First Quarter Storm activists: The real heroes of EDSA 1

photo from

photo from

published in The Philippine Online Chronicles, Tuesday, 25 February 2014

As the nation commemorates the 28th year anniversary of the first EDSA People Power uprising, let us not forget that this year we also mark the 44th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm.

The first EDSA People Power uprising was testament to the valor and patriotism of First Quarter Storm activists who ignited the anti-fascist and anti-martial movement during the Marcos era.

They were the first real heroes of EDSA.

The brewing of the storm

Forty-four years ago, “a most vehement expression of dissent”, in the words of writer Pete Lacaba, happened in front of the gates of Lyceum of the Philippines.

In “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage”, Lacaba described January 28 as “the Clash of ‘69”. Activists of the Lyceum of the Philippines had been holding a student strike for a week. They were protesting the arbitrary dismissal of four Lyceum students, all at one time or another staffers of The Lyceum, the official monthly publication.

The campus atmosphere was understandably emotionally-charged. Though the school administration denied the alleged expulsion, the four students were nonetheless unable to enrol for the next semester. They were expelled on grounds of their activist clinging which was evident in the exposès and critical articles they published in The Lyceum.

What made the Clash of ’69 so monumental was that it was the beginning of the convulsion of youth and student discontent, even before the First Quarter Storm of 1970. Months before, except for the earlier protest during Marcos’ State of the Nation Address, Lacaba related that most of the student protests were passive and generally uneventful. They contented themselves with placards, banners and were more than once easily clobbered by the Metrocom.

What followed 44 years ago led to what is now remembered in history as the First Quarter Storm.

Thanks to the First Quarter Storm activists, every campus became a battleground against fascism and social injustice. From thereon, numerous student strikes and protests were staged successfully and spread like wildfire throughout the nation. These eventually led to the culmination that was the EDSA People Power uprising.

EDSA heroes?

As we commemorate EDSA today, we bear witness to the disunity and disarray surrounding the so-called icons of the uprising.

Both Sen. Enrile and Sen. Bongbong Marcos now find themselves embroiled in the controversial pork barrel scam. Former Pres. Ramos did a rather tired perfunctory jump during this year’s “salubong” ceremonies at the EDSA Shrine, while barely concealing his peeved reaction to Malacanang’s decision not to hold the traditional celebration in the historic site. And Freddie Aguilar continues to fight his own battles, so to speak.

Pres. BS Aquino, self-professed heir to the “EDSA legacy”, has avoided holding the celebration at the EDSA Shrine this year. His move displays a thinly-veiled insecurity, more so a loathing for a growing protest movement against his presidency following his involvement in the pork barrel scam, his failed management that caused the lives of thousands in the wake of supertyphoon Yolanda, and his government’s alleged collusion with big businesses in light of power rate hikes, violent demolitions of urban poor dwellers and privatization of basic social services. Ironically, twenty-eight years after EDSA, he now steadfastly defends the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the draconian online libel clause in the Cybercrime Law.

Instead of holding the traditional celebration at the EDSA Shrine, Pres. BS Aquino has opted to make a show of visiting calamity-stricken folk in the regions to “demonstrate” the spirit of EDSA. Unfortunately for him, he demonstrated his own folly when just days before he shunned and publicly berated typhoon Yolanda survivors when they sought his audience in Malacanang.


Needless to say, Pres. BS Aquino has reason to feel insecure about his tenure. Then, as it is now, EDSA was about the removal of a tyrant and corrupt leader who has caused injustice, plunder and widespread discontent among the people. Then, as it is now, EDSA was not just about ousting one president in favor of a successor. Then, as it is now, EDSA was all about the people’s demands for rights, accountability and social justice.

Another FQS, another EDSA, may yet be unleashed. Present political and economic conditions make the nation very fertile for another uprising and resurgence of the patriotic movement. Twenty-eight years after EDSA, the Filipino people remain impoverished and restless. Indeed, FQS veterans are saying that, much like the martial law era, the present national situation leaves very little debate on the need for genuine social change.

Activists and freedom-fighters of today are fortunate to have the FQS to extract lessons from. The FQS activists did not have the same liberty. They prevailed through meticulous class analysis and an admirable show of collective discipline and action brought about by social necessity and dedication to the patriotic cause.

The administration of Pres. BS Aquino now appears to be very conscious and wary of the development of a broad mass movement that may well succeed in ousting it from power. The overrated “Aquino magic” is waning, and Pres. BS Aquino cannot ever continue to claim franchise to the “EDSA legacy”.

But another FQS, another EDSA, will not brew by itself. If there is one important lesson in history, it is that uprisings, and certainly revolutions, are borne from pockets of protests that progressively rise to a fever that would stoke a nation’s discontent. Eventually, perhaps inevitably even, a storm is bound to surge. ###

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