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Commemorating EDSA 1, the lessons we must learn

NCCP statement for the 36th year commemoration of EDSA People Power Uprising
February 25, 2022

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is one with the Filipino people in celebrating the 36th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Uprising. This momentous event in history showed to the world how we as a people acted valiantly together to put an end to a much-abhorred dictatorship. As we commemorate this occasion, we invite the faithful for a deep and meaningful reflection.

Those who stood their ground during those dark times taught us that we should not take for granted the basic freedoms that are now enshrined in our Bill of Rights. We should never forget that during the dark days of Martial Law, basic rights like the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble, to name a few, were violently curtailed. The numbers speak for themselves: around 70,000 people were imprisoned; 34,000 were tortured; and, 3,240 were killed.

While the people’s civil and political rights were being violated, the country was being robbed blind by the dictator, his family, and his cronies. These were all documented and proven in court. Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife Imelda were even listed in the World Guinness Book of Records with the dubious distinction of committing the “The Greatest Robbery of a Government”.

Several administrations have passed, and the promise that was the 1986 People Power Uprising seems to have been squandered. Under the different post-Marcos governments, the majority of our people remain mired in poverty while only a handful became richer. Human rights violations also persisted and the climate and culture of impunity worsened.

Under the present dispensation, these problems became even more glaring and we have been common witnesses to the erosion of human rights and the dignity of the people. The War on Drugs that took thousands of lives, the various reports of corruption, the militarized and unscientific handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the negligence during typhoons and other natural catastrophes, and the special favors given to Pres. Duterte’s friends and allies were all reminiscent of the dark years of Martial Law.

Nevertheless, we must never forget the courage and vigilance of the people that spurred EDSA 1. Moreover, EDSA 1 taught us the lesson that if the state fails to honor democracy and freedom that must be enjoyed in full by its citizens, then it becomes the people’s responsibility to fight for and restore it. It is a reminder for the sovereign people and a warning to government officials that the people’s collective power is capable of bringing down rulers from their thrones and sending the rich empty (cf. Luke 1: 52-53), especially when human life, rights, and dignity are threatened and disrespected. Denouncing evils in our society is a sacred task and we must work collectively to ensure God’s plan of ushering peace and justice in our land.

Now that the National Elections is imminent, may we muster the same courage, vigilance, and active participation of those who fought 36 years ago. Let us choose candidates who have a proven record and platform for respecting human rights, promoting peace, and advocating for people’s economic agenda. We must resist any candidate that will potentially bring back, in any form, the Martial law years. May we continue to guard our democracy by making sure that no dictator or those who benefited from the plunder of our nation, will ever gain a foothold in Malacañang ever again. Let us continue to pray, act and hold fast in protecting our rights and democracy. May the spirit of those who fought for freedom during the 1986 People Power uprising continue to guide us.

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