EDSA People Power Monument red

EDSA People Power

There was an EDSA I and an EDSA II. Some say there was an “EDSA Tres”, although this is still subject to debate. Some say that the real People Power happened in EDSA I, and that EDSA II was a far cry from its predecessor. There are a number of distinctions between People Power I and People Power II.

Holiday.  On February 25, 1986, after a few days of people massing at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), President Ferdinand Marcos left Malacanang. Filipinos celebrate the EDSA People Power as a holiday. It’s not a regular holiday and depends on the declaration by the President. EDSA Dos is not a holiday.

The sitting President. EDSA I in 1986 was against President Marcos, with President Corazon “Cory” Aquino succeeding in a revolutionary government. EDSA II was against President Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada, with then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo succeeding him.

Constitutionality. EDSA I is extra-constitutional. EDSA I involves the “exercise of the people power of revolution which overthrew the whole government”. The Aquino government was the result of a successful revolution (although a peaceful one) by the sovereign people. No less than the Freedom Constitution (Proclamation No. 3) declared that the Aquino government was installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people “in defiance of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended.” EDSA II, on the other hand, is intra-constitutional. EDSA II is an “exercise of people power of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances which only affected the office of the President.” Estrada resigned and, pursuant to the 1987 Constitution, Vice-President Arroyo succeeded as President. The Arroyo government (the first one) is not revolutionary in character.

The original People Power, the one which inspired the whole world and became a model for peaceful transitions of governments, was the culmination of the years of protest against the government of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The protests were already existing before September 21, 1972, the date when President Marcos declared Martial Law throughout the Philippines. Many people died as a result of the abuses by the military. Many opposition personalities were arrested. One of those arrested was Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Ninoy became a unifying force of the people’s opposition against Marcos.

Ninoy was allowed to be released from jail to undergo a heart bypass in the United States. He was warned not to go back to the Philippines. Ninoy was assassinated on August 21, 1983, as he was going down the plane upon his return to the Philippines. Instead of diffusing the mounting unrest against Marcos, the assassination of Ninoy only served to add more fuel to the highly combustible and raw emotions against Marcos.

To put some semblance of legitimacy to his government, President Marcos called for a snap election in February 1986. His opponent in the elections was a simple housewife with no government experience. The opposition Presidential candidate goes by the name of Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the wife of Ninoy. Some say the 1986 Presidential election was the most corrupt and deceitful election in Philippine history.

On February 15, 1986, the Batasang Pambansa declared Marcos as the winner, with 10,807,197 votes as against Aquino’s 9,291,761. The rest of the country, however, was convinced that massive cheating marred the elections. The tally of the accredited poll watcher, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), was 7,835,070 votes for Cory and 7,053,068 votes for Marcos.

On February 22, 1986, a group of renegade soldiers led by Juan Ponce Enrile, then Defense Minister, and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, then Vice-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, made a public declaration that they are withdrawing support from the government. They holed up at Camp Aguinaldo, along EDSA. Knowing that they will be annihilated by the superior forces of Marcos, Enrile and Gen. Ramos called for the people’s help.

The late Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Catholic Archbishop of Manila, aired his appeal through Radio Veritas, for the people to support Gen. Ramos and Enrile.

And help they came. By the thousands.

Between February 22 to February 25, the people flocked to EDSA, facing tanks with nothing but prayers. They offered flowers and food to the battle-equipped government soldiers. Helicopters and fighter planes flew overhead. The people, though scared, stood their ground.

President Marcos left Malacanang on February 25, heading for Hawaii.

And so the world witnessed the People Power.