A generation ago an historic event unfolded in the Philippines – the 1986 EDSA Revolution. This turning-point event has made such a big impact to the nation’s socio-economic-political that it has become an important historical reference point as to how the country has come so far in improving its society and in giving its people a better life. The 1986 EDSA Revolution successfully removed the Marcos dictatorship and brought in Western-pattern liberal democracy to the Philippines. For many Filipinos, 1986 was the start of a new life for the Philippines and a hopeful beginning of a genuine political and economic democracy.
In 1986 the world praised the Filipino people for their successful display of democracy and “people power”. EDSA 1986 Revolution became a subsequent inspiration for the revolutions in the late 80s that ended communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe. EDSA 1986 Revolution also gave inspiration to the birth of democratic movements in Taiwan, China, and South Korea. Political observers from the United States have mentioned that the Filipinos whom they’ve mentored in democracy have taught the world about democracy. But how is the Philippines a generation after EDSA?
Despite the international accolades, goodwill, and respect the Philippines garnered in 1986, the years after the revolution would prove very challenging. The political instability that led to EDSA 1986 Revolution, new rounds of coup attempts, and catastrophic environmental events resulted in very weak economic growth under the Corazon Aquino (1986-1992). Under Aquino’s successor Fidel Ramos (1992-1998), the Philippines economy did resume growth. However, the Philippines’ economic growth was interrupted by the 1997 Asian economic meltdown and uneasy political transition.
Under Joseph Estrada’s short-lived and corruption-ridden presidency from 1998 to 2001 and politically unstable regime, the Philippines’ economic growth dropped even further. During the highly controversial and graft and corruption-ridden Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration from 2001-2010 the economy did considerably better than the previous administrations, yet there has also been rising joblessness, severe social inequality and growing numbers of poor people. The 2. 6 million unemployed Filipinos in 1986 increased to 4. 4 million in 2010.
In 2009, the worth of the 25 richest Filipinos was equivalent to the combined annual income of the country’s 60 million poor. In 2009 six out of ten Filipinos were trying to survive on incomes of P82 or less per day for all their food and non-food expenses. Economic development in the Philippines after the 1986 EDSA Revolution has been frustratingly slow. In 2010, the only son of Corazon and Benigno Aquino II – Benigno Aquino III was voted overwhelmingly to the Philippine presidency amid high hopes that he would stamp out corruption in the government.
Will the second Aquino presidency be able to achieve, even on a modest terms, the political and economic democracy objectives of the EDSA 1986 Revolution? Will he trailblaze the path to the economic renaissance of the Philippines which was before the Marcos era an economic powerhouse in Asia? Will he set the foundation of political stability so crucial for national economic development? The answer will depend in a large measure not only on the second Aquino administration’s ability but to the Filipino people’s power.