PEOPLE POWER AND THE FALL OF MARCOS

PEOPLE POWER MOVEMENT AGAINST MARCOS

Marcos was finally ousted in 1986 in what became known as the People Power revolt. Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “The “people power” uprising began with a foiled coup attempt by a clique of junior officers two weeks after the election in which Mr. Marcos was declared the winner by a compliant legislature. Two of Mr. Marcos’s military leaders — Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Mr. Ramos, then chief of the national police — broke away from Mr. Marcos and took refuge in a military camp in the capital. Responding to calls by the Catholic Church and by Mrs. Aquino’s backers, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets around the military camp, blocking the advance of tanks and calling on the soldiers to join them. The tide had clearly turned against Mr. Marcos. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, July 31, 2009]

“President Ronald Reagan, who had supported him throughout, sent him the message that it was time for him to leave. Four days after the uprising began, Mr. Marcos was flown on an American aircraft to exile in Guam and then to Hawaii, where he died in 1989. Before fleeing, Mr. Marcos had himself sworn in as president in his nearly empty palace. Almost simultaneously Corazon Aquino was sworn in by her civilian supporters at a social club near the military camp. She was immediately recognized as president by the United States. In an address to the nation, she declared, “Our long national nightmare is over,” and there was a moment of hope. “ [Ibid]

Vincent McKee and Claire Wallerstein wrote in The Guardian, “The 3.5 million ordinary people who came on to the streets of Manila with Bibles and rosaries had answered the call of Cardinal Sin on Vatican Radio to confront the military machine peacefully. The effects of this uprising were felt far beyond the Asian island nation. Moving television images of nuns praying before tanks provided inspiration for other revolutions of the late 1980s, when people took to the streets of eastern Europe to shake off the chains of communism. Aquino was known for her trademark yellow dresses, a colour enthusiastically taken up by her supporters. [Source: Vincent McKee and Claire Wallerstein, The Guardian, August 1, 2009]

Howard Chua-Eoan wrote in Time, “By way of 24-hour cable news, the world witnessed four days of the military-civilian rebellion, a preview of similar uprisings that would later shake out the autocracies of Asia, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. And then, in a sweep of U.S. helicopters, Marcos was whisked off to exile in Hawaii and Aquino was proclaimed President of the Philippines. It was a most astonishing political story. [Source: Howard Chua-Eoan, Time, August 17, 2009]

Decline of Marcos

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the economic and political situation deteriorated, opposition to the Ferdinand Marcos government grew. The Catholic Church, the country's strongest and most independent nongovernmental institution, became increasingly critical of the government. Priests, nuns, and the church hierarchy, motivated by their commitment to human rights and social justice, became involved in redressing the sufferings of the common people through the political process. The business community became increasingly apprehensive during this period, as inflation and unemployment soared and the GNP stagnated and declined. Young military officers, desirous of a return to pre- martial law professionalism, allied with Minister of National Defense Enrile to oppose close Marcos associates in the military. *

On January 17, 1981, Marcos issued Proclamation 2045, formally ending martial law. Some controls were loosened, but the ensuing New Republic proved to be a form a sham of a democracy and a superficially liberalized version of the crony-dominated New Society. Predictably, Marcos won an overwhelming victory in the June 1981 presidential election, boycotted by the main opposition groups, and devoid of a free press or any real opposition.

Eric Pace wrote in the New York Times, “Eventually, in the 1980's, corruption and mismanagement left the Philippine economy in obvious trouble, and Mr. Marcos's prestige and power shrank. His health faltered, the United States moved away from him and political opponents and Communist insurgents grew more assertive. And he was put on the defensive after Aug. 21, 1983, when Benigno S. Aquino Jr., the main opposition leader, was shot and killed at the Manila airport as he returned home after three years of self-exile in the United States. The indignation caused by the killing, coupled with longstanding discontent, led to demonstrations and rioting that undermined his authority and ultimately brought Corazon C. Aquino, Mr. Aquino's widow, to power.[Source: Eric Pace, New York Times, September 29, 1989 >>>]

