Ramos skips EDSA rites, dares Aquino to tell truth
MANILA, Philippines – Former President Fidel Ramos broke a decades-long tradition: for the first time in 29 years, he skipped the anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power revolution on Wednesday morning, February 25.
It’s also the first time in 29 years that he failed to re-enact his iconic “victory jump” in front of the EDSA People Power monument – the signature move he made when he learned that then President Ferdinand Marcos had fled the country on Feb. 25, 1986, signaling the success of the civilian-backed military revolt.
The victory jump happened later in the afternoon at the historic Kalayaan Hall in Club Filipino, San Juan, where Ramos and many of the icons of People Power reunited for the launch of the book Endless Journey: A Memoir. It’s the recollection of retired general Jose Almonte, as told to Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan Vitug, of the years they toppled the Marcos presidency and the reforms they put in place during the Ramos presidency. (Read about a policy debate on Scarborough Shoal here and the plot to kill President Ferdinand Marcos here.)
“It’s been a long day. I must confess this to you, my good friends. I did not go to the salubungan today, this morning there at the EDSA People Power monument. And why not? There was no schedule for it,” a frustrated Ramos told a hall packed by many who served under his presidency.
“It’s the first time I missed the salubungan in 29 years,” lamented Ramos, visibly sad about it.
Salubungan commemorates the meeting on EDSA of civilians and security forces led by Ramos, who was then the chief of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who was then the defense chief. The defection of Ramos and Enrile was pivotal in the fall of Marcos.
On Wednesday, up to 600 soldiers and cops instead held a “Unity Walk” that was meant to show unity in spite of the blame game that followed the death of 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the bloody clashes with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
While the military blamed SAF for failing to coordinate the operation with them, there are SAF commandos who felt the military fell short in helping the cops who were pinned down.
Disappointed with Aquino
In his speech, Ramos did not hide his disappointment with Malacañang. (READ: Where are the people in People Power's 29th?)
“I was assigned by Malacañang, believe it or not, to give a speech yesterday at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I was there on time but the people from Malacañang were late,” he said during his speech, referring to the EDSA People Power Commission.
“Is this how we are now? No wonder there is a lack of coordination all over the place,” he added. He was referring to the Mamasapano tragedy, a jab at the commander in chief President Benigno Aquino III.
Laughter and applause erupted inside the Kalayaan Hall.
Ramos has been vocal, too, about his disappointment with Aquino over his handling of the SAF operation against top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin hir or “Marwan.”
It’s an issue very close to heart of Ramos, who founded SAF. The police unit used to be endearingly called “Special Army ni Fidel.”
Ramos has a litany of unsolicited advice for Aquino as he faces the worst crisis to hit his administration.
“Come out into the open and tell the truth,” Ramos said. The audience clapped again.
“Consolidate the Philippine national team because we have been broken up by disunity, by conflict of interest, by the broken chain of command which starts with the commander-in-chief,” Ramos added.
Almonte’s book, Ramos said, made him feel “especially exuberant” in the wake of recent events that have been frustrating for him and for the country.
“My thoughts about the People Power Revolution in 1986, which were declining in 2015, started to pick up again because I read the first few chapters of JoAl’s Endless Journey,” Ramos said.
Almonte’s book recalls the spirit of EDSA, when Filipinos were united in toppling a dictator and gave the world a model for a bloodless revolution. Vitug covered those tumultuous times as a reporter.
The book also recalls the extraordinary missions of Almonte for Ramos, especially after Ramos won the presidency in 1992. (READ: Almonte on Baby Arenas)
Ramos enjoyed peace that allowed him to institute reforms that changed the course of the country – such as breaking down the monopoly of PLDT in the telecommunication industry and running after smugglers.
While Almonte and Vitug signed copies of books, Ramos sat by the edge of the stage to wait for them to finish. He talked to common friends and to young people who also asked him to sign their books. He gamely posed for selfies with them.
In his speech earlier, Almonte said he agreed to publish his memoir for the sake of the new generation – young Filipinos who need to learn from history.
It seemed, in the end, an appropriate remembrance of a revolution that happened 29 years ago. – Rappler.com