EDSA Revolution of 1986

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The 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA Revolution, or People Power) was a four-day series of non-violent mass demonstrations that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and installed Corazon Aquino as president in 1986. The revolution, which ran from February 22 to February 25, was considered as the forerunner of nonviolent demonstrations around the world such as those in Eastern Europe.

The revolution was named after Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, where the majority of the protests took place. It is also known as the Yellow Revolution, after Aquino's campaign color.

Beginnings of unrest – the late 1960s to the First Quarter Storm

The seeds of unrest that eventually bore the People Power Revolution were planted in the mid to late 1960s. President Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in the elections of 1965, winning against incumbent Diosdado Macapagal by a slim margin. Marcos' first term was marked by one of the largest infrastructure programs the country has ever seen. He was reelected in 1969, the first president to be elected for two consecutive terms.

However by the late 1960s to the early 1970s, discontent among the people started to grow, starting with the involvement of the Philippines in the Vietnam War and the general dissatisfaction of the public over their quality of life. Soon, movements were established such as the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968 (which took over the cause of the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas) and its alliance with the New People's Army (which came from the old Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan) in 1969.

When news broke out that Marcos planned to amend the constitution, allowing him to run for a third term in the presidential elections of 1973, student-led protests erupted in the streets, in what has since become known as the First Quarter Storm of 1970. Later, student movements also led the Diliman Commune of February 1971. Despite the violent protests, the Constitutional Convention still convened in June 1971.

1971 – 1981: Plaza Miranda, Enrile's “Assassination,” and Martial Law

The political situation turned for the worse as two hand grenades exploded at the miting de avance of the Liberal Party (LP) just before the senatorial elections of 1971, injuring some of their candidates such as Jovito Salonga and Gerardo Roxas. In response, Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus; however another spate of bombings in the metropolis happened in 1972. Then opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. exposed 'Oplan Sagittarius' to Congress, a plan of Marcos to put some parts of the country under martial law.

On September 22, 1972, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile was the focus of a staged assassination attempt; a day later, Marcos declared martial law. During the Martial Law period, Marcos was able to pass the 1973 Constitution which changed the form of government to a parliamentary system. He detained basically anyone critical of the regime, including Aquino, Sen. Jose W. Diokno, and Joaquin “Chino" Roces, with many more detainees killed or never to be seen again. Some, including Aquino at the time of his release, also sought exile overseas. Marcos also installed his cronies as heads of numerous corporations by seizing privately-owned businesses.

Marcos lifted martial law in 1981, but still retained a lot of his martial law-era powers.

1981 – 1985: After Martial Law - the Assassination of Ninoy Aquino

With Marcos still exercising extraconstitutional powers, the lifting of martial law did not quell the unrest among the people. Opposition parties boycotted the first presidential elections after martial law in 1981, which Marcos won by a landslide.

Aquino, who had lived in self-imposed exile for three years in the United States, decided to come home despite threats to his life. On 21 August 1983, Aquino arrived at the Manila International Airport, and was killed along with the alleged assassin, Rolando Galman. His death sparked an outpouring of outrage from civil society, with thousands marching in a “National Day of Sorrow” a month later. At this point, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, his widow, threw her support behind the opposition candidates running in the Batasang Pambansa elections of 1984. There were now open calls for protests against the Marcos regime. It was also during this time that the Philippine Daily Inquirer was founded as an alternative to the crony-run broadsheets, and would later play a vital part in reporting on the EDSA Revolution via print media.

Seeing the unrest triggered by the Aquino-Galman assassination, Marcos formed the Agrava Commission to investigate. Because of added pressure from the United States, in November 1985 Marcos called for snap elections.

1986 Snap Elections

The snap elections were finally held on 7 February 1986, with Cory Aquino and Salvador “Doy” Laurel running against Marcos and Aurelio Tolentino for the presidency and the vice-presidency. The heavily-anticipated elections were marred by vote-buying, oppression, and fraudulent results; with Commission on Elections (COMELEC) results were in favor of Marcos while the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) results were in favor of Aquino. In protest, thirty computer operators walk out of the COMELEC tabulation center during the tabulation two days after the election.

One of the most brutal incidents that happened in connection with the snap elections was the killing of lawyer Evelio Javier, opposition ex-governor of Antique, on 11 February 1986. Javier was chased and shot to death in broad daylight at the provincial capitol. The assassination was considered as one of the tipping points that led to the revolution. At his funeral mass, the official statement of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines was read, condemning the electionss.

The EDSA Revolt

Day 1: Defections and the call to EDSA

At 3 PM of 22 February 1986, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile gathered around 400 men at Camp Aguinaldo, after having received reports on impending mass arrests of opposition leaders and Reform the Armed Forces Movement officers. They were joined by then Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and at 6 PM, the two called a joint press conference to confirm the massive cheating that occurred in the elections. They withdrew their support from the Marcos regime and proclaimed that Cory Aquino was the true winner of the snap elections.

Enrile then contacted Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, to ask for support. Cardinal Sin later aired an appeal over the church-run Radio Veritas calling for people to support the rebellion. Enrile also called Aquino, who was then at a rally in Cebu, about the developments. Unsure over Enrile's motives, Aquino sought shelter in a missionary convent; she refused the United States' offer of safe passage.

In response, Marcos also held his own press conference, appealing to the rebel faction to surrender. On Radio Veritas, Enrile replied: "Your time is up!"

By this time, people had started to march to EDSA, heeding the call of Cardinal Sin.

