How LABAN and EDSA Uno coped with low-tech conditions
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-02-22
Sans the present technological boons to communications like the internet and mobile phones, the Quixotic LABAN of 1978 all the way to EDSA Uno of 1986 were great, momentous adventures that were conducted under the conditions of a low-tech environment.

During the Egypt adventure with People Power, the threatened Hosni Mubarak regime immediately shut down all internet and mobile phone activities in order to deprive the protestors the fastest means of spreading the momentum for an upheaval. In the Philippines, Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos did no such thing for the simple reason that there were no internet and mobile phones to shut down.

In fact, the 1978 LABAN and the 1986 EDSA Uno hardly had the support of mass media here simply because over 90 percent of mass media during those days were under the control of the dictator. During the 1986 Snap Presidential Campaign, your Chair Wrecker, as head of the Cory C. Aquino Media Bureau, had to devise an unconventional media plan in order to ensure that our message gets across.

Betamax was the home video technology of the day and we made use of what we called BETA LABAN to deliver the Cory message in sight and sound. BETA LABAN teams were created to cover the entire country, especially the far flung areas. Opposition propaganda activities against the dictatorship carried with it a clandestine flavor which generated greater public interest. The Opposition propaganda materials naturally attracted many Filipinos who were intentionally kept in the dark by the dictatorship.

Video presentations by BETA LABAN of the Ninoy Aquino assassination were sensational hits in the provinces. The Marcos controlled TV networks hardly showed the footages from the murder at the airport tarmac and the historic Ninoy funeral which was attended by over two million Filipinos. Printed Opposition propaganda materials ­— passed on from one hand to another — were similarly welcomed by a benighted nation seeking the light of truth of what has been happening in our country.

The Cory comics for the Snap Campaign — the product of the collaboration between your Chair Wrecker and the late renowned comic book novelist Jim Fernandez and which our late STAR founder Betty G. Belmonte printed — became a sensational hit all over the country. Such was its popularity that it was no longer given away for free which was the original intention. When our field campaign managers saw the intense demand for the Cory comics, they utilized it as a means for fund raising and it sold like hotcakes.

Within the Snap Campaign organization, the best means we had in contacting each other was the Pocketbell alert. We had this beeper that would tell us that we need to call a particular person or number. By call, that means the use of the landline. This technological depravity would have been unthinkable conditions to the planners and executors of political campaigns these days.

If the lack of mobile phones wasn’t bad enough, we also had to worry about landlines being tapped by the dictator! Whenever we used the telephone, we always assumed that we were being tapped. Betty Belmonte and your Chair Wrecker developed a code for concealing the identities of persons we would talk about. Nap Rama was given the code name Matthew. Nap was a writer and thus the name of an evangelist was given to him. General Eddie Ramos was Joshua. Ninoy Aquino was Moses while Cory was called Mrs. Moses, come to think of it — a giveaway!

Eventually, the list of code names got so long that we became the victims of our own concoction. There were times when Betty and your Chair Wrecker would hit moments of silence during our phone conversations because one of us could not recall the person that the code name corresponded to.

During the early days of the Cory C. Aquino Media Bureau, whenever we called a meeting of all Media Bureau directors, we’d use the code name COCKTAILS. If our phones were indeed being constantly tapped, the eavesdropper must have gotten the impression that we were not destabilization plotters but alcoholics. We were calling for COCKTAILS as early as 10 in the morning.

It’s no wonder that many would refer to the 1986 political upheaval as The Miracle of EDSA — thus prompting the construction of the EDSA Shrine. When the Snap Campaign started, Cory C. Aquino was not even known to 30 percent of the nation. In a Laguna sortie, a place very near Metro Manila, some folks there mistook Cory’s sister as the Opposition leader. You’d seriously doubt her chances of winning if people near Metro Manila cannot even recognize her.

Marcos monopolized media. Opposition media mileage was very limited and we even suspected that provincial stations did not beam what the Metro Manila stations aired. However, during EDSA Uno — hardly anybody was listening anymore to the pro-Marcos broadcast stations as everybody was glued to pro-Opposition Radio Veritas and eventually Radyo Bandido when Radio Veritas was disabled by Marcos goons.

That could only be the work of a power far greater than man.

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