25 February 1986: 'People Power' topples Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos

Mass opposition to Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos ended his 21-year reign on this day in 1986, and brought Corazon Aquino to power.

President Ferdinand Marcos had been in power in the Philippines since 1965. First he was elected, then, when democracy became too much of a bother, he used force, declaring martial law in 1972.

He followed the time-worn, standard dictator's path by establishing a cult of personality, murdering his opponents, and plundering the nation's coffers. There was opposition. But it was largely ineffective.

In 1983, however, Marcos's opponents were galvanised by the assassination of former senator Benigno Ninoy' Aquino. Aquino was returning from self-imposed exile and had barely stepped off the plane in Manila airport when he was shot in the head. This was despite the presence of over 1,000 heavily armed soldiers sent by the government to protect him.

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Opposition grew more vocal among the population. It got to the point where the USA told Marcos, who was bravely fighting the good fight against the forces of Communism, to hold elections. And so he called a snap' election, to be held in 1986. His opponent was Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno.

The election was held on 7 February, and the votes counted'. To nobody's surprise, Marcos won. That set off a four-day, bloodless coup. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Sin, and Archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal, came out against him. Elements of the army and police defected. Rebels captured the TV stations. Two million citizens flocked to the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue to protest.

On the advice of the USA, Marcos gave up. On 25 February, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as president. Marcos and his family fled to a US Air Force base, from where they were taken to exile in Hawaii, along with $10bn of plundered loot. He died in Honolulu in 1989.

His wife, Imelda, returned to the Philippines in 1991. She is now a member of the House of Representatives. His son, Ferdinand Bongbong' Marcos Jr, is a senator, and is likely to run for president in 2016. His daughter, Imee, is governor of the province of Ilocos Norte.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. 

As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.