• February 26, 1986: The day after EDSA, Corazon Aquino takes a terrible decision



    HICKAM Air Force Base, Hawaii
    Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos arrive on a United States Air Force C-141 plane. With them are their children: Imee, the eldest, 29 years old (born 1955), with her husband, Tommy Manotoc; Ferdinand “Bongbong,” 28 years old (born 1957); and Irene, the youngest, 25 years old (born 1960), with her husband, Gregorio Araneta 3rd. Between the married daughters are four children. Ferdinand Marcos’ close aide, General Fabian C. Ver, who served as military chief of staff, is also with the family.

    The Marcoses are made to fill out a customs form. The list, as Caroline Kennedy reported, was mind-blowing—$717 million cash; 300 crates of jewelry of undetermined value; $124 million of deposit slips to banks in the US, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands; $7.7million of jewelry, including a diamond-encrusted gold crown; $4 million worth of precious gems stuffed in diaper boxes; $200,000 of gold bullion; a heap of watches; a crate filled with pearls; and a 3-foot solid gold statue covered in diamonds.

    It is not yet clear how long the Marcoses will stay in Hawaii or where they will live. Antonio Floirendo, a Marcos crony who made his fortune from banana plantations in Mindanao, and Bienvenido R. Tantoco, the real estate developer and owner of the upmarket shopping center chain Rustans, were both said to have offered them their hillside Honolulu homes. Frank Fasi, Honolulu’s streetwise mayor, instructed the city’s police chief not to give the family any protection. “Under no circumstances would we spend 10 cents of taxpayers’ money to protect any deposed head of state who comes to Hawaii to live,” he said.

    The Marcos family arrives in their place of exile, Hawaii.

    The Philippine Embassy, Massachusetts Avenue, Washington D.C.
    Benjamin T. Romualdez, the brother of Imelda Marcos and Philippine Ambassador to the US, has fled his post and left the embassy in chaos and disarray. No one knows where he is.

    Newly elected President Corazon Aquino has temporarily designated Heherson Alvarez to head the transitional diplomatic team in Washington. Alvarez was an intimate friend of her late husband, Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., and was a frequent visitor to their home in Boston when the Aquinos lived in exile. Alvarez is a key figure in the US-based anti-dictatorship movement. Exiled in the US with his family for 13 years, Alvarez lobbied the US Congress hard to take the human rights issue in the Philippines seriously, raised funds and awareness by churning out campaign newsletters, organizing street protests and cultural events, and closely assisted journalists in their investigations on the plundered wealth of the Marcos family. Standing in the embassy’s plush office, the floor littered with shredded documents, Alvarez, though clearly emotional from the drama of events—“I had this irrepressible urge to cry,” he said—is pragmatic. He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. He wants to restore order, and calm the remaining embassy personnel. “I made it clear we were observing the rule of law. There will be no summary dismissals, no purges. We still have to collect taxes, handle passports, issue visas.”

    Various places in Manila
    A prominent communist rebel and one of the founders of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, speaks to a reporter for the New York Times. Using the nom de guerre Commander Joyce, he relates the party’s message. The armed struggle, he says, will continue. The communists claim to have been increasing their membership by 20 percent a year since 1982 and, through the National Democratic Front, commands a significant urban presence. They are skeptical of Corazon Aquino and think she will be nothing more than a figurehead, while her government would do little to eradicate poverty, landlessness among peasants and inequality, problems that have beset the country since time immemorial. “Definitely Enrile, Ramos and Cory will not do that,” Commander Joyce said. “They have their own interests to protect.”

    The communists also believe that the Marcos ouster and his replacement by Aquino was “stage-managed” by the US in order to safeguard and continue its neo-colonial rule of the Philippines. “The US hand is quite obvious,” Joyce said, “everything was too pat and scripted.” Marcos’ removal allows Washington to retain Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, the large US military bases in the Philippines, he contends. “Enrile, Ramos and Aquino have said nothing about abrogating the bases.”

    The newly installed President Corazon Aquino gives her first press conference.

    President Corazon Aquino gives her first press conference. “We are so proud to be Filipino precisely because millions of Filipinos risked their lives only to regain our rights and freedoms,” she said. “All the world saw and recorded people who knelt in the path of oncoming tanks… All the world wondered as they witnessed, in the space of two months, a people lift themselves from humiliation to the greatest pride.”

    Aquino unveils the new cabinet. Although she is mindful of her debt to the Filipino people, her choices are criticized for being too “elite.” Some of the key people are: Jaime V. Ongpin, a rare critic of Marcos in the business community who denounced the dictator for seizing businesses for crony monopolies, is named finance secretary; Jovito Salonga, