Creative Commons


In 1985, President Marcos Sr. was being pressured by the public and his US allies to declare a snap elections. A group of military officials had also organized a group a few years prior and just went public to call for reforms in the military. In secret, they were planning a coup for the end of the year. However, Marcos Sr. Surprised everyone when he announced on US television that he was declaring snap elections and that he would be running for office. Just two months after an organization formed to call for her Presidency, Cory Aquino – widow of the assissinated Ninoy Aquino – received a petition with more than a million signatures drafting her to run against Marcos. 21 

The lead up to the elections was marked by efforts to ensure that the elections would be honest and fair. On election day, February 7 1986, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) mobilized 400,000 volunteer poll watchers. Radio Vertis also publicly urged people to help ensure ballot boxes weren’t stolen or tampered with. Following the elections, Aquino took the lead in NAMFREL’s unofficial tally however when the official count started Marcos’ lead was practically irreversible. 30 COMELEC computer technicians walked out of their posts in protest of alleged tampering with the results; and a multinational team of observers pointed out cases of election fraud by the ruling party. 22 

On February 15, Batasang Pambansa officially declared Marcos the winner of the snap elections. The 50 opposition Members of Parliament walked out in protest. The day after, Aquino hosted a “victory rally” wherein she called for a civil disobedience campaign marked by strikes and boycotts of media, banks, and other corporations that were owned by or supported Marcos and his cronies. While the White House sent officials to mediate the situation, Aquino refused any compromise short of Marcos’ removal from office. People all over the country joined the boycott – a total of Php1.78 billion had been withdrawn from crony banks; businesses refused to serve San Miguel Corporation products or patronize Rustan’s Department Store; Bulletin Today’s newspaper circulation dropped drastically. Meanwhile, the breakaway military group whose plans for a coup were put on hold for the snap elections resumed their plotting. 23 

In the wee hours of the morning on February 22 1986, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile was finalizing plans for a coup to be led by Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan. The plan was to attack Malacanang and for Enrile to declare himself head of a ruling junta. However, just a few hours later, it became painfully clear that their plan had been leaked to Marcos and that AFP Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver had positioned his men in order to respond to the attack. Enrile contacted AFP Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos asking for his support which the latter granted. The two of them made their way to Camp Aguinaldo where a few hours later they publicly announced their defection from the Marcos regime. 24 

Meanwhile, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer office, editor Louie Beltran was with opposition leader Ernesto Maceda when word came that they were surrounded by soldiers. Beltran had Maceda leave out the back and evacuated his female staff. He warned the few staff that remained to brace themselves for a dangerous night. 25 

On Radio Veritas, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin called on people to show their support for Enrile and Ramos. Butz Aquino – brother of Ninoy Aquino – heard of the defection and called for people to meet him at Cubao so that they could march to protect Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo where Enrile and Ramos were bunkered down. While the original response was lackluster, after Cardinal Sin appealed to people to go to the Camps, more people flocked to the streets. By midnight on February 23, 10,000 people were at Cubao and they started their March to EDSA. By the time they reached Camp Aguinaldo, the number had grown to 20,000. 26 

Throughout the next two days, the crowd at EDSA swelled to hundreds of thousands of people. A human barricade is formed, protecting the two military camps. The situation was tense and the scenes that played out were dramatic: protesters blocking the path of tanks that refused to fire into the crowds; nuns offering flowers to soldiers with guns trained on them; helicopters poised to attack the crowd instead turning and joining the revolt. Radyo Veritas continued to provide a blow-by-blow account of the situation; even when its transmitter was neutralized and its backup transmitter failed, a reporter switched to a different station – but kept the same frequency – to continue reporting. Even as more and more government and military officials joined the side of the rebels, Marcos Sr. refused to give up power. 27 28 29  

On the morning of the 25th , people are called to guard Club Filipino in San Juan in anticipation of the inauguration of Aquino as the rightful winner of the snap elections. By 10.46am Aquino is sworn into the office of President of the Philippines by Senior Supreme Court Justice Claudio Teehankee. The crowd sings the anti-Marcos anthem “Bayan Ko.” Ramos and Enrile are present and join the singing. About an hour later, Marcos own inauguration ceremony begins – however just as he raises his hand to make the oath of office, the live coverage is cut when the television transmitter is taken down. Just hours later, following negotiations with the US for their assistance, Marcos and his family leave Malacanang onboard helicopters. Within the hour news that they have fled the country is announced and is shortly confirmed. On the streets, people rejoiced. A peaceful protest had just toppled a dictatorship. 30 31 

Throughout history, protest has been a powerful tool for change. But governments around the world are cracking down on protests and it must be protected.

Protect the protest

Add your voice to our global call to protect the protest and join our campaign today.