“Mr. Marcos was said to suffer kidney problems, and 1984 there was speculation that he was close to death. A passionate golfer and physical fitness buff who was proud of his physique, he disputed the accounts. With Mr. Marcos ailing, his long-powerful wife emerged as the Government's main public figure, meeting high-ranking visitors as though she were the chief of state. Her actual position was Minister of Human Settlements, which gave her cabinet rank.” >>>

“Early in the martial law period, Mr. Marcos enjoyed widespread support, in part because crimes of violence decreased. Other successes of his presidency, over the years, included rural irrigation and electrification projects and increased rice harvests. Yet the boasts of Mr. Marcos and his supporters seemed to be drowned out, in his final years, by the furor over the Aquino slaying, the Communist insurgency and the clamor of his emboldened political foes. >>>

Marcos and the Assassination of Ninoy Aquino

The beginning of the end for Marcos occurred when his chief political rival, Liberal Party leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, who had been jailed by Marcos for eight years, was assassinated as he disembarked from an airplane at the Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983, following medical treatment and exile in the United States. Aquino became a martyr. The two million mourners poured onto the streets to accompany Aquino's funeral cortege in the Philippines’s largest demonstration ever. The Catholic Church, a coalition of old political opposition groups, the business elite, the left wing, and even factions of the armed forces all began to exert pressure on the regime. By 1986 even Marcos' long-time supporters were publicly questioning him, as were foreign governments.

Eric Pace wrote in the New York Times, “Many Filipinos came to believe that Mr. Marcos, a shrewd political tactician, had no hand in the killing of Mr. Aquino but that he was involved in cover-up measures. A civilian investigative panel issued a report in October 1984 naming Gen. Fabian C. Ver, the armed forces Chief of Staff and a close friend of Mr. Marcos, and two dozen others, mostly soldiers, as ''indictable for the premeditated killing'' of Mr. Aquino and of Rolando Galman, who was earlier said to have been the lone assassin killed by airport guards. An indictment was handed up in February 1985. [Source: Eric Pace, New York Times, September 29, 1989 >>>]

“Mr. Marcos asserted that the evidence backed the military's contention that Mr. Galman had been hired by Communists and had acted on his own. But some opposition politicians contended that Mr. Marcos had ordered the slaying, while others accused the military and Mrs. Marcos. In late 1985, when the court found the defendants in the Aquino murder trial not guilty, the verdict was widely seen as a miscarriage of justice. The trial into the murder of Aquino brought public protest for reform was the beginning of the end for Marcos. Public pressure forced Marcos to hold an election in 1986.” >>>

Discontent with Marcos in the Philippine Military and the U.S.

Corruption and demoralization of the armed forces led to the emergence, in the early 1980s, of a faction of young officers, mostly graduates of the elite Philippine Military Academy, known as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). RAM supported a restoration of pre-martial law "professionalism" and was closely allied with Minister of National Defense Enrile, long a Marcos loyalist yet increasingly unhappy with Ver's ascendancy over the armed forces. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Given its past colonial association and continued security and economic interests in the Philippines, the United States never was a disinterested party in Philippine politics. On June 1, 1983, the United States and the Philippines signed a five-year memorandum of agreement on United States bases, which committed the United States administration to make "best efforts" to secure US$900 million in economic and military aid for the Philippines between 1984 and 1988. The agreement reflected both United States security concerns at a time of increased Soviet-Western tension in the Pacific and its continued faith in the Marcos regime. *

The assassination of Aquino shocked United States diplomats in Manila, but conservative policy makers in the administration of President Ronald Reagan remained, until almost the very end, supportive of the Marcoses, because no viable alternative seemed available. In hindsight, United States support for the moderate People's Power movement under Corazon Aquino, backed by church and business groups, would seem to be self-evident common sense. Yet in the tense days and weeks leading up to Marcos's ouster, many policy makers feared that she was not tough or canny enough to survive a military coup d'état or a communist takeover.

When Marcos’s downfall seemed to be only a matter of time, The Reagan administration removed its support of Marcos. Secretary of State George Schultz later wrote, "I became increasingly convinced that Marcos was the problem not the solution. He was highly unlikely to change and probably was so locked into corrupt arrangements that he could not change even if he wanted to."

