|People Power Revolution|
|Date||February 22-25, 1986 (3 days)|
|Resulted in||Opposition victory|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolution[Note 1] or the February Revolution, was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, mostly in Metro Manila, from February 22-25, 1986. There was a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud. The nonviolent revolution led to the departure of Ferdinand Marcos, the end of his 20-year dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.
It is also referred to as the Yellow Revolution due to the presence of yellow ribbons during demonstrations (in reference to the Tony Orlando and Dawn song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree") following the assassination of Filipino senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. in August 1983 upon his return to the Philippines from exile. It was widely seen as a victory of the people against two decades of presidential rule by President Marcos, and made news headlines as "the revolution that surprised the world".
The majority of the demonstrations took place on a long stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, more commonly known by its acronym EDSA, in Metro Manila from February 22-25, 1986. They involved over two million Filipino civilians, as well as several political and military groups, and religious groups led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, along with Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines President Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the Archbishop of Cebu. The protests, fueled by the resistance and opposition from years of governance by President Marcos and his cronies, culminated with the absolute ruler and his family fleeing Malacañang Palace to exile in Hawaii. Ninoy Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, was immediately installed as the eleventh president as a result of the revolution.
President Ferdinand E. Marcos was elected president in 1965, defeating incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal by a margin of 52 to 43 percent. During this time, Marcos was very active in the initiation of public works projects and the intensification of tax collections. Marcos and his government claimed that they "built more roads than all his predecessors combined and more schools than any previous administration". Amidst charges from the opposition party of vote-buying and a fraudulent election, President Marcos was reelected in the 1969 Philippine presidential election, this time defeating Sergio Osmeña, Jr. by 61 to 39 percent.
President Marcos' second term for the presidency was marred by allegations by the opposition Liberal Party of widespread graft and corruption. According to leftists who rioted during the First Quarter Storm, the increasing disparity of wealth between the very wealthy and the very poor that made up the majority of the Philippines' population led to a rise in crime and civil unrest around the country.
In March 1969, the New People's Army (NPA) was formed as the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, initiating the still-ongoing CPP-NPA-NDF rebellion. Marcos quickly denounced the movement, hoping to gain monetary and political support from anti-Communist administrators in the United States.
Marcos soon used the rise of militant and civil unrest as justification for declaring martial law.
Barred from running for a third term as president in 1973, Marcos announced Proclamation No. 1081 on September 23, 1972, declaring martial law with rising civil disobedience as a justification. Through this decree and after obtaining voters consent through the plebiscite, President Marcos seized emergency powers giving him full control of the Philippines' military and the authority to suppress and abolish the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and many other civil liberties. President Marcos also dissolved the Philippine Congress and shut down media establishments critical of the Marcos Administration.
President Marcos also ordered the immediate arrest of his political opponents and critics. Among those arrested were Senate President Jovito Salonga, Senator Jose Diokno, and Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., whom Marcos linked with the Communists and the man who was groomed by the opposition to succeed President Marcos after the 1973 elections. On November 25, 1977, the Military Commission charged Aquino along with his two co-accused, NPA leaders Bernabe Buscayno (Commander Dante) and Lt. Victor Corpuz, guilty of all charges and sentenced them to death by firing squad.
A constitutional convention, which had been called for in 1970 to replace the Commonwealth-era 1935 Constitution, continued the work of framing a new constitution after the declaration of martial law. The new constitution went into effect in early 1973, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary and allowing President Marcos to stay in power beyond 1973. The constitution was approved by 95% of the voters in the Philippine constitutional plebiscite.
In 1978, while still in prison, Aquino founded his political party, Lakas ng Bayan (abbreviated "LABAN"; English: People's Power) to run for office in the Interim Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). All LABAN candidates lost, including Ninoy himself.
With practically all of his political opponents were arrested and in exile, President Marcos' pre-emptive declaration of martial law in 1972 and the ratification of his new constitution by more than 95% of voters enabled Marcos to effectively legitimize his government and hold on to power for another 14 years beyond his first two terms as president. In a Cold War context, Marcos retained the support of the United States through Marcos' promise to stamp out communism in the Philippines and by assuring the United States of its continued use of military and naval bases in the Philippines.
Because the Marcos administration's spending had relied so heavily on debt since Marcos' first term in the 60s, the Philippines was left vulnerable when the US economy went into recession in the third quarter of 1981, forcing the Reagan administration to increase interest rates. The Philippine economy began going into decline in 1981, continuing to do so by the time the Benigno Aquino Jr. assassination in 1983. The economic and political instability combined to produce the worst recession in Philippine history in 1984 and 1985, with the economy contracting by 7.3% for two successive years.
