25 February 1986: ‘People Power’ topples Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos

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.

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.