Things Start to Unravel for Marcos

Eric Pace wrote in the New York Times, “In the months after the killing, he made concessions to his opponents under pressure from the United States, which had provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. That assistance had been important over the years in buttressing his rule. But by late 1984, there were signs that the Reagan Administration was distancing itself from his Government somewhat. And Mr. Marcos also had to contend with opposition from his country's Roman Catholic Church. [Source: Eric Pace, New York Times, September 29, 1989 >>>]

“While the Aquino controversy continued in the capital, the Communist insurgency, which began in 1969, was making political as well as military inroads around the country. Mr. Marcos estimated that the insurgent regulars numbered 10,000 to 12,000 by early 1985. But the rebel organization, the New People's Army, said it had around 20,000 armed fighters. And its popularity and influence were growing. As a result, by May 1985, many opposition figures had begun striking a more nationalistic and anti-American note - partly in reaction to leftists' charges that the Marcos Government was dictatorial and was being sustained by United States aid.

“As criticism of the Marcos Government grew in the United States, American officials let it be known that the Administration was particularly worried that instability in the Philippines might impede use of the two major American military bases there, Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. Accordingly, they indicated, the Administration wanted to prepare to deal with a Philippine power struggle after Mr. Marcos's rule. >>>

“By October 1984 the Reagan Administration had altered its attitude toward Mr. Marcos, and was prodding him to relax his authoritarian rule. Mr. Marcos was evidently nettled by the American appraisals. Shaking his fist, he declared in one speech, ''I am surprised why some people would classify us with the Central and Latin American countries.'' ''We don't want to appear to our Asian brothers as if we were the pet dogs of any Western ally,'' he said, suggesting that his handling of the Aquino assassination case was not meant just to satisfy Washington. >>>

“Criticism from the Philippine business sector, having flared up after the Aquino killing, continued, with many company executives urging that the economic power of Mr. Marcos and his entourage be reduced to permit decentralization and to bolster investor confidence. After the assassination, the Philippine economy worsened so markedly that the nation was not able to keep pace with the payments due on loans from overseas. The country's foreign debt soared to more than $25 billion by the beginning of 1985, and international lending organizations and banks, ascribing the economic travail to cronyism and heavy-handed Government control of the economy, pressed for changes.

“In the embittered political climate, Mr. Marcos found himself confronted by [Corazon] Aquino. The widow of his leading foe became a rival candidate for President in a special election that the confident Mr. Marcos, in a decisive political misstep, called for February 1986. The date was 16 months before the end of his six-year presidential term. The Marcos-controlled National Assembly declared him the victor, on the basis of a vote tally that was marked by pervasive violence and fraud by his side.

Marcos Calls Snap Elections

In November 1985, Marcos, still convinced that he had control of the political situation, announced a presidential election for February 7, 1986, one year before the expiration of his presidential term. Indicative of the importance of United States support for his regime, Marcos announced his decision to hold a "snap" presidential election on an American television talk show, "This Week with David Brinkley," in November 1985. He promised skeptical Americans access for observer teams, setting February 7, 1986, a year before his six-year presidential term ran out, as the date for the election. He believed his early reelection would solidify United States support, silence his critics in the Philippines and the United States, and perhaps banish the ghost of Benigno Aquino. Marcos's smoothly running, well-financed political machine and the divided nature of the opposition promised success, but his decision proved to be a monumental blunder. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Cardinal Sin, an astute negotiator described by one diplomat as "one of the best politicians in the Philippines," arranged a political alliance of convenience between Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel, who had announced his own candidacy but agreed to run as Aquino's vice-presidential candidate. Aquino had immense popular support and Laurel brought his superior organizational skills to the campaign. Their agreement to run together was arranged just in time for the deadline for submission of candidacies in early December. The church hierarchy gave its moral support to the opposition ticket. Cardinal Sin, realizing that poor people would not refuse money offered for votes and that the ethic of utang na loob would oblige them to vote for the briber, admonished the voters that an immoral contract was not binding and that they should vote according to their consciences. *

