Ninoy and The EDSA Uprising…

1986 EDSAAs the 27th year of the 1986 EDSA uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos approaches, certain  ‘pundits’  keep on rewriting that glorious event to suit their own political bent.  Lately, an article   in Get Real Philippines  gave credit to the US-CIA in maneuvering Marcos out of power because of his nationalist sentiment of trying to get rid of the U.S. military bases in the islands and his high profile hob-knobbing with the Chinese and the Soviet.

The article was actually the musing of a communist recruit, as narrated by the GRP contributor, Mauro G. Samonte.

This political spin was reflective  of our culture of “smallness” and sense of inadequacy to chart our own destiny as a nation that we saw the fingerprint of a western phantom for the EDSA revolution,  instead of looking at it as the spontaneous  and lofty  yearning  of the Filpino people to be free from the rapacious and ravenous  claws of the dictator.

 Ninoy Aquino was not even spared from the malicious insinuation that he chose to die in the hands of Marcos or his rabid hit-men rather than succumb to his clogged arteries in the U.S.  This warped narrative comes close to accusing Ninoy of having plotted his own death just to outsmart Marcos!


Earlier discourse had twitted the 1986 EDSA uprising as elitist in character, indicting wholesale the ordinary people on the streets like sheep as they were being led to slaughterhouse by rent-seeking oligarchs, had not the dictator in an extreme act of mercy, stalled  the green light for mass butchery.  The revisionists see the popular uprising in EDSA as the handiwork of CIA made glorious by  Marcos’s exemplary unselfish act of patriotism, instead of the unsullied bold act of the multitude enraged by the most hideous murder of Ninoy two and a half years back coupled by their desire to be free.

The truth  however, was that Marcos ordered to fire on the civilians and rebels on EDSA only that  his marine battalion field commander, Lt. Col. Braulio Balbas disobeyed  his commander-in-chief.

I was a lawyer of the Technology Resource Center, Imelda Marcos’s turf, but the center was headed by a more honorable lady, Director General Chitang  Nakpil when Ninoy was slain at the tarmac.  After Ninoy’s death, the streets of Ayala and Buendia were filled with  protesters rained with tons of yellow confetti from those high rise buildings along these boulevards on a weekly basis.  Employees in our smaller building along Buendia ran out of PLDT’s yellow book shredded for confetti.  Management upbraided the employees for sympathizing with the protesters.  Those protesters and  employees from the business center of Manila did not come from well-heeled   “yellows”  — they were commoners like you and me.ninoy

When Marcos was gone, Chitang Nakpil headed for the exit and was replaced by Jose Kalaw.  The young idealist employees throwing confetti out the window during those rallies prior to February 1986 revolt did not like the new director of  TRC and they massed in-front the building in protest.  They were fired from work holding them out in public as Marcos ‘hold-outs’  — shades of the revolution devouring its children.

The ‘balimbings’ suddenly found a new ally in the bosom Jose Kalaw.  I quit TRC for a private law practice.  For me, what matters was that Marcos was gone.  I began reading  newspapers again and Max Soliven again.  During martial law I have stopped reading the newspapers.  I’ve got nauseated reading Doroy Valencia and a coterie of  lapdogs in the print media masquerading as genuine journalists.

It takes a foreign author to give credit to the Filipino opposition in chasing Marcos out of power.  Here is  Stanley Karnow’s observation in his book “In Our Image, America’s Empire In The Philippines:”

“His Washington critics reacted variously: pessimists certain that he would fake the results and remain in office, optimists sure of his being deterred from fraud by the outside observers and thus doomed. In 1987, at his Honolulu exile, Marcos confided to me that the snap election was the “biggest mistake” he ever made. “I didn’t realize that the U.S. government was going to intervene and that massive black propaganda and conspiracy by the American press would defame and libel me. Had I been alert, I would not have fallen into the trap. But it was my doing, and I accept the blame.”

Conspicuously absent from his historical perspective was Cory Aquino’s role in his collapse. No American effort to topple him would have succeeded had she not, by mobilizing the opposition, pushed him to the edge. (p. 140, ibid).

In reaction to the article in GRP (link is provided above),  I wrote:

 “Edgar Jopson and countless young communist cadres who died in the frontline during the repressive years of Marcos regime were considered heroes by the left.  They will become mainstream heroes if the left triumphed in its crusade. Heroes and villains are time-dependent paradigm.

Is Ninoy a present-day hero?

Aquino believes that Marcos was the scourge of Philippine democracy and offered himself as an alternative.  He died pursuing that dream.  Or if he was wrong in the analysis that Marcos was a scourge, was dying in that elusive pursuit makes him a traitor?

Did we not make Rizal a hero who died for instigating a revolution while he was actually fleeing from it?  Had he been for the revolution all along, would his death for supporting it make him less a hero?

Heroism from my point of view is dying selflessly for a cause you believe in.  Rizal died for the cause of the revolution he did not believe in, but we have no problem worshipping him as a hero.  Ninoy believe that Marcos was bad for democracy and died for it.  Did he do it for personal ambition?  Is one’s personal ambition to topple Marcos and restore democracy becomes bad even if it is objectively “good” for democracy?

Do the majority of the Filipinos share the belief that Marcos was a scourge?

Is Ninoy a financier/sympathizer/coddler of the Huks and CPP-NPA?  Does that make him a  traitor?

Marcos represents the state which  political theorist Max Weber says nothing but “human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.”

