EDSA 1986 and our VP wannabes

edsa 30 govPhoto from gov.ph

Thirty years on we look at the EDSA Revolution with more ambivalence than ever before.

But concerns aside, 2016 and 1986 are the same in one important respect: we are at a moment in history where we need to choose who will lead our country in the next six years.

Five vie for the highest position in the land; six vie for the second-highest. Interestingly, some of these candidates who are eyeing the top posts in the land were relatively young when the Marcos regime was ousted through a peaceful People Power. What were these candidates doing in February 1986? Did it affect them in significant ways? Let’s take a look.

1. At the height of the EDSA Revolution, Bongbong Marcos and his family fled out of the country.

The angry, storming mobs aside, it could be assumed that Marcos family would have been safe anywhere but the Philippines during and after the EDSA Revolution. Then President Ferdinand Marcos had to call his family home to safety as the rebellion-turned-peaceful-revolution escalated. He held on as long as possible to power but no avail.

Ferdinand Jr. or Bongbong as we are familiar with him today was 28 at the time and governor of Ilocos Norte. During the EDSA People Power uprising, he appeared at the television dressed in fatigues, while his father announced threats and curfews (which no one followed). On the last day of the Revolution, their family fled to the U.S.

2. Leni Robredo was caught up in the idealistic euphoria of the EDSA Revolution so that instead of going straight to law school after graduating from UP, she worked for a government-run development agency instead.

The EDSA Revolution undoubtedly brought with it a fresh wind of hope and idealism. Things, politically speaking, eventually turned out to be more of the same, but for Leni Robredo, EDSA was a defining moment career-wise and love-life-wise.

Originally, Robredo wanted to head to law school immediately after she finished her economics degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1986 (she was 21). But with the EDSA Revolution, she was inspired to work for the Bicol River Basin Development Program, postponing her law school plans. Call it fate, but it was during her stint in this government agency that she met boss-turned-husband Jesse Robredo. They married a year after.

3. During the EDSA Revolution, Chiz Escudero was just starting in college.

We do not know whether Chiz Escudero was already eyeing national level positions when he took up political science in UP Diliman, but he was finishing his freshman year when the EDSA Revolution happened.

4. Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes were also teenagers during the EDSA People Power.

As the youngest of the vice-presidential bunch, it’s not hard to imagine how Alan Cayetano and Sonny Trillanes were when EDSA Revolution happened. Politics might still be the farthest thing from Cayetano’s mind during this time that he was also a high school student at the De La Salle-Santiago Zobel School (at age 15). Trillanes, who was only 14, was also a high school student at Angelicum College. He would go on to become an electronics and communications engineering student after high school, before moving to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

5. Among all the VP wannabes, Gringo Honasan was the oldest in 1986 and already had a promising career in the military.

In 1985-1986, as the political environment in the country was reaching a boiling point, Honasan, together with the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) attempted to seize power from Marcos. After the snap elections of 1986, this inevitably changed as the then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos openly defected from the government. Honasan was assigned to lead an assault in Malacañang Palace in the morning of February 23, a plot which was eventually uncovered. He and the RAM were forced to make a last stand at Camp Aguinaldo, with the support of civilians.

Julius Ryan Umali is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines Diliman.