THE UNPLANNED SHOWDOWN AT EDSA
By Dr. Salvador H. Laurel
WITH the 10th anniversary of EDSA just a few days away and with the sprucing up of the EDSA shrine now noticeable to the daily passerby, there is again a proliferation of claims as to who should get the credit for that high point in our history.
No single individual or group should claim exclusive credit for EDSA. Only the Unseen Hand of the Prime Mover Himself could have made it happen. There can be no rational or honest conclusion.
It happened suddenly and so fast. Suddenly, several groups, acting independently of each other, without benefit of agreed plan of action, found themselves together in the streets, exposed to the same dangers, and seeking the termination of the unwanted regime.
Let us recount the rapid succession of events:
Scene I: On June 12, 1985, I was unanimously drafted presidential standard bearer of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO) in a national convention attended by 25,000 delegates held at the Araneta Coliseum.
Cory subsequently threw her hat into the ring and announced that she had heard “the voice of God” and that she had been presented a “million signatures” urging her to run. Her announcement threatened to splinter the opposition.
To prevent such a split --- which could have only entrenched the Marcos regime --- I accepted Cory’s written offer and settled for the vice presidency.
Cory’s written offer, it can now be told, was made at the house of the late Vicente “Teng” Puyat, in the presence of my brother, Sotero, and her eldest daughter Ballsy. That document, which is still in my possession, states that Cory would only serve as a “ceremonial president”; that I would run the government as prime minister; that she would step down after two years and that as her vice president, I would automatically succeed her; and that during her two-year term, I would handpick 30 percent of the Cabinet, the remaining 70 percent to be appointed only after close consultation between us. Each and every item was initiated by Cory.
My decision to give way to Cory, on the basis of the agreement, decisively united the opposition. After filing our certificates of candidacy, we vigorously campaigned all over the country. By election time --- February 7, 1986 --- we had succeeded in polarizing the people into those who wanted the Marcos regime to continue and those who wanted to see it dismantled.
Scene II: The scene transfers to the COMELEC for the advance tabulation of election returns. At the COMELEC, the thirty eight computer-operators who courageously walked-out in protest against a “well-designed scheme” to feed dubious electoral returns to the computers, emerged as heroes of the day.
Scene III: The scene focuses on the Batasan where the 59 UNIDO members valiantly tangled with the party in power in a heroic attempt to prevent the inclusion of questionable certificates of canvass which they were able to mark with “asterisk.”
Scene IV: Despite the valiant efforts of the UNIDO opposition, the ruling majority in the Batasan was able to railroad the proclamation of Marcos on February 15, 1986. This added fuel to the fire. Left with no other choice, Cory and I went back to the people to ask them to assert their true mandate and to boycott all goods identified with Marcos and his cronies.
Scene V: On February 22, 1986, Cory and I were in Cebu campaigning for the non-payment of taxes and other forms of civil disobedience. At that point, we had no knowledge whatsoever as to what Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos had already agreed to do. We had no contact with them nor were we privy to any of their plans or the real reasons that impelled their decision. In fact, Cory and I only learned about their break-away from the radio at 6:00 p.m. that day.
That night, Cory secretly submerged in one of the convents in Cebu while I stayed at the house of a friend, Tony Garcia Escano, in the city. Very early the next morning, February 23, I set out in a sinle-engine Piper plane to rush to EDSA. Cory followed the next day. Without consultation, Cardinal Sin, Butz Aquino and I went on the air separately to appeal for mass support. In my case, I appealed for support to the people of Batangas, Quezon, Cavite, Laguna and other neighboring provinces to come to EDSA that same night --- which they did. They came in busloads by the thousands.
By 9:00 p.m. of February 23, the EDSA crowd had swelled to a formidable 500,000, and it was still increasing.
What we should remember now is that the people gathered at EDSA without any plan or preparation. They were not even provoked. They acted solely according to conscience and patriotic fervor. They were ready and willing to risk their lives. They even brought their children with them and and their own food and water. They were there to offer themselves as human shields to encourage and protect the handful of soldiers who had decided to join those who were opposed to the repressive regime. Indeed, the real heroes of EDSA were all those who were there.
That was our “brief, shining moment.”
EDSA was a showdown between government and people and the people won. But we should never forget that many of them are still there after 10 years --- still waiting --- still hoping for the fulfillment of the promises of EDSA.
February 20, 1996
P.S. The articles in this site are excerpted from Dr. Salvador H. Laurel’s weekly column, Turning Point, which ran in the Manila Bulletin from 1995 to early 1999. This is an online repository of Dr. Laurel’s Turning Point articles, arranged by topic.
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