 “Indeed the modern state seems to be distinguished from its medieval antecedents by an advance  beyond exemplary physical punishment of the few to systematic social control over the many.  By the eighteenth century the early modern state had sufficient coercive capacities to press-gang peasants or punish enemies in what E. P. Thompson called “the ritual  of public execution” with the  “corpse rotting  on the gibbet beside the highway.” (Policing America’s Empire, p. 20).

Marcos must have read Weber and Thompson and had applied their thesis in  unerring  perfection.

Let me quote Alfred W. McCoy:

“Law and order were central to the legitimization  of Marcos’s authoritarian regime, which he grandly christened “the New Society.” In the first years after he declared martial law in 1972, his restoration of security won him wide public support and a tenuous political legitimacy, particularly in Manila, where crime and chaos had been most acute under the Republic. During the first years of authoritarian rule, Marcos, then in his prime, proved to be an iron-fisted commander in chief who could control his repressive forces. With characteristic cunning, he divided military authority among trusted subordinates and then played one against the other.2 To fulfill his mandate for order, Marcos centralized police power, merging the hundreds of municipal forces into an Integrated National Police under constabulary control. Although Marcos’s motives were suspect, this new structure represented the first serious attempt in over a century to upgrade the quality of local law enforcement and proved a useful innovation that survived his later fall from power.

Over the longer term, however, the regime’s reliance on this police power for covert control harbored a fatal contradiction. Along with his imposition of order Marcos created constabulary anti-subversion squads, arming them with both formal decrees and informal impunity to suppress pro-democracy dissidents. After five years of “constitutional authoritarianism,” Marcos’s security squads shifted from formal mass arrests to extrajudicial operations. As his* regime’s celebrated “discipline” degenerated into systematic state terrorism and conspicuous corruption, citizens sensed the failure of their Faustian bargain with the dictatorship, swapping democracy for stability, and slowly withdrew their support. Marcos’s legitimacy faded, opposition grew, and in the end his massive police and military apparatus retreated before a million outraged citizens massed on Manila’s streets. Law and order were central to the regime’s early acceptance, but this legitimacy was undermined over time by the same police apparatus that had been used to impose order. In both its rise and demise, Marcos’s authoritarian regime thus rested to a surprising degree on the quality of its policing.

In this sense the image of Lim Seng’s on-camera execution was an illusion, another act in the dictator’s brilliant use of political theater to mask the contradiction between the image and the reality of martial rule. Lim Seng would become the only criminal legally executed in the fourteen years of martial law. But there would be thousands of extrajudicial killings of labor leaders, student activists, and ordinary citizens, their bodies mangled by torture and dumped for display to induce terror. This practice was so disturbing to the country’s collective consciousness that the Filipino-English dialect coined the neologism salvaging to capture its aura of terror.3 Tens of thousands more were arrested and abused, arousing both domestic opposition and international opprobrium.

From declaration to decline, Marcos’s martial law regime would also feel the subtle force of Washington’s influence. In planning his demolition of democracy, Marcos consulted the American ambassador who, concerned by the rising opposition to the U.S. bases, lent tacit support. Several years later President Carter, though troubled by Marcos’s abuses, was forced to set aside his human rights concerns to preserve the military bases at Clark Field and Subic Bay. When a democratic opposition challenged Marcos in 1986, the waning of the cold war in Asia had already reduced the strategic value of those bases, allowing the Reagan administration to withdraw support and encourage Marcos’s flight into exile. Throughout the fourteen years of dictatorship, however, Washington ignored the regime’s repression and backed Marcos with military aid and diplomatic support. By allowing the bases to shape bilateral relations, Washington once again found, as it had during the 1950s, that its military and economic aid was diverted to shore up a small Philippine oligarchy against the democratic aspirations of the masses and middle class.” (Policing America’s Empire, p.  397-98)

Was Ninoy correct in his assessment that Marcos was bad for democracy and wanted him ousted even to the extent, some assumed, forging an alliance with the CPP-NPA? Does not his death awakened the nation from long slumber and made a collective battle-cry, “enough is enough” and ousted the dictator?

Certain of his death, Ninoy braved the tarmac. Is he not like Rizal’s moth that braved the fire to see the light?

12 thoughts on “Ninoy and The EDSA Uprising…

    • hehehe.. some are pure rubbish, some are not. i see benign0’s (owner of GRP, not the martyred one) redemption when he wrote about the marcoses wealth… 🙂

  1. Pingback: The truth about the 1986 People Power revolution | Legal Notes

  2. This article is a timely reminder to the scourge brought about by martial law.

    Any Marcos and its remaining tentacles should not be anymore elected to power…never again.

  3. The revolution provided for the restoration of democratic institutions after thirteen years of authoritarian rule and these institutions have been used by various groups to challenge the entrenched political families and to strengthen Philippine democracy.

  4. That was Friday, February 21. The following day, February 22, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile made big waves of his holing up in Camp Aquinaldo together with AFP Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos and RAM leader Col. Gregorio Honasan, announcing his resignation from the Marcos administration – a resignation that already the day before was carried in two US newspapers. And finally, with Cardinal Sin issuing the call for support from the populace for Enrile et al, the crowd poured into EDSA – protecting the very implementers of martial law which they had despised for a decade and a half.

  5. Whatever the true story, it is clear that the imposition of martial law was premeditated. Marcos anticipated and prepared for all contingencies, including the drafting of a new constitution in 1971, during his second term, that allowed him to run for a third term and rule for life under a parliamentary system.

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