Day 2: The bombing of Radio Veritas, Cory's return to Manila, and Radio Bandido

At 1 AM, the transmission tower of Radio Veritas in Malolos, Bulacan was bombed by armed soldiers. The station's broadcast to the provinces was cut off and it had to use an emergency transmitter to continue broadcasting.

Around this time, back in Manila, Ramos emerged from Camp Crame and faced his supporters for the first time. Later, Enrile did the same, after airing an appeal for more civilian presence.

By noon, Marcos appeared on television with other loyalist generals, announcing plans for his Tuesday inauguration while introducing three more officers allegedly involved in the coup. Identifying Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Enrile's chief of security, as the leader of the coup, Marcos also hinted at a possible artillery strike.

The people at EDSA, meanwhile, had been stopping tanks and armored personnel carriers just by using themselves as shields. Cory Aquino arrived in Manila from Cebu at 3 PM, then went into hiding.

At around 6 PM, the Radio Veritas backup transmitter failed and the station went off the air. News and updates about the uprising were now carried on by announcer June Kiethley of DXRJ, renamed to DZBB or Radio Bandido. DZBB's headquarters were kept secret to prevent a repeat of what happened to Radio Veritas.

Day 3: Marcos' last stand, reclamation of Channel 4, take-over of Channel 7

At midnight Marcos appeared on television again, pledging not to resign and promising to crush the rebellion. He accused Enrile and Ramos of trying to establish a junta.

As morning dawned, more soldiers defected to the rebel faction as loyalist Marines attacked the human barricades near Camp Crame using teargas and clubs. Rumors of Marcos fleeing the country had started to spread, but this was dispelled by Marcos' television appearance at 9 AM with Gen. Fabian Ver. The broadcast, however, was cut short by rebel soldiers seizing control of Channel 4. Loyalist soldiers then seized control of Channel 7, through which Marcos aired a message insisting he would not step down despite an official statement from the United States government asking him to do so.

Day 4: Two inaugurations, Marcos flees

The next day, Aquino was finally sworn in as president by Supreme Court Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee at Club Filipino. Laurel was also sworn in as vice-president, while Enrile was appointed as Defense Minister and Ramos as Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff.

Marcos held his own inauguration at Malacañang Palace; the event was covered by Channel 2, 9 and 13 which were still under government control. The broadcast was cut short, however, when rebel soldiers finally took over the three stations. Having lost control over the local media, Marcos tried to offer Enrile a position in a provisional government, which Enrile turned down.

Upon the advice of United States Senator Paul Laxalt “to cut and cut cleanly,” Marcos finally gave in and called Enrile to ask for safe passage out of the coutnry. Enrile and Aquino agreed, and as the Marcoses fled the country to seek refuge in Hawaii, people storm the palace to reclaim control over the government.


With Marcos gone, his 1973 Constitution had to be replaced. A constitutional commission was formed, and the 1987 Constitution was ratified through a plebiscite held on 2 February 1987.

Several key players in the 1986 EDSA Revolution later held major positions in the post-EDSA government. Ramos was later elected president in 1992 and served until 1998, while Enrile was elected as senator and congressman for multiple terms.

The Aquinos had largely remained in power since the revolution, even after Cory Aquino's presidency. The former president played an active part in EDSA II and called for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation, before her death in 2009 from cancer. Her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, is running for president in the 2010 elections.

Jaime Cardinal Sin also played a vital part in EDSA II and remained as Archbishop of Manila until retirement in 2003. He died in 2005.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is now one of the top broadsheets in the country. Radio Veritas and Radio Bandido are still on air.

The Marcoses, too, have returned to power. After Ferdinand Marcos' death in Hawaii in 1989, Imelda Marcos and their children returned to the Philippines. Despite the numerous cases filed against them, some of which have been dismissed, the Marcoses have actively participated in local politics with Imelda running for president in 1992 and 1998, and winning a seat in Congress as a representative of Leyte in 1995. Their son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” E. Marcos Jr., was a congressman in Ilocos Norte and is running for a senate seat in the 2010 elections; as well as Imee, who is running for governor of Ilocos Norte in the 2010 elections as well. Imelda, who was the subject of controversy again over he lavish 80th birthday celebration in 2009, is running for the seat vacated by her son in the same elections.


The EDSA Revolution has been criticized as being a mere regime change, unable to bring genuine reform in the country. Critics point to the return of the Marcoses to power as duly-elected government officials and the failure of the government to prosecute them, to EDSA being a Manila-centered event, and the lack of true reforms to resolve the issues that brought about EDSA in the first place.

The EDSA Revolution was analyzed by Amado Doronila of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in his article “Why Arroyo foes failed to topple her: time for paradigm shift” published last 26 August 2006. He explains that the EDSA Revolution was Manila-centered, with Filipinos in rural areas left out of the said revolution.

A concrete example of the lack of genuine reform, especially in the agrarian sector, was the Mendiola Massacre. On 22 January 1987, during Aquino's first year as president, farmers marching on Mendiola to demand genuine agrarian reform were violently dispersed by the police. Thirteen farmers were killed in that incident.

Later on, the Aquinos were implicated in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004. Being part owners of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the Aquinos were held accountable for the violent dispersal of the farmers' strike, leading to the deaths of seven farmers. Sen. Noynoy Aquino was also severely criticized for defending the violent dispersal, saying that the soldiers had every right to violently disperse the farmers because they fired first. The Aquinos were also implicated in the killings of several people also involved in the case—among them union leader Ric Ramos and Tarlac city councilor Abel Ladera.


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