Cory Aquino Tributes & the Philippine StoryCory Aquino Tributes & the Philippine Story (EDSA 1, 2, & 3)
The necrological services on the fourth day of the wake of former President Corazon Aquino struck this column as disconcertingly Edsa 2 in composition and sound, no matter that the VIPs who remained in their pews represented all the Edsa revolts--Edsa 1, 2 & 3. Except for Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, the public figures who took the podium were movers or stalwarts of the 2001 "People Power" power grab.
There were, of course, the touching and insightful anecdotes from Cory's relatives and family or private friends, but the speeches of Congressman Teddy "Boy" Locsin, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, the wife of ex-House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Arroyo party-mate lead prosecutor in Estrada's impeachment trial, Mayor Sonny Belmonte--along with the mentioned seated presence of ex-President Fidel Ramos--seemed much too much a reminder of the 2001 Edsa conspiracy. Lim, it should be recalled, was the Secretary of Local Government who deserted his Commander-in-Chief, President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, during the penultimate day of Edsa 2; meanwhile, Locsin was one of those who actively campaigned for the "withdrawal of support" against Estrada. Fidel Ramos, on the other, is the ex-President Estrada wanted investigated for the "Centennial Expo" scandal but who connived with then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo, ex-President Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and business and military elements in unseating the popularly elected leader.
Add to this were the speeches of Cory's son, Sen. Noynoy Aquino, and Locsin that seemed to suggest that Edsa 2 was not at all a blunder. In no way was the 2001 "People Power" coup d'état "--of which President Aquino was a key advocate--actually mentioned by the politicians and private and religious speakers who paid the late President a tribute on that day, or the entire wake and burial, it seemed. Actually, the Edsa 2 ousting of President Estrada described by foreign news media back then as "'a defeat for due process," as "mob rule," as "a de facto coup,'" but ridiculously hailed by the traditional local media as a triumph of "democracy and "People Power," was most conspicuously a no-mention in the Cory tribute activities, funeral and media coverage thereof. Like a scourge, a leprous part of Cory's and the nation's recent history. The omission of Edsa 2 in all references to the contributions of the female "democracy icon" to Philippine politics was an almost unwritten rule. Recollections and images of the 1986 Edsa 1 "People Power" bombarded the screens, pages, and programs of news/opinion media but there appeared nary a single reference to the divisive and counter-democratic 2001 Edsa coup.
In recounting her mother's uncanny courage, unwavering love, faith in God, and righteous determination in service of patriotic duty even in the face of military artillery, Noynoy mused how he has not yet seen her "make a mistake" ("hindi ko pa ho siya nakitang nagkamali"). In describing how his stint with Cory as one of her advisers (Press Secretary) had led him to a "moral discovery," Locsin described her as "a woman who never did wrong." Of course, the contexts of these descriptions of Cory as perfect in no way referred to Edsa 2. Noynoy's remarks are especially understandable, coming from a son in tribute to his remarkable and beloved mother.
Then again, didn't Noynoy earlier try to present her mother's apology as having been said in 'jest'? The apology was made during ex-Speaker Jose De Venecia's book launching last December 2008. It was Cory's turn to take the stage and at some point in her speech, looked at Estrada and said: "I am one of those who plead guilty in 2001. All of us make mistakes, just please forgive me."
Can something as serious as a matter of an apology over a conspiratorial ouster be possibly turned into a humor by President Aquino? Even in the supposed context of an exchange of humorous quips, it seemed out-of-character for a sincere, truthful and honest Cory to publicly make any such "joke."
I reviewed the news clip on that famous apology and, based from the late President's facial expressions and slight turn of the head away from Estrada's gaze just before she let out the fateful words of apology, it revealed either a hesitancy or a moment of unease that come from a feeling of regret or some shame. Take note that her apology came after she was diagnosed with cancer. It seemed that even for an honest and sincere person like her, it had to take the diagnosis of an often-terminal disease before the admission of guilt to a great blunder could be made. A blogger earlier wrote that people should just "ask Cory" to clarify whether it was a 'joke.' Well, she did clarify it through her spokeswoman who said that it was indeed said in "jest," "But she's not taking it back". Unless the Cory who apologized wasn't at all the Cory we knew, saying it in jest merely served as the vehicle to express what she had long wanted to tell.