Vincent McKee and Claire Wallerstein wrote in The Guardian, As widely anticipated, the election was marred by massive fraud, but by the end of the campaign it was clear that Aquino was in the ascendant. Thus, when Marcos's election commissioners delayed the vote tally by almost three weeks, and then sought to declare the dictator the winner, a military revolt combined with millions of civilians taking to the capital's streets to demand Marcos's departure. [Source: Vincent McKee and Claire Wallerstein, The Guardian, August 1, 2009]

On the day of the election, NAMFREL guarded ballot boxes and tried to get a rapid tally of the results in order to prevent irregularities. A team of United States observers, which included a joint congressional delegation, issued a mild criticism of electoral abuses, but individual members expressed shock and indignation: Senator Richard Lugar claimed that between 10 and 40 percent of the voters had been disenfranchised by the removal of their names from registration rolls. The results tabulated by the government's Commission on Elections (COMELEC) showed Marcos leading, whereas NAMFREL figures showed a majority for the Aquino-Laurel ticket. On February 9, computer operators at COMELEC observed discrepancies between their figures and those officially announced and walked out in protest, at some risk to their lives. The church condemned the election as fraudulent, but on February 15, the Marcos-dominated National Assembly proclaimed him the official winner. Despite the election fraud, the Reagan administration's support for Marcos remained strong, as did its uncertainty concerning Corazon Aquino. Yet a consensus of policy makers in the White House, Department of State, Pentagon, and Congress was emerging and advised the withdrawal of support from Marcos. *

Eric Pace wrote in the New York Times, “In the embittered political climate, Mr. Marcos found himself confronted by Mrs. Aquino. The widow of his leading foe became a rival candidate for President in a special election that the confident Mr. Marcos, in a decisive political misstep, called for February 1986. The date was 16 months before the end of his six-year presidential term. The Marcos-controlled National Assembly declared him the victor, on the basis of a vote tally that was marked by pervasive violence and fraud by his side. [Source: Eric Pace, New York Times, September 29, 1989 >>>]

Outrage Over Marcos’s Win Turns Into a People Power Struggle to Oust Him

When the Marcos-dominated National Assembly proclaimed Marcos the winner, Cardinal Jaime Sin and key military leaders rallied around the apparent majority vote winner, Aquino’s widow, Corazon Cojuango Aquino. Opposition to Marcos at home and abroad was immediate and vociferous. On February 22, Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and the commander of the Philippine Constabulary, Fidel V. Ramos, issued a joint statement demanding Marcos's resignation and set up a rebel headquarters inside Camp Aguinaldo and the adjoining Camp Crame in Metro Manila. When Marcos called out troops loyal to him to put down the rebellion, Cardinal Sin broadcast an appeal over the church-run Radio Veritas calling on the people to render nonviolent support to the rebels. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed priests, nuns, and ordinary citizens faced down the tanks and machine guns of the government troops. Violent confrontation was prevented and many government troops turned back or defected. By the evening of February 25, Marcos and his family were enroute to exile in Hawaii, and Corazon Aquino had assumed power. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Eric Pace wrote in the New York Times, “Resentment simmered, and later that month, Juan Ponce Enrile, the Defense Minister, and Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the army deputy chief of staff, led an anti-Marcos military rebellion that was noteworthy for its lack of bloodshed. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos turned out into Manila's streets, forming a vast human wall to protect Mr. Enrile, General Ramos and others who had barricaded themselves in a military installation. The human buffer made it impossible for the Marcos forces to strike at the rebels without causing many civilian casualties, and it added to the manifold pressures on Mr. Marcos to cease trying to rule. Finally, after asking in vain for Reagan Administration help in staying in power, he fled the Presidential Palace in the evening of Feb. 25, accompanied by his family, and a United States Air Force plane flew the Marcoses to Guam en route to Hawaii, where they took up residence in Honolulu. In the months after his ouster, details emerged about the enormous wealth Mr. Marcos had amassed in his years in power. [Source: Eric Pace, New York Times, September 29, 1989 >>>]

People Power and the End of Marcos

Marcos was ousted by The People Power Movement—a popular uprising of priests, nuns, ordinary citizens, and children, supported by defecting military units—on the day of his inauguration (February 25, 1986) and Aquino assumed power in an almost bloodless revolution.