Despite warnings from the military and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, Ninoy Aquino was determined to return to the Philippines. Asked what he thought of the death threats, Ninoy Aquino responded, "The Filipino is worth dying for."
At that time, Ninoy's passport had expired and the renewal had been denied. Ninoy, therefore, acquired a plan to acquire a fake passport with the help of Rashid Lucman, The passport carried the alias Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio, his erstwhile prison).
On August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the United States, Aquino was assassinated by military personnel as he disembarked from a Taiwanese commercial flight at the Manila International Airport (which was later renamed in Aquino's honor). His assassination shocked and outraged many Filipinos, most of whom had lost confidence in the Marcos administration. The event led to more suspicions about the government, triggering non-cooperation among Filipinos that eventually led to outright civil disobedience. It also shook the Marcos Administration, which was by then deteriorating due in part to Marcos' worsening health and ultimately fatal illness (lupus erythematosus).
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino caused the Philippine economy to deteriorate even further, and the government plunged further into debt. By the end of 1983, the Philippines was in an economic recession, with the economy contracting by 6.8%.
In 1984, Marcos appointed a commission, led by Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, to launch an investigation into Aquino's assassination. Despite the commission's conclusions, Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, declined an offer to join the commission and rejected the government's views on the assassination.
On November 3, 1985, after pressure from the US government, Marcos suddenly announced that a snap presidential election would take place the following year, one year ahead of the regular presidential election schedule, to legitimize his control over the country. The snap election was legalized with the passage of Batas Pambansa Blg. 883 (National Law No. 883) by the Marcos-controlled unicameral congress called the Regular Batasang Pambansa.
The growing opposition movement encouraged Ninoy Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, to run for the presidency. United Opposition (UNIDO) leader, Salvador Laurel, who earlier filed his candidacy as an official UNIDO candidate for the presidency, gave way to Cory after a political deal which was later reneged by Cory after the election. Salvador Laurel eventually ran as Cory Aquino's running mate for vice-president under the United Opposition (UNIDO) party. Marcos ran for re-election, with Arturo Tolentino as his running mate under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party.
The election was held on February 7, 1986. The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), declared that Marcos was the winner. The final tally of the COMELEC had Marcos winning with 10,807,197 votes against Aquino's 9,291,761 votes. On the other hand, based on returns of 70% of the precincts of the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), an accredited poll watcher, had Aquino winning with 7,835,070 votes against Marcos' 7,053,068 votes.
This electoral exercise was marred by widespread reports of violence and tampering of election results, culminating in the walkout of 30 COMELEC computer technicians to protest the deliberate manipulation of the official election results to favor Ferdinand Marcos. The walkout was considered one of the early "sparks" of the People Power Revolution. The walkout also served as an affirmation to allegations of vote-buying, fraud, and tampering of election results by the KBL.
Because of reports of alleged fraud, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through Cardinal Ricardo Vidal issued a statement condemning the elections.The United States Senate also passed a resolution stating the same condemnation. US president Ronald Reagan issued a statement calling the fraud reports as "disturbing" but he said that there was fraud "on both sides" of the Philippine election. In response to the protests, COMELEC claimed that Marcos with 53 percent won over Aquino. However, NAMFREL countered that the latter won over Marcos with 52 percent of votes.
On February 15, Marcos was proclaimed by COMELEC and Batasang Pambansa as the winner amidst the controversy. All 50 opposition members of the Parliament walked out in protest. The Filipino people repudiated the results, asserting that Aquino was the real victor. Both "winners" took their oath of office in two different places, with Aquino gaining greater mass support. Aquino also called for coordinated strikes and mass boycott of the media and businesses owned by Marcos' cronies. As a result, the crony banks, corporations, and media were hit hard, and their shares in the stock market plummeted to record levels.
Cardinal Vidal, after the result of the snap election, issued a declaration in lieu of the Philippine Church hierarchy stating that when "a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so." The declaration also asked "every loyal member of the Church, every community of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls" and told all the Filipinos, "Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people; on what they are willing and ready to do."
On February 16, 1986, Corazon Aquino held the "Tagumpay ng Bayan" (People's Victory) rally at Luneta Park, announcing a civil disobedience campaign and calling for her supporters to boycott publications and companies which were associated with Marcos or any of his cronies. The event was attended by a crowd of about two million people. Aquino's camp began making preparations for more rallies, and Aquino herself went to Cebu to rally more people to their cause.
Appalled by the bold and apparent election irregularities, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement set into motion a coup attempt against Marcos. The initial plan was for a team to assault Malacañan Palace and arrest Ferdinand Marcos. Other military units would take over key strategic facilities, such as the airport, military bases, the GHQAFP in Camp Aguinaldo, and major highway junctions to restrict counteroffensive by Marcos-loyal troops.
However, after Marcos learned about the plot, he ordered their leaders' arrest, and presented to the international and local press some of the captured plotters, Maj. Saulito Aromin and Maj. Edgardo Doromal.
Threatened with their impending imprisonment, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his fellow coup plotters decided to ask for help from then-AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Fidel Ramos, who was also the chief of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police). Ramos agreed to resign from his position and support the plotters. Enrile also contacted the highly influential Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Jaime Sin for his support.
At about 6:30 p.m. on February 22, Enrile and Ramos held a press conference at the Ministry of National Defense building in Camp Aguinaldo, where they announced that they had resigned from their positions in Marcos' cabinet and were withdrawing support from his government. Marcos himself later conducted a news conference calling on Enrile and Ramos to surrender, urging them to "stop this stupidity".
After Cardinal Vidal's condemnation of the snap election's fraudulent result, a message was aired over Radio Veritas at around 9 p.m., Cardinal Sin exhorted Filipinos in the capital to aid rebel leaders by going to the section of EDSA between Camp Crame and Aguinaldo and giving emotional support, food and other supplies. For many, this seemed an unwise decision since civilians would not stand a chance against a dispersal by government troops. Many people, especially priests and nuns, still trooped to EDSA.
My Dear People, I wish you to pray, because it's only through prayer that we may solve this problem. This is Cardinal Sin speaking to the people, especially in Metro Manila. I am indeed concerned about the situation of Minister Enrile and General Ramos, I am calling our people to support our two good friends at the camp. If any of you could be around at Camp Aguinaldo to show your solidarity and your support in this very crucial period, when our two good friends have shown their idealism, I would be very happy if you support them now. I would only wish that violence and bloodshed be avoided. Let us pray to our blessed lady to help us in order that we can solve this problem peacefully
Radio Veritas played a critical role during the mass uprising. Former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo stated that: "Without Radio Veritas, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize millions of people in a matter of hours." Similarly, a certain account in the event said that: "Radio Veritas, in fact, was our umbilical cord to whatever else was going on."
At dawn, Sunday, government troops arrived to knock down the main 50-kilowatt transmitter of Radio Veritas, cutting off broadcasts to people in the provinces. The station switched to a 10-kilowatt standby transmitter with a limited range of broadcast. The station was targeted because it had proven to be a valuable communications tool for the people supporting the rebels, keeping them informed of government troop movements and relaying requests for food, medicine, and supplies.
Still, people came to EDSA until it swelled to hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians. The mood in the street was very festive, with many bringing whole families. Performers entertained the crowds, nuns and priests led prayer vigils, and people set up barricades and makeshift sandbags, trees, and vehicles in several places along EDSA and intersecting streets such as Santolan and Ortigas Avenue. Everywhere, people listened to Radio Veritas on their radios. A photo taken by Pete Reyes of Srs. Porferia Ocariza and Teresita Burias leading the rosary in front of soldiers has since become an iconic picture of the revolution. Several groups sang Bayan Ko (My Homeland), which, since 1980, had become a patriotic anthem of the opposition. People frequently flashed the 'LABAN' sign, which is an "L" formed with their thumb and index finger. 'laban' is the Filipino word for 'fight', but also the abbreviation of Lakas ng Bayan, Ninoy Aquino's party.
In the mid-afternoon, Radio Veritas relayed reports of Marines massing near the camps in the east and LVT-5 tanks approaching from the north and south. A contingent of Marines with tanks and armored vans, led by Brigadier General Artemio Tadiar, was stopped along Ortigas Avenue, about two kilometers from the camps, by tens of thousands of people. Nuns holding rosaries knelt in front of the tanks and men and women linked arms together to block the troops. Tadiar asked the crowds to make a clearing for them, but they did not budge. In the end, the troops retreated with no shots fired.
By evening, the standby transmitter of Radio Veritas failed. Shortly after midnight, the staff was able to go to another station to begin broadcasting from a secret location under the moniker "Radyo Bandido" (Outlaw Radio, which is now known as DZRJ-AM). June Keithley, with her husband Angelo Castro, Jr., was the radio broadcaster who continued Radio Veritas' program throughout the night and in the remaining days.
At dawn on Monday, February 24, the first serious encounter with government troops occurred. Marines marching from Libis, in the east, lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators, who quickly dispersed. Some 3,000 Marines then entered and held the east side of Camp Aguinaldo.
