Let Gloria Arroyo forget the 1986 People Power.
For all we know, there’s not much for her to remember of Edsa One. Come to think of it, where was she when close to a million Filipinos trooped to Edsa to put an end to the Marcos dictatorship?
Next week we mark the 20th anniversary of those four days in February 1986 when the world applauded us and held us up as a model in ending tyranny without resorting to violence.
I interviewed former President Fidel Ramos and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, two of the major players in EDSA One, for Edsa 20/20, a multi-media project of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
In the interview, FVR attributed the success of the 1986 military undertaking that developed into People Power to Divine intervention.
He talked of consciences touched by the Unseen Being. One of the unforgettable television images of Edsa One was AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver urging a sick Marcos to order an attack on the Edsa throng. “We will attack, Sir. We will attack,” the favored general said.
Ramos said,” Even Mr. Marcos, I think, had some pangs of conscience because he did not giver order to fire or to attack in spite of the insistence of Gen. Ver.”
God must have been busy touching consciences those four days. Ramos recalls:
“At certain points, looking at the situation on the 23rd, the overpowering forces of the loyalist group were poised to roll or bombard Camp Crame where we were assembled together with Minister Enrile. We were seeing the threats in so many directions: the helicopters with their gunships, the fighter planes, the F5s and the tora-toras, the Marines with their tanks, the Army armored brigade, the Army Scout Rangers coming in from White Plains, coming in from Camp Aguinaldo itself.
“The artillery of the Philippine Marines was pointed directly at Camp Crame which is only 100 meters away. The artillery was commanded by Col. Braulio Balbas. The Marine armored contigent was commanded by the Marine commandant himself, Gen. Artemio Tadiar.
“But we are so thankful to the good Lord that those commanders who were poised to hit us apparently had all qualms of conscience.”
Ramos related how Divine intervention manifested: “Tadiar was about ready to roll (the tanks) on the nuns and priests but he did not. He turned around and went back to the barracks.
“In the case of Balbas, he got so many orders to fire, fire, fire. He kept delaying. He said, ‘Sir, there are so many many civilians. Sir, we do not have enough ammunition. He did not give the order to fire the artillery.”
“The Rangers, they only got so far because many of their young officers started to defect to our side. Why? Because their fathers, who were on our side were calling them up to tell the real story. That changed their minds. If not their fathers, classmates of their fathers who are on our side. And classmates started calling up classmates.
Ramos gave the example of Rene de Villa, who was at that time commander of forces in Bicol. (De Villa later became AFP chief of staff during the Aquino administration, then defense secretary. He also served as Arroyo’s executive secretary. He is now calling for the resignation of Arroyo.)
Ramos said De Villa was calling up his classmates in the Philippine Army headquarters. “If not classmates to classmates, mothers were calling up their sons who were young officers. Everybody did their part to make people change their minds, look at their conscience and join the good cause, which was our cause.”
Giving credit where credit is due, Ramos thanked “the people and the good Lord.”
My prayer as we commemorate EDSA One is for God to touch Arroyo’s conscience. Who knows, one day we will wake up with her on TV announcing, “I’m resigning.”
(The full transcript of Ramos and Enrile’s interviews as well as that of other personalities (Cory Aquino, Imelda Marcos, Gregorio Honasan and others) can be heard through podcast at the PCIJ blog .The articles are in the Jan-Feb. 2006 issue of PCIJ magazine, I-Report. An Edsa 20/20 exhibit is ongoing at the Glorietta One in Makati up to Feb. 26.)