1986: People Power Prevails, Marcos Ousted

Once the news of the former President Marcos’ ‘real’ departure hit the streets in the evening of Feb. 25, people started singing, switched 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 (not to mention the NPA rebels) that we could effect dramatic changes in our country without resulting to armed violence.

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


The day before He left; reinforcements on the way to his side / by Amelle Advincula
The day before He left; reinforcements on the way to his side. / by Amelle Advincula


On Feb. 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 (COMELEC count) over opponent Corazon Aquino amid the dispute with the NAMFREL count.

Right after the proclamation, Aquino called for a “non-violent civil disobedience” program, boycotting so called ‘crony’ establishments which was to have 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 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 Feb. 22 when Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos resigned from their positions, holed themselves up in Camp Aguinaldo and asked for Marcos’ resignation.


People crowding Malacanang gates / by Stella Arnaldo
People crowding Malacañang gates / by Stella Arnaldo


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’état.

After overcoming their initial shock, opposition members rallied to Camps Aguinaldo and Crame calling for support from the people. Response was quick; by 11:00 pm, both lanes of the EDSA from Boni Serrano Ave. to Ortigas Ave. were crowded with people from all walks of life. By Feb. 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 peoples will with minimal blood-shed.

Sunday also suddenly perked up when Enrile and Ramos came out 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 Nepumucceno’s.

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


Reformist keeps watch at Crame. / by Amella Advincula
Reformist keeps watch at Crame. / by Amelle Advincula


In the middle of the affair, the telecast over Channels 2, 9, 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 Pres. Reagan. 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 Senator 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.”


Are they on our side or...? / by Joel Espinas
Are they on our side or…? / by Joel Espinas


Marcos and his family left the palace at 9:05 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 are believed to be headed to the US to seek political asylum.

Malacanang 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 CPP and NPA 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.


The people's ethusiasm even in the darkest night. / by Joel Espinas
The people’s enthusiasm even in the darkest night. / by Joel Espinas


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

Vice President Salvador Laurel, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, MP Juan Ponce Enrile, defense; General Fidel Ramos, New Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff; MP Nepatli Gonzales, justice; Jaime Ongpin, finance; Dr. Lourdes Quisubming, education; MP Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., local government; MP Rogaciano Mercado, public works and highways; Jose Concepcion, trade and industry; MP Ramon Mitra, agriculture and food; Jose Antonio Gonzales, tourism; Ex-Sen. Ernesto Maceda, natural resources; MP Alberto Romulo, budget; Ex Sen. Jovito Salonga, Presidential Commission on Good Government; MP Luis Villafuerte, Presidential Commission on Government Re-organization; Joker Aroyo, Executive Secretary; Rene Saguisag, Presidential Spokesman; Teodoro Locsin Jr., information; and Jose B. Fernandez, Central Bank Governor. (Daily Express, Feb. 27. 1986)

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.

This article, written by Ma. Stella Arnaldo, was originally published in The LaSallian’s March 6, 1986 issue.

By The LaSallian

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