The People Power Revolution, also known as the Philippine Revolution of 1986 or EDSA Revolution, was a monumental historical event that was preceded by years of political instability and civil unrest. For twenty years the Philippines had been subject to the authoritarian regime of ex-president, Ferdinand Marcos. During his term the country faced extreme wealth disparities due to political corruption, which then resulted in increased crime rates. Marcos used this civil unrest, as well as the supposed threat of communism, as a justification for the implementation of martial law on September 21, 1972. The proclamation of martial law allowed Marcos to exceed his two-term limit and remain in office without holding elections. Marcos used his increased power to embezzle money from the government, as well as silence his opposition and critics, such as in the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. The assassination of Aquino only intensified government suspicions and heightened discontent among Filipino citizens.
After being pressured by the United States government, Marcos declared on November 23, 1985 that a snap presidential election would be held the following year. The elections were conducted on February 7, 1986, but conflict arose regarding the results. The Commission of Elections declared Ferdinand Marcos the winner, while the National Movement for Free Elections declared Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino, Jr., as the winner. The allegations of fraud that circled the elections caused once prominent supporters of Marcos, such as Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos, to resign from their political posts and withdraw support. The Catholic Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, asked the Filipino citizens via radio broadcast to come to the opposition’s aid.
Masses of demonstrators flocked to Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) near Camp Aguinaldo where Enrile and Ramos were holding a press conference announcing their withdrawal of support for the Marcos regime. The crowd consisted of a variety of people such as military figures, clergy members, and families. An exact count of the demonstrators is unknown, but estimates suggest over one million people gathered to form barricades and conduct non-violent demonstrations. The sheer number of demonstrators proved to be effective in hindering the movement of government troops. Leaders of the opposition were able to capture radio and television stations, as well as destroy military artillery and supplies.
On February 25, 1986 two inaugurations were held, one for Aquino and the other for Marcos. However, Aquino’s inauguration received a much larger turnout than that of Marcos, so he and his family quickly fled the palace. Marcos and his family were able to secure safe passage to Hawaii, and thus fled the Philippines for the United States. The opposition was victorious having forced Marcos out of the country, and instating Corazon Aquino as the first woman president of the Philippines.
The People Power Revolution was a historical event that was years in the making, and has continued to have a significant impact on the Philippines in the years have that followed. The more obvious result of the movement was that it helped to overthrow one of the most infamous authoritarian regimes in history, and reintroduced democracy to a country that had been denied such rights for more than twenty years. However, one of the less obvious, but still highly significant outcomes, was that it demonstrated the ability of the Filipino masses to organize and serve as a force for change. This newfound power created a sense of nationalism among Filipinos, as people from diverse social classes and regions came together for a common purpose. In addition, the influence of this event reached beyond the borders of the Philippines, as the People Power Revolution served as an inspiration for other non-violent demonstrations around the world.
– Stephanie Enano