“Where were you during the Edsa Revolution?” is a question people like to ask each other in reference to those unforgettable three days in February when millions of Filipinos reclaimed their democracy without having to fire a single gun. How did they do it? Here’s a timeline leading up to that pivotal moment in Philippine history.
Marcos declares martial law.
On September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, then president of the Philippines since 1965, declared martial law, his answer to the escalating civil unrest. Through the declaration, he dissolved Philippine Congress, took full control of the military, ordered the arrest of his staunchest political opponents, suppressed freedom of speech and the press, and had a number of media outfits and businesses shut down.
Aquino is killed by an unknown assailant.
On August 21, 1983, then Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.—the most vocal of Marcos’ critics who had been living in exile in America since 1980—following his request to undergo heart surgery abroad, decides to come home to help address the political crisis in his country. Upon his arrival, he is shot in the head by an unknown assailant.
Government holds snap elections.
After announcing a snap election a year earlier, President Marcos ran against Ninoy’s widow, Corazon Aquino. The election was held on February 7, 1986. Thirty COMELEC (Commission on Elections) computer technicians walked out in protest of the rampant cheating and violence that occurred during the elections. Though Marcos was proclaimed the winner, accredited poll watcher NAMFREL (National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections) had Aquino as the victor.
Filipinos offer support to soldiers.
On February 22, 1986, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos, resigned from their posts. Meanwhile, upon the urging of Jaime Cardinal Sin over Radio Veritas, scores of Filipinos trooped to Camps Crame and Aguinaldo on EDSA to offer food supplies and emotional support to the soldiers.
A radio station broadcasts the event.
On February 23, 1986, Brigadier General Artemio Tadiar led a pack of tanks and armored vans to Ortigas Avenue. Thousands of Filipinos fronted by nuns holding rosaries stood in their way and refused to budge when Tadiar asked them to move. Meanwhile, with Radio Veritas’ transmitter down, the team that included TV and radio personality June Keithley continued broadcasting at DZRJ-AM (which they nickname Radyo Bandido or “Outlaw Radio”).
The peaceful protest continues.
On February 24, 1986, more government troops joined the crowds and their peaceful protest. Rebel forces seized control of government station MBS 4.
Marcos flees the country.
On February 25, 1986, two presidential elections took place: Aquino’s at Club Filipino in Greenhills; Marcos’ in Malacañang. Later in the day, following American Senator Paul Laxalt’s advice to “cut and cut clean,” Marcos and his family board a United States Air Force helicopter at midnight, fly to Clark Air Base, then board another plane en route to Guam before flying again to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. As millions of Filipinos celebrate his ousting, the world watches in admiration. “We Americans like to think we taught the Filipinos democracy,” said CBS anchorman Bob Simon. “Well, tonight, they are teaching the world.”