February 24, 1986. Monday. Radio Veritas, the Catholic radio station, was the only station that could be relied upon since it was the only radio news independent from the government. And in the days that passed since Jaime Cardinal’s Sin and Cory’s call for the people to support the military rebels, the radio station was a beacon of light against the dominant Marcos propaganda saying that the rebels committed high treason against the country and that the crowd in EDSA was just a sizeable few.
However, yesterday, military men controlled by Marcos have destroyed the transmission tower of the radio station, limiting the station’s reach to Luzon. At midnight, today, however, a mysterious radio station went on air, calling itself Radyo Bandido. The “bandit” station never divulged its radio transmission channel, but played “Mambo Magsaysay” every now and then so that listeners would recognize that it IS Radio Veritas. Hence, as Radio Veritas went off the air, Radio Bandido gave the people a blow by blow account of what was happening in Malacañang and EDSA. It was the radio version of the Mosquito Press, those independent news organs during the Martial Law period which the government couldn’t suppress, but have instead labeled as subversives for not passing through the strict censorship of the Marcos dictatorship. Since the transmission was never revealed on air, the government was clueless where the transmission was coming from, nor could they locate the transmission tower of the station. In a pre-Internet Philippines, it was the only radio station that people around the country were glued on in the final days of dictatorship.
It was here at around 1:00 a.m. that the thousands of crowd in EDSA went grim. Radyo Bandido has just announced that marines could attack any time soon in Camp Aguinaldo. Church bells rang in support of the RAM rebels as people formed human barricades outside the Philippine Constabulary headquarters.
Every now and then, Cory Aquino would speak live on radio. By 3:30 a.m. Defense Minister Enrile would go on air via radio announcing that “two armored personnel carriers were on their way towards Ortigas.” He got the information from a look-out soldier.
At Gate 2 of Camp Aguinaldo, the human barricade of thousands braced themselves against the possible shelling. Ramos would recount:
I called upon everyone who was not needed in headquarters-either they were not part of our staff or of our operations center-to seek a safer place. I advised all foreign nationals that we would no longer be responsible for their safety. Also, over the radio I advised the foreign embassies that we were expecting an attack and requested them to inform the outside world of this.
The Marine troops came and this time they moved with efficiency. Tear gas and truncheons were used to disperse the barricade at Camp Aguinaldo, and Marcos’ forces broke through the eastern wall of the camp. They marched, but to no avail. The civilians led by priests, nuns, and pastors were determined to stand their ground. As the smoke subsided, the crowd sang the National Anthem, some prayed, some clapped. The attacking military was stunned.
At around 6:00 a.m. choppers hovered around Camp Crame. Ramos, and the defecting soldiers, including the civilians thought it was the end. “Disperse! Take cover!” The instruction was not to fire unless they are fired upon. The reporters took cover as the Marines surrounded the camp. Seven choppers, all with rockets and guns landed in Crame. This is it.
National Artist Nick Joaquin writes:
“We could see their mounted machine guns pointed downward. The crowd prayed louder, the religious continued singing. Then it happened. The lead helicopter waved the white flag! The others did the same. The soldiers on the choppers leaned out to flash the Laban sign. The multitude went wild! People were laughing and crying and hugging each other. A sort of miracle had likewise happened at Libis.”
The entire 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force has defected to join the EDSA Revolution.
Meanwhile, before the sun rose in Manila Bay, Commodore Tagumpay Jardiniano, Chief of the Naval Defense Force announced to his fleet:
“As early as Saturday I committed my unit in support of the Minister and Gen. Ramos for what I believe is a cause worth fighting for.”
The officers jumped with joy and with tears. Soon the frigate would point its guns on Malacañan.
In Manila, a rebel helicopter was able to fire a few rounds from the Post Office area to Malacañan, hitting the Palace grounds near Imelda Marcos’ bedroom causing a loud crash sound that caused panic in the Palace. Col. Irwin Ver, chief of staff of the Palace guards and Fabian Ver’s son called the Marines in Crame. By this time the Marines have already defected and sided with the EDSA Revolution, and had effectively turned a deaf ear to the kill order from Marcos.
In a fit of rage, Fabian Ver ordered the wing commander of the F-5 jet fighters over Manila to “Bomb Camp Crame immediately!” despite the presence of overwhelming civilians. The commander only replied sarcastically: “Yes, sir, roger. Proceeding now to strafe Malacañang.”
The crowd grew to millions in EDSA, as President Marcos appeared on television that morning, posturing on TV by telling his Chief of Staff to disperse the crowd without hurting them. But this was all just for show, for thirty minutes after, General Josephus Ramas would confirm that he was already given a kill order, relaying it to the Marines. The Marines however, turned a deaf ear to the order.
“Colonel, fire your howitzers now!”
But the colonel would lie to Ramas:
“We are still positioning the cannons and we are looking for maps.”
Marcos has already declared a State of Emergency, stating that the government’s maximum tolerance was officially lifted.
At 3:00 p.m., around two million people filled EDSA from Cubao to Ortigas, and also in Santolan, Libis, San Juan and surrounding streets. It was no longer about protecting Enrile, Ramos or the rebels. It’s about putting one’s ass there, for liberty, for freedom.
Channel 4, now overtaken by the rebel military, began its broadcast telling the soldiers on Marcos’ side to defect, for honor and for the people whom they serve.
Meanwhile, at the entrance of POEA building in the Ortigas-EDSA intersection, Cory Aquino appeared for the first time again since Saturday. In a makeshift stage, she said:
“We have recovered our freedoms, our rights, and our dignity with much courage and, we thank God, with little blood. I enjoin the people to keep the spirit of peace as we remove the last vestiges of tyranny, to be firm and compassionate. Let us not, now that we have won, descend to the level of the evil forces we have defeated.
"I have always said I can be magnanimous in victory, no more hate, no more fighting. I appeal to all Filipinos of both sides of the struggle. This is now the time for peace, the time for healing.”
Seeing the overwhelming influence of Ninoy’s widow to the millions at EDSA, Enrile conceded in the leadership of what was planned to be a military junta. Cory, he realized, was the “moral leader” of the revolution. As night came, the entire military have turned their backs from the sickly Ozymandias in Malacañang who milked the country dry. And the people in the streets, the Filipino nation, full of cheers, song and prayer, wished above all else, to eject the dictator from his place.
One day more and that wish would be granted.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution of February 1986, a peaceful revolution that ended an oppressive dictatorship in the Philippines, to the shock of the entire world.
(1) Instant jubilation as the helicopters did not fire. Photo by Manuel Ferrer, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.
(2) The people’s uprising engulfs the helicopters which had just defected. Photo by Jaime Unson, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.
(3) Puny hands against a hefty metal of tanks: this was people power at its most visible during the confrontation on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Peter Reyes, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.
(4) Before noon: Marcos appears live on government television to say that he was in control. Photo by Manuel Ferrer, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.
(5) Rebel troops surround Channel 4, the government station. Photo by Mon Santos, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.
(6) A reformist and a Marcos loyalist soldier embrace. Photo by Sonny Camarillo, courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.