On February 25, 1986, both Aquino and Marcos were inaugurated as President by their respective supporters. The crucial moment of the People Power struggle occurred when Marcos's second cousin and army Chief of Staff, General Fidel Ramos and defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile switched their allegiance from Marcos to Aquino. The military rebellion led by these two men against Marcos dissolved the one thing that kept Marcos in power—the military. Ramos refused to order tanks against Aquino. When Marcos forces threatened to retaliate, Cardinal Jaime Sin pleaded in a radio broadcast for “people power” to protect Aquino’s supporters and called for Catholics to take to the streets to support the military mutiny against Marcos.

Cardinal Sin, broadcasting over the Catholic-run Radio Veritas (which became the voice of the revolution), appealed to the people to bring food and supplies for the rebels and to use nonviolence to block pro-Marcos troop movements. Hundreds of thousands responded. In the tense days that followed, priests, nuns, ordinary citizens, and children linked arms with the rebels and faced down, without violence, the tanks and machine guns of government troops. Many of the government troops defected, including the crews of seven helicopter gunships, which seemed poised to attack the massive crowd on February 24 but landed in Camp Crame to announce their support for People's Power. Violent confrontations were prevented. The Philippine troops did not want to wage war on their own people. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Although Marcos held an inauguration ceremony at Malacañang Palace on February 25, it was boycotted by foreign ambassadors (with the exception, in an apparently unwitting gaffe, of a new Soviet ambassador). It was, for the Marcoses, the last, pathetic hurrah. Advised by a United States senator, Paul Laxalt, who had close ties to Reagan, to "cut and cut cleanly," Marcos realized that he had lost United States support for any kind of arrangement that could keep him in power. An almost bloodless revolution brought Corazon Aquino into office as the seventh president of the Republic of the Philippines. *

By the time that Marcos’s tanks began rolling down EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue), Manila’s main thoroughfare, hundreds of thousands of people had gathered there to pray the rosary and stop them. The People’s Power rebellion is known in the Philippines as the EDSA rebellion or the “Miracle at EDSA.” A shrine was later set up to mark the spot of the People Power Revolution. The event received widespread coverage in the United States. All three of the major television networks sent their anchors to Manila. In the early 2000s, a foundation of Nobel Peace Prize laureates praised the citizens of the Philippines for using “people power” and achieving ther objectives without firing a single shot and using the same methods to oust President Estrada in People Power II.

Participant in the People Power Protests

The People's Power movement was broad-based but primarily, although not exclusively, urban-based. It encompassed members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the business elite, and a faction of the armed forces. Its millions of rural, working-class, middle-class, and professional supporters were united not by ideology or class interests, but by their esteem for Aquino's widow, Corazon, and their disgust with the Marcos regime. After her husband's assassination, Corazon Aquino assumed first a symbolic and then a substantive role as leader of the opposition. A devout Catholic and a shy and self-styled "simple housewife," Mrs. Aquino inspired trust and devotion. Some, including top American policy makers, regarded her as inexperienced and naive. Yet in the events leading up to Marcos's ouster she displayed unexpected shrewdness and determination. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Alan Sipress wrote in the Washington Post, “In 1986, she was a community activist newly released from a Marcos jail in the southern Philippines when the crowds of protesters began to swell. With a soft laugh, she recalled the euphoria of being swept along by the throng through the gates of Malacanang Palace after the dictator fled. She recounted elderly Filipinos being moved to tears because it was the first time they ever had been able to pass the barbed wire and visit the fortified seat of their own government. [Source: Alan Sipress, Washington Post, July 10, 2005 ^/^]

“Yet within six months, Santos said she had grown disillusioned with the new president, Corazon Aquino, because her policies favored the wealthy, not the peasants and urban poor. Aquino served a term in office until 1992, and has been credited for defending the country's transition to democracy. ^/^

