COMMENTARY

Edsa ’86: A military perspective

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(First of two parts)

(Editor’s Note: The author was an army major during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. A bemedalled officer, he retired in 2005 as a colonel.)

In the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1986, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, under threat of imminent arrest, sought refuge in their military headquarters. In the morning of Feb. 25 both were sworn into the government of Corazon Aquino. That same evening Ferdinand Marcos flew into exile.

In just about 80 hours, a military organization strong enough to prop Marcos up during 14 years of martial law simply abandoned him.

What happened?

Of utmost psychological significance, the top rebel, Fidel Ramos, was a bred-in-the-bone military leader. It was he who transferred to Camp Crame on Sunday, Feb. 23, to use its field communications system to order, plead, harangue and cajole front-line commanders to join him.

Against Marcos, a civilian who emitted the stench of corruption, sickness, weakness, repugnant favoritism and loss of legitimacy from having been in fact beaten in the snap presidential election by Cory Aquino, the military stood by one of its own in Ramos.

Gen. Fabian Ver, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was the Himmler of Marcos. He was feared as one who would purge the officer corps mercilessly. He was also both envied and despised for his wide-ranging corruption.

Ramos, by contrast, was the true military leader, bred in the Philippine Military Academy, heroic in field combat, perceived as prudent, dignified and fair. Thus, to fire those mortars and to march those Marines against Ramos meant not only killing people, but also killing their true leader.

Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar and his Marines just could not do it. Col. Braulio Balbas and his mortars could not do it. Col. Antonio Sotelo and his helicopter gunships saw Ramos and could not kill him. Such is the human being, capable of cold-blooded murder one moment, and mawkish the next.

Marcos had always based his power on military might. There is no other alternative for anyone who desires power on a national scale because the military has a monopoly of the greatest single concentration of brute force in any society. Marcos the sophisticate, who plundered his people even as he tried to mesmerize them with his tales of a New Society, carefully developed an obedient military machine.

Marcos began by insinuating himself into the professional mind-set of the officer corps who, since their academy training, had been indoctrinated into a reflex loyalty to “duly constituted authority.” Marcos, as the elected President in 1965 and 1969, was that authority. The “New Society” constituted the “talking point,” the psychological measure to ennoble his moves.

Fragile element

Moreover, by abolishing the representative structures under martial law, Marcos turned the military into his power base. The military became involved in nonmilitary functions.

But loyalty is a fragile element, and Marcos tried other ways of ensuring loyalty: power sharing (allowing provincial commanders to rule their areas); financial franchises (allowing smuggling and carnapping and other ways of becoming wealthy); and prolonged tenure.

Alas, Marcos was in a losing game. He simply did not have enough power to share, unless he gave up his own and provoked the anarchy of warlordism. He did not have enough financial franchises to bestow, unless he destroyed his own financial empire and all civilized government by encouraging nationally rampant gangsterism. The prolonging of tenure of favored military officers in time created envy and anger.

But while the military budget markedly increased, the basic salaries of Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel did not rise to any significant degree.

Marcos had come sharply against a constant in human nature: You cannot please everybody all the time. The historical solution to the dangers posed by scarce economic resources and restlessness is for autocrats to create a smaller group with greater ferocity to awe and to terrorize both the body politic and the military itself. Adolf Hitler had his SS, and Joseph Stalin his KGB. Marcos had his Ver-PSC-MISG (Presidential Security Command-Military Intelligence and Security Group), but before this could develop into a heavily armed and well-staffed killing machine, Edsa happened.

Only the military could have dispersed the crowd. But the Marines stopped at Edsa and Ortigas. Only the military could have pulverized Enrile and Ramos. But the commander of the armor refused repeated orders to fire on targets. His reason was that “too many innocent people would be killed.” An interesting answer worthy of a treatise in itself.

Ruptures in public order

The crowds on Edsa were mobilized by other factors. One factor was the shattered economy. Unemployment and inflation had impoverished millions. Despair and seething rage had become corrosive in the body politic.

Poverty is painful enough, and it becomes even worse when combined with the perception that it has been caused by the thievery of others. To the people, the ‘others’ were Marcos, his kin and his associates.

