MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III rallied all Filipinos to further help protect the democracy and freedom the country regained through 1986’s historic EDSA People Power Revolution which ended the regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

He made such call, concerned the country will lose its post-Marcos socioeconomic gains if the former president’s one-man rule prevails anew nationwide.

“I hope we all join forces so darkness won’t reign again in this country,” he said on Thursday at the revolution’s 30th anniversary celebration along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue or EDSA, Metro Manila’s major artery where the uprising occurred.

EDSA People Power Revolution gained international recognition as the world’s first bloodless uprising.

President Aquino crushed speculations the Philippines experienced its golden age under President Marcos.

“The Marcos era was instead a painful chapter in our history,” the Chief Executive said.

Aside from loss of democracy and curtailment of freedom, he noted various human rights violations marked such era.

He said among thousands who became victims of such violations were his father, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr., Marcos’ political nemesis.

President Aquino also said the country’s loans ballooned from some Php2.4 billion only in 1965 when Marcos assumed the presidency to about Php192.2 billion two months before this ruler fled the country in 1986.

“During Mr. Marcos’ 21-year rule, the Philippines was the sick man of Asia,” the Chief Executive noted.

Membership in leftist New People’s Army likewise rose from around 60 people only to some 250,000 persons by the time martial law ended, President Aquino continued.

Marcos’ regime was also the golden age of brain drain in the country as Filipinos then — particularly professionals — increasingly sought greener pastures abroad, he noted.

Restoration of freedom and democracy helped the country move forward, President Aquino clarified amidst criticism the EDSA Revolution didn’t result in socioeconomic reforms.

Among Philippine socioeconomic gains after Marcos’ downfall were reduced poverty and unemployment nationwide as well as increased health insurance coverage and hospital services for the needy, he said.

“There are just some who merely want people to believe we were better off under Mr. Marcos,” he noted.

President Aquino urged the country’s young people to learn as much as they can about human rights abuses and other atrocities during Marcos’ martial law so they can better cherish the freedoms they’re enjoying at present.

Such freedoms include young people’s ability to access information and express themselves without fear of reprisal from authorities, noted the Chief Executive.

“You’ll benefit from protecting the freedom and democracy we regained,” he told the youth.

Malacanang also challenged today’s youth to build on the democracy and freedom Filipinos a generation ago secured from staging the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. aired such challenge, recalling the road Filipinos during Marcos’ regime and martial law trekked to finally regain in 1986 the democracy and freedom they longed for.

“The challenge to that generation was to secure democracy and freedom – the challenge to today’s generation is to nurture and build on these gains,” he said earlier during the celebration’s program.

Government chose ‘Pagbabago: Ipinaglaban N’yo, Itutuloy Ko’ as theme for the revolution’s 30th anniversary celebration to highlight the need for the youth’s involvement in bringing forth change nationwide. Catherine J. Teves/PNA/