Later, helicopters manned by the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force, led by Colonel Antonio Sotelo, were ordered from Sangley Point in Cavite (South of Manila) to head to Camp Crame. Secretly, the squadron had already defected and instead of attacking Camp Crame, landed in it, with the crowds cheering and hugging the pilots and crew members.
A Bell 214 helicopter piloted by Major Deo Cruz of the 205th Helicopter Wing and Sikorsky S-76 gunships piloted by Colonel Charles Hotchkiss of the 20th Air Commando Squadron joined the rebel squadron earlier in the air. The presence of the helicopters boosted the morale of Enrile and Ramos who had been continually encouraging their fellow soldiers to join the opposition movement. In the afternoon, Aquino arrived at the base where Enrile, Ramos, Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) officers, and a throng were waiting.
At around that time, June Keithley received reports that Marcos had left Malacañang Palace and broadcast this to the people at EDSA. The crowd celebrated and even Ramos and Enrile came out from Crame to appear to the crowds. The jubilation was however short-lived as Marcos later appeared on television on the government-controlled MBS-4, (using the foreclosed ABS-CBN facilities, transmitter and compound in Broadcast Plaza, now ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center) declaring that he would not step down. It was thereafter speculated that the false report was a calculated move against Marcos to encourage more defections.
During this broadcast, MBS-4 suddenly went off the air. A contingent of rebels, under Colonel Mariano Santiago, had captured the station. MBS-4 was put back on the air shortly after noon, with Orly Punzalan announcing on live television, "Channel 4 is on the air again to serve the people." By this time, the crowds at EDSA had grown to over a million. (Some estimates placed them at two million.)
On September 14, 1986, this broadcast was considered the "return" of ABS-CBN on air because this was the time when former employees of the network were inside the complex on after 14 years of closure since Marcos took it over during the Martial Law of 1972. "Radyo Bandido" ended broadcasting that afternoon, while Radio Veritas resumed transmissions, this time from the Broadcast Plaza's radio studios.
In the late afternoon, rebel helicopters attacked Villamor Airbase, destroying presidential air assets. Another helicopter went to Malacañang, fired a rocket, and caused minor damage. Later, most of the officers who had graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) defected. The majority of the Armed Forces had already changed sides.
Prior dialogues to stop the revolution had not succeeded with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was led by General Fabian Ver. AFP was ready to mount an airstrike on the day but Marcos ordered them to halt.
The actual dialogue on TV between Marcos and then AFP Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver went as follows:
Fabian Ver: The Ambush there is aiming to mount there in the top. Very quickly, you must immediately leave to conquer them, immediately, Mr. President.
Ferdinand Marcos: Just wait, come here.
Ver: Please, Your Honor, so we can immediately strike them. We have to immobilize the helicopters that they've got. We have two fighter planes flying now to strike at any time, sir.
Marcos: My order is not to attack. No, no, no! Hold on. My order is not to attack.
Ver: They are massing civilians near our troops and we cannot keep on withdrawing. You asked me to withdraw yesterday-
Marcos (interrupting): Uh yes, but ah... My order is to disperse without shooting them.
Ver: We cannot withdraw all the time...
Marcos: No! No! No! Hold on! You disperse the crowd without shooting them.
On the morning of Tuesday, February 25, at around 7 a.m., a minor clash occurred between loyal government troops and the reformists. Snipers stationed atop the crony-owned RPN-9 transmitter in Panay Avenue, near MBS-4, began shooting at the reformists. Many rebel soldiers surged to the station, and a rebel S-76 helicopter later shot the snipers at the broadcast tower. The troops later left after a V-150 was blocked by the crowd assembled.
Later in the morning, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as President of the Philippines in a simple ceremony at Club Filipino in Greenhills, about a kilometer from Camp Crame. She was sworn in as president by Senior Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee, and Laurel as vice-president by Justice Vicente Abad Santos. The Bible on which Aquino swore her oath was held by her mother-in-law Aurora Aquino, the mother of Ninoy Aquino. Attending the ceremonies were Ramos, who was then promoted to General, Enrile, and many politicians.
Outside Club Filipino, all the way to EDSA, hundreds of people cheered and celebrated. Bayan Ko (My Country, a popular folk song and the unofficial National Anthem of protest) was sung after Aquino's oath-taking. Many people wore yellow, the color of Aquino's presidential campaign.
