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From the Archives: People Power prevails, Marcos ousted

Once the news of former President Marcos’ “real” departure hit the streets on the evening of February 25, people started singing, switching their radio channels from DWIM/DZRH to their favorite swing stations, and literally danced in the streets. 

At last, the 20-year oppressive reign of Marcos finally ended after what newsmen termed as one of the least bloody revolutions to take place in world history. The triumph of “people power” proved to the whole world that we could effect dramatic changes in our country without resorting to armed violence. 

Things were not actually the same after the country’s controversial snap election last February 7. Most of us were afraid to face the fraud and violence that we knew would happen in the first place. Even before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) tabulation began, we knew Marcos would be proclaimed the victor, which would eventually trigger protests and mass action. 

On February 15, Marcos and his running mate Arturo Tolentino were declared as the winners of the snap election with the former having an edge of 1.5 million votes over opponent Corazon Aquino amid the dispute with the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) count. 

Right after the proclamation, Aquino called for a “non-violent civil disobedience” program, boycotting so-called “crony” establishments, which culminated with a Welgang Bayan,  a one day work stoppage, slated a day after Marcos’ inauguration.

While there were reports of fraud, cheating, and violence from both political camps, no doubt the KBL party had the bigger edge. But these complaints did not bother Marcos even after United States (US) President Ronald Reagan himself denounced the election. 

Pressure came from almost everywhere as protest actions were launched within the country and continuing US intervention mounted. 

The final coup de grace came on February 22 when Defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos resigned from their positions, holed themselves up in Camp Aguinaldo and asked for Marcos’ resignation. 

In a press conference attended by both local and foreign media, both Enrile and Ramos said they believed that orders for their arrest were issued by Marcos.

Marcos, on his part, denied having ordered their arrests. But in a press conference held later. Marcos claimed that both men were involved in a plot to overthrow him. Confessions from other military officers supposedly involved in the plan, on the other hand, erased the links of Enrile and Ramos to the failed coup d’etat.

After overcoming their initial shock, opposition members called to Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame calling for support from the people. Response was quick; by 11 pm, both lanes of the EDSA from Boni Serrano Ave. to Ortigas Ave. were crowded with people from all walks of life. By February 25, the crowd swelled to about a million reaching as far back as Cubao and Guadalupe.

Barricades were also set up around MBS Channel 4 since Sunday in an effort to dismantle the station’s pro-Marcos stance and air the “first free broadcast”. It was finally captured on Monday as loyalist troops surrendered to the people’s will with minimal bloodshed.

Sunday also suddenly perked up when Enrile and Ramos came out of their offices and announced Marcos’ departure. Jubilation was short lived because soon after, Marcos appeared on TV triggering comments that the whole telecast was pre-taped or the voice aired was actually Willie Nepomuceno’s.

After declaring a national state of emergency and dusk to dawn curfew the next day, Marcos proceeded with his inauguration at the Malacañan Palace on February 25. While a lot of loyalists attended the affair, conspicuously absent were Prime Minister Cesar Virata and Vice President-elect Arturo Tolentino. The event took place at noon, barely three hours after Corazon Aquino had her own inauguration at the Club Filipino. 

In the middle of the affair, the telecast over channels 2, 9, and 13 were cut off the air. Reformist troopers had taken over the transmitter near Quezon Blvd. amid the bullets raining from snipers’ guns. 

Palace insiders said that the inauguration proceeded quickly with Marcos shedding a tear or two after his speech. 

All this time, Marcos had been in touch with Raegan. Already, Reagan hinted that aid to the Philippines would be cut off unless Marcos pulled out and turned over the government to Aquino peacefully.

While both men denied it, Palace sources confirmed that Enrile and Marcos kept communication lines open. A few hours before Marcos left, both men were again on their phones. Enrile was reported to have said “I salute you. You could have [attacked us] but you chose [not to shed any more blood].”

Marcos finally decided to leave after the US pulled the rug out from under him. Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt, who Marcos talked with before making his decision, reportedly told Marcos to “cut [quit] and cut clearly, the time has come.” To which Marcos replied, “I’m very disappointed.” 

Marcos and his family left the palace at 9:05 pm on Tuesday night aboard a helicopter. They landed at Clark Air Base where two US transport jets waited for them. The first family flew off along with relatives and close associates, which included Gen. Fabian Ver, and is believed to be headed to the US to seek political asylum. 

Malacañan Palace suffered greatly after people manning the barricades in the vicinity were believed to have looted the place. M-16 rifles were also taken from the Presidential Security Command armory reportedly by Communist Party of the Philippines and National People’s Army sympathizers.

A day after, Metro Manila went back to normal, offices once again opened, banks resumed activity, and streets were cleared of barricades. Metro Aides returned to their jobs of cleaning the now messy streets, littered with the refuse of the people who joined the vigils.

President Corazon Aquino appointed her cabinet ministers and also created two presidential commissions.

Vice President Salvador Laurel, prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs; Juan Ponce Enrile, Defense; Gen. Fidel Ramos, New Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, Neptali Gonzales, Justice; Jaime Ongpin, Finance; Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing, Education; Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Local Government; Rogaciano Mercado, Public Works and Highways; Jose Concepcion, Trade and Industry; Ramon Mitra, Agriculture and Food; Jose Antonio Gonzales, Tourism; Ernesto Maceda, Natural Resources, Alberto Romulo, Budget. Jovito Salonga, Presidential Commision on Government Reorganization, Joker Aroyo, executive secretary; Rene Saguisag ,presidential spokesman; Teodoro Locsin Jr., Information; and Jose B. Fernandez, Central Bank governor.

Already, several foreign governments are recognizing Aquino’s administration. Among these are the US, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, China, and Soviet Union.

By Ma. Stella Arnaldo

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