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Philippines still waiting for promise of 'people power

Written by: Staff

BATAC, Philippines, Feb 23 (Reuters) In a crypt in the northern Philippines, encased in glass and preserved by constant chilling, the unburied body of Ferdinand Marcos is a symbol of an unfulfilled social revolution.

Twenty years ago this week, Filipinos were chasing Marcos and his shoe-loving wife Imelda from the country for abusing power, money and civil liberties between his overwhelming win as president in 1965 and his sickly grip as dictator in 1986.

For the young, 30 million of them born in the past two decades, ''people power'' was an event in history with repercussions of uncertainty.

''It hasn't changed anything because we're still in a not so good situation,'' said Nicklaus Valdez, 20, a biology major at Mariano Marcos State University, built by the late president in his childhood home of Batac and named for his father.

''What we need is cooperation among Filipinos, not just bringing down the president.'' Nuns, children and 1 million others stood up to tanks on Manila's EDSA highway with prayers, flowers and songs, calling on troops to join the uprising that, in four days, restored democracy peacefully and inspired hope for a new way forward.

This year, few people seem in the mood to celebrate the anniversary, at least not as a united nation.

Events are low-key, major players are doing separate things and most Filipinos, opinion polls say, do not want another EDSA-style popular revolt or attempted coup.

The 1986 uprising, and another against President Joseph Estrada in 2001, have done little to strengthen the economy, overhaul a political system of personality and patronage, or improve the lives of tens of millions of poor Filipinos.

''Sure, 'people power' was nice. The world stood up and applauded,'' wrote Max Soliven, publisher of the Philippine Star newspaper, who was jailed as a journalist after Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

''The best way to celebrate EDSA is for our people to power themselves back to work -- and to pray, quietly, in thanksgiving.'' THE ELITE RULES The Marcos image is of wartime guerrilla, decorated at home and by the United States, and a sharp lawyer who rose quickly in politics as a congressman, senator and Senate President.

Marcos the President, fervent anti-communist and Washington's strongman ally, handed businesses to cronies, jailed opponents and is accused of looting up to 10 billion dollars from his country.

Imelda Marcos, charismatic and ambitious, amassed her own power as Manila governor, minister in charge of vast construction projects and special envoy to Washington, Beijing and elsewhere.

To some, the 1986 popular revolt was simply a coup in disguise, with the help of the military and the Roman Catholic Church, to return control to the several hundred families who traditionally hold most of the land, money and power.


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