“Raised under martial law, Santos said she had raced to Edsa Boulevard in 1986 to teach her young children to care about their country. "I didn't want them to grow up indifferent to the political and economic situation," she recalled. "I saw tanks coming right at me," she continued. "I was a housewife with no job and three kids at the time. What do I do? I helped place sandbags. Would they shoot at us? We hope not." After the first day, the confrontation turned into a carnival. "All my relatives were there. I bumped into people I hadn't met in a really long time. And afterward, we were all happy," she said. ^/^

Marcos’s Last Moments at Malacanang Palace

Describing the scene at Malacañang Palace on February 24, 1986, journalist James Fenton wrote, "Something very odd was happening. Where the vegetable garden had been (it had been planted on Imelda’s instructions, as part of some pet scheme), they were now laying a lawn. And the sculpture garden too—all the concrete statues were being smashed and carried away. The workers watched us as we passed. there were tanks by the next gate, and the security check was still in operation. “It’s extraordinary, isn’t it” someone said, “the way they keep going on as if nothing had happened. That platform—they must have been told to put it up for the inauguration. Now Marcos has gone and they’re still putting it up.” As we came through security, a voice began to speak over the public address. It was giving instructions to the military to confine itself to the use of small arms in dealing with attacks. It was outlining Marcos’s supposed policy of the whole election campaign—Maximum Tolerance. “Whose voice is that?” I asked. “It’s Marcos. It must be a recording.” [Source: Excerpt from“The Snap Revolution,” in All the Wrong Places by James Fenton (London: Viking Penguin, 1989) ~]

“We ran up the grand staircase and turned right into the ante-room. And there sat Marcos himself, with Imelda and the family all around him, and three or four generals to the right. They had chosen the ante-room rather than the main hall, for there were only a few journalists and cameramen, and yesterday’s great array of military men was nowhere to be seen. I looked very closely at Marcos and thought: it isn’ t him. It looked like ectoplasm. Like the Mighty Mekon. It was talking in a precise and legalistic way, which contrived to sound both lucid and utterly nonsensical. It had its left hand under the table, and I watched the hand for a while to see whether it was being deliberately concealed. But it wasn’t. ~

“General Ver was quivering and in an evident panic. I wondered whether his gums had swollen. He stepped forward and asked for permission to bomb Camp Crame. There were two government F-5 jets circling over it, he said. (Just outside the palace someone had told me that the crowd at Camp Crame appeared to think that these jets were on their side, for they cheered every time the aircraft cameover.) Marcos told Ver they were not to be used. Ver’s panic increased.“The Air Force, sir, is ready to attack were the civilians to leave the vicinity of Camp Crame immediately, Mr. President. That’s why I came here on your orders so we can immediately strike them. We have to immobilize the helicopters that they got.” (Marcos had sent helicopter gunships against the camp, but the pilots had come out waving white flags and joined the rebels.) ~

“Marcos broke in with tired impatience, as if this had been going on all through the night and he was sick and tired of Ver. “My order is not to attack. No, no, no. Hold on; not to attack.”Ver was going wild. “Our negotiations and our prior dialogue have not succeeded, Mr. President.”Marcos: “All I can say is that we may have to reach the point we may have to employ heavy weapons, but you will use the small weapons in hand or shoulder weapons in the meantime.”Ver said: “Our attack forces are being delayed.” The Christian Science Monitor,at my elbow, said: “This is absurd. It’s a Mutt-and-Jeff act.”Ver said: “There are many civilians near our troops, and we cannot keep on withdrawing. We cannot withdraw all the time, Mr. President.” ~

“All this was being broadcast live on Channel Four, which Marcos could see on a monitor. Ver finally saluted, stepped backwards and left with the other officers. I forget who they were, just as Marcos, when he introduced them to us, had forgotten all their names and needed prompting. Now the family withdrew as well. An incident then occurred whose significance I didn’t appreciate at the time. The television began to emit white noise. A soldier stepped forward and fiddled with the knobs. The other channels were working, but Channel Four had been knocked off the air. The rebels had taken the government station, which Marcos must have realized. But he hardly batted an eyelid. It was as if the incident were some trivial disturbance, as if the television were simply on the blink.” ~

Looting of Malacanang Palace

Marcos fled the Philippines in a U.S. Air Force H-3 helicopter on February 25th, with his family and crates of pesos and jewelry. After the Marcoses fled Malacañang Palace— the palace that had been their residence for two decades—and were on their way to exile in Hawaii, Manila's masses surged into the building to witness firsthand for themselves the excesses of the Marcos regime (including Imelda's famous shoe collection, consisting of hundreds of pairs of expensive, often unworn, shoes).

