Philippines Revolution Fails to Live Up to Promise Many leaders of People Power, the movement that ousted Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos two decades ago, are disappointed now. Their idealism has given way to disillusionment as the country has failed to thrive.
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Philippines Revolution Fails to Live Up to Promise

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Philippines Revolution Fails to Live Up to Promise

Philippines Revolution Fails to Live Up to Promise

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Twenty years ago this week, Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines. The dictator was overthrown in a revolution called People Power that installed Corazon Aquino as President. She's the widow of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino.

Twenty years later, some of those who took part in the People Power protest are remembering the promise of those days. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.


Glenda Gloria got her first job in journalism in January 1986. A month later, she was covering the biggest story of her life, the end of the 21-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos. She was there when rebellious soldiers seized the armed forces headquarters in Manila, soldiers no longer willing to do the dictator's dirty work.

Ms. GLENDA GLORIA (Newsbreak Magazine): It was so hard not to be moved by all that. You had this nice feeling that things would change for the better. I think that was a good psychological boost when a reporter seeing that event and making you less cynical, because you see that kind of event unfolding and you tell yourself, this is a good time to be a journalist.

SULLIVAN: The dictator's fate was sealed when the Catholic Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Sin, when on the radio and encouraged the people to protect the rebels and their leader, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

Archbishop HEIME SIN (Manila): Minister Enrile and those with him have appealed for support. Those of you who wish to help, should do so.

SULLIVAN: Hundreds of thousands turned out along Edza (ph) Boulevard. They stayed for four days, until Marcos and his family were forced to flee Malacanang Palace by helicopter.

Again, Newsbreak Magazine managing editor Glenda Gloria.

Ms. GLORIA: We all saw how fast it was, and when the people broke into Malacanang, it was really -- I clapped in jubilation when he left. And I remember our headline in the Enquirer, It's All Over: Marcos Leaves.

President CORAZON AQUNIO (former President of the Philippines): I, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines.

SULLIVAN: Twenty years later, the woman who took that oath of office, Corazon Aquino, admits that People Power didn't achieve as much as she'd hoped.

President AQUINO: I suppose it gave us a good beginning, and also the opportunity to right the wrongs of the dictatorship. But, unfortunately, we also failed to remember that this had to be a continuing effort on all of our parts.

Mr. LITO BANAYO (Political consultant): If I look back at it I see it as one great opportunity wasted for the country.

SULLIVAN: Lito Banayo is a political consultant who served under Mrs. Aquino in the first post-Marcos government.

Mr. BANAYO: Though I was very, very excited at that time, but somehow along the way, when I was still serving under the Corey government, I felt that the reasons that impelled us to fight Marcos and to get the dictatorship out was being hijacked by traditional politicians that would simply come back to power, the same feudal set-up that we had prior to martial law. The same names, the same dynasties and all that.

SULLIVAN: Government corruption, Banayo says, actually got worse after Marcos. Siphoning off scarce resources that should have been spent on improving schools, roads, and healthcare.

Another lesson on corruption comes from an unlikely source, the dictator Marcos's daughter, Imee.

Ms. IMEE MARCOS (Daughter of Ferdinand Marcos): Corruption is a given in Philippino life. We don't have a very clear-cut black and white notion of what is and isn't corrupt.

SULLIVAN: I meet Imee Marcos, at the Shangri-La Hotel, on Edza Boulevard not far from where the people rallied 20 years ago, demanding her father's ouster.

Today, Imee Marcos is a congresswoman from Ilocos Norte, the family's provincial power base. Her brother, Bong Bong, is governor there. Imee dodges a question about the missing Marcos millions, some say billions. Talk to the lawyer, she says.

But she's happy to talk about corruption without a hint of irony.

Ms. MARCOS: For example, nepotism. If you're a good family member, once you sit in power, you provide positions of influence and power to those closest and dearest, your relatives, obviously. So it's always been a given in Philippino life, certainly in Philippino official life.

SULLIVAN: Another given, Imee Marcos says, is the growing desire of many Philippinos to leave.

Ms. MARCOS: I really don't know anyone under the age of what, 40, 45 years, who hasn't seriously considered migrating. Everyone's just wanting to bail. Just give up and leave this country. And find some hope for their family elsewhere, anywhere.

SULLIVAN: Not everybody, but more and more people every year. In a recent poll, 33 percent said they would emigrate if they could. Eight million Philippinos, roughly a tenth of the population, have found jobs overseas as guest workers. The money they send home helps keep the economy here afloat.

Colonel GREGORIO GRINGO HONASAN (ph) (Philippines): Twenty years is twenty years. We should have expected some steps forward in terms of getting our act together. But the parencia (ph), we have to learn the hard way.

SULLIVAN Former armed forces Colonel Gregorio Gringo Honasan knows a little about the hard way. He was one of the leaders of the rebellion against Marcos in February 1986 that led to the dictator's ouster. But Honasan quickly lost faith in the new government's ability to change things.

Col. HONASAN: We were under President Marcos for almost 20 years, so there was basis for some impatience.

SULLIVAN: Honasan led several coupe attempts against Corazon Aquino's government of the 1980's. He's also believed to have been involved in the 2003 uprising against the current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo is deeply unpopular. She faces allegations of vote tampering in the 2004 presidential election. Her husband and son have been tied to illegal gambling. Many Philippinos believe she won't last. The question is, will the military help bring her down?

Gringo Honasan insists he's not involved in any such effort, but he sure sounds like a guy with a plan.

Mr. HONASAN: We are not really qualified or interested in governing by ourselves. So the parameters would be any intervention must be driven by the highest sense of patriotism and duty. Second, it must affect a change from one civilian authority to another, a collective transition mechanism. Then we can hopefully call for credible, peaceful and honest elections.

SULLIVAN: More and more Philippinos say they would not oppose such an action if it brought better leaders who would restore and respect the country's democratic institutions.

Joel Rocamora, who heads the Institute for Popular Democracy, isn't convinced.

Mr. JOEL ROCAMORA (Institute for Popular Democracy): It's a very, very iffy type of situation. You know, whenever you bring the military in, it gets very iffy. But, we're quickly approaching a situation where it might happen anyway. Because the usual constitutional instruments for dealing with a crisis are shot.

SULLIVAN: Twenty years after People Power, many Philippinos had hoped for more. And many worry that the next political upheaval will not be as peaceful as the one that toppled Marcos.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News.

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