The growth of the communist insurgency and the secessionism movements in the Cordilleras and Mindanao were therefore traced to Marcos. The “best recruiter” for the New People’s Army was Marcos.

These insurgencies raised serious worries in Washington. Marcos had become unreliable. US military facilities and investments were imperiled by his misdeeds and his failures, which included his appropriation of the sustenance America had tried to infuse into both the economy and the military. The restiveness of the body politic also troubled America with the added worry that it could be alienated from any succeeding government.

The herd instinct toward either flight or anger needed a focus. Cory Aquino, by the alchemy of circumstances, became that focus. At last, the opposing masses had grown a head. The fractious political parties were organized into a functioning coalition.

To Marcos, this was a shock. One of the gambits in his snap election decision was that he could abort a dangerous coalition of his opponents since every party would field its own candidates. Instead, Marcos was confronted by a united phalanx.

Loss of US support

It also helps, of course, that America is on one’s side. For unknowingly among Edsa partisans, American technicians kept a 24-hour vigil on Ver’s communications, which they easily tapped. The CIA maintains in the Philippines an intelligence base capable of monitoring radio and microwave phone transmissions all over Asia. The CIA learned that Ver had arrested and interrogated the bodyguards of Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin provided by Enrile and stumbled on the coup plot of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM).

American intelligence forthwith warned Enrile that the PSC was on red alert, that Ver had repositioned his forces around Metro Manila, and that Enrile, Ramos and Ongpin had been ordered arrested. Enrile found the time to flee to Camp Aguinaldo and enlist the support of Ramos, Jaime Cardinal Sin, US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and “people power.”

In Washington that Sunday, Feb. 23, US President Ronald Reagan met for 85 minutes with national security advisers to discuss the US-Philippine options.

(Next: US abandons Marcos)

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  • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

    Military abandoning a dictator, an emperor, a caesar, a king, a warlord, a chieftain. What’s new.

    Military insinuating itself in civilian politics, meddling in civilian government. What’s new.

    Military playing both sides, getting the best of both worlds. What’s new.

    For all of FVR’s “true military leadership”, PH today is poorer, AFP weaker and the Oligarchs ever stronger. Thanks largely to FVR’s unfettered neoliberal free-market capitalism. As PDI’s editorial in June 1998 puts it, “FVR is the greatest Filipino salesman of a president.” He sold the Philippines and the Filipino people without them even knowing it.

    • magiting78

      Tumpak…..Sino ang nag benta ng pag aari ng Pilipinas s Japan bilang kabayaran s mga biktima ng hapon? Sino ang nag benta ng pag aari ng pinas sa Hawaii?…nasan ang pinag bilhan? Aun pinamamasyal nya sa ibang bansa hehehe

  • Carlos_Iho

    err..Ramos graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point…a fundamental lapse in the writer’s gathering of facts which makes the entire article seem more like a summary of opinions collected from everywhere.. 

    • James McTangay

      FVR was a plebe at PMA then sent to USMA to complete his course. Obviously a lapse on the writters part.

      • ApoLapullapu

        As far as this article is concerned, a detailed account of FVR’s academic background is not necessary.  What is material is that as military leader he was able to gain the respect of the Officer Corps and the Rank and File both in the Philippine Army and the Philippine Constabulary.  He alone was the military leader of rank who could unite the AFP against Marcos and his Chief of Staff who had an unclear ROTC record.

      • AllinLawisFair

        Reasonable assessment. 

      • magiting78

        Wrong Ramos was the most corrupt Military official during his stay in AFP next to Enrile, that’s why Marcos wants them die. Enrile plan the Orchistrated ambush and reported to Marcos so that Marcos would declare Martial Law, so that more violent will arise from citizenry. So the incedents happen as they planned..more rally’s more military abuses and pointed to Marcos, but thru this they were not able to depeat Marcos, their last option kill Ninoy and point the blame to Marcos….what next???? success….kaya gusto ko happy ka hahahha…nyyyyettttaaa

      • ApoLapullapu

        Do you know why non of the mother and son presidency pursued the search of the real mastermind in the assassination of Ninoy? Blood is thicker than water.

