it was a saturday, day 7 of cory’s civil disobedience campaign. what a heady time that was when we were defying the dictator by changing day-to-day habits of a lifetime, like dropping the crony-owned manila bulletin and going for the mosquito press’ inquirer, malaya, or the manila times. snubbing coke and san miguel beer and going for fruit juices and gold eagle beer ba yon, even lambanog instead. and giving up magnolia ice cream and going for “dirty” ice cream na lang, sarap!
which was of course freaking out big business. how much of that, added to the huge withdrawals from crony banks, could the economy take? the pressure was building up on marcos to resign before the economy collapsed. it certainly looked like cory would be taking over sooner than later.
but unknown to us then, enrile and honasan’s reformist forces were poised to preempt cory. enrile was not only a crony, he was also the defense minister who had been edged out by ver from marcos’s inner circle and who wanted to be president. enrile and honasan had long been planning to stage a coup, except that they had to keep postponing it because the timing was bad – the first plan was for late ’83 but ninoy was assassinated while under the custody of the military; there was no way they’d get the support of the people whose hatred of the military was at its height. the second plan was for december 85 but marcos called snap elections; so nagpapogi na lang muna ang reformists by providing security for cory, even if they were sure na walang panalo si cory vs. marcos.
so nung biglang umarangkada si cory, refusing to concede and alleging cheating at the polls, at mabilis namayagpag ang kanyang civil disobedience campaign, biglang red alert sina enrile’t honasan, papayag ba silang maunahan, ma-preempt ng isang cory, isang ordinary housewife? malay niyang magpatakbo ng gobierno, ng military, ng bureaucracy?
by day 5 of the crony boycott, the reformists had set the coup for sunday, the 23rd, when they would launch a surprise attack on malacanang. ang problema, ver got wind of their plans and was fortifying the palace in anticipation of the attack. honasan realized it only that saturday morning when he reconnoitered the palace perimeter and found the gates heavily guarded by combat-ready marines. biglang no choice but to call off the planned coup. the question was, what to do. rumors were rife daw that they were going to be arrested, should they run and hide? enrile decided no, he would rather hole up in the defense ministry in camp aguinaldo, take a stand, die fighting.
siyempre wala namang kamalay-malay ang madlang pipol. so when radio veritas came out with the news late in the afternoon that enrile and ramos had defected and were about to hold a presscon in camp aguinaldo, wow, that was electrifying. perfect timing, i thought then, surely they would take cory’s side, just what she needed, her own armed forces. and in the presscon that was replayed over and over that night, enrile and ramos were clever enough to raise our hopes, saying that indeed there was cheating in the snap polls, indeed marcos no longer represented the will of the people, sabay, we have no food.
contrary to the notion that it was cardinal sin’s calls that brought the people to edsa, the fact is that the cardinal, until then a “critical collaborator” of the marcoses, took his sweet time before going on radio veritas, and the first time he did so was only to say that it was all right for the people to bring the rebels food if they wished, “they are our friends,” and only because people had been calling him, urging him to endorse the rebels.
in fact, marcos oppositionist/justice cecilia munoz palma was the first to go on air to declare support for the rebels. this encouraged butz aquino whose own gut feel was that it was no sarsuela, rather a chance to truly split the military, so he went to camp aguinaldo and offered enrile his support. (cory was in cebu attending a rally where she added more cronies to her boycott list). butz was the audacious one (kuya ninoy would have been proud of him) who was first to call on the people to come and protect the rebels, shield them with warm bodies to avert bloodshed. it was this non-violent strategy that finally convinced cardinal sin (that it was safe?) to call the people to edsa.
it helped of course that the cardinal eventually got around to it, but i’m convinced that had he not done so, edsa would have unfolded as it did anyway. because the people did not march to edsa just on his say-so or even butz’s. nakinig muna sila at nag-isip sila. people everywhere were tuned in to veritas, listening closely to replays of the presscon. and then around ten-thirty in the evening, marcos himself went on television to say he was in control of the situation and, more importantly, to accuse the rebels of a failed coup attempt. to prove it he paraded one witness after another, palace soldiers who were part of the plot and who read their confessions on cam.
the president was telling the truth, but he had lied so many times in the past that the people thought he was just lying again to save his skin. the presscon ended around 11:15 pm. by butz’s account it was around 11:30 when people started streaming in to join his group in isetann, cubao, and that by the time they arrived at the camp gates, they had grown to an estimated 20 to 30 thousand in addition to other small groups already gathered there.
but many many more just went on listening to radio veritas, heard more opposition stalwarts endorsing the rebels, heard enrile deny the attempted coup, and then they slept on it.
for more details and thorough documentation, check out my brother’s website www.stuartxchange.com. click on publications. take your pick, a chronology in english (1996) or a critical essay in filipino (2000).