This weekend marked the 34th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolution which was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, mostly in Metro Manila, from Feb. 22-25, 1986. EDSA or Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, is the giant ring road encircling Metro Manila where majority of the bloodless demonstrations that toppled former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos took place.
EDSA Revolution 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. Confronted by tanks and troops, they brought their personal weapons of prayers, smiles, rosary beads and flowers to bear on the forces of discredited authority.
Appalled by the bold and apparent election irregularities in the 1986 snap presidential election, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement set into motion a coup attempt against Marcos. The initial plan was for a team to assault Malacañang 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.
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. 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. A message was aired over Radio Veritas to aid rebel leaders by going to the section of EDSA between Camp Crame and Aguinaldo and giving emotional support, food and other supplies.
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. Still, people came to EDSA until it swelled to hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians.
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,).
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.
At around that time, a report was received 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 declaring that he would not step down.
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 line shortly after noon, announcing on live television, “Channel 4 is on the air again to serve the people.” 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 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.
Later in the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 25, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as the 11th President of the Philippines in a simple ceremony at Club Filipino in Greenhills, about a kilometer from Camp Crame. Outside Club Filipino, all the way to EDSA, hundreds of people cheered and celebrated. 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!)”.
By this time, hundreds of people had amassed at the barricades along Mendiola, only a hundred meters away from Malacañang Palace. 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 protests, fueled by the resistance and opposition from 20 years of governance by President Marcos and his cronies, culminated with the absolute ruler and his family fleeing Malacañang Palace to exile in Hawaii and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. The United States Government documented that they entered the United States with millions of dollars in jewelry, gold, stocks, and cash.
Insight Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel