flashback 25 feb 1986

25 February 2008

day four, tuesday, began with midnight fireworks. persisting rumors of marcos’s fall and flight prompted many to celebrate with firecrackers.

outside malacanang, a group of 500 or so students keeping vigil near nagtahan bridge exploded a bunch of firecrackers, and from time to time threw stones and empty bottles at soldiers who reacted by shooting into the air, which noise must have freaked out the marcoses in the palace even more.

in fact they had started to pack up. marcos’s sons-in-law supervised the packing of dozens of crates of family possessions, including daw hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold bullion and bonds, more than a million dollars worth of freshly printed pesos, as well as artifacts and jewels. these were delivered by boat to a bayfront lawn adjacent to the u.s. embassy.

wrote lewis m. simons in worth dying for [1987]:

There was little sleep in the palace that night as aides scurried from room to room, sifting through cabinets and boxes filled with documents, receipts, letters, many of them incriminating. Imelda Marcos was able to provide little advice to her husband. She seemed dazed, drifting in and out of her private chapel where she knelt and prayed. Marcos’s son Bongbong and General Ver were arguing desperately with him to stay and fight.”

2:45 a.m. marcos phoned u.s. senator paul laxalt to ask whether reagan’s message supporting cory aquino was valid. imelda also called nancy reagan to ask what the message was all about. nancy said she would ask her husband.

Ver had not yet given up on efforts to retake channel 4 despite a warning sent to him from Washington hinting that he would not be allowed to leave should marcos decide to, if he did not freeze his troops.

worried that his rangers would be utilized general brawner did not respond to an order to report to army headquarters. instead he prepared to report to camp crame. but ramos ordered him to hold and consolidate the army base at fort bonifacio.

on edsa rumors of impending attacks still abounded, but everything was quiet and the crowds were able to sleep, among the litter and stench of urine.

it was for marcos really that the darkest hour was just before dawn, when he and imelda got their replies from washington. laxalt’s advice: cut and cut cleanly. nancy’s: if marcos avoids violence he will be invited to live in the u.s.

wrote sandra burton in impossible dream [1989]:

5:30 a.m. his family had been urging marcos to leave, to no avail. imelda had resisted the idea for a time but now she, too, was resigned to the prospect. he had continued to insist that he would stay and fight, but had urged the family to go. now however something in his demeanor told them to proceed with arrangements for all of them to leave. son-in-law tommy manotoc called a friend at the u.s. embassy and gave the “go” signal they had been waiting for.”

6:00 a.m. the vicinity of club filipino in greenhills, san juan, was ablaze with yellow as people started to pour in. most of the early birds came from an all-night vigil in nearby camp crame.

unknown to the people, over in cory’s home in times street, quezon city, reformist generals were still trying to convince cory to hold the inauguration in camp crame as club filipino would be impossible to secure. they offered to fly her to crame in a chopper. but cory was adamant in her refusal: camp crame was the first place where ninoy, where every political detainee was brought during the martial law years.

7:00 a.m. ambasssador bosworth ordered general teddy allen of jusmag to make arrangements for the evacuation of marcos from the palace, with options of transport by air, land, and sea for 30 people, available within one hour from marcos’s go-signal.

on mother ignacia street, where channel 9’s transmission towers were located, a firefight broke out between rebels and loyalists.

by 8:00 a.m. the sampaguita hall of club filipino where the oathtaking was to take place was packed. 500 people were allowed entry into a space whose normal capacity was 300. mostly opposition leaders, journalists, well-known supporters, and of course the aquinos and laurels.

the presidential table was reserved for 15, among them former vps fernando lopez and emmanuel pelaez and supreme court justices claudio teehankee and vicente abad santos. no seats for enrile and ramos at cory’s table; they were not expected to attend, given their objections to the venue.

