EDSA People Power Revolution

[OPINION] Love and politics: A reflection on the 2023 EDSA anniversary

Danny Pilario

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[OPINION] Love and politics: A reflection on the 2023 EDSA anniversary

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'Yes, Christians are called to love, even our enemies. And to depose Marcos Sr. from power was our act of love for him.'

The following was delivered on February 25, 2023 at the EDSA Shrine during a symposium organized by the Clergy for Moral Choice.

1. Narratives from the ground

Tatlumpo’t pitong taon nang nakaraan, marami sa atin dito ay nakatayo na sa lugar na ito. Bago pa man nila ginawa ang simbahang ito, banal na ang lupang kanyang kinatatayuan. Dito natin pinigil ang mga tangkeng kanilang ipinadadala upang lipulin ang kanyang bayan. Wala tayong sandata. Ang dala-dala natin ay mga crusipijo, mga rebulto ni Maria, Santo Niño, Santo Entierro, at kung ano pang meron tayo. Dito din sa lugar na ito, binigyan ng bulaklak ng isang three-year-old boy ang isang armadong sundalo. Dito din sa lugar na ito, hinarang ng mga madre ang mga tangke habang nagdarasal ng rosaryo. 

EDSA has become a sacred ground for us, not only because of these “sacred objects” that we brought but because it is here that God liberated his people. It is here that God appeared. Dito natin ipinakita na maaari nating ipaglaban ang ating kalayaan sa isang mapayapang paraan. Dito natin ipinakita na sa pamamagitan ng ating pananampalataya, maaaring baguhin ng Diyos ang ating bayan.

I was then a young seminarian, three years away from my ordination. I want to say this today: EDSA People Power was not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Hindi lang sa panawagan ni Cardinal Sin kaya tayo’y pumunta dito. Maraming taon ang dumaan bago mangyari ang EDSA. High school pa kami noon, ang dami na naming narinig na pinatay, tinortyur, at nangawala. Pero dahil kontrolado ang news sa panahon ni Marcos, mahirap mabalitaan ang mga karanasan na ating narinig ngayon. At dahil uhaw kami sa news, pinag-aagawan namin ang mga mimeographed leaflets na aming pinagpapasa-pasahan. 

Hindi bago ang red-tagging. Dati na ‘yan. Church premises were raided for so-called subversive materials. Many priests, religious and lay church workers were killed or just disappeared. ‘Yong nag-recruit sa akin sa pagpapari na si Fr. Rudy Romano, isang Redemptorist, nawala na lang at hindi na nakita hanggang sa ngayon. 

So when Marcos declared snap elections 1986, we felt there was a ray of hope. We volunteered for vote watching with NAMFREL. Wala pang PPCRV noon. Kasama ang ibang mga madre at seminarista, doon ako na-assign sa Malabon-Caloocan area. Naranasan kong dumapa na lang dahil nagkabarilan sa aming presinto. Pero hindi kami natakot. Itinaya namin ang aming buhay upang bantayan ang bawat balota. Na-i-imagine ‘nyo ba ang scenario na ito: 8-10 madre, seminarista at layko ang nagkakapit-bisig paligid sa isang ballot box. Ganon ka “close-guarding” hanggang makarating sa Comelec sa City Hall. We felt then that each ballot was sacred, and we were willing to risk our lives for it. 

Ibang-iba na ngayon! In the last election, our votes just disappeared on transparency servers in split seconds without us knowing where to watch. Pagkatapos ng isang oras, uwian na, may nanalo na! 

In 1986, when 35 computer encoders at PICC went out in protest, we knew something fishy was going on. Sa takot nila, nagtago sila sa Baclaran at baka anong mangyari sa kanila. 

So when Cardinal Sin called us to EDSA, people did not hesitate to go. I can still vividly remember that night. After the Mass, we announced that we are organizing for EDSA. More than half of our small congregation went with us, bringing their kids, their own cars, food, images, etc. Sa totoo lang handa kami kahit ilang araw na walang uwian, walang bihisan. 

I started with this personal narrative because today that peaceful movement of people’s faith is revised, maligned, and demonized. It was not a political party that brought us here. It was not ideology that brought us here – be it leftist or rightist. I did not come to EDSA for the “oligarchs” (now called the “yellows”), most of whom we do not personally know. In fact, at that time, “yellow” was not about the Liberals. Cory Aquino ran under the PDP-Laban, the same party where Duterte also ran later. For us, “yellow”  was primarily a color of protest. Our faith sensibility tells us that something was wrong with the Marcos government.

