Thursday, March 1, 2007

American nun’s EDSA 1 letters (2)

Maryknoll missionary Sr. Helen Graham has been working in the Philippines since 1967. As a theologian who teaches Sacred Scriptures in two religious institutions, Sr. Helen has put her theology into practice and has been very involved in justice and peace issues.

During the volatile season that preceded and culminated in the February 1986 EDSA 1 people power uprising, Sr. Helen chronicled daily events (from Feb. 10 to Feb. 26) in her letters to friends abroad. Excerpts:

February 25, 1986 4:15 P.M.

Dear everybody,

I just got home! Went out early this morning to see what was going on at Club Filipino where Cory and Doy had their inauguration ceremony. I’ve been standing a long time. They were finally sworn in about 10:30 a.m. and from there I went to Pepe Diokno’s house for lunch. It’s his birthday tomorrow. Siya ang bayani ko talaga!!!

How to recount the last 24 hours here! Yesterday morning there was a kind of meeting-reflection with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines. In the afternoon I went over to Camp Crame to get the feel of things. There were so many people it was almost impossible to walk! The crowd stretched from Ortigas to Farmer’s Market. I guess that would be four kilometers. It was wall-to-wall people guarding both the military camps.

Yesterday morning while Ferdinand Marcos (FM) was giving a live speech on TV to disprove the report that he had already left the country, he was cut-off. The rebel forces captured the TV station (a gov’t run station confiscated from the Lopez family at the beginning of the martial law period). I understand the Lopez family is allowing Radio Veritas to use the station during this crisis.

In this situation one realizes the VERY important role of communications. The government-controlled TV and radio stations have been broadcasting lies for 14 years and no one would believe they were lies until the election and so many people had their own personal experience of being cheated.

Even while hundreds of thousands were in the streets and it was obvious that FM was finished, these stations continued to broadcast that FM was in control. People in the provinces did not know any better. So, Radio Veritas performed a very significant role in the happenings.

This morning during Marcos’ own inauguration the rebel forces captured channels 9, 2, and 13 while about to air FM’s inauguration. Now all of the communications (TV that is) are in the hands of the Cory-Enrile-Ramos forces.

The situation is grave at the moment and will be for the next few days. FM has called on all his goons to come and defend him. There are snipers everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets protecting the different TV stations from the Marcos loyalist forces. Earlier this morning it was reported that six tanks and a large number of military were on their way from Northern Luzon to Manila. There are thousands at various barricades to prevent these loyalist forces from entering the city.

But with all that has happened and is still happening, I am very uneasy. This is NOT really a revolution in the true sense. This is a revolution that has been coopted from the masses. This is a revolution of the middle.

Today at her inauguration, Cory appointed Enrile as Minister of Defense and Ramos as Chief of Staff. These are the same ones who had run the military during the martial law period. They are responsible for thousands of arrests, torture, murder, disappearances etc. They are overnight heroes, newly converted, “born-again”. Today, Cory asserted herself…people were afraid that Enrile and Ramos were really taking over. And they might still do that. She does have a mind of her own and I hope she can stick to that.

So the next two days are quite uncertain…


February 26, 1986

Dear everybody,
There were reports last night that four US helicopters picked up Marcos, his family, some of his people and his henchman, Gen. Ver and took flew them to Clark Air Base where they enplaned several hours later for Guam on their way to ????? When the helicopters took off, thousands of people surged into Malacañang Palace which has been closed and heavily guarded and barricaded for the past 20 years. Some began to loot and others formed a human barricade to prevent looting. There was a great rejoicing during the night. It is estimated that some 20,000 people surged through the palace during the night.

Voice of America announced at 6 a.m. that FM was on his way to Guam. Philip Habib is on his way back to speak with the Aquino government. The State Department issued a statement that the purpose of the military aid to the Philippines is to professionalize the military so that it could deal more effectively with the “communist insurgency” estimated to be about 20,000-strong. This gives me pause in the midst of great jubilation and celebration of victory.

Now that the “smoke” has cleared, we see Cory in place as our President. A woman, a valiant woman, who has demonstrated the highest qualities in the midst of this whole situation. A woman who has risen to the need of the hour and whose firmness, and non-political behavior communicated credibility and enabled people to trust for the first time in the 14 years of martial law. If she had wavered for a moment, this “people power” would not have risen to such a pitch.

I urge Americans to complain about the US being a dumping ground for former dictators and their military henchmen who have repressed their people for so many years. Let not our country become a haven for dictators.