Edsa People Power after 36 years: Who played key roles? (Part one)
MANILA, Philippines—The four-day uprising now known as the Edsa People Power Revolution on Feb. 22 to 25, 1986 led to the collapse of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos.
The momentous event was witnessed by millions in the Philippines and elsewhere. The peaceful protests, considered a remarkable moment in Philippine history, have retained their relevance 36 years after the events unfolded on Edsa, which is now infamous for traffic congestion.
While millions of Filipinos from all walks of life marched on Edsa to join protests against controversial results of snap elections called by Marcos, some personalities stuck out because of their roles in the historic event.
In this article, INQUIRER.net will list down some of the prominent figures that were on either side of the fence during those momentous times.
Corazon “Cory” Aquino
Widow of opposition leader Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the staunchest critic of Marcos—who was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983, on his return from exile in the United States.
In 1986, when Marcos called for snap presidential elections, she was chosen as the opposition’s presidential candidate, with former senator Salvador “Doy” Laurel as her vice president.
Amid allegations of widespread fraud and violence, Marcos was declared the winner of the Feb. 7, 1986 snap elections. Tally of votes made by the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) disputed official results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Cory led a protest rally, attended by an estimated 4 million people at that time, at Rizal Park to claim victory in the snap elections and vow to lead a civil disobedience campaign.
By Day 4 of the Edsa uprising, on Feb. 25, Aquino took her oath as president before Supreme Court Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee at Club Filipino. She served as the 11th President of the Philippines from Feb. 25, 1986 to June 30, 1992, becoming the country’s first female head of state.
Aquino’s image as an icon of democracy endured after the end of her term.
She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2008 and died in 2009 at age 76.
Elected president in 1965 and declared martial law in September 1972. Marcos held on to his post as president until he and his family were forced to flee the country in 1986 during the People Power Revolution.
A few minutes before noon on Feb. 25, Marcos was sworn into office by then-Chief Justice Ramon C. Aquino. As Marcos raised his hand to take his oath, the live television coverage of the event was abruptly cut when military rebels supporting the Edsa uprising disabled the transmitter serving then Marcos-controlled Channels 2, 9 and 13. The broadcast was disrupted for 20 minutes after which Chief Justice Aquino was called back to reenact the oath-taking of Marcos.
For the first time in Philippine history, the country had two individuals claiming the presidency.
Later that day, Marcos, his family, and close allies fled to Hawaii. Marcos died in exile there on Sept. 28, 1989.
On Nov. 18, 2016, Marcos was buried with military honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a graveyard for soldiers who gave up their lives for the country and statesmen who are considered heroes. The burial was met with protests.
READ: Marcos laid to rest in ‘sneaky’ rites at Libingan ng mga Bayani
On Day 4 of the Edsa uprising, the former first lady—who was renowned for her vast shoe collection—was reported to be initially reluctant to leave the Palace and seemed in denial about the situation.
According to “Chronology of a Revolution” by Angela Stuart Santiago, moments after Marcos took oath as president at the Malacañang Ceremonial Hall on Feb. 25, an impeccably groomed Imelda, who was seen wearing an immaculate white terno, led the crowd in singing her theme song, “Dahil Sa Iyo.”
Before the family left the Palace, she handed out payroll envelopes with P10,000 each to the remaining Palace personnel.
She was exiled in Hawaii with her husband after their ouster in 1986. Six years later, in 1991, she was allowed to go back to the Philippines. A year after her return, Imelda announced that she was running for president. Her presidential bid, however, failed and she finished fifth in a field of six candidates.
In 1995, Imelda won a congressional seat after a landslide victory in her home province of Leyte. In 2013, Imelda was re-elected for another three years.
She was allowed to post bail following a conviction for seven graft cases on humanitarian grounds because of her age.
READ: Imelda Marcos leaves Sandigan after posting P150K bail
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The only son of the Marcos couple. On the last day of the uprising, he was seen dressed in fatigues while protecting his father as the family left Malacañang on the evening of Feb. 25, 1986.
Since the family’s return from exile, Marcos Jr. has served as congressman of Ilocos Norte’s second district (1992-1995, 2007-2010) and Ilocos Norte governor for three consecutive terms (1998-2007). In 2010, he was elected as senator.
He ran for vice president in 2016 as running mate of the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago but lost the elections to Leni Robredo by a margin of 263,473.
Marcos Jr. is now running for president and is considered a frontrunner.
READ: TIMELINE: The 4-year Robredo-Marcos poll case
He is currently running alongside his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter.
READ: Bongbong Marcos announces bid to join presidential race in 2022
On the evening of Feb. 25, Imee—Marcos’ eldest daughter—and her sister Irene were in tears, pleading with their father to leave for the US amid his vow to die in the Palace. Tommy Manotoc relayed the offer of US Brig. Gen. Ted Allen for the family to use American helicopters or boats to move Marcos out.
She was a Kabataang Barangay head and Ilocos Norte assemblywoman from 1984 to 1986. In 1998, she returned to politics as Ilocos Norte’s second district representative. She served as governor of Ilocos Norte in 2013 and was elected to the Senate in 2019.
She has been actively campaigning for her brother, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in the presidential race.
Col. Jose Almonte
One of the founders of Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), Almonte warned then opposition leader Corazon Aquino, her brother Jose Cojuangco and the late Jaime Cardinal Sin about an impending event in the third week of February 1986. He also offered to provide security to Aquino.