To put it simply, I came to EDSA because of my faith. It was our faith that moved us and made us place our lives on the line. Our cry was: “Tama na. Sobra na. Palitan na.” It was the cry of the prophets. That is why this ground is sacred to us no matter how the trolls and the past and present governments would like to delete it from our memory. 

At this moment (37 years after), I am now a theology professor on weekdays. But on weekends, I help my brother Vincentians in our parish in Payatas. Para sa mga nakapunta doon, marami pong problema sa Payatas. Pero simula noong 2016, nagkaroon kami ng problemang hindi namin napaghandaan – extrajudicial killings. 

Ang dami pong pinatay sa Payatas. May dala-dala silang drug list. Papasok sa mga barong-barong, hahanapin ang mga tao na ‘yon, at babarilin nang ganon na lamang. May kasama pang planted shabu. Naalala ko pa naglilibing kami noon ng 8-10 patay linggo-linggo. May isa doon, binaril pagkatapos niyang magluto ng spaghetti para sa birthday ng kanyang anak. Binaril siyang nakaluhod sa harapan nila. May isang barkada noon, nagluto-luto dahil day-off nila sa tambakan. Pinasok ng mga pulis, tinalian ang kanilang mga kamay at isa-isang binaril. Pagkatapos ay kinain pa ng mga pulis ang niluto ng kanilang mga pinatay. Ang hindi nila alam may isang pang buhay doon at nagpapatay-patayan. Tulad noong Martial Law, sinabi namin ng mga nanay: “Tama na. Sobra ba. Awat na.” 

These widows, mothers, and orphans are the prophets of our time. They have banded together to bring up their children with nothing, literally nothing, but their faith alone. 

2. Love and politics

Noong nakaraang election, palagi akong natanong: “Hindi ba dapat magpatawad ang isang Kristiyano?” Love your enemies, ika nga. No to cancel culture. Unity lang. Tinanong ko ang mga Nanay at balo ng EJK. Makapagpapatawad ba kayo? “Hindi pa po muna. Masakit pa po. Pero kahit na handa na kami, sino ang aming papatawarin? Wala namang umamin. Sinong papatawarin? Wala rin namang humingi ng tawad.” 

Kaya naiisip ko, hindi talaga matatapos ang kuwento ni Marcos. Kahit na nais nating magpatawad, wala namang humingi ng tawad. Wala namang umamin. Sino ang ating patatawarin? 

I would like to say today that EDSA People Power is an expression of our Christian love. Yes, Christians are called to love, even our enemies. And to depose Marcos Sr. from power was our act of love for him. 

It is not me speaking. This is what Pope Francis says in Fratelli Tutti: “True love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others” (FT 241). When I was reading Pope Francis, I told myself that what we did here in this holy ground 37 years ago was right after all. 

And if there will be some oppressors who will follow him now or in the future, we should not hesitate to come again and depose him. Our Christian faith commands us to. If you say you are Christian, this is how we should express our love!

There is a direct relationship between love and politics, between Christian love and political action. Pero parang hindi obvious at hindi tanggap para sa maraming Kristiyano. Maraming Katoliko ang allergic sa politics. When the Clergy for Moral Choice, religious communities, and priests of other dioceses talked against corruption and systemic lying during the last election, many pious lay people and even clergy and religious themselves, charged them with “politicking.” This dualism between Christian love and politics does not help the way we live as Christians today. 

Pope Francis says there is such things as “political love”. Sabi niya: “Politics is the highest form of love inasmuch as it seeks the common good.” But even Pope Benedict XVI who has the reputation of being a politically conservative pope tells us that love or charity needs an institutional path, a political path. Doon sa Good Samaritan, hindi sana niya maililigtas ang taong tinambangan sa daan kung wala pang bahay-pagamutan kung saan siya iniwan pansamantala. Si Martin Luther Jr., isang Protestant preacher at rights activist noong 1960s, ay nagsabi: “Napagod na akong sumagip sa mga taong tinambangan sa daan. Ngayon aayusin ko naman ang daan para wala ng tatambangan pa rito.” 

Christian love is political. Charity – love of God and neighbors, if it needs to be effective – should be political. That is why we are here today. We are here not out of hatred. We are only fulfilling Jesus’ command to love. 

