The People Power Revolution
(also known as the EDSA Revolution
and the Philippine Revolution of 1986
) was a series of nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations in the Philippines that occurred in 1986. It is sometimes referred to as the Yellow Revolution
due to the presence of yellow ribbons during the arrival of Ninoy Aquino
. These protests were the culmination of a long resistance by the people against the 20-year running authoritarian
regime of then current president Ferdinand Marcos
and made news headlines as "the revolution that surprised the world". The majority of the demonstrations took place at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue
, known more commonly by its acronym EDSA
, in Quezon City
, Metropolitan Manila
and involved over 200,000 Filipino civilians as well as several political, military, and religious figures, such as Jaime Cardinal Sin
. The protests, fueled by a resistance and opposition of years of corrupt governance by Marcos, occurred from February 22 to 25 in 1986, when Marcos fled Malacañang Palace
to the United States and conceded to Corazon Aquino
as President of the Philippines. Commemorative statue of the Revolution at Camp Aguinaldo Background and History The Marcos regime
Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in 1965, defeating incumbent Diosdado Macapagal
by a very slim margin. During this time, Marcos was active in the initiation of public works projects and the intensification of tax collections, which brought the country into economic prosperity throughout the late 1960s. Marcos and his government claimed that they "built more roads than all his predecessors combined, and more schools than any previous administration. Amidst charges of vote buying and a fraudulent election, Marcos was reelected in 1969, this time defeating Sergio Osmeña Jr.
Marcos's second term for the presidency, however, was marred by allegations of widespread graft and corruption. The increasing disparity of wealth between the very wealthy and the very poor which made up the majority of the country's population led to the rise of crime and civil unrest around the country. These factors, including the formation of the New People's Army, an armed revolt that called for the redistribution of wealth and land reform in the Philippines, and a bloody muslim separatist movement in the southern island of Mindanao led by the Moro National Liberation Front, contributed to the rapid rise of civil discontent and unrest in the Philippines.
Marcos was barred from running for a third term as president in 1973, so on September 21, 1972, by virtue of a presidential proclamation (No. 1081), he declared martial law, citing rising civil disobedience as justification. Through this decree, Marcos seized emergency powers giving him full control of the Philippine military and the authority to suppress the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and many other civil liberties. Marcos also dissolved the Philippine Congress and shut down media establishments critical of the Marcos government. 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.
, the staunchest of his critics and the man who was groomed by the opposition to beat Marcos in the 1973 elections. Marcos would also abolish the Philippines' 1935 constitution and replace it with a parliamentary-style government (the Batasang Pambansa) along with a new constitution written by him. With practically all of his political opponents arrested and in exile, Marcos' pre-emptive declaration of martial law in 1972, and the ratification of his new constitution through political coercion, enabled him to effectively legitimize his government and hold on to power for another 14 years beyond his first two terms as president. At a period when the cold war still a political reality, Marcos's dictatorship ensured the political support of the United States by 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. Pres. Ferdinand Marcos
Throughout his presidency, Ferdinand Marcos
had set up a regime in the Philippines that would give him ultimate power over the military and the national treasury, as well as set up a personality cult
. Following his declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972, Marcos immediately began to embezzle money from the government and order the military to kill any political competition against him. As a result, the Philippine economy began to tumble greatly, and the nation lost its competitive edge in Southeast Asia. He also ordered many stores, hotels, schools, universities, and other public places to place his Presidential picture prominently or otherwise their facilities were shut down. The media frequently "eulogizes" Marcos through public service announcements and news reports. Even billboard advertisements across the country were replaced with his propoganda messages on justifying his regime's actions. Marcos also ordered the shutdown and takeovers of businesses in the country, then put these businesses either under the government control, or under the control of Marcos cronies.
Several groups of people, however, even within the government, conspired throughout the term of the Marcos regime to overthrow him. They were led by the popular public figure, incarcerated opposition senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, who Marcos accused as leaning to a left-wing solution.
