Twenty-six years ago, the Filipino people made history when the mounted a very powerful revolution that impacted the rest of the world. The People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolution which took place in February of 1986, marked a historical five long days of courage displayed by the Filipinos leading prayerful demonstrations in their plead for truth, justice, and liberty (Celoza 125; Boudreau 64). This event inspired the world in a manner that will never be forgotten. The Filipinos gave new meaning to the term revolution.
The bloodless demonstration at EDSA in 1986 is one that is done the Filipino way. The Filipino people versus the Marcos Administration The revolution was a peaceful demonstration of united Filipinos led by Corazon Aquino, wife of slain Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. , the murdered chief political rival of the then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (Abinales 80). As a result of the revolution, Marcos was overthrown and Aquino then assumed the presidential position. It also reawakened democracy in the country and called to mind a sense of unity and patriotism in the Philippines.
Beginning on the 21st day of February 1986 and lasting for five days, millions of people assembled along the intersection of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA and Ortigas Avenue in Manila to bring down the 20 year dictatorship of Marcos, who remained in power under the martial law (Kang 32; Celoza 133). It was viewed by many foreigners as a historic achievement. However, for the Filipino people, the essence of the revolution is their coming loose from centuries of shameful past. For them, it is their triumphant resistance against several years of oppression and colonial rule.
The event was able to assemble church and communist leaders, the rich and the poor, people never before seen together fighting for a common purpose. The cause brought them together in the spirit of national unity. They all came to the streets putting their lives at stake for a purpose. A sequence of events including the declaration of martial law as well as the assassination of Marcos’ chief political rival triggered the start of a revolution. However, it took a discovery of a fraudulent Presidential Elections of 1986 for the demonstration to reach its momentum (Celoza 135).
The assumption of the presidential position by Corazon Aquino and the escape of Marcos’ to the United States were the events which culminated the five-day historical journey of the Filipino people (Boudreau 65). The peaceful revolt gained for the Filipinos the prevention of violence exploding between the separated armed forces of the country. Also, the demonstration of the people was able to bring about the end of dictatorial government as Marcos conceded to Aquino. The People Power Monument as well as the Shrine at EDSA was constructed in commemoration to this period in Philippine history (Celoza 133).
The Main Players of the Bloodless Revolution Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. who is more popularly known as Ninoy moved from the ranks of a governor to a senator. During the political regime of Marcos, Ninoy was detained, sentenced to death, and brought to exile. In 1961, Ninoy was elected as the governor of Tarlac (Abinales 40). In 1966, he was named as the secretary-general of the Liberal Party. The following year, he was elected senator. He became a leading opposition politician of the Marcos administration. At the time of the declaration of martial law in 1972, he was incarcerated for charges of rebellion and murder.
Ninoy was sentenced to death in 1977. His death sentence was commuted to exile allowing him to seek medical treatment in the United States. Upon his return home from exile, Ninoy was assassinated at the Manila International Airport on the 21st day of August 1983. Following his death, the opposition turned its focus on his widow, Corazon Aquino. Mrs. Aquino rightfully winning the elections of 1986 replaced Marcos as the President of the Republic of the Philippines (Champan 26; Celoza 5). Corazon Aquino blamed the Marcos administration for the assassination of her husband (Celoza 24).
One civilian, 24 military men, and the Armed Forces Chief of Staff were tried before the court for the murder of Ninoy (Celoza 24). In December of 1985, the court found the accused men not guilt beyond reasonable doubt notwithstanding the evidences gathered by the commission. The acquittal triggered strong protests against the Marcos administration. Marcos called for a presidential election in November of 1985 (Kang 145). Ninoy’s widow became his main election opponent seeking to bring his dictatorship to its end. Ferdinand E.
Marcos assumed the seat of the President from the then incumbent president Diosdado Macapagal after winning the election in 1965 (Celoza 39). On 1969, he again won the presidential elections this time beating Sergio Osmena, Jr. , a Liberal Party senator. Marcos remained in power until 1986 by means of doing a series of modifications to the Constitution (Celoza 73). During his presidency, he restricted the freedom of the people. Because of growing unrest in the Philippines at that time, Marcos established the martial law in 1972 (Celoza 39).