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3. Questions for our leaders

In the spirit of political love, and in the spirit of EDSA People Power, it is time for us to ask questions so that our political leaders can render us an account. How do we operationalize “political love” today? Ano ang mga dapat nating itanong? Sino ang mga dapat nating tanungin at singilin? Ano ang mga hakbang na dapat nating gawin?  

a. IN THE NAME OF RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE, anong katarungan ang ibibigay natin sa mga balo at mga batang nawalan ng ama sa war on drugs? Paano hihilom ang kanilang mga sugat kung patuloy natin silang pagkakaitan ng hustisya? If we have no answers to these questions, I am afraid we will soon reap society of revenge and violence. Minsan tinanong ko ang isang bata kung anong gusto niyang maging paglaki niya. “Gusto kong maging pulis,” sabi niya. “Dahil gusto kong patayin ang pulis na pumatay sa tatay ko.” Malungkot na sagot. Bakit natin pipigilan ang ICC na mag-imbistiga at kumausap sa kanila – tulad ng ginawa ng Kongreso at Senado ngayon? Nais kong ibalik sa kanila ang sinasabi nila sa mga mahihirap noon, “kung wala kang kasalanan, huwag kang matakot.”  

b. IN THE NAME OF TRUTH, anong isasagot natin sa mga tanong tungkol sa nakaraang eleksiyon? Bakit takot silang buksan ang transparency servers? When basic questions of legitimacy are not answered, this government could hardly move on. No, it is not us who cannot move on. It is this government because it is merely preoccupied with defending itself from even the minutest questions people ask about its existence. It is quite expensive to maintain a rule whose legitimacy is questioned. Is this the use of the millions of confidential funds?

c. IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE, kailan natin mabibigyan ng hustisya si Leila de Lima? Mahalaga ang tanong na ito dahil kung kaya nilang gawin yan sa isang senador, paano na lang ang mga mahihirap kong kaibigan sa Payatas? Kailan natin mabibigyan ng hustisya ang mga katutubo, human rights advocates at journalists na kanilang ni-red tag at pinatay? We can never imagine the suffering their families suffer until today – whether it happened 40 years ago or just recently. 

d. IN THE NAME OF ACCOUNTABILITY, what will happen to the Pharmally investigations, PhilHealth scam, DOH controversies, and other problems during the pandemic? Kalimutan na lang po ba natin ito? How can the suspects be accountable for the lives lost and the sorry state of our health system before, during, and after the pandemic? Also in the name of accountability, we also ask who will exact the paying of P203-billion estate tax? Or, why do our legislators in Congress and Senate approve the confidential funds without question, in places where they are less likely to be needed? Bakit mahalaga ang mga tanong na ito? Dahil sabi nga ni Pope Francis: “Corruption is paid for by the poor.”

e. IN THE NAME OF ECOLOGY, anong maisasagot natin sa ating mga katutubong nagmamartsa laban sa Kaliwa Dam sa kasalukuyan? Noong nakaraang taon, sinabi ng Pangulo sa isang DENR forum: “I assure you that our environment and our country’s resiliency and adaptation to the new normal of climate change are on top of the national agenda.” Pero bakit tuloy ang pag-aaproba ng mining permits maging sa Sibuyan man o sa Palawan na diumano’y pag-aari ng mga makapangyarihan at negosyanteng mayayaman? Anong sasabihin natin sa ongoing reclamation sa Manila Bay na pumipinsala sa hanapbuhay ng mga mangingisda? Paano bibigyan ng katarungan ang mga katutubong pinatay dahil binantayan lamang nila ang kanilang ancestral domain at likas-yaman? Nakaugat ang mga tanong na ito kay Pope Francis sa “Laudato Si.”

May mga marami pang tanong, halimbawa, tungkol sa inflation, political dynasty, anti-terror law, relasyon sa China, at iba pa. In the spirit of EDSA, in the name of Christian political love, we should not keep quiet. Prophets should not be afraid to ask. Please keep asking. And show your questions in protest actions. This is the way to express our political love!

Sa katapusan, naalala ko ang inosenteng mukha ng isang batang nakakita kung paano binaril ang kanyang ama. Hindi siya nagsasalita. Mga ilang buwan din iyon. Nakatingin lang siya sa akin o nakatitig sa kawalan. Parang sinasabi niya sa akin: “Papatayin ‘nyo rin ba ako?” Dahil kapag wala kang ginawa, parang pinatay mo na rin ako. 

Ipapasa ko sa inyo ang hamong ito: kapag wala kayong ginawa, hinayaan ninyong patayin ang ating bayan. – Rappler.com

Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario is a member of the Congregation of Mission. He is a professor at the St. Vincent School of Theology of Adamson University. He is also a guest minister at the Parokya ng Ina ng Lupang Pangako in Payatas, Quezon City.

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