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Based from the feelings of having been "betrayed," as violently expressed by the few remaining but very loud Edsa 2 forces across the blogosphere and the traditional media, President Aquino's apology has been widely read as real. Puzzlingly, a number of these same people also assert it was all a joke. It appears they're out on a damage control operation of sorts to protect their reputation as "decent" and "intelligent" people who definitely knew better than Erap's "less educated" supporters--and Cory's non-withdrawal of support for Edsa 2 was an important component of it.
Edsa 2 Amnesia or Edsa 2 Sanitizing?
Nonetheless, amidst the eulogies and media's pronounced harping on Cory's contribution in toppling Marcos, her succeeding presidency, and her campaign against the Arroyo presidency--while being almost dead silent on her role in the intervening unseating of Estrada and 2004 presidential campaign for Arroyo--the necrological services sounded not only like a silent approval of Estrada's unconstitutional ouster but also a deliberate and dishonest representation of the late President. Cory, after all, tried her best to undo her grievous and misguided support of Arroyo. Firstly, in 2005, she asked for the latter's resignation following the "Hello Garci" electoral fraud expose, befriended and supported the widow of the "defeated" presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., and later, in December 2008, publicly apologized to Estrada for the 2001 "uprising."
Why are these prominent chapters of Cory's public life conspicuously missing in the tributes offered to her? Obviously, the Edsa 2 no-mention that gradually began a few years ago only means that the 2001 exercise is a discredited "People Power" movement. Still, the question is whether Cory's sustained campaign against the present administration's excesses and greed for power can stand on its own in the chapter on her post-presidency? Why, even her anti-Cha-Cha campaign during Ramos' time was hardly mentioned, if at all.
Is Cory a "democracy icon" only because of her role in ousting Marcos, restoring free elections, bringing back the system of check and balances, and helping ratify the 1987 Constitution? Or is President Aquino the "mother of democracy" because she continuously worked to preserve democracy, including through her sincere efforts to undo the damage she helped inflict on it when, in not trusting the system she herself restored, she chose the Machiavellian path and worked for Erap's ouster?
In the first place, would President Aquino have really wanted a sanitized version of her life in a book dedicated to the Filipino people? The religious, the friends, the politicians--they have all been hailing her for being "honest," "sincere," "clean," "moral," and "transparent"--traits reflected in her presidency and in her post-1992 advocacies. Shouldn't it be proper that such uncanny honesty and truthfulness, to be tempered of course by due respect, also mark the eulogies and tributes to her? Wouldn't Tita Cory have preferred to be remembered for what she truly was--unpretentious in her ways and beliefs?
A sober one may get to wonder--are they merely protecting Cory's memory, or protecting their own "reputation" and interests? A case of collective amnesia, or conspiracy of silence? A 2001 New York Times article should remind them how Edsa 2 operated outside the democratic framework:
The man they overthrew, Joseph Estrada, was a democratically elected president half way through his six-year term. The popular uprising took place when it became clear that due process ? his impeachment trial in the Senate ? would not produce the result many people hoped for: his removal by constitutional means.
Cory a "Saint"?
Unfortunately, the sanitizing, nay, sanctifying, bandwagon seems not confined to the local media. Time magazine will feature Cory Aquino once more as cover article, calling her a "Saint of Democracy." In a precursor article entitled "People Power's Philippine Saint," author Howard Chua-Eoan devoted just one sentence to the now discredited Edsa 2—but even misrepresented Aquino's role in it by claiming that "She joined crowds that led to the overthrow" of Estrada. My, my, since when has "led" become synonymous with "joined"?
A Yellow Celebration of Cory
Of course, the fourth day eventually turned multi-colored as two of the Marcos children came to the wake. The earlier days and nights of the wake also showed the broad spectral range of political forces that "Tita Cory's" death managed to unite--a trend seen from the first day of the wake until the historic funeral on August 5, 2009. Every one of every political color came, the more notable of whom was the primary victim of the 2001 conspiracy of which Cory was a party to--President Estrada who came with his cabinet members in full force, along with his wife ex-Sen. Loi and son Sen. Jinggoy. The half-sister of Arroyo, Cielo Macapagal-Salcedo, also attended the funeral mass. Even Arroyo came to the wake in the wee hours of the funeral day.
I'm proud to have been part of the historic funeral, at least part of it. We were actually late for the requiem mass but we reached Roxas Blvd. just after the cortege left Manila Cathedral. As we approached, a sea of near-yellow was coming to our direction--flocks of people in either yellow tops, ribbons, jackets, or caps emerging from the Anda Circle in Bonifacio Drive. Yellow balloons were flying to the air, as some people held or tied similar balloons to their vehicles. We witnessed the yellow and white confetti showers from a green military helicopter flying rather close to ground. For a moment there, it seemed that the spirit of the genuine and original "People Power" were upon us. Actually, I could swear it was.