After Marcos fled Fenton went to Malacañang Palace, "I turned back and walked down the center of the road to Malacañang, my feet crunching broken glass and stones. I asked a policeman whether he thought it safe to proceed. Yes, he said, there were a few Marcos men hiding in the side streets,but the fighting had all stopped. A child came running past me and called out,“Hey Joe, what’s the problem?” but didn’t wait for an answer. As I came within view of the palace I saw that people were climbing over therailings, and just as I caught up with them a gate flew open. Everyone was pouring in and making straight for the old Budget Office. It suddenly occurred to me that very few of them knew where the palace itself was. Documents were flyingout of the office and the crowd was making whoopee. I began to run. [Source: Excerpt from“The Snap Revolution,” in All the Wrong Places by James Fenton (London: Viking Penguin, 1989) ~]

“Bing was just behind me, looking seraphically happy, with his cameras bobbing round his neck. We pushed our way through to a kind of hall, where an armed civilian told us we could go no further. The journalists crowded round him, plead-ing to be allowed a look. The man had been sent by the rebel troops. He had given his word of honor, he said. He couldn’t let anybody past. But it was all, I’m afraid, too exciting. One of the Filipino photographers just walked past the guard, then another followed, then Bing went past; and finally I was the only one left. I thought: oh well, he hasn’t shot them, he won’t shoot me. I scuttled past him in that way people do when they expect to be kicked up the backside. “Hey, man, stop,” said the guard, but as he followed me around the corner we both saw he had been standing in the wrong place: the people in the crowd had come around another way and were now going through boxes and packing-cases to see what they could find. There were no takers for the Evian water. But everything else was disappearing. ~

“I caught up with Bing, who was looking through the remains of a box of monogrammed towels. We realized they had Imelda’s initials. There were a couple left. They were irresistible. I couldn’t believe I would be able to find the actual Marcos apartments, and I knew there was no point in asking. We went up some servants’ stairs, at the foot of which I remember seeing an opened crate with two large green jade plates. They were so large as to be vulgar. On the first floor a door opened, and we found ourselves in the great hall where the press conferences had been held. This was the one bit of the palace the crowd would recognize, as it had so often watched Marcos being televised from here. ~

“People ran and sat on his throne and began giv-ing mock press conferences, issuing orders in his deep voice, falling about with laughter or just gaping at the splendor of the room. It was all fully lit. Nobody had bothered, as they left, to turn out the lights. I remembered that the first time I had been here, the day after the election, Imelda had slipped in and sat at the side. She must have come from that direction. I went to investigate. And now, for a short while, I was away from the crowd with just one other per-son, a shy and absolutely thunderstruck Filipino. We had found our way, we real-ized, into the Marcoses’ private rooms. There was a library, and my companion gazed in wonder at the leather-bound volumes while I admired the collection of art books all carefully catalogued and with their numbers on the spines. This was the reference library for Imelda’s worldwide collection of treasures. She must have thumbed through them thinking: I’d like one of them, or I’ve got a couple of them in New York, or That’s in our London house. ~

“And then there was the Blue Drawing Room with its twin portraits of the Marcoses, where I simply remember standing with my companion and saying, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it.” It wasn’t that it was beautiful. It looked as if it had been purchased at Harrods. It was just that, after all the crowds and riots, we had landed up in this peaceful, luxurious den. My companion had never seen anything like it. He didn’t take anything. He hardly dared touch the furnishings and trinkets. We both simply could not believe that we were there and the Marcoses weren’t.I wish I could remember it all better. For instance, it seemed to me that in every room I saw, practically on every available surface, there was a signed photograph of Nancy Reagan. But this can hardly be literally true. It just felt as if there was a lot of Nancy in evidence. ~

“Another of the rooms had a grand piano. I sat down.“Can you play?” said my companion.“A little,” I exaggerated. I can play Bach’s Prelude in C, and this is what I pro-ceeded to do, but my companion had obviously hoped for something more racy. A soldier came in, carrying a rifle. “Please cooperate,” he said. The soldier looked just as overawed by the place as we were. We co-operated. When I returned down the service stairs, I noticed that the green jade plates were gone, but there was still some Evian water to be had. I was very thirsty, as it happened. But the revolution had asked me to cooperate. So I did. Outside, the awe had communicated itself to several members of the crowd. They stood by the fountain looking down at the colored lights beneath the water, not saying anything. I went to the parapet and looked across the river. I thought: somebody’s still fighting; there are still some loyal troops. Then I thought: that’s crazy—they can’t have started fighting now. I realized that I was back in Saigon yet again. There in deed there had been fighting on the other side of the river. Buthere it was fireworks. The whole city was celebrating.” ~

Golf Course Architect Helps Defeat Marcos

A. Craig Copetas wrote in New York Times, “In January 1986, Robert Trent Jones Jr., an American golf course designer, strolled off a plane at Manila International Airport, hoping that President Ferdinand Marcos was too busy trying to suppress a revolution to remember that he had marked him for death. "I was expecting all hell to break loose," Jones recalled. [Source: A. Craig Copetas, New York Times, January 15, 2005 /=\]

“Why Marcos wanted Jones dead had nothing to do with his refusal to design a course that could accommodate the dictator's woeful slice. Since 1975, Marcos knew that Jones was serving as the global point man to raise money and political support for the nation's pro-democracy People Power movement led by Benigno Aquino and dozens of Jones's Filipino golf partners. Jones had privately lobbied for regime change in the Philippines while playing golf with Sam Nunn, the Georgia senator; George Shultz, the secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan; and other senior officials in the Carter and Reagan administrations. /=\

“What Marcos did not know was that Jones had been shuttling messages between Reagan administration officials and People Power leaders while playing golf with both groups in the United States and the Philippines. "Bob is a really good golfer and very competitive in everything," Shultz says. "I wasn't in the Philippines. Bob was, and he was an influential voice. He was a good and trusted back channel, and he kept me well informed." Jones added: "I didn't need a cover story. I really was in the Philippines building golf courses." /=\

“Two weeks before Marcos's Aviation Security Command assassinated Aquino as he stepped off a plane in Manila on Aug. 21, 1983, Jenetta Sagan from Amnesty International phoned Jones in Hawaii with instructions to warn Aquino of the plot that awaited him upon return from a three-year exile in the United States. "I told Benigno, and his silence was overpowering," Jones recalls. "He knew, and there was nothing I could do to prevent him from going home." Two days after Aquino's murder, two of Marcos's henchmen in San Francisco blocked Jones from entering the Commonwealth Club for lunch. "They told me not to go back to Manila, ever, or I would 'follow my friend's fate,"' Jones says. /=\

“Jones went back to the Philippines with instructions from Shultz to assure Corazon Aquino, the widowed People Power leader, that the United States would recognize her new government if the uprising proved successful. She went on to become president of the Philippines. "I'm here to build a golf course and play a few rounds with my partners," Jones told the Aviation Security Command agents before climbing into the car Aquino had sent for him. Jones shut the door. People Power organizer Jose Cojuangco Jr., known as Peping, handed him an AK-47 assault rifle. "Marcos will torture all of us for the information you're carrying," Cojuangco said. "We must not be taken alive." /=\

“Reaching for one of the clubs piled on the floor atop golf balls and ammunition clips, Jones selected a 3-iron and tapped Cojuangco on the shoulder. "Bobby looks me in the eye and calmly says, 'Peping, you got a 7-iron back here? I'd be much better with a 7-iron,"' Cojuangco recalled over lunch recently with Corazon Aquino, who is his sister. Aquino said, "Bobby put his life at risk for us more than once, even though I never played golf." After the laughter faded, Aquino told Jones, "There's no doubt you used the game of golf to influence U.S. politicians to support me instead of Marcos. You helped me become president." /=\

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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