Philippines marks first ‘people power’ anniversary under Marcos

Camille Elemia, Jason Gutierrez and Jojo Riñoza
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Philippines marks first ‘people power’ anniversary under Marcos Confetti flies in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, to mark the 37th anniversary of the “people power” revolution, Feb. 25, 2023.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pushed for reconciliation Saturday as hundreds of Filipinos gathered in Metro Manila to mark the 37th anniversary of the “people power” revolution that toppled the regime of his dictator-father and namesake.

But while Marcos told the Southeast Asian nation that he was one with them in remembering the February 1986 uprising, he sidestepped demands to apologize for Ferdinand E. Marcos’ excess that had allowed him and his family to amass billions of U.S. dollars in stolen wealth.

“As we look back at this fateful moment in our country’s history, we remind ourselves that despite the polarizing and divisive nature of our politics, it is our capacity for peace, unity and reconciliation that made us great and worthy of global acclaim as a people,” Marcos said in a statement.

“I hope that we will always take to heart that democracy is only truly possible when we resign from our individualism for the sake of the common good and embrace our infinite love for humanity.”

Marcos, who did not attend the commemoration, reminded Filipinos that “the world matures and ages in fortitude, when people are free to speak their minds and challenge the realities that shake their convictions and beliefs.

“If we truly stand for democracy, let us face the future by making our sense of community and patriotism the defining cornerstones of our society and the overarching goals of all our efforts in nation-building,” he said.

Nuns carry flowers and notes calling for a continued revolution during the 37th anniversary commemoration of the “people power” revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986, Feb. 25, 2023. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

On Thursday, Marcos signed Proclamation 157, declaring Feb. 24, 2023, as a special non-working day to enable Filipinos to “enjoy the benefits of holiday economics.”

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines held a small event on Saturday, the first day after the holiday, at the EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City with the theme, “unity toward peace and recovery.”  

Without much fanfare, the occasion was marked by flag raising and wreath laying ceremonies led by the commission and local government officials. A holy mass was then held at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace at the nearby EDSA Shrine. 

Hundreds of people joined the commemoration while several groups held protests against the new Marcos administration and called for justice for the victims of his father’s regime. 

Marcos was in his hometown in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte in northern Philippines, to attend a festival on the eve of the anniversary.

It was not the first time a president did not attend the commemoration. Former President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly criticized the uprising and supported the Marcos family, had skipped all similar events during his six-year term. 

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte (second from right) releases white birds during a commemoration ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the “people power” revolution, Feb. 25, 2023. [Aaron Favila/AP]

The family of the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino, the elder Marcos’ political nemesis who was assassinated upon his return from exile, paid tribute to the “heroism of the Filipino people” that led to the restoration of Philippine democracy.

“[It] showed the world that it was possible for a courageous and truly unified people to reclaim the freedom that a dictatorship had denied them. We believe that the indomitable spirit exemplified by one Filipino nation 37 years ago remains alive to this day,” the family said in a statement. 

“We are one with the people who oppose the return of dictatorship and the revision of our shared memory,” they said. “No doubt: the spirit of EDSA is alive.” 

Judy Taguiwalo, a spokeswoman for the Campaign against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law, noted that before taking office, President Marcos had often heaped ridicule on the celebrations.

The younger Marcos’ career “only proves that tyrants and dictators will do anything to regain power, protect their wealth and distort history to manipulate the people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “But we strongly believe that the spirit of people power did not fizzle out with their return.”

Anti-Marcos demonstrators hold signs to mark the 37th anniversary of the “people power” revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986, Feb. 25, 2023. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


Leading up to the commemoration, the president stopped short of acknowledging the sins of his father amid demands by rights groups representing the thousands who died during the elder Marcos regime. Aided by his wife, Imelda Marcos, the dictator is believed to have plundered up to U.S. $10 billion during his two-decade rule.

In 1986, thousands of Filipinos gathered along Manila’s EDSA highway in response to a call from the politically influential Catholic Church to protect two of Marcos’ top men who had broken away from his regime. It snowballed into a relatively peaceful uprising that forced Marcos into exile in Hawaii, where he died in 1989. 

Amnesty International estimated that about 70,000 people were jailed during the elder Marcos’ time and about 34,000 others were tortured. The official death toll is 3,200, although many other activists and opposition figures went missing.

Marcos, his mother, Imelda, and his two sisters were allowed to return home where they once against established their political base. After becoming senator, Marcos ran and lost the race for vice president in 2016 only to be elected president last year.


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