From our position, in the center island across one of Metro Manila's fire trucks parked along the Manila Bay side of the boulevard, we saw people who lined the streets wave the "L" for "Laban" ("Fight") sign at each other, to those in the funeral procession, and to the VIP, participants' and media vehicles passing by both lanes. People chanted "Cory" or "Laban." We joined in the act of solidarity that felt like a combination of mourning, revelry, and militancy against the perceived enemy of democracy, Gloria Arroyo's government. I remember the media vehicles, banners representing various groups including some militant organizations, and even some Mar Roxas placards/banners that appeared like a show of irreverent politicking. At any rate, everybody just seemed one that day.
The flat-bed truck passed bedecked with beautiful yellow flowers, and in the middle was President Aquino's casket draped in the Philippine flag. Holding back my tears, I stood in silent reverence and muttered "Goodbye, Cory. You were not perfect but seemed to have always done what you think was best for the people." The honor guards looked both impressive and gallant, as befit a funeral for a well-loved former leader of the land. The Cojuangco Family bus, or one of possibly several, passed by the left lane and the "L" sign continued to be exchanged. Pervading the air was the spirit of solidarity behind Cory, her family, and the ideals she campaigned for, as much as the mixed feelings of mourning and jubilation of a public life well lived. It seemed like Edsa 1 all over again--Filipinos united for the common cause of democracy and marching behind the yellow rays of the sun, the revered color symbol of Cory's "Laban" ("Fight") for democracy.
"Laban," "Cory," "Erap"
The trip to Cory's funeral was rather long and hard, given the bad weather, but I had no intention of missing this historic and meaningful moment. I had decided to offer my humble time and presence to her in honor of our country and in recognition of her fallible but patriotic and lovingly heroic campaigns for democracy. Just a glimpse of her cortege, and being part of the crowd was enough, well enough.
Then, we got our unexpected bonus. President Estrada's vehicle approached, as we were alerted to it by others along the island. Oh, girl! Another imperfect but beloved figure! I grabbed the chance and did as others did--reached through the open window and shook the waving hand of a smiling Erap! As he passed by us, some of the small crowd in our position still chanted "Erap, Erap." I unfortunately never got to see Cory close up in person--not alive, not dead (because I chose to attend the funeral than queue for the wake's public viewing) but the case turned out differently for Estrada. Yes, I've seen him before a couple of times but always only from a distance.
It was a mixed feeling being up close to the man I never voted for--not even as Senator and Vice-President--but who became my President after I realized the fallacy of the "Erap Resign!" and eventual ouster / Edsa 2 movement. Estrada is the President I now reluctantly liken to our other national hero, Andres Bonifacio, on account of their being both pro-masa and having been victimized by a conspiracy of the elites. Of course, Erap can't compare with Bonifacio in most respects--much in the similar manner that Arroyo is far, far worse than Aguinaldo. Perhaps, it's a reflection of the times they lived in or the disastrous politico-cultural effect of America's colonization of the country. I'm not sure....
Love and Respect
The outpouring of sympathy or support for Cory was spectacular, as we soon found out after deciding to be part of the "advance party" by moving ahead of the cortege from Roxas Boulevard, to Quirino Avenue, to Osmena Avenue, and to South Superhighway until Makati. The lines of ordinary people waiting for President Aquino's cortege to pass by on the way to Manila Memorial Park were thick on both sides. Old and young people showed ardent and spontaneous feelings of love and respect. There were organized "tourists" from the provinces who carried small and big banners or placards with tribute lines for Cory.
The urban poor carried makeshift placards with touching messages, ranging from the simpler "Mahal ka Namin," and "Salamat, Cory Aquino;" to the more militant "Ipagpapatuloy po namin ang inyong ipinaglaban," and rather poignant Cory quote "'Take care of each other.' --Ina ng Bayan" or something to that effect. I remember yellow balloons also dancing in the air among the waiting crowds along the Quirino Ave. leg of the funeral procession exit, along with yellow plastics tied to one or more pedicabs and other vehicles. A low, single-sitter carriage powered by a beautiful brown horse caught much attention. I even noticed a woman grasping a dove. Some held pictures of Cory: a woman holding a big banner-size framed picture of the late President proceeded alone, as if trying to make sure that others remember Tita Cory. There were some banners and placards that bore Arroyo's name, rather indignant ones that asked for her ouster.
