On EDSA Day, Sara Duterte’s 2017 remark on People Power Revolution resurfaces

February 25, 2020 - 10:14 PM
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Davao Mayor Sara Duterte leads the launching of Tapang at Malasakit Alliance for the Philippines in Taguig City on Oct. 22, 2017. (The STAR/Edd Gumban)

A previous remark of the president’s daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on the bloodless People Power Revolution moved people to recall the number of deaths under her father’s administration on EDSA day.

As the country commemorates the 34th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, a Reddit user posted a screenshot of an article in 2017 with Sara’s quote on the historical event:

“I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else.”

Today in History. Never Forget! from Philippines

This was part of Sara’s clapback to the open letter of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, then president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, who compared the four-day revolution to the bloody drug war which killed thousands of Filipinos, particularly those from the urban poor in just months.

“Four days of bloodless revolution! Wow!” Villegas wrote.  “Now eight months of relentless killings of the poor in the name of ‘change’! It is a nightmare, Your Eminence! It is a shame,” Villegas said in the letter addressed to the late Cardinal Sin.

For this remark, Sara described Villegas as worse than a “hundred President Dutertes.”

“How dare you say that we are trying to prostitute the meaning of Edsa?” the mayor said.

According to human rights groups, the death toll of the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign reached more than 27,000 since it began in 2016. The numbers released by the police force, however, note a few thousand deaths.

These numbers exclude the killings of political activists, community leaders and human rights defenders, particularly on the island of Negros.

The alarming number of deaths gained the attention of the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The ICC even launched a preliminary examination in 2018.

‘Spirit’ of EDSA revolution

One Reddit user shared a possible reason why some Filipinos perceived that the spirit of the first revolution is now “dead.”

Screenshot by Interaksyon

A Twitter account called “Did a Marcos lie today?,” dedicated to disprove claims of the Marcoses and their supporters shared a video clip of a quick recall on what happened during the four-day revolution in 1986.

It was a reminder to the public that the massive protest was peaceful because of the military’s deliberate decision to disobey the late dictator’s orders.

Columnist and editor-at-large Manuel Quezon III, a former undersecretary of the the previous administration, also similarly disproved “enduring myths” that it was Ferdinand Marcos who wanted a peaceful revolt.

“Up to today, one of the enduring Marcos myths is that he wanted to avoid a bloodbath at EDSA. He repeatedly ordered the crowds dispersed. A bloodbath was avoided because each branch of the AFP decided to disobey him,” he tweeted.

Quezon shared screenshots of the page “The Fall of the Dictatorship” from the Official Gazette, the official journal of the Philippines.

Marcos telephoned General Prospero Olivas five times and ordered him to disperse the crowd at Camp Aguinaldo on the evening of Feb. 22, 1986.

Two days later, Marcos was also overhead on the radio as saying: “We’ll wipe them out. It is obvious they are committing rebellion.”

These facts disproved the late dictator’s statement at a press conference aired on television. He claimed that military commanding officer Fabian Ver asked him about the order to attack Camp Crame. According to this account, Marcos restrained Ver and said to the camera: “My order is to disperse without shooting them.”

Some of Marcos’ officers were also reluctant to obey his “kill order” against civilians.

Marcos eventually lost the control of the military, which led his presidency to end the following day, Feb. 25, 1986.