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EDSA Revolution: Remembering the Filipino’s Cry for Democracy

Updated on January 26, 2014

The EDSA Revolution marked a pivotal part in Philippine history. More than 25 years have passed but its memory still clings to all Filipinos. However, many Filipino youth of today were not even born at that time. All they have are People Power Anniversary celebrations. So for those who are curious, here is a little road trip into the Philippines’ not too distant past.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos
Former President Ferdinand Marcos | Source

Brief historical background

Ferdinand Marcos was elected as president in 1965 and was reelected in 1969. Although this first term was seen as productive, his second term was wrought with doubts. Because of the worsening economic situation in the country, many citizens took to the streets to protest their dismal condition. With the growing civil unrest, the economy continued to plummet. On September 23, 1972 President Marcos went on air and made his infamous declaration of martial law (presidential proclamation 1081).

Apart from declaring martial law, he closed down TV, radio and newspaper companies that he thought fought his government. Moreover, many political opponents were arrested and some remain missing to this day. To top it off, he abolished the 1935 constitution and replaced the form of government with a parliamentary system. The constitution was replaced with one that he wrote.

Assassination of Ninoy Aquino

Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr was a known opposition of Marcos. Moreover, the senator was the top choice to replace Marcos. Unfortunately, he was exiled to the United States for political reasons. But he decided to return in spite of the threats to his life. In one interview regarding his plans to return home he was asked to comment on the threat to his life should he set foot in his country. He smiled and simply said that, “The Filipino is worth dying for.” On August 21, 1983, Ninoy Aquino was assassinated as he disembarked the plane at the Manila International Airport (renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport in his honor).

Last few minutes of Ninoy

President Corazon "Cory" Aquino
President Corazon "Cory" Aquino | Source

Situation becomes dire

The democracy that everyone wanted seemed to fade away with Ninoy Aquino’s passing. Economically, politically and socially; the Philippines was chaotic. Because of how volatile the situation was, Washington urged President Marcos to hold a snap election. The announcement of this glimmer of hope on November 23, 1985 was looked upon in anticipation. The problem was Ninoy Aquino was already dead! Who will run against Mthe current president? An unlikely person took on this challenge– Corazon Aquino, Ninoy’s wife.

From housewife to a political hope, Corazon “Cory” Aquino rallied the people for a change of governance. On February 7, 1986, the election was held. The Commission on Election (COMELEC) declared Marcos the winner. However, an independent body said otherwise. The National Movement for Free Election (NAMFREL) said that Cory Aquino won the election.

Both Aquino and Marcos took the oath of office at two different venues. Neither one backed down as each claimed that they won the election. The alleged tampering of the certificate of canvass by the Marcos administration irked the people even further. . Because of the doubts in the outcome of the election, the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCP) condemns the election.

President Fidel Ramos succeeded President Cory Aquino
President Fidel Ramos succeeded President Cory Aquino | Source
Juan Ponce Enrile is Currently the Senate President
Juan Ponce Enrile is Currently the Senate President | Source

It begins

The instability of the government and the way it was run paved the way for many military officers to plan a coup d’état. But the plans were unraveled and key officers were arrested. Juan Ponce Enrile who served under Marcos as Justice Secretary and then as Defense Secretary went to then Vice Chief of Staff Lt. General Fidel Ramos for help. On February 22, 1986 at 6:30 PM, both Enrile and Ramos announced to the public that they have resigned and withdrew their support for Marcos.

Not more than 3 hours from Enrile and Ramos’ announcement, Cardinal Sin encouraged the Filipinos to support these leaders by going to Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame where they were located. These two vital infrastructures stand facing each other with EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) separating them. People flocked to EDSA to show their support. On Feb 23, Enrile crossed EDSA from Camp Aguinaldo to Camp Crame to consolidate the two leaders’ position. As Enrile crossed the road, he was greeted with cheers and a renewed hope for democracy.

The next day, February 24, around 3,000 Marines entered the side entrance of Camp Aguinaldo after they lobbed teargas at the crowd. But in spite of this, there were many defections in the ranks all over the country.

Cory Aquino takes oath of office

End of a dictatorship

On February 25, 1986, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as the President of the Philippines. But Marcos also had his own inauguration and was aired in local channels. Upon seeing this, many Filipinos marched to the Malacanan Palace but were stopped by loyalist troops. Marcos sought the advice of the White House and decided to leave the country. Marcos, his family and allies were given safe passage and flown out of the country. Marcos Arrived at Hickman Air Force Base in Hawaii on February 26.

The People Power Revolution concluded with great hopes for the future of the country. 26 years later, many Filipinos still look back at a time when their freedom of speech was curbed and democracy was taken away. Today, the youth enjoys privileges their parents and grandparents did not have


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello grand old lady,

      I was born in 1976 and it was a time of transition. I'm fortunate to have a glimpse of the realities no matter how fleeting it was for me. When Ninoy was shot I was 6 then. Although I did not know who he was, I felt the tension in the house. When the EDSA revolution started, I had no idea how critical it was for the country. The youth today are enjoying what they have because of these events. I will make sure my daughter knows these things. Appreciation of our history is paramount to keeping our freedom.

      I appreciate the comment and more power my dear kababayan.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 years ago from Philippines

      It is certainly a good experience to look back and to remember how hard it was under martial law. It's true, today's young people don't have an inkling of what it was like. My daughter (now 22) was 18 when we watched the Cory movie together. She was shocked and couldn't believe how the Philippines was under Marcos rule. History must be clear, accurate and taught to our young people so they will appreciate what it means to be free.