During the term of former President Cory Aquino, he was the first to be promoted general and served as head of the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau after his retirement from military service.
He also served as the chief security adviser of President Fidel Ramos from 1992 to 1998.
In 2016, he was among the list of personalities invited to speak about President Rodrigo Duterte’s performance during his first 100 days as president. Almonte described Duterte’s first 100 days as “exceptional” but suggested less “colorful language.”
READ: ‘First 100 days exceptional but Duterte colorful language distracts PH’
The founding chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and publisher of the tabloid Mr. & Ms. Special Editions, two of the leading papers that openly opposed the Marcos regime.
On the afternoon of Feb. 22, Apostol was in the Inquirer office with colleagues the late Betty Go Belmonte and Lita Logarta when she got a call from Cristina Enrile, wife of then defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile, informing her about Enrile’s arrest.
“Will you help us? Will you call the cardinal for us?” she asked Apostol. According to Apostol, they did try to call Cardinal Jaime Sin but failed to talk to him.
“So I told Betty and Lita Logarta to handle that part of it, to try to get hold of the cardinal, while I ran to Cristina in Dasmarinas Village,” Apostol stated in the “Chronology of a Revolution.”
“On my way out, I passed by the desk of Louie Beltran who was our editor then and I told him what was happening. Of course, nobody knew why Johnny was going to be arrested, everybody just knew he was going to be arrested,” she added.
From Feb. 23 to 25, Inquirer had to publish three Extra editions to report the news as soon as it happened.
In 2016, Apostol and Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, the late Inquirer editor in chief, were given the People Power Award for their courage in fighting martial law through their journalism that stirred up protests against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Agapito “Butz” Aquino
Brother of Ninoy Aquino and the founding member of the August 21 Movement (Atom), which was established after Ninoy’s assassination. After declaring Atom’s support for the Enrile-Ramos group, Butz was the first to ask people, including other anti-Marcos groups, to convene in Cubao.
He served as senator from 1987 to 1995. He died on Aug. 17, 2015 at the age of 76.
A Marine commander based in Davao City who was convinced by businessman Chito Ayala to protect Corazon Aquino in her civil disobedience campaign in the city. Biazon’s aide had learned of the plans and was ordered by his superiors to shoot Biazon if he defected. Biazon’s defection to the Enrile-Ramos side was announced on radio but later reports said that he had not done so.
He served as superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) from 1986 to 1987, commandant of the Philippine Marines from 1987 to 1989, vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from 1990 to 1991, and AFP chief of staff from Jan. 24, 1991 to Apr. 12, 1991 under then-President Cory Aquino.
From 1992 to 1995, he served as senator, was reelected in 1998, and served in office until 2010. He became representative of Muntinlupa’s lone district from 2010 to 2016.
Earlier this month, Biazon, along with other former government officials and business executives, signed a joint statement and made an appeal to Filipinos to join them in supporting Robredo’s presidential bid.
READ: 4 former senators, 12 gov’t officials back Robredo’s presidential bid
Braulio Balbas Jr.
A deputy commandant of the Philippine Marines during Edsa, two battalions under him were given the mission of assaulting and seizing the Ministry of Defense Building at Camp Aguinaldo. He was repeatedly ordered by Maj Gen Josephus Ramas, then commanding general of the Philippine Army, to fire his howitzers at Camp Crame. Balbas hesitated and reported that he was still positioning the howitzers.
Before noon, Balbas received a call from Artemio Tadiar. He was instructed to withdraw and take the unit back to Fort Bonifacio. Upon arrival, he was relieved of his command of the 4th Marine Provisional Brigade and reverted back to his regular assignment as commanding officer of the Combat Service Support Brigade.
Balbas’ decision not to fire his howitzers was a critical moment that eventually led to the peaceful end of the crisis.
He retired as head of Western Command in Palawan with the rank of brigadier general.
Despite the prevailing media censorship, Keithley—a radio broadcaster during the Edsa uprising—gave blow-by-blow reports of the peaceful revolution. After announcing their breakaway from Marcos on Feb. 22, Enrile and Ramos asked Fr. James Reuter to have someone go on air to give guidance to the people. Keithley was sent to the Church-run Radio Veritas, which had broadcast Cardinal Sin’s historic appeal for the people to go to Edsa.
After government forces shut down Radio Veritas, Keithley and her team moved to the dzRJ facilities in Sta. Mesa, Manila. To keep their location secret, the group used the Veritas’ frequency of 840 and took the name “Radyo Bandido.”
She died on Nov. 24, 2013 at the age of 66 after a lingering battle with cancer.
READ: Keithley: Life and death of a fighter
READ: June Keithley-Castro passes away
Keithley was awarded the People Power Award after her death.
Juan Ponce Enrile
Marcos’ defense minister and a central figure in the coup plot against him with rebel troops from RAM. It was planned at 2 a.m. of Feb. 23, 1986, but was discovered the day before. Hours after the discovery, Enrile withdrew support from Marcos along with Fidel Ramos, then vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They also recognized Cory Aquino as the duly elected President.
A few years after, Enrile would be among those charged with rebellion and murder for his alleged participation in a military coup against Aquino in December 1989.
He served as senator from 1987 to 1992, 1995 to 2001, and 2004 to 2016. From 1992 to 1995, he also became representative of Cagayan’s first district.
The 98-year-old Enrile, during his recent birthday celebration, endorsed Marcos Jr. as “the next president from the North.”
READ: Enrile vows Cagayanos’ ‘all-out’ support for Marcos Jr.
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