Thoughts, Hopes on 23rd Anniversary of EDSA 1
Article written exclusively for The Philippine Star
February 25, 2009
On Feb. 21, 1986, I was informed by Lt. Bodet Honrado that there were rumors of a coup that weekend. He tried to discourage me from flying to Cebu, where I was scheduled to address a rally in connection with my campaign to boycott all products owned by Marcos and Marcos cronies. I argued with him that all preparations for my Cebu rally had been finalized. Besides, I had been hearing about those coup rumors for some time and no way was I going to announce a sudden cancellation and lose the support of my Cebuano supporters.
As it happened, a faction of the military revolted against Marcos in a failed coup attempt. Around three hundred rebel soldiers retreated to the Ministry of Defense led by Juan Ponce Enrile, barricading themselves, waiting for an attack by the Marcos forces. General Fidel Ramos joined the rebellion and called on his men to switch sides and defend the PC camp. Then His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, made an appeal via Radio Veritas for the people to go to EDSA to form a human barricade. For the first time in history, civilians protected the military and the police.
It was Bel Olivares Cunanan who first informed me about the failed coup attempt. When I told my brother Peping Cojuangco about it, he made arrangements for me to talk with Johnny Ponce Enrile. I did get to talk to Johnny soon after, and I told him that all I could do for him at that time was to pray. He said that he needed a lot of prayers.
I spent the night in the Carmelite Convent with my daughter Kris, my brother Peping and my good friends Nancy and Tony Cuenco. I believed we would be safest with the Carmelites. And sure enough, when the nuns welcomed us to their convent, they said: “Cory, they will have to kill us first before they get to you.” Kris and I stayed in one room while Nancy was in the next room. Peping and Tony were assigned to different quarters.
I was able to sleep for about two or three hours. Then we had breakfast with our fellow opposition leaders, like Monching Mitra and Sonny Osmeña. The men were suggesting different places for me to go to, but I told them I wanted to go back to Manila as soon as possible. After a press conference where I issued an appeal for more people to go to EDSA, Peping made arrangements for our return trip to Manila. I can only surmise that the people manning Cebu Tower did not inform the Manila Tower that I was on board that plane.
In fact, as we rode in our tinted vehicle from the airport to my sister Josephine Reyes’ house in Wack Wack subdivision, a few tanks were also going in the same direction and took no notice of us. It was only a vehicle with CNN personnel who followed us all the way to my sister’s house and whose coverage was seen by some friends in Clark who had access to CNN news.
I visited Cardinal Sin shortly after my arrival and I also met with Doy Laurel. We had Mass in my sister’s house and the next day, Feb. 24, I met with the opposition leaders, namely Senators Tañada, Salonga, Diokno, Rodrigo, and others like Rene Saguisag, Neptali Gonzales, Joker Arroyo and Ramon del Rosario joined us in the meeting. Joker and Ramon had both come from EDSA and they were informing us that my name was hardly being mentioned and people inside Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame kept shouting the name of Enrile and Ramos. So all of my political advisers decided that I should take my oath of office as soon as possible. Rene Saguisag was tasked to prepare my oath of office and someone else was assigned to ask Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee if he would be willing to administer the oath of office to me.
We had planned to have the oath taking on the afternoon of Feb. 24. I had also announced on Radio Veritas that I would be in EDSA in the afternoon of Feb. 24 as I continued to appeal for more people to keep on coming to EDSA. My brother Peping tried to discourage me from going to EDSA because of the enormous security problem, but I told him I had already asked people to go to EDSA and that I would be there.
With the help of his friends, Peping found a relatively safe place in the POEA building and there were many priests and scholastics who stood in the front rows. I asked the people to join me in the singing of the “Ama Namin” and I gave a very brief speech, thanking the people for being on EDSA and telling them that this was the first time in history that civilians were asked to defend the military.
Teddy Montelibano was one of the few journalists who managed to be there and his article made it to a Hong Kong newspaper. There were some nuns or priests who were able to take photos and I am still hoping someone will send me a copy.
We decided to postpone the oath taking for Feb. 25, because there was still much to be done and we didn’t want to do it in the afternoon, because of possible additional security problems.
So on the evening of the 24th I slept in my sister Terry Lopa’s house and went to my own house on Times Street in the morning of Feb. 25, where I met with Jimmy Ongpin with his son Apa, Father Bernas and a general. Father Bernas told me that the general was asking him if I could change the venue from Club Filipino to Camp Crame or Camp Aguinaldo. It seemed that some of the military were wondering if I still did not trust them. I told Father Bernas that since I am a civilian it had to be in a civilian venue, and Club Filipino had been very special to me and the other opposition leaders because we held so many of our meetings there. Aside from that, Doy Laurel had also informed that he had his men secure Club Filipino and they were all waiting for me.
Just as I was preparing to get dressed to go to Club Filipino, we heard gun shots. Noynoy, who had gone out of our house to investigate, came back to report that a firefight had started at the Channel 9 television station a little over a block away.
When the shooting stopped I went to my room to take a quick shower and put on my yellow dress and off we proceeded to Club Filipino.
While I was scheduled to take my oath of office at 10 o’clock we were only able to do so at 11 o’clock. And after my short inaugural speech, my children and I drove away accompanied by Jojo Binay, who helped remove the road blocks on EDSA near Guadalupe Bridge so we could go to the Manila Memorial Park. My children and I prayed at the tomb of Ninoy and I entrusted myself to the Good Lord, not really knowing what was going to happen to me and my children.
It was only in the evening when Ambassador Stephen Bosworth called me to inform me that Marcos and his family had already left Malacañang and would be flown to Clark. Marcos had asked if he could go to Paoay and I asked Bosworth if Marcos was dying. When Bosworth said no, but that Marcos was feeling very weak, I said okay he can rest in Clark for the evening but that he had to leave very early in the morning and fly to Guam and then to Hawaii.