8:30 a.m. over in camp crame, while reformist offficers were still insisting that the inauguration should happen where a lot of the action had taken place, enrile received a phone call from marcos who suggested that he and enrile set up a provisional government. he’d remain as honorary President until 1987 so he could leave politics in an orderly manner. enrile said it was too late, and soon left for club filipino with ramos and their security forces.

in malacanang palace over breakfast with chief justice aquino, imee admitted that none of them got any sleep because the president called them all to his bedroom and talked to them all night.

around 9:30 a.m. enrile and ramos, dressed in combat uniform, arrived aboard a chopper. seats were added with the unexpected arrival of the rebels, accompanied by their security aides from the new armed forces.

10:15 a.m. cory arrived, wearing a bright yellow linen outfit with cut-work sleeves, more than her usual light make-up, small diamond earrings and a black-strap watch.

said fvr in a 1991 interview:

what was electric was when cory aquino herself came in. the whole room burst into spontaneous applause. cory supporters were waving yellow banners and all sorts of yellow things. it was a very inspiring moment.”

10:40 a.m. – Laurel took his oath of office as Vice President of the Philippines before Supreme Court Justice Vicente Abad Santos.

10:46 a.m. – Aquino was sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Claudio Teehankee. as justice teehankee uttered the final words of the oath, a tremendous cheer broke loose from every throat. flags waved, hats and bandannas were thrown into the air. outside there was dancing in the streets.

cory issued executive order no. 1 that filled up three key positions in her government: laurel as prime minister, enrile as defense minister, and fidel ramos as chief of staff of the new armed forces. she also promoted ramos from lt. gen. to the full rank of general.

wrote amando doronila in the manila times:

one is disappointed that none of the people of the lower orders of philippine society is represented at the head table. most of the people inside are still members of old political families who social and economic backgrounds put them in key positions to influence policy decisions. new forces in society crying out for recognition are invisible within the club filipino power elite.”

just like over at the new channel 4. wrote activist behn cervantes in business day:

when some johnny-come-lately, you are told, has to approve a formal organizational statement you have, you say, “no way!” when martial law was declared and censorship was the thing, you did not follow the rule. who is this johnny who has the unofficial power to approve or disapprove? in your mind you say, “up yours!” and read the statement anyway.”

out in the streets, the action had shifted from edsa to mendiola and other roads leading to malacanang palace. jp laurel from nagtahan bridge to ayala bride was teeming with the marcos version of people power, waving placards and shouting “marcos pa rin!”

mendiola, connecting jp lauel and legarda streets, was also filled with marcos followers up to barbed wire accordions several meters deep where a pro-aquino crowd was gathering. each side was beginning to taunt the other.

on the palace lawns were nine armored personnel carriers and tanks, the engines of some running,and hundreds of soldiers carrying automatic m-16 rifles.

inside the palace, less than a thousand were allowed to enter and only half were permitted into the ceremonial hall where marcos was to take his oath of office. several cabinet ministers, officials of the kilusang bagong lipunan, and members of various youth and community groups identified with the marcos party filled about three-quarters of the spacious hall. most of the 500 people were in casual attire, which was unusual; the marcoses usually required strictly formal wear for palace functions.

11:45 a.m. the marcoses entered the hall and were greeted with cheers of “marcos, marcos, marcos pa rin!”

11:55 a.m. chief justice ramon c. aquino swore marcos into office. as marcos raised his right hand in solemn oath, the live television coverage was abruptly cut off. a perfect shot at a transmitter, ordered by reformist col. honesto isleta, had immobilized channels 2, 9, and 13 simultaneously. marcos had lost all touch with the public.

after the oath-taking and a short speech by marcos, chief justice aquino was called back to reenact the ritual for cameras and video tapes. then marcos followed his wife and son to the balcony where they waved to the crowd gathered below and he delivered a strongly worded speech in pilipino, and imelda sang “dahil sa iyo” for the last time. then they withdrew to their rooms and were not seen again.

over in camp crame, a reception area had been set up for defecting soldiers: brawner and his entire ranger regiment, piccio and his men, and more, many of them pushed in by relatives who had been at the barricades.

but the stream of defections to the rebel side was no big deal – just as many troops were still fence-sitting, waiting for more proof that marcos was truly finished, just like reagan, who until the end were hoping that marcos would come up with something brilliant that would save his regime anew.

but marcos was ill, running a fever; he had lost it, so to speak, a fact that ver finally discerned that afternoon. at 3 p.m. he finally agreed to speak with a c.i.a. officer about exiting with marcos. by 4 p.m. he was seen in malacanang park in civilian attire.

in camp crame around 4:30 p.m. enrile and his men prepared to move out and retake camp aguinaldo. enrile introduced honasan to the jubilant crowd outside as the man who precipitated the fall of marcos. honasan spoke with forked tongue, denied plotting to kill marcos: “we did not plan any coup d’etat or assassination. our action was purely for the purpose of survival.”

between 5 and 6 p.m. marcos phoned enrile, asked him to tell bosworth to make available gen. allen to be his security escort as he wanted to leave the palace. the packing became more frantic.

at 6:30 p.m. military officers ordered remaining malacañang personnel, even those on the night shift, to evacuate. this while allen and manotoc were talking on the phone finalizing exit details. marcos picked up an extension and allen asked him where he wanted to go. marcos said, to clark air force base, then to ilocos norte. “we are ready to go now.”

wrote presidential aide arturo aruiza in malacanang to makiki [1991]:

The traffic between the bedrooms upstairs and Heroes Hall below grew more frenzied as all kinds of lugage made their way down. There were carton boxes, garment bags, duffel bags, traveling bags, leather bags, attache cases, Louis Vitton bags, suitcases, and just plain boxes packed but their flaps left unsealed.

“i saw fe roa gimenez, mrs. marcos’s private secretary, emptying her desk of papers. at first she fed them to the shredder but it was slow work. i suggested that she pile them all in one place and i would order they boys to burn them.”

7:00 p.m. the u.s. embassy notified the palace of arrangements and gave the marcoses two hours to leave the palace.

outside malacanang the crowds were growing. tense na tense ang mga sundalo. wrote lino brocka in the sunday times magazine:

minsan pa, maniwala ka, nakatayong ganyan ang mga sundalo, nariyan naman ang puwersa ng bayan. hintayan. tense talaga. biglang may tumawid sa tulay mula sa bayan side papunta sa mga sundalo. may dalang pagkain. alam mo ba ang ginawa ng mga sundalo? ibinaba ang mga baril at pumalakpak! pagkatapos, kumain sila nang kumain. diyos ko, sabi namin, tao rin pala sila. gutom na gutom! eh ayun, matapos nilang kumain, tinanganan uli ang mga baril nila.”

wrote sandra burton:

although the silhouettes of the giant machines were barely visible, flying without lights, the shudder of steel descending was unmistakable to the thousands of anti-marcos demonstrators massed in the streets bordering the palace compound.”

7:30 p.m. two american helicopters from clark touched down on the pangarap golf course in malacanang park. the only treeless area in the palace grounds, even the park could only accommodate two choppers at a time.

during those final hours the first family gathered in reception hall from where they made their get-away, boarding the presidential barge to cross the pasig river to malacanang park.

8:40 p.m. a convoy of cars filled with security men made their escape to clark air base in pampanga. the family of ver and his sons, ambassador eduardo cojuangco and his family, also motored to clark to join the marcos party.

the first chopper carried imelda, bongbong, jose conrado benitez, four officers, and imelda’s luggage. the second chopper that lifted off immediately after the first carried the president, tommy and imee, greggy and irene, the children, doctors and nurses, security agents and valets.

in wack wack, cory received a call from bosworth informing her that marcos had left. everyone shouted jubilantly at hearing the news, except cory.

9:52 p.m. dzrh was the first to announce the news: “the marcoses have fled the country!” in those days of u.s. military bases, clark field in pampanga was considered u.s. territory.

on edsa and everywhere, there was dancing in the streets, fireworks, horns honking, laughing, crying, embracing. monumental traffic jams. thousands staged a victory march from crame to malacanang, and everywhere people poured out into the streets in cathartic celebration. those inside their houses rushed to get something to drink – alcoholic and otherwise – for a toast to freedom.

Posted in edsa

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  • © Angela Stuart-Santiago