He ruled chiefly by decree. He restricted activities of political parties, labor unions, and other organizations that went up against his administration (Kang 32). In 1973, Marcos declared that had approved a new Constitution for the republic (Celoza 39). As stated in the aforementioned constitution, Marcos hold the power as both the prime minister and president for an indefinite term. Marcos ended the martial law in January of 1981. He was reelected to the office of the president in June of the same year.
A new prime minister was appointed (Celoza 95). Corazon Aquino dissolved the National Assembly which served as the legislature of the Marcos government. The National Assembly at that time has been dominated by supporters of Marcos (Kang 199). In May of 1987, a new legislature called Congress was elected. Aquino is acknowledged to be the voice of the bloodless revolution of 1986 (Abinales 80). Juan Ponce Enrile was the Minister of Defense during the Marcos regime (Celoza 95). He was an illegitimate child who grew up in poor living conditions.
He then became a fearless fighter of the guerilla movement at the time of the Second World War. Enrile was able to rise in the ranks of the Philippine military forces as a young soldier. He withdrew his support to Marcos administration to unite with the revolutionary forces following the death of Ninoy. Together with Fidel Ramos, they were able to offer military support to the people at EDSA who were fighting to end the Marcos dictatorship (Abinales 104). Lt. General Fidel Ramos served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during Marcos’ administration (Celoza 95).
At that time, the Philippine Constabulary which is the present day Philippine National Police also had Ramos as its head. However, he ultimately receded to side with the rest of the Filipino people pleading for democracy. In 1992, former president Aquino supported Ramos who was then vying for the presidential slot in government (Abinales 77). Thereafter, he succeeded Mrs. Aquino as President of the republic. The assigned chief security office of Enrile at the time of the revolution is Gregorio Honasan (Celoza 95).
His display of courage and bravery during the demonstration proved him worthy of the numerous medals he received (Kang 197). Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin was instrumental to the success of the revolution. As one of the most influential figures of the Catholic Church, he was able to cause a complete reversal of the circumstances to the favor of the demonstrators at EDSA with the faith that God sides with them (Chapman 287). Sin’s voice united the predominantly Catholic Filipinos to become a force which can overthrow the long-standing dictatorship of Marcos. The Events that led to the Historic Bloodless Revolution
When Ramos and Enrile, the key military men through whom Marcos put into effect his power, announced through a press conference that they are withdrawing their support to the administration. The two laid the blame on the then President Marcos for cheating during the snap elections (Chapman 281). This event which happened on the 22nd day of February 1986 signaled the beginning of a revolution (Chapman 248). Afterwards, the two barricaded themselves at separate military camps, both facing EDSA. One stayed at Camp Aguinaldo and the other at Camp Crame (Abinales 120).
Although the size of their troops were relatively smaller, Enrile and Ramos guarding Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame, respectively were all set for the possible attacks by the troops of then Armed Forces Chieff of Staff Fabian Ver, who remained loyal to the Marcos administration (Celoza 39). In about an hour, the Radio Veritas aired the message of Cardinal Sin appealing to the public to march towards EDSA to come to the aid of Ramos and Enrile (Celoza 40). Sin asked the people to offer their emotional support to the rebelling soldiers and likewise bring food and other things that might be of help.
Several people, religious and laity alike heeded the call of the cardinal as they marched in troops towards EDSA. The radio station was the only one which was not under governmental control at that time (Celoza 40). More and more people marched towards EDSA until they grew in number. There are those who claim that prayers are the only ones they carry with them (Nadeau 6). Others brought with them a statue of the Virgin Mary. More than a few came with their families in tow. The mood at that time was quite festive. After all, the Filipinos can really manage to have a good time in the face of serious challenges.
Performers came to entertain the crowd. Representatives of the Catholic Church led the public in prayer vigils. There were also human barricades along ESDA as well as in other intersecting streets (Chapman 169). On the 23rd day of February 1986, the rebelled military men decided to unite their forces (Celoza 133). The two marched along ESDA along with the cheers of the people. A few hours later, Radio Veritas reported that Marines piling in close to the camps in the east. Furthermore, it informed the public about tanks coming in from both south and north directions.
