Latest Stories

Credit goes to Filipinos as the real heroes of Edsa ’86


(Last of two parts)

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

Edsa looked like this—a vast multitude of civilians thronging the avenue to protect the rebels headquartered in Crame and Aguinaldo. The proximate causes of their gathering were the mobilization of Butz Aquino’s peer network and the appeal of Cardinal Sin on Radio Veritas to the national audience. But why did the people come?

Because the invisible roots of Edsa were a burgeoning despair over a disintegrating economy and rage at a national leadership perceived as incompetent, rapacious and the major reason for everything wrong. Anger makes people brave and reckless.

In their anger, millions in their hearts severed allegiance to the Marcos regime and hundreds of thousands actually demonstrated in the open.

Sterling Seagrave in “The Marcos Dynasty” narrates that the CIA manipulated events, using a backroom behind Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile’s office in Camp Aguinaldo; instigated the RAM and Enrile to connive against Ferdinand Marcos and to stage a coup; deliberately misled Ronald Reagan because the CIA did not trust him to act decisively against his friend Marcos; made available for Enrile their extensive taping of Gen. Fabian Ver and company’s communications; and delivered to Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos their extensive collection of military officers.

Regrettably, Seagrave’s statements are unverifiable. So are the miracle claims of Cardinal Sin. A parochial faith alone upholds either view.

When Ver, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in full battle gear, asked for the nth time for permission to bomb the rebels, President Ferdinand Marcos simply had to say no.

Washington had spoken against the assault on Enrile and Ramos.

On the sly, Ver sent a helicopter team to assault Camp Crame. The team landed inside the perimeter of Camp Crame and defected inside. By then Washington knew that the breakaway group was winning the Edsa rebellion.

Marcos lost American support, which included the loss of a small legion of officers in the military. An alliance with a “foreign prince” is unstable enough, and more so when you steal from him, place his interests in grave danger, and appear to him that you are about to fall anyway.

Officer corps mind-set

In the Philippines, we had not seen the military mount a successful coup d’état. What Marcos did was to be elected leader and then use the Constitution and the military’s vow to defend the republic against his enemies.

The lesson here is that the military, once it has an anointed leader, can be moved against a reigning leadership if a messiah role can be created. This evolves when the integrity of the republic and the people seem in danger. The officer corps has a mind-set about legitimacy and a revulsion for treachery, treason and destroying the people it was sworn and trained to protect.

In the case of Edsa I, Marcos lost his legitimacy because the majority of the military was not his direct beneficiary as Ver and co. were, and the massive crowds in Edsa looked like the sovereign people themselves withdrawing their allegiance to Marcos.

Military not isolated

In another instance, if the officer corps can be made to feel that it is a separate class altogether, then it may rule by whim one day. The isolation of the military from the nation has in fact occurred many times in human history: the praetorian guards of Rome, the janissaries of Baghdad, the mercenary armies of Machiavelli’s time, the “noble family” officers of European kingdoms, the Sandhurst military academy officers of England’s colonies, the “good family” officers of Brazil and Argentina, to cite a few examples.

It would take more than a generation to breed this isolated type of military in the Philippines, far too long for anyone who wants to use the military for his own purposes.

Today, the broadly recruited officer corps which we have is linked to too many socioeconomic classes. They cannot think of themselves as separate from the people.

Edsa was a civilian-backed military revolt, sparked by the defection of two men, who were supported by a national religious leader and a foreign power with strong adherents within the military.

The military, as sheer power goes, could have dispersed the crowd, but to do so would have been to kill one of their very own, Ramos, who was their highest leader at that time.

In other nations of current memory this scruple was not policy. Burma became Myanmar after its military shut down and crushed its “people power.” An octogenarian autocracy still rules a billion people after its military fired at will relentlessly at its “people power” with lethal tanks. But assuredly no military leader of rank was obviously to be killed as well.

Perhaps later, but that is the work of time, subtle terror and the police.

Asserting a miracle

The Roman Catholics have built a shrine on the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue. There, on top is a statue of Virgin Mary with rather homely Malayan-Chinese features. She represents the rosaries held up to the armored vehicles of the marines. The priests, nuns and laity who claim to have stopped the armored personnel carriers assert a miracle.

The basis of this assertion is that rosaries do not stop armored soldiers, and yet they apparently did. To achieve a prediction with an improbable means is, and has been for millennia, a definition of a ‘miracle’ sufficient for large multitudes as well as for quite a few who would consider themselves positivist logicians.

But there are those who would be interested in either predicting or creating another Edsa. For them a secular explanation would be more interesting if only because control would be reverted to their human hands.

Credit Cory, Enrile, Ramos

There are, to be sure, passionate adherents on either side. But the failure of the Aug. 28, 1987, putsch, with its rather visible squad of CIA colonels all too obviously on Gregorio Honasan’s side, certainly belies CIA capability to deliver large numbers of military officers on demand. No one turned up on Edsa to support Honasan. Thus, CIA capability to whip up national passions clearly was limited.

Edsa ’86 was the classic revolutionary situation described by Clarence Brinton in the “Anatomy of Revolution.” To be sure, the CIA saw it coming and might have nudged it along. But Edsa ’86 was too big to be anyone’s creation.

Give credit for sparking the revolution to Enrile and Ramos since it started with their defection. Give distinctive credit to Ramos, the professional soldier around whom the officer corps rallied. Give credit to Cory for winning a mandate which unraveled the legitimacy of Marcos and provided the people with a visible alternative leader. Give credit to the national voices (include June Keithley) who called on the people to stand up against all that armor with their amulets. Give credit to the CIA which had the common sense to act upon the knowledge that Marcos had become irrelevant.

People most of all

But after all is said and done, remember the people in the millions upon whom everybody rode to separate glories. Anything else is a pompous guess.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: anniversaries , Edsa 1 , Edsa ’86 , Martial law , people power revolt , Philippines , revolutions

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Santiago accuses Lacson of fronting for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  2. Name names, Lacson told
  3. Santiago: Enrile, Lacson, Reyes plotting massive psywar operation
  4. Slain officer’s ‘diagram’ rocks PNP
  5. Kris Aquino’s ex- close in security named new Air Force chief
  6. Ex-COA chief nabbed for plunder
  7. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Obama: US will defend Japan vs China
  9. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  10. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  5. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  6. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  7. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  10. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  1. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  2. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano


  • Obama due in Seoul as North Korea nuclear test fears grow
  • Hold departure order out vs Corona, Singson
  • Malaysia to release MH370 report–PM
  • Man found dead in Quezon City, alleged victim of summary execution–report
  • Aquino to lead Air Force turnover rites
  • Sports

  • Michael Phelps loses to Lochte in comeback meet
  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • China welcomes PH apology
  • Only 4 Etihad passengers not accounted for
  • Abandoned in Malta,15 PH seamen return
  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Marketplace