why coryistas marched to EDSA in 1986

23 February 2011

everytime february comes around i check out the first-person accounts, sifting for details that would further flesh out my chronology and / or that would either confirm or dispute my reading of the four-day event as essayed in Himagsikan.

this from rafael alunan III‘s feb 21 business world column is a great find:

In the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1986, Manindigan! held an emergency meeting in Benguet, at the corner of J. Vargas and ADB Ave., to assess its options, in case the Marcos regime cracked down on the pro-Aquino protest movement. Cory Aquino’s political rallies and ” miting de avance” that produced huge crowds before and after the snap elections had the Marcos regime worried. With allegations of election cheating that triggered a mass walkout of computerencoders, the air was rife with rumors about a possible military strike by reform-minded elements in the military.

Jimmy Ongpin, Benguet boss and M! chair, presided. Unknown to many members, he was also secretly linked to RAM — the Reform the Armed Forces Movement. Many members, through their own sources, had been receiving more or less the same subtle signals that something was afoot, and to be prepared for any exventuality at any time. A handful were aware that Jimmy’s brother, Bobby, Marcos’s business czar,was divested of his RAM-supplied bodyguards earlier that morning on orders of Gen. Fabian Ver.

So that meeting (it was Saturday) processed information, aligned thoughts, and explored survival options. It broke up amidst high anxiety at around 4:30. On my way home, while traveling down EDSA, I spotted a helicopter over Camp Aguinaldo on a steep dive, climb out of it and dive again. It was intriguing to say the least and I wondered if it was somehow related to what was discussed earlier.

As I walked into my house, the phone rang. A cousin called to say, “We finally have an army, open your TV, quick!” The first image I saw was Defense Minister Johnny Ponce-Enrile, in a military jacket with an Uzi slung over his shoulder, declaring his breakaway from the Marcos regime. Beside him was Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, vice chief of staff of the AFP.

we finally have an army! exactly my thought that Saturday afternoon in 1986 when my father phoned to make sure i was listening to radio veritas, enrile and ramos were about to hold a presscon!   and when i heard them say they were resigning their posts, enrile admitting there was cheating in cagayan, ramos declaring that marcos was not the same president they had pledged to serve, my heart jumped in excitement and my first thoughts were of cory:  sinusuwerte talaga!   it was like a military force had landed on her lap!

remember, we were in the midst of a crony boycott and bank runs, and really feeling giddy and audacious and radical, convinced that the business community would have no choice but to compel marcos to step down before the economy collapsed.   a rebel military force was like a hulog ng langit, just what cory needed, panalo na!

but unlike alunan et al, ordinary coryistas had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.   they had no idea that the defection was plan b, following a foiled coup plot.   the thinking was simple: they must be supporting cory, or else why would enrile admit helping cheat in cagayan?   and so when they heard butz aquino and then cardinal sin calling on them to go to EDSA and shield the soldiers from marcos’s military to prevent bloodshed, it all sounded good.

however, it was a relatively small crowd that went to EDSA that night.   most people refused to be rushed, lalo na’t there was no word from cory.   they wanted to be sure they were doing the right thing.   and what convinced them later that long night was the marcos presscon on tv when the president accused the two of a coup aborted (the people laughed, he had lost all credibility) and enrile’s fearless reply via veritas: enough is enough, mr. president. your time is up.   that was it.   having no inkling that enrile had hopes of preempting cory, the people just assumed he was out there to support cory vs. marcos.   the next day they marched to EDSA.

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