We ended our offering for Cory around past 2PM, turning right at Zobel Roxas Avenue in Makati. News reports later showed us the more complete picture of the funeral procession and confirmed our experience, partial though it may be, of the massive outpouring of love and sympathy for the 11th President of the Philippines. In this case, still pictures (and videos) tell it all--Filipinos united for the wake and burial of Cory Aquino.
Cory Magic Renewed
I was mildly and joyfully flabbergasted by the very massive and heartfelt outpouring of sympathy and support for President Aquino. I was initially skeptical because I knew that the "Cory Magic" had long faded away, and wasn't even able to secure Arroyo's victory in the 2004 presidential polls without the latter having needed to cheat the "Hello Garci" style. As we moved along Quirino Highway towards the Makati City part of South Superhighway, I realized that months before her death, she had managed to win back the population she alienated when she joined the rather elitist movement against a highly popular and incumbent President. The human sea of love, that included the "great unwashed," made me certain that before she bade Filipinos goodbye, Tita Cory managed to unite the forces of the two successful and one unsuccessful "People Power" exercises in Edsa.
She began the healing process some five years back with her show of touching kindness to Fernando Poe, Jr. whom she visited when he was in the throes of death. Next, Cory issued, in effect, the posthumous acknowledgement that FPJ was the genuinely elected 14th President of the Philippines when she asked her former protégé Gloria Arroyo to resign and "make the supreme sacrifice." She sealed her renewed covenant with the Filipino masses--within the context of the higher goal of preserving democracy--when she publicly voiced her apology to Estrada over her part in the big blunder of Edsa 2 soon after she was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer.
The late 2008 apology to the imperfect Estrada, the "Father of the Masses" was Cory's supreme show of statesmanship. True to form, the late President once more demonstrated her remarkable sense of humility and determination to do what is righteous, even if it meant admitting to her own wrong. In the process, Cory dared defy, and invited the cruel ridicule of, the still unrepentant Edsa 2 gullibles and conspirators--those traitors to the 1987 Constitution, conceited subverters of the spirit of Edsa 1, pretentious conspirators against genuine Philippine democracy.
Cory: Edsa1, EDSA2, Edsa 3
Some news pieces/videos carried titles to the effect of claiming that "Cory brings people back to the streets.' What is the more complete picture is that Cory was able to restore the "People Power" zeal that Edsa 2--of which she was one of the leaders--almost killed. It was her apology and subsequent friendship with Estrada that helped lead to the reunification of a country split by Edsa 2 and the unsuccessful Edsa 3 and their consequences.
To gloss over the mistakes of President Cory, if not categorically depict a persona of political infallibility, is to cover up not only her mortal blunders but her admirable efforts to correct or undo them for the sake of the nation. To deny Cory's wrongs is to deny what her actions revealed to the Filipinos--that Estrada should not have been deposed and Arroyo not have been installed as successor in 2001, and that Fernando Poe Jr. had been cheated of the Philippine presidency. To deny or even omit her misguided roles in Edsa 2 and the 2004 campaign for Arroyo is to censor factual and reported parts of Cory's history. To deny Cory's public apology over the Edsa 2 coup d'état is to misrepresent her sincere brand of patriotism, and to deceive not only one's self but, also, the entire Filipinos.
To maliciously rewrite history by glossing over or excluding the fact of Cory's sincere apology and gestures of making up with the key victims of Edsa 2--Estrada and FPJ--is to pretend that those important chapters in her life and the nation's did not happen. President Aquino realized and did not hesitate to take personal responsibility for the 2001 and 2004 conspiracies to subvert the workings of the very democracy that she restored in memory of her husband Ninoy Aquino.
The remaining unapologetic anti-Estrada forces of Edsa 2 may claim Cory as exclusively Edsa 1 in her death. That would be so far from the truth because it was her show of statewomanly humility to admit to blunders amidst her consistent patriotic yearnings that have endeared the "People Power" President back to those alienated by her role in the undemocratic January 2001 exercise. Cory herself would have corrected those eulogies and tributes that sanitized her role in Philippine politics. I'm so sure that the sincere, honest, and transparent President Cory would have asked that she be pictured for everything she has done--as Edsa 1 "People Power" heroine; as part of the Edsa 2 fallacy; and a mortal "mother of democracy" that made peace with the movers of Edsa 3, the Filipino masses.
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