While gaining popularity amongst the Filipino people for his stance against Marcos, Aquino was eventually forced to seek exile in the United States for health and safety reasons. However, in 1983, Ninoy Aquino announced of his plans to return to the Philippines as a challenge to Marcos's illegitimate government. Assassination of Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino
Despite warnings from the military and other pro-Marcos groups, and even by Ferdinand Marcos' wife Imelda, not to return to the Philippines, 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." The Manila Bulletin headline of Aquino's assassination on August 21, 1983
On August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the United States, as he disembarked from a commercial flight at the then-Manila International Airport (now named after him), Aquino was assassinated. His assassination shocked and outraged many Filipinos, most of whom by then had lost confidence in the Marcos administration. The event led to more suspicions on the government, triggered non-cooperation among Filipinos that eventually caused more civil disobedence. It also shook the Marcos government, which was by then deteriorating, in part due to Marcos' worsening health condition due to an eventual fatal illness (lupus erythematosus
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 caused the economic problems of the country to deteriorate even further, and the government plunged further into debt. By the end of 1983, the country was bankrupt, and the economy contracted by 6.8%.
In 1984, Marcos appointed a commission, led by Chief Justice Enrique Fernando
, to launch an inquiry and investigation into Aquino's assassination. Despite the commission's conclusions, Cardinal Jaime Sin
, the Archbishop of Manila at the time, declined an offer to join the commission, rejecting the government's views on the assassination. In October of that year, Marcos appointed a second commission to investigate. The commission's final report accused the military of staging a conspiracy to assassinate Aquino, dealing another major blow to the already collapsing government. Calls for election
On November 23, 1985, after pressures from Washington, Marcos suddenly announced that a presidential snap elections would take place the following year, one year ahead of the regular presidential election schedule, to legitimize his control over the country. The snap elections 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 with Salvador Laurel
as running mate for vice-president. Marcos ran for re-election, with Arturo Tolentino
as his running mate. The Aquino-Laurel tandem ran under the United Opposition (UNIDO) party, while the Marcos-Tolentino ticket ran under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party. The Election
The elections were held on February 7, 1986. The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC), declared Marcos 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, the final tally 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 points. This electoral exercise was marred by widespread reports of violence and tampering of election results, culminating in the walkout of 29 COMELEC computer technicians to protest the deliberate manipulation of the official election results to favor Ferdinand Marcos. The walkout was considered as 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) issued a statement condemning the elections. The United States Senate also passed a resolution stating the same condemnation. US president Ronald Reagan, a friend of Marcos, issued a statement calling the fraud reports as "disturbing". 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 refused to accept the results, however, 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's cronies. As a result, the crony banks, corporations, and media were hit hard, and their shares in the stock market plummeted to record levels. Events of the revolution
Appalled by the apparent election irregularities, Juan Ponce Enrile, then secretary of National Defense, and some military officials tried to set in motion a coup attempt against Marcos that they have been planning for some time. However, after Marcos learned about the plot, he ordered their leaders' arrest. Threatened with their impending arrests, Enrile and his fellow coup plotters decided to ask for help from AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Fidel Ramos
. Ramos agreed to resign from his position and support the plotters. Enrile also contacted the highly influential Catholic Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin
for his support.
At about 6:30pm, February 22, Enrile and Ramos held a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo, where they announced that they have resigned their positions on Marcos's cabinet and are withdrawing support from his government. Marcos himself later conducted his own news conference calling on Enrile and Ramos to surrender, urging them to "stop this stupidity."
At about 9 p.m., in a message aired over Radio Veritas, Archbishop Sin exhorted Filipinos to come to the aid of the rebel leaders by going to 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. Nevertheless, many people, especially priests and nuns, trooped to EDSA.
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." Rising mass support During the height of the revolution, an estimated one to three million people filled EDSA from Ortigas Avenue all the way to Cubao. The photo above shows the area at the intersection of EDSA and Boni Serrano Avenue, just between Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo.
At dawn, Sunday, government troops arrived to knock down the main transmitter of Radio Veritas, cutting off broadcasts to people in the provinces. The station switched to a 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 actually 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. Several groups sang Bayan Ko
(My Homeland), which, since 1980, had become a patriotic anthem of the opposition. People frequently flashed the LABAN (fight) sign, which is an "L" formed with their thumb and index finger.
Shortly after lunch on February 23, Enrile and Ramos decided to consolidate their positions. Enrile crossed EDSA from Camp Aguinaldo
to Camp Crame
amidst cheers from the crowd.
In the mid-afternoon, Radio Veritas
relayed reports of Marines
massing near the camps in the east and 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 threatened the crowds but they did not budge. In the end, the troops were forced to retreat with no shots fired.
