Thursday, February 24, 2011


(Speech delivered at the Philippine Embassy Commemorating the EDSA Event on Thursday, February 24, 2011)

First let me thank Corina or Bubbles as I call her casually for inviting me to be a speaker in tonight’s event. I was introduced as Ben Maynigo. What I sometimes like about being a speaker is that critics are forced to listen not just to Ben but also to another ego which is mine-mine-ego (Mayn-igo). Having lived in America for so long, I have accumulated many friends - in school, work, Facebook, Twitter, My Space and other community-based organizations. My friends in the black community call me Ben My Negro and those in the Hispanic community call me Ben Mi Amigo. In the most recent Christmas, my friends in common with those of Ambassador GAA were happily greeted with Mali-GAAng Pasko at MAYNIGOng Bagong Taon!
The first President of the United Nations General Assembly and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo once said, “I am a Filipino – inheritor of a glorious past, and hostage to an uncertain future. As such, I must prove equal to a two-fold task – the task of fulfilling my obligations of the past, and the task of meeting my responsibilities of the future.”
I too am a Filipino. Also an inheritor of a glorious past but unlike Romulo I am not a hostage to an uncertain future. In this evening’s affair, I also have a two-fold task – that of relating to you some portions of our glorious past and how they relate to yesterday’s and today’s tomorrow.
The remote and the recent past was really all about “bubbles” – Economic and Political Bubbles that blew up. From perceived stability and transformed them into temporary crisis hoping to attain longer-term prosperity.
Economically, we heard, read and /or experienced the DOT.COM bubble, the Mortgage bubble and what they call  the “Bailout” bubble.
Politically, we had the Stability bubble represented by the dictatorships from both the Left and the Right..
If you Google People Power Revolution or if you go to and search for People Power, you would find out that it is pretty much identified with the EDSA Revolution that deposed the 20-year dictatorial regime of Marcos in the Philippines. You would discover that along the Epifanio de los Santos boulevard otherwise known as EDSA, gathered hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, young and old, rich and poor, converged, first, to protest the fraudulent Presidential elections and second, to support the defection of then General Fidel Ramos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and their military faction. It was a great demonstration and display of the utmost desire and fearless dedication of the sovereign people to obtain democracy as opposed to dictatorship.
Filipinos should be very proud of this glorious historic past. Even prouder because it became a model for other dictatorships that transitioned to democracy subsequently, either from the Left such as some Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc. or from the Right such as some Asian and Latin American countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, etc.
The People Power Revolution in the Philippines was a political bubble bound to burst. It was delayed for a long period of time because of the wrong perception by policy makers that Stability was preferred over Democracy.
Marcos became President of the Philippines in 1965. He was deposed more than 20 years later. Perceptively, the struggle for a more democratic Philippines started and ended during his dictatorial regime. My involvement was for the entire period. From being a Student Council President and co-organizer of the largest rally for Constitutional Reforms in front of the Philippine Congress which was followed by what is now known historically as First Quarter Storm and the Battle of Mendiola; to escaping as a UN-registered political refugee by kumpit or pump boat via Southern Mindanao, reaching the small island of Sabah, Malaysia after several days and nights evading the chasing pirates, and lived there for several months until paroled into the United States by then President Jimmy Carter. We arrived in the United States on March 3, 1977.
I immediately joined the Movement for a Free Philippines and chaired the committee that organized the first rally and march to the DuPont Circle where we had a lived-in picket for several days and nights; a Death of Democracy March parading a coffin marked “Democracy” accompanied by a Marching Band; and a mock trial which culminated in the hanging and burning of Marcos’ effigy.
The struggle continued for several more years by questioning and lobbying against the policies of the US government in supporting dictatorships under the guise of Stability. The opposition to fascist and communist regimes gave birth to a group called The Democracy International. Its first President was then former Senator and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus who was also the head of the Movement for a Free Philippines.
When Ninoy Aquino was released from detention for heart surgery in Houston, he joined our cause after his recovery until his decision to go back home. He was assassinated as he was being escorted by soldiers going down the plane.
This gave birth to several more groups both in the Philippines and the U.S.A. - the JAJA (JUSTICE FOR AQUINO, JUSTICE FOR ALL), the ATOM (August Twenty One Movement), the NAM (Ninoy Aquino Movement) and many others.
The continued pressure from the groups, pro-democracy governments and the media eventually forced Marcos to call for SNAP Presidential Elections. The opposition chose Cory Aquino as Marcos’ opponent. The common knowledge was that Cory won and that Marcos cheated massively.
This prompted continuous protests which culminated in the now EDSA Revolution. Marcos’ control over the military had to be neutralized and this became a reality with the defection of then Deputy Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos and Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and their followers.
While this was happening in the Philippines, our groups in the US were busy demonstrating at the White House and convincing Embassy and Consulate staffers nationwide to defect in favor of People Power.
My assignment was to see and talk to then Consul General Raul Rabe in Honolulu, Hawaii. He did not need convincing. Before I could even talk to him he had already scheduled a press conference announcing his defection.  I enjoyed Hawaiian singer Don Ho's rendition of Tiny Bubbles and Pearly Shells. I enjoyed the sound of Rabe's defection even more. The rest is history.
Yesterday’s tomorrow is today. And today we are witnessing what is unraveling in the Middle East. As my article stated, “from dictatorship to democracy, by demonstration and display of desire and dedication, expect no defeat.”
Tomorrow is you. The future is in the hands of the young – in your hands. As one political prisoner once said, “The future lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to give reasons for living and hoping.”

No comments:

Post a Comment