      • magiting78

        Yes because Danding and Peping was part of the plan. Becuase by the time of Ninoy majority of Luisita was in Ninoy name.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/UZMYIL5FXLVIHRZXBQGONZS6U4 Jhune

        How about six year’s in Malacaniang?  more corrupt….

  • ARIKUTIK

    The article is 99.99% self serving bias opinion than facts of history. What a Donk’s article. Mahiya naman kayo PDI editor. Pang grade one pa ang pagka sulat as in can convince no one but only an Abnoy.

    • ApoLapullapu

      Hindi pa natapos ang article hinuhusgahan na?  Totoo namang Ramos was the only military man who could have unified the AFP against Marcos.  He was the only one in Philippine Military History who had gained the admiration of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Constabulary.  He had served in both branches of service.  And he is a true military and civilian leader up to this day..

      • ARIKUTIK

        Who can know the thruth ? In fact, thruth is anything that one will believe. The writter is grade 1 section 13, repeater as demonstrated right on the opening salvo of the article. You reply, Me will reward.= Read the greetings > ” In just about 80 hours a military organization strong enough to prop up Marcos during 14 years of Martial Law SIMPLY abandoned him”. That opening salvo clearly states that “AMALAYER” is everything that follows. It was clearly proven by praising Ramos while demonising Marcos. There is no thruth in media, i only want entertainment with enjoyable Intelligent convincing lies. A grade 1 writter wishing to Holify someone will actually bedevil the guy because of ….. aaarrrggghhhh ……… AMALAYER ! >>>>> Whei !   

    • Alex Alvarez

      pag lumalabas ang katotohanan galit kayo, kasi bulag kayo, sabi niyo nga eh walang tulong ang US… 

      • ARIKUTIK

        Truth of the matter IS > Marcos is  intelligent enough not to let innocent blood flows in the streets. Give thanks to USA who find ways to save Filipino lives. That is the truth I believe and a grade 1 section 13, repeater student ‘AMALAYER writter Saks to the bones …… aaarrrggghhh ……. >>>>>>>

  • m1600

    Iwas in EDSA from day one till marcos left malakanyang , Iwas also one of those who were in malakanyang when marcos left . It was a big disappointment after wards especially when Cory freed the communist like SIson who now continue his terrorism against the Filipino people and now his son Simeon want to pay the activist/cpp/npa members WHO tried  TO OVERTHROW THE GOVT.

    FVR is a product of USMA/west point. he was first commissioned as a 2nd Lt. Phil Army and later transferred to PC.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W7TPARCYJFCSA3PBQAM3MVZO3E kurakut

    INCONSISTENCIES MEANS GIGO. Garbage-In Garbage-Out.
    YES, Ramos graduated at USMilitaryAcademyWestPoint.

    • http://www.dafk.net/what/ Kilabot ng mga Balahibo

       agreed. ahahaha

  • emjay2000

    sumisipsip ba ito para mabigyan ng puesto? kawawa ka naman! your a disgrace to the military profession!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EQSZXYMC25U3UNO5426WNK2NNQ bubuwit

    Army Major nong ’86, nagretire 2005 as a Colonel? Anong ngyari at mga 20 years eh 2 ranks lang nagawa mo? Baka naman 22log 2log lang tayo sa pansitan……

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3AXROSN6LN5YP66EONOKGSSYFY Ngiping Dilaw

    Marcos had his PSC, MISG
    Cory had her ALSA MASA at TADTAD
    Hitler had his S S
    Stalin………K G V
    America…..F B I
    Noynoy……G A Y
    Joke lang .

    • lennonpaul

      corny

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3AXROSN6LN5YP66EONOKGSSYFY Ngiping Dilaw

    Si Marcos talaga nanalo pinalabas lang na nandaya. Sa ilang libong katao , siyam lang kaming bumoto kay Cory. Malakas sa mga probinsya si Marcos. Sa school namin ang anti Marcos ay naa isolate. Pag nagsalita ka ng laban kay Marcos hate ka na ng mga friends mo. Nagsama sama ang mga oposisyon, communist at ibang bansa para palabasing may dayaan. Ako ay maka Cory noon at kita ko walang dayaan . Malayang bumoto ang mga tao noon. Landslide panalo ni.Marcos sa barangay namin sa Laguna.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/M3LQ4MUAU3Z36MIQGIGSOKBCQE Rosauro

      That’s true. In this big cities like MM, Cebu, etc. panalo si Cory. All other areas, si Marcos ang nanalo.