The human barricade with people linking their arms together and nuns with their rosaries kneeling in front of the tanks were able to block the Marine troops along Ortigas Avenue. Ultimately, without a shot being heard, the Marine troops retreated (Chapman 169). At the same time, reports have been gathered that Marcos has already left the palace at Malacanang (Kang 151). Radio Veritas relayed such reports to the delight of the crowd at EDSA. However, the jubilation was cut short as Channel 4 aired on television Marcos’ announcement that he will not step down from office.
The television station suddenly went off air following Marcos’ announcement. It turned out that the government-controlled television station was taken over by reformist soldiers. The number of demonstrators at EDSA amounted to over a million by this time (Kang 26). A minor clash involving reformist soldier and members of the armed forces who remained loyal to the Marcos administration took place on the 25th day of February 1986 (Celoza 125). Snipers have been positioned atop Channel 9, a television stations owned by the government.
They have been shooting down at reformist soldiers. Subsequently, rebel soldiers rushed to scene. The aforementioned event has been followed a little later by the inauguration of Ninoy’s widow, Cory Aquino as the rightful President of the republic. The inauguration was held at Club Filipino in San Juan, Greenhills which is approximately one kilometer away from Camp Crame. From the venue until EDSA millions of Filipinos cheered and rejoiced. The following hour, another inauguration was held at Malacanang (Kang 151). This time it was for Marcos.
He took his oath of office as the remaining television channels under the control of the government aired his self-conducted ceremony. There were no foreign dignitaries that were invited who came (Chapman 25). At that point, a human barricade has been formed on the street of Mendiola near Malacanang (Celoza 133). Government troops around the area prevented the crowd from raiding the palace. The infuriated masses were appeased by priests warning them not to be violent (Celoza 133). Soon after, Marcos sought the U. S. government for advice (Chapman 24).
He was told to step down from office. He asked Enrile to secure for him and his family a safe passage. Ultimately, American helicopters airlifte the Maroces to Pampanga and then to Guam until they reached Hawaii (Chapman 21). The moment the Filipino people present at EDSA learned that the Marcoses had fled, they danced in celebration of their success (Celoza 125). The crowd who assembled at Mendiola was able to enter Malacanang by this time. They entered the palace where Marcos planned and enforced decisions that changed and manipulated their lives for two decades (Chapman 18).
The rest of the world celebrated and commended the Filipinos for their successful feat. People around the world looked up to them in admiration and inspiration. The protests and instability brought about by political restrictions of the Marcos administration and worsening financial conditions drove him to conduct a presidential election which took place in February of 1986 (Kang 145). Corazon Aquino was his main election opponent. The National Assembly declared Marcos as the winner. He was then accused of election fraud.
Many Filipinos even believed that he abused his political position to augment his finances as well as those of his supporters (Celoza 73). When Aquino was ultimately declared at the rightful president, she promised the Filipinos more democracy may be expected from her government (Kang 151). She also promised to eliminate government corruption. A new committee has been appointed to draft a new constitution for the republic. In a special election held on February of 1987, Aquino was elected President of the Philippines serving office until 1992 (Kang 151). The Possibility of a Bloodless Revolution
How millions of Filipino people were able to bring down a 20-year dictatorial government though a bloodless revolution has been the topic of countless debates. There are those who credit the success of the revolution to the Filipino character (Nadeau 75). Others still, assert that the people’s unwavering presence during the rallies, particularly the ones held at Mendiola was the motivating force behind the success of the historical event. For some Americans however, they believe that the success of the revolution was brought about by the negotiations involving the United States Government and Marcos.
Others attribute the success of the revolution to the involvement of the Catholic Church. There are those who stressed that the support given to military leaders who turned sides was instrumental to the success of the revolution (Nadeau 75). The People Power Movement of 1986 was truly quite an unparalleled event in not just in Philippine history but that of the rest of the world. Perhaps, it was the first time that civilians rescued the military men, who were instrumental in bringing terror and oppression to the people of the country they hold dear. Works Cited Abinales, P. N.
The Revolution Falters: The Left in Philippine Politics After 1986. New York: SEAP Publications, 1996. Celoza, A. F. Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. Chapman, W. Inside the Philippine Revolution: The New People’s Army and Its Struggle for Power. London: I. B. Tauris, 1988. Kang, D. C. Crony capitalism: Corruption and development in South Korea and the Philippines. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Nadeau, K. M. Liberation theology in the Philippines: faith in a revolution. California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.