read UP professor amado mendoza jr‘s ‘People Power’ in the Philippines, 1983-86, chapter 11 of the book Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present by adam roberts & timothy garton ash, published by oxford university in 2009.
… It might have been expected that the Marcos regime would be overthrown violently by the ongoing communist insurgency or a military coup. Scholars of regime change have long argued that neo-patrimonial dictatorships are particularly vulnerable to violent overthrow by armed opponents.
The peaceful outcome in the Philippines is therefore a puzzle. Thompson argued that Marcos’s removal was the result of moderate forces successfully out-manoeuvring the different armed groups. Boudreau acknowledged the competitive and complementary relationship between the armed and unarmed anti-dictatorship movements, but believed that the creation of an organized non-communist option that regime defectors could support was decisive. [180-181]
very interesting, and informative of poltical mindsets circa ’83-’86:
Exiled to the US in 1980, Senator Aquino returned in August 1983 hoping to persuade an ailing Marcos to step down and allow him to take over. His brazen assassination at Manila international airport unleashed a broad civil resistance movement which eventually outstripped the communist insurgency in terms of media coverage and mass mobilization. The Catholic Church, led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, played an active role in bringing together the non-communist opposition and Manila’s business elite. Pro-opposition mass media outlets were opened and a citizens’ electoral watch movement was revived. Aquino’s death also prompted US State Department officials to assist political moderates and pressure Marcos for reforms. Marcos tried to divide the opposition anew through the 1984 parliamentary elections. While some moderates joined a communist-led boycott, others (supported by the widowed Corazon Aquino) participate—and won a third of the contested seats despite widespread violence, cheating, and government control of the media.
Emboldened moderates consequently spurned a commnist-dominated anti-dictatorship alliance in 1985 to form their own coalition. While Marcos called for ‘snap’ presidential elections, they united behind Mrs. Aquino’s candidacy. The communists, hoping to worsen intra-elite conflicts, called for another boycott. Military officers associate with Enrile formed the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and tacitly supported Aquino’s candidacy while preparing for an anti-Marcos coup. Faced by a vigorous opposition campaign, Marcos resorted to fraud and systematic violence. The combination of a now unmuzzled press and the presence of election observers sparked large-scale civil disobedience. The Church declared that Marcos has lost the moral right to rule.
The end-game was precipitated by a RAM coup attempt. Pre-empted by loyalist forces, rebel officers led by Enrile and Ramos defected to Aquino on 22 February 1986 and recognized her as the country’s legitimate leader. These events led to an internationally televised standoff between loyalist troops and millions of unarmed civilian protesters who had gathered to protect the rebels. As the regime came under pressure, it lost the will to survive. Defections mounted and the Reagan administration finally withdrew its support. On 25 February 1986, the Marcos family and entourage were airlifted to exile in Hawaii. [182-183]
indeed non-violence won the war, but whether or not it was the result of deliberate strategies and manoeuvres by the non-communist anti-marcos moderates remains to be known. what deserves mention is that ninoy was on non-violent mode when he came home from exile in aug ’83, his homecoming speech citing ghandi no less:
perhaps he had discussed gandhi and non-violence with cory, who may have relayed the message to ninoy’s brother butz, whose august twenty-one movement (ATOM)’s protest rallies were decidedly non-violent from start to finish.
so was cory’s huge Tagumpay ng Bayan rally in luneta where she declared victory in the snap elections, sabay launch ng non-violent civil disobedence and crony-boycott campaign that coryistas couldn’t wait to be part of. by day six of the boycott, the economy was reeling and the crony-business community was looking to negotiate, but with whom? day seven of the boycott (EDSA saturday), enrile and ramos defected. hmmm, di ba. enrile was a top crony, next only to danding. with whom na nga ba?
as in august ’83, butz rose to the occasion that EDSA saturday night. it was butz who first sounded the call for people to come to EDSA and shield the defectors with their bodies, no guns. cardinal sin seconded the call for a nonviolent solution an hour or so later, and cory the next day, from cebu. ATOM was all over EDSA, butz dealing directly, facing off, with police general alfredo lim (who was ordered to disperse the crowds) and then marine commander alfredo tadiar (who was ordered to ram through! the crowd).
i’ve always wondered who, if any, advised cory and butz on non-violent tactics. that luneta rally was sheer genius. bentang benta sa moderate forces who liked the drama of non-violence: nasa bahay ka lang pero feeling part of the struggle ka, and feeling revenged na rin on the regime — goodbye manila bulletin hello inquirer, goodbye san miguel beer, hello lambanog, goodbye cocacola, hello buko juice — what fun. and that call to EDSA to shield the rebels from the dictator’s forces was inspired — was it pure butz? was he winging it? — basta walang armas, be ready to die! and the people were. ready to die. (huwag ismiran, mocha uson!)
contrary to popular perception, however, enrile did not defect to join cory nor did he recognize her as the duly-elected president right away. enrile wanted to be president, and the aborted coup plot set for 23 feb 2 AM would have quickly installed him in malacañang. in short, he meant to beat cory in a race to the palace, una-unahan lang. but ver got wind of honasan’s plans, and honasan got wind of ver’s plans (arrest orders, among others), which drove enrile and RAM to hole up in camp aguinaldo, better to die fighting, while hoping against hope to win the people’s support — after all, he was more qualified to be president.
but by day two, EDSA sunday, the day the people stopped the tanks in ortigas, it was clear that the people were there for cory — shielding enrile yes, but chanting cory’s name, wearing cory’s colors, waving cory’s flags — and it was obvious that they expected cory and enrile to join forces vs. marcos. sometime over that long night, enrile and ramos, separately, met with cory in her sister’s house in greenhills. i suppose that’s when the two asked for the top defense positions, an end to the crony-boycott, and immunity from suit in exchange for their armed support.
it disappoints, of course, that prof mendoza characterizes the dictator’s response during the key days as “inexplicably lame and non-violent.” as though there had been no real threat of violence? which is to diminish, even if unintentionally, the people’s role in that stunning revolt.
the dictator’s orders were neither lame nor non-violent. on day 3, EDSA monday, twice marcos gave orders to bomb camp crame, except that air force col. sotelo and the entire 15th strike wing defected instead, and col. balbas and the marines (like commander tadiar the day before), after much delaying, defied orders, and returned to barracks instead.
true, the dictator’s forces could have struck immediately at the rebel military “before a protective civilian cocoon had been mobilized to protect them”, but marcos actually thought he could woo enrile back to the fold. he had no idea that there was no turning back for enrile who was off on a new trip, navigating uncharted waters, and reinventing himself.
of course, he regretted giving way to cory, but i’m glad he did.
of course cory must have regretted giving him immunity, and i’m sorry she did.
next time, we the people should have a better sense — in real time — of what’s happening behind-the-scenes and what’s being promised / compromised in our name. we shouldn’t make bitaw too quickly or trust in our leaders so blindly. i would think that non-violent engagement can be sustainable and long-term.