Friday, 24 February 2012 10:52
That fateful day in the afternoon of February 22, 1986 shocked the whole country when then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces acting chief of staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos declared during a hastily called press conference in Camp Aguinaldo their breakaway from the regime of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
As night editor of the Philippines News Agency, I was preparing to report to the office for duty that day when I heard about the shocking news.
By all indication a full blown revolution was in the offing.
The Enrile-Ramos defiance against Marcos who had ruled the country with iron hand for 20 years was beamed live on television worldwide.
Marcos was angry upon learning that his two former close allies had not only abandoned him but challenged his government.
There were intelligence reports that Marcos had ordered the arrest of Enrile after the Presidential Security Command (PSC) uncovered a coup plot by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) closely identified with the defense minister.
This prompted Enrile to take action before it was too late. Ramos sided with Enrile.
“Enough is enough, Mr. President,” Enrile’s voice thundered at the Social Hall of the Ministry of National Defense during the press conference in Camp Aguinaldo.
Marcos tried to play down the uprising by appearing on live television and told Enrile and Ramos to stop this foolishness.
But they have already burned their bridges.
*February 22, 1986
At about 3:30 p.m. of February 22, 1986, Army Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Air Force Col. Eduardo “Red” Kapunan and Constabulary Maj. Noe Wong arrived at the residence of Enrile to inform him of their impending arrest.
Enrile called up Ramos for support then proceeded to Camp Aguinaldo. Earlier that day, Finance Minister Roberto Ongpin had called to inform him that his security escorts were arrested. A crackdown was in the offing with the arrest of Ongpin’s bodyguards was ominous.
Then Ramos received the news that Enrile was about to be arrested. Soon after, Enrile was on the phone saying, “Eddie (Ramos’ nickname) the time has come. Are you with me?” Ramos sided with Enrile.
Ramos packed an overnight bag and kissed Mrs. Amelita Ramos and their five daughters, goodbye. He went straight to Camp Aguinaldo via a circuitous route to avoid being tailed by military agents loyal to Marcos.
During the press conference, together with Enrile, Ramos said: “The reason for my being here is because the Armed Forces of the Philippines has ceased to be the Armed Forces which is supposed to be the defender of public safety and enforcer of the law. What has developed under Marcos and Ver is an elite armed forces within the AFP that no longer represents the ranks and the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
“If anyone of us will be killed, then all of us will be killed,” Enrile added.
The die was cast for the rebel soldiers. They were no match with the firepower of the military troops loyal to Marcos.
When Jaime Cardinal Sin, Manila archbishop, was informed that Enrile and Ramos needed his support he went over the radio to call on the people to go to Camp Aguinaldo immediately to protect the beleaguered military rebels from harm.
More than two million people from all walks of life responded to the call of the Cardinal, thus the “people-power” was born.
The first day of the uprising was crucial for both the military rebels and government forces. Though undermanned and outgunned, the Enrile-Ramos camp gained the upper hand for the overwhelming support of the people and the aspect of psychological warfare.
On the second day of the revolt, Enrile followed Ramos to Camp Crame nearby to consolidate their forces.
Government troops also had joined the military rebels on the second day of the revolt.
By the third day, tanks and armoured personnel carriers sent to assault Camp Aguinaldo were blocked by a sea of humanity along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA).
People from all walks of life, carrying rosaries and crucifix knelt in the streets to stop tanks and armoured vehicles from proceeding to Camp Crameand Camp Aguinaldo. The assaulting soldiers instead joined the people.
A Philippine Marine unit tasked to fire their cannons at the military rebels also declined to obey the order from higher authorities, preventing a bloodbath of unimaginable proportion.
Also on the third day, the standoff was broken and tilted to the military rebels as the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) defected, bringing with them helicopter gunships and F5 jet-fighters.
Two Sikorsky helicopter gunships later flew over Malacanang Palace and fired warning shots of air-to-ground rockets and machinegun fire at the periphery of the presidential house.
On the fourth day, Feb. 25, 1986, Marcos and members of his family fled Malacanang, ending his 20-year regime.
President Corazon C. Aquino, widow of the late opposition Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr., was proclaimed the 11th President of the Republic of the Philippines following her victory during the snap presidential election called by Marcos, restoring democracy in the country. (PNA)
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