An hour later, Marcos held the inauguration at Malacañang Palace. Loyalist civilians attended the ceremony, shouting "Marcos, Marcos, Marcos pa rin! (Marcos, Marcos, still Marcos!)". On the Palace balcony, Marcos took the Oath of Office, aired on IBC-13 and RPN-9 (RPN-9 was going off-the-air during the broadcast of the inauguration, as its transmitter was captured by reformist soldiers). None of the invited foreign dignitaries attended the ceremony, for security reasons. The couple finally emerged on the balcony of the Palace before 3,000 KBL loyalists who were shouting, "Capture the snakes!" Rather tearfully, First Lady Imelda Marcos gave a farewell rendition of the couple's theme song - the 1938 kundiman "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You) - chanting the song's entreaties in Tagalog:
Because of you, I became happy
Loving I shall offer you
If it is true I shall be enslaved by you
All of this because of you.
The broadcast of the event was interrupted as rebel troops successfully captured the other stations.
By this time, hundreds of people had amassed at the barricades along Mendiola, only a hundred meters away from Malacañang. They were prevented from storming the Palace by loyal government troops securing the area. The angry demonstrators were pacified by priests who warned them not to be violent.
Despite holding an inauguration, Marcos and his family were already preparing to flee the country. At 5:00 a.m. on the Tuesday morning, Marcos phoned United States Senator Paul Laxalt, asking for advice from the White House. Laxalt advised him to "cut and cut clean", to which Marcos expressed his disappointment after a short pause. In the afternoon, Marcos talked to Minister Enrile, asking for safe passage for him, his family, and close allies such as General Ver.
Around midnight, the Marcos family boarded a United States Air Force HH-3E Rescue helicopter and flew to Clark Air Base in Angeles City 83 kilometers north of Manila. At Clark Air Base, Marcos asked to spend a couple of days with his family in Ilocos Norte, his native province. Aquino vetoed the request. President Reagan privately derided Cory Aquino for denying Marcos a last look at his home province.
The deposed First Family and their servants then rode US Air Force DC-9 Medivac and C-141B planes to Andersen Air Force Base in the north of the United States territory of Guam, then flying to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where Marcos finally arrived on February 26. The United States Government documented that they entered the United States with millions of dollars in jewelry, gold, stocks, and cash.
When news of the Marcos family's departure reached civilians, many rejoiced and danced in the streets. Over at Mendiola, the demonstrators stormed the Palace, which was closed to ordinary people for around a decade. Despite looting by some angry protesters, the majority wandered about inside through rooms where national history was shaped, looking at objects extravagant and mundane that the Marcos clan and its court had abandoned in their flight.
In other countries, people also rejoiced and congratulated Filipinos they knew. CBS anchorman Bob Simon reported: "We Americans like to think we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well, tonight they are teaching the world."
Immediately after her accession, Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3, a provisional constitution which established a revolutionary government. The edict promulgated the 1986 Freedom Constitution, which retained or superseded various provisions of the 1973 Constitution that were in force up to that point. This allowed Aquino to wield both executive and legislative powers; among her first acts was to unilaterally abolish the Batasang Pambansa (the unicameral legislature duly elected in 1984), pending a plebiscite for a more permanent Constitution and the establishment of a new Congress by 1987.
Despite the return of democracy, President Aquino faced coup d'état attempts by RAM members or Marcos loyalists.
The revolution had an effect on democratization movements in such countries as Taiwan and South Korea; other effects include the restoration of the freedom of the press, abolition of repressive laws enforced by the previous regime, the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, and the subordination of the military to civilian rule, despite several coup attempts during Aquino's rule.
The revolution provided for the restoration of democratic institutions after 13 years of totalitarian rule and these institutions has been used by various groups to challenge the entrenched political families and to strengthen Philippine democracy.
The People Power Revolution has inspired a call for a change of government through peaceful protests rather than bloodshed. Many similar revolutions have followed since then, taking the Philippine example of nonviolent regime change, such as that in East Germany and many other former Soviet Bloc countries.
In 2003, the Radio Broadcast of the Philippine People Power Revolution was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, the official documentary heritage list of the United Nations' educational and scientific body.
In spite of the revolution's repudiation of Marcos' dictatorial regime, the Marcos family slowly regained a political presence in the Philippines, with Imelda and her children Bongbong and Imee reacquiring positions in government by the 1990s. Bongbong himself was narrowly defeated by Leni Robredo as candidate for the Philippine vice presidency during the 2016 presidential elections.
She (Imelda) did not tell the crowd by that time all but a few thousand soldiers and officers, mostly those in the presidential guard, had by then turn against Marcos to join Mrs. Aquino's "people power" revolution
But in the decades since Marcos was ousted and fled the country, the outrage has faded for many Filipinos. Despite the accusations of widespread corruption and human rights violations, none of the Marcos family members have been jailed. The family has quietly returned to politics -- Mrs. Marcos is a now member of Congress, while her daughter Imee Marcos is a governor.