A short and simple ceremony marked the 35th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Thursday.
Quezon City Mayor Ma. Josefina Belmonte led the flag raising and wreath laying at the People Power Monument on EDSA. The rites had the theme, “EDSA 2021: Kapayapaan, Paghilom, Pagbangon.”
A Mass followed at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, also known as EDSA Shrine, which, like the ceremony at the People Power Monument, was broadcast online.
The crowd that attended the observance of the popular uprising that ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 was far smaller than in previous years, as quarantine restrictions discouraged the holding of large gatherings.
No roads were closed for the event, but the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority assigned a zipper lane in front of Camp Aguinaldo’s Gate 5 for vehicles passing on EDSA.
There was a minor commotion during the program at the monument when police apprehended a man to check his backpack. The man claimed to be a member of a militant group Migrante International and said he was waiting for his companion with whom he had planned to stage a rally.
Migrante International was not immediately available for comment.
The man said he ran because he panicked. The backpack was found to contain vegetables, which the man said he intended to sell.
National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC) Chairman Rene Escalante and Spirit of EDSA Foundation President (SEFP) and EPPC Commissioner Christopher Carrion attended the program, along with representatives from the August Twenty One Movement, Chino Roces Foundation, Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission and other national government and nongovernment agencies.
President Rodrigo Duterte continued his tradition of not attending a People Power commemoration, skipping Thursday’s event.
But in a message for the occasion, Duterte urged Filipinos to “set aside our differences and work together.”
Duterte hailed the nonviolent revolution that served as a catalyst for the restoration of democracy in the country.
“Our history has been shaped by the countless battles that the valiant heroes of our past have fought. Today, we mark the 35th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution inspired by the valor of those whose sacrifice made the liberties we enjoy today possible,” Duterte said.
He expressed hope that the peaceful revolution would serve “as a constant reminder for all of us to remain vigilant in safeguarding our democratic institutions, preserving our values and upholding our rights as Filipinos.”
Last year, the President was a no-show at the EDSA anniversary rites and instead attended the Presidential Security Group’s change of command ceremony at the PSG Grandstand in Manila.
Duterte had declared February 25 a special nonworking day.
In her own message, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo urged Filipinos to unite against the challenges of the times: the pandemic and the “constant threat” to the country’s democracy.
Robredo said the “promise” of EDSA has yet to be completely fulfilled amid efforts to revise history for the benefit of a “powerful few.”
“Today, 35 years after, we renew our faith in this fundamental truth of EDSA: That our people, standing united, can never be defeated. We affirm this truth, even as we acknowledge that the promise of EDSA has not yet been completely fulfilled,” she said.
Robredo asked the people to embrace the lessons of EDSA in facing the challenges of the time.
“The challenge now is this: We must find within ourselves that strength, that faith, that fire to continue the work that remains to be done. And in doing so, we must find a way to walk forward together,” she said.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro stressed the need for Filipinos to continue fighting for their rights, social justice, human rights, and the country’s democracy and sovereignty.
“The EDSA People Power teaches us that our country is built upon such moments when the people fully use their right to dissent and protest. Through our collective action, we were able to do what was thought impossible: drive out of power one who wielded it to oppress the people economically and politically,” Castro said.
The Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Charles John Brown, reminded the Filipino people to continue its pursuit for social justice.
Brown made the reminder during a homily at the EDSA Shrine on the eve of the anniversary.
A nuncio is the head of the Vatican’s diplomatic mission or Apostolic Nunciature, which is equivalent to an embassy.
“Justice is the foundation of peace in the society. When there is no justice, when people can’t receive justice, they react in violent ways,” Brown said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo called on Filipinos to “not let go of the promises of freedom of EDSA.”
With CATHERINE S. VALENTE, DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ and WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL