Reporter Recounts Night of the Philippine Revolution

DUBAI — Corazon Aquino, the first woman president in the Philippines is no more, but her death has left memories of the political unrest that unfolded before the eyes of journalists in 1986.

By Lily B. Libo-on

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Tue 4 Aug 2009, 12:39 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:17 AM

As a journalist, it was a privilege for me to witness Cory become president. To many women journalists, who covered her presidential campaign up to the boycott campaign against companies supporting the Marcos regime, her rise to power became an epitome of a true Filipino fighter for democracy.

Being assigned to the newsroom in the biggest television station in the country, MBS 3 (now the ABS-CBN) in Cebu City, I personally witnessed the screening of a video clip when then senator Ninoy Aquino came down to the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. From behind, I saw the hand of a gunman, who fired his gun and killed him. But the face of the gunman was not shown. After the shooting, a hand covered the camera and everything was dark. Ninoy was shot upon arrival from the United States where he had undergone heart bypass surgery after being released from military custody during martial law. Thereafter, there was no trace of that video.

Journalists, including me, who viewed the clip from the newsroom shuddered as all of us were fond of Ninoy, a very pragmatic, intelligent and straightforward journalist who became a political figure and a strong rival of the then president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Faced with mounting pressure, Marcos was forced to hold snap presidential elections, where the senator’s widow, Cory, ran for president with veteran politician Doy Laurel as vice-president.

Marcos was re-elected for another six-year term, but the results were hotly contested. Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel held a series of rallies urging people to boycott the products of Marcos’ business supporters. It was at their rally in Cebu City, the seat of opposition against the Marcos regime, that news broke out in Manila that two of Marcos’ most trusted men — Vice-chief of Staff General Fidel V. Ramos (Cory’s presidential successor) and Defence Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile — had staged a coup, which turned to be the People’s Power Revolution of EDSA (Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue).

In the early days of People’s Power, Cory was taken by her supporters to the Carmelite Monastery in Cebu City under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church led by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal. As there is a separation of Church and State in the Philippines, no one could touch her in the monastery.

Later, she was taken to Manila in a clandestine manner to join the People’s Revolution.

Along with some photographers and television crew, I covered the boycott campaign of Cory and Doy in Cebu City that night of February 22, 1986. Soldiers came and grabbed many rolls of film (there were no digital cameras back then) and exposed them.

Television footages were destroyed and we had to run back to the TV station. We did not know what to do. A news embargo had been imposed. Some military officials, who were already supporting the opposition party of Cory Aquino, came to the television station and told us to pack up as our station could be the target of a bomb attack. We packed our personal belongings and rushed back home.

It was a sleepless night. The next day we watched Cory on the screen in Manila with rebel officers and soldiers. People lying on the streets to stop tanks from rolling to EDSA where the rebels and Cory’s group were located. Bishop Cardinal Jaime Sin began using the church Radio Veritas to call on all Filipinos to go to EDSA and lay down on the streets.

From February 22 to 25, thousands of Filipinos descended upon Manila to join the revolution. President Marcos was flown out of Malacanang by American helicopters and taken to Hawaii and the opposition under Cory took over Malacanang in a bloodless revolution.

More news from