By evening, the standby transmitter of Radio Veritas failed. Shortly after midnight, the staff were able to go to another station to begin broadcasting from a secret location under the moniker "Radyo Bandido"
(Bandit Radio). June Keithley was the radio broadcaster who continued Radio Veritas' program throughout the night and in the remaining days. More defections
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 Air Force Strike Wing, led by Major General Antonio Sotelo, were ordered from Sangley Point in Cavite 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 soldiers who came out. 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, RAM officers and a throng were waiting. The capture of Channel 4
At around that time, June Keithley received reports that Marcos had left Malacañang Palace and broadcasted 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 Channel 4
, 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, Channel 4 suddenly went off the air. A contingent of rebels, under Colonel Mariano Santiago, had captured the station. Channel 4 was put back online, shortly after noon, with a voice declaring, "This is Channel 4. Serving the people again." By this time, the crowds at EDSA had swollen to over a million. (Some estimates placed them at two million.)
In the late afternoon, rebel helicopters attacked Villamor Airbase
, destroying presidential vehicles. 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. "Marcos' finest hour"
The actual dialogue on TV went as follows:
Fabian Ver: We have to immobilize the helicopters they've got. We have two fighter planes flying now to strike at any time, sir.
Ferdinand Marcos: 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): My order is to disperse [them] without shooting them.
Ver: We cannot withdraw all the time...
Marcos:' No, no, no! Hold on. You disperse the crowds without shooting them. You may use any other weapon... The inaugurations
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 government-owned Channel 9 tower, near Channel 4, began shooting at the reformists. Many rebel soldiers surged to the station.
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 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, about 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 campaign for presidency.
An hour later, Marcos conducted the inauguration at Malacañang. Loyalist civilians attended the ceremony, shouting "Marcos, Marcos, Marcos pa rin! (Marcos, Marcos, still Marcos!)". On the Palace balcony, Marcos took his oath as the President of the Philippines, broadcast by the remaining government television channels and channel 7. None of the invited foreign dignitaries attended the ceremony for security reason (although Moscow sent a congratulatory message). The couple finally stepped out in the balcony of the palace in front of the 3000 KBL loyalists who were shouting to Marcos: "Capture the snakes!" First Lady Imelda Marcos sang one more rendition of "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You), the couple's theme song, rather tearfully, chanting her trademark Tagalog
Because of you I attained happiness
I offer you my love
If it is true that you shall enslave me
All of this is because of you.
After the inauguration, the Marcos family and their close associates hurriedly rushed to leave the Palace. The broadcast of the event was also cut off as rebel troops successfully captured the other stations.
By this time, tens of 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. The Inquirer's headline on 26 Feb., 1986. Marcos' departure
At 3:00 p.m., Monday, (American time) Marcos talked to United States Senator Paul Laxalt, asking for advice from the White House. Laxalt advised him to "cut and cut cleanly", to which Marcos expressed his disappointment after a short pause. In the afternoon, Marcos talked to Enrile
, asking for safe passage for him and his family. Finally, at 9:00 p.m., the Marcos family was transported by four American helicopters to Clark Air Base in Angelese City, Pampanga, about 83 kilometers north of Manila, before heading on to Guam, and finally to Hawaii.
When the news of Marcos' departure reached the people, many rejoiced and danced in the streets. Over at Mendiola
, the demonstrators were finally able to enter Malacañang Palace
, long denied to Filipinos in the past decade. Looting by overly angry protesters occurred, but mostly people wandered inside, looking at the place where all the decisions that changed the course of Philippine history had been made.
Many people around the world rejoiced and congratulated Filipinos they knew. Bob Simon an anchorman at CBS said, "We Americans like to think we taught the Filipinos democracy; well, tonight they are teaching the world." Aftermath
Despite the People Power Revolution, the democratic political system of the Philippines is still fragile and flawed. Patronage politics
still hinders the development of democracy and resources are still at the hands of the few. There is still no "bill of rights" in the Philippines, and the Philippine government still controls 76% of the economy. However, the fall of Marcos and the collapse of the Communist movements has discouraged non-democratic alternatives to politics. The revolution also provided the restoration of democratic institutions after thirteen years of authoritarian rule. These institutions can be used by political and social actors to challenge the entrenched political clans
and develop Philippine democracy. Criticism
There are political writers, especially those living outside of Metro Manila, who associate the People Power Revolution with what they term as "Imperial Manila
" because it was believed that Marcos was toppled from his position without the participation of Filipinos living in areas outside of the capital region. In an article published in Philippine Daily Inquirer
, Amando Doronila wrote that:
People power movements have been an Imperial Manila phenomenon. Their playing field is EDSA. They have excluded the provincianos from their movement with their insufferable arrogance and snobbery ... ignoring the existence of the toiling masses and peasants in agrarian Philippines.