by David Goodloe
It was called the “revolution that surprised the world,” and it has been said that it inspired the movements that toppled Eastern Europe’s Communist governments three years later.
I always thought it was a stirring sight.
Twenty–five years ago today, the Philippine Revolution of 1986 — more popularly known as “People Power” — effectively overthrew the corrupt government of Ferdinand Marcos.
It was a revolution, all right, one that installed a fresh, new leader in petite Corazon Aquino, whose husband had been murdered by Marcos’ henchmen in August 1983.
But it wasn’t really like the rebellion in Egypt. Marcos had been in power for a couple of decades, but, unlike Hosni Mubarak, he was driven from power by a series of nonviolent demonstrations.
Gandhi would have been proud.
That wasn’t the astonishing part — well, not by itself. You see, Marcos was elected president in 1965 and then re–elected in 1969. He was prohibited by law from seeking a third term so, in 1973, he declared martial law via a presidential proclamation. He said civil disobedience was going up.
In the historical context, though, he hadn’t seen nothing yet.
Marcos clamped down and ruled with an iron fist. Critics were arrested or killed. The country’s constitution was abolished. Marcos and his wife embezzled a ton of money (Ferdinand died in 1989, but a few hundred charges are pending against Imelda in the Philippines) and enjoyed an opulent lifestyle while many in their country struggled to survive.
Anyway, martial law continued until the 1980s, when Marcos was re–elected for a third time.
And, through the early 1980s, Marcos resisted all attempts to remove him from power — including through the use of deadly force.
Yet, when the People Power Revolution occurred, he slipped away silently.
Under pressure from Washington, Marcos announced in late 1985 that a presidential election would be held in February. Aquino was urged to run by the opposition party, and she did. In fact, she won — according to the National Movement for Free Elections. But the Commission on Elections said Marcos won.
Nearly 30 of the Commission’s computer technicians walked out in protest of the way vote counts were being manipulated to favor Marcos, a move that many believed at the time (and still believe today) sparked the nationwide civil disobedience that led to Marcos’ departure.
The revolution changed the way things were done in the Philippines. Mrs. Aquino later said, “[O]urs must have been the cheapest revolution ever.”
CBS’ Bob Simon may have put it best: “We Americans like to think we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well, tonight they are teaching the world.”
David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.