Cory, but if Marcos is still in power, then it shall be this!” – and his arm was pointed up with his fingers formed like he was holding a pistol and pulling the trigger. Since I was nodding in assent, one of the psych professors took me to task for it, criticizing me openly for assenting to the man’s point that an armed revolution would be the next step. She was practically screaming, “How could you? You should have taken him aside, and explained things to him.” I told her I was not considering her point, and it was time to go.
On the other hand, a few Tondo instances were hilarious, like when groups of grandmothers approached me and wrongly proclaimed “Look, it is the son of Ninoy! Thank you for visiting us sir! We always voted for your father! May his soul rest in peace!”
The real son of Ninoy told me in December of 1985: “Do not think we are alone in this, or that all of those in AFP are against us, we do have many friends in the inside” – another indicator that more militant measures were not off the table.
There were lots of resources, too. Chairman told me of the budget he asked to do the election day quick count, and I retorted, “No,no,no, that would not be the right budget for our quick count…. Since you are meeting him again anyway, ask for P200,000.” He was flabbergasted by the amount, and kept asking me if it was really feasible to ask for such. I said very firmly that he can trust me that it will be approved. And it was.
Election day, February 7, came, and we of the Youth for Cory had run an efficient quick count. Because of the results, we knew any attempt by Marcos to proclaim victory would lead to his own demise. I ran the quick count for Pasig, and the irony was I was assisted by a few G.I.s (genuine Ilocanos) in doing so.
A few days later I was in Batasan Pambansa, leading an impromptu rally by mainly Maryknoll students, about 400 of the 500 marching. We were jumped by Marcos loyalists encamped on the other side, and with so many stones thrown at us, we failed to stop the legislature from proclaiming Marcos the winner.
Little defeats like that happened then and there in that 1986 movement towards democracy. Of course Chairman was concerned. But that also shows how resilient the movement had become. We just kept rolling on.
We even reached out for new allies. Though some questioned it, including DLSU President Bro. Andrew Gonzales who wanted me to cancel it, a group of over 800 from DLSU marched through Taft Avenue to become the biggest contingent in a rally of mostly left-leaning groups at the Liwasang Bonifacio.
Then came the “Tagumpay Ng Bayan” rally on February 16, 1986, which became a mammoth rally of over a million attending, and definitely would be on anybody’s list of the top three largest public gatherings in all of Philippine history. In the days before it was held, Marcos proclaimed that those who would be going faced arrest. Over a million, and because of such huge numbers, no one was arrested that day. Cory Aquino stressed that protest actions would be continuous until Marcos stepped down. I did not even see Chair that day, with the crowds so thick. There were a few missteps, like saying that one of civil disobedience steps was to boycott drinking San Miguel beer.
I did see Chair a few days later, in front of Rustan’s Makati, when the UP, La Salle, and Ateneo wings of the Youth for Cory Coalition rallied there to emphasize that Rustan’s was one of the establishments to be boycotted. After my speech, a few of those who marched with me from DLSU told me they were ready to go into Rustan’s, mess it up, and create havoc inside. They could have done so, as in those days after February 16 it seemed there were few cops around. But I said, “No, save it for next time.”
When I later told Chair about it, he impressed on me the need to rely on non-violent civil disobedience. But, truth be told, we were still in the thick of starting out with the leveled-up efforts, so the jury was still out on whether we could contemplate if we foresaw doing more “aggressive” measures later on.
Well, the ink was not yet dry on all the “Marcos Resign” materials we were rushing when the next mistake happened: Gen. Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce-Enrile launched on February 22 a failed coup d’etat. They then announced their breakaway. By the next day, EDSA People Power was in full swing. And then the despot disappeared.
One morning a DLSU batchmate who lived nearby said, “Let’s get people to go to EDSA, as there are few there right now!” So we drove around, ringing doorbells. Later we could see helicopters heading towards EDSA. I told him those were pro-Marcos Sikorskys. Tears began rolling down his cheeks, and he was pounding the steering wheel, in exasperation, which turned to glee when it was announced Col. Sotelo’s choppers had joined the movement.
EDSA was no miracle. Marcos was certain to be ousted by the people’s movement. Ramos and Enrile were not the catalysts of this people’s movement, but, rather, though heroes nonetheless, they had seen the opportunity that any strike to unseat Marcos will be potentially supported by millions. Or, might have they been fearful that the movement might succeed quickly and depose Marcos, and then from the resulting vacuum, the communists might then grab the seat of power?
Was Marcos was such an overpowering hegemony in 1986? No way! EDSA was the pragmatic opportunity initially ignited by two previous enemies of the movement, that gave us all an earlier occasion to get rid of the tottering dictator, which the people of the movement gladly took. EDSA was not some kind of “temporary insanity” that gripped millions, as if they were unduly influenced by demagogues who brainwashed them.
In hindsight, EDSA saved the Marcoses! Without EDSA, the Marcos family might very well have been massacred in Malacañang when the movement made it there out of its own efforts.
The citizenry did not suddenly “wake up” on that morning that Cardinal Sin made his call for the people to surround the camps on EDSA. They were already “woke” long before. And for all our success, Chairman Chito Gascon became the youth representative to the Constitutional Commission. Thank you for leading us Chair Chito! Padayon! The ketchup was for real, and so was the revolution. – Rappler.com
This is the first time Joel Sarmenta has written about 1985-86, when he served as the Sec-Gen of the Youth Coalition for Cory and headed the Cory campaign of DLSU. In 2018, he served as the point person for the education sector of the Memorial Commission, seconded there by then CHR Chair Chito Gascon.