    • magiting78

      Isa kang may malinaw n kaisipan at marunong mag timbang ng katotohanan..iilan n lang ang katulad mo, karamihan ay nabulag at nailigaw ng maling panulat nang kasaysayan.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M3LQ4MUAU3Z36MIQGIGSOKBCQE Rosauro

    The writer does not know Ramos very well. He said Ramos was bread in the Philippine Military Academy. Wrong! Ramos is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. Hence, I surmised most of the contents of this write up are incorrect.

    • Albert Aquino

      Ramos is a PMA cadet before he was sent to West Point

      • bandit88

        you’re wrong! 
        class 1951 was the first PMA class after the war.
        had he been a PMA cadet, he should be west point class 1952
        or class (1951 — meaning he only stayed at PMA for two months — hardly a breading …) 
        president ramos was west point class 1950!

  • Andres_Bagumbayan

    Walang pinagbago at nawala ang diwa ng EDSA 1!!!! Bukod kay Marcos ay dapat sisihin o batikusin din ang Ina (kUNO) ng Demokrasya na si Coring Aquino…

    Nasa kamay na niya na baguhin ang takbo ng politika,ekonomiya at dispilinahin ang bayan at ibasura ang bulok na sistema ipinakain sa atin ni Marcos…Subalit mas pinairal ni Coring Aquino ang nakagawian bulok na sistema…Sa nagawa ni Coring sa bayan,tatlo ang tama at pito ang mali…

    Nagtataka lang ako kung ano ba talaga ang nagawa ng maybahay ni Ninoy at itinuturing bayani ito????

    • magiting78

      Bayani ng mga uto-uto…Para malaman nyo ang totoo… si Pres Cory ay isang puppet president..Ang totoong nag papatakbo sa kanya sa mga panahon na iyon si JPE at Tabako, at mga taong ipinakulong ni Marcos dahil s mga kasong subirsibo.
           Pag masdan mo ang anyo ng ating pulitika ngaun, kilalanin mo ang karamihan nang mga nakaupo. Hindi ba ito yung mga taong lumalaban ki Marcos at mga tumiwalag?
           Bakit sila tumiwalag at lumaban ki Marcos…dahil sa diktadoryang Marcos hnd sila nag karoon nang pagkakataon na magkaman ng kapangyarihan at kayamanan. Nais nila noong pabagsakin ang rehimeng Marcos upang sila ang makaupo s pamahalaan, gumawa sila ng mga kaguluhan, ang militar sa pamamahala ng dating defense minister at constabulary, gumawala sila ng mga pang aabuso sa mga kumakalaban s pamahalaan nang sagayun mas maigting ang pakikibaka ng mga makakaliwa. Kaya napilitan ang pamahalaan na mag deklara ng martial law.
          Mula ki Enrile, Ramos, Honasan at yung mga pinakulong ni Marcos nais nila pabagsakin si Marcos. Subalit nakita ni Marcos ang mga hidden agenda ng mga ito, at isa lang sa kanila ang alam nya na may malasakit sa bayan at totoong makabayan, at yun s Ninoy, at kanyang tahasang sinabi.. ” Kung meron man taong papalit sa akin walang iba kundi si Ninoy” kaya yung mga taong nais syang pabagsakin ay natakot ki Ninoy.
         Kaya plinano nila ang pag likida ki Ninoy, noon ay nakabilanggo sa Rolando Lagman, subalit si Lagman nung pinatay si Ninoy ay 24 oras ng malamig n bankay dahil tinurture ng PC..Pag aralan nyong mabuti yung mga naka assign n security ki Ninoy ay pawang mag konstable at ang pinaka mataas na opsiyal ay sarhento, mga kawawang sundalo na nabilango ng walang kasalanan, mga sacrificial lamb. Yung mga opisyal nila ay nagpasarap sa pwesto.
          Hanggang ngaun nag bubulag-bulagan ang karamihan maging ang presidente sa kadahilanang ang mga sangkot sa pagpatay sa kanyan ama ay mga kamag-anak nya, at kapag na bunyag ang katotohanan natatakot na sila n baka hnd kilalaning bayani c Ninoy.
      For Info: Mga binilango ni Marcos: Joker, Pimentel, (naupo bilang congressman at senador pagkatapos ni Marcos) Binay-kumalaban ki Marcos, pagkatapos ng EDSA 1 naupo ng matagal n Mayor ng Makati. 
      Enrile at Ramos-bumaliktad ki Marcos dahil napag alaman ni Marcos merong malaking kayaman ang mga ito na ninakaw s kabang yaman kaya ninais ni Marcos na sila ay ipapatay.
      Pangilinan, Cayetano, Cojuanco, Ang, Sy, Lopez-mga ilitistang negosyante kinontrol ni Marcos ang kanilang mga negosyo kaya ninais na mawala c Marcos.

      Ngaun tingnan nyo kung ano ang mga kalagayan ng mga ito pag katapos ng EDSA1 at ikumpara nyo s mga taong dati ng nag hihirap nun…Sila ay yumaman at yung mga mahihirap ay mas lalong humirap.

  • tuldok

    walang diktador ang hindi babagsak sa hinaba-haba ng panahon

  • pedronimo

    Sabi ni Bongbong Marcos na wala daw tama at totoo ukol sa na-isulat sa Edsa revolution. Although that is an obviously biased observation, I suggest that in fairness to the Marcoses, let them write their own version of the Edsa People Power history. Let them hire a historical writer to re-write Philippine history from the Marcoses’ perspective 

  • Lakan Kildap

    PMAer si Ramos? Akala ko ba West Point?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/UZMYIL5FXLVIHRZXBQGONZS6U4 Jhune

      Di ba sa Amari scam

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CQMCFX7ACMCAGPMKBJGLXGLT3I Karl Andri

    The most vital question is: Where’s the bulk of the Philippine Air Force of old, the F-5 and F-8s? Anybody thought about that. One F-5 with proper munitions could have devastated the paltry force the rebel has even before all the civilians rallied in EDSA.

  • ARIKUTIK

    That will not be allowed by the media because Marcos perspective will convince 99.69 % patriotic Filipinos.

  • ARIKUTIK

    Marcos have courage of bravery to battle it out with communist and terrorist in the south but he is patriotic enough to avoid bloodshed among innocent Filipinos. Filipino lives is sacred more than wealth and power. The true hero in EDSA 1 IS = Ferdinand Marcos.

  • ARIKUTIK

    Sino ang “master mind’ sa pagpatay kay Ninoy ? Ang katotohanan ay itinago ng naging presidente na Asawa at Anak ni Ninoy. That is a fact no one can deny……. Swindlers !!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VS5EYSP4FPOTVQCJZ24NRE6Z2M Edgardo Mendoza

    CORY ANIM NA TAON BINANTAYAN ANG PRESYO NG GALUNGGONG SA PALENGKE MARCOS IS THE BEST PRESIDENT THEY CLAIM ALSO SABAH!

  • ARIKUTIK

    GMA had set free the innocent soldiers in Ninoy Paktay case. The Aquino clan got so mad for it may lead into revealing the truth. Eventually, they tied GMA in hospital bed out of vengeance because actually, GMA had become president by Cory’s idea and influence to hide the truth and protect Hacienda Luisita. It’s all vengeance.   

  • ARIKUTIK

    Walang naga argue, makapag luto na nga lang……… byeeeeee…… Donks !  nya……hahaha …….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M6UL2UG4OGTMCLSYGB5MVJ7USE InSearchOfTruth

    Only the military could have dispersed the crowd. But the Marines stopped at Edsa and Ortigas. Only the military could have pulverized Enrile and Ramos. But the commander of the armor refused repeated orders to fire on targets. His reason was that “too many innocent people would be killed.” An interesting answer worthy of a treatise in itself.

    di ba si marcos ang sumagot nito kay fabian ver nung sabihin ni ver na hinihintay lang nya order ni marcos to fire at crame and aguinaldo?  it was shown on tv during that time that marcos specifically said that “too many civillians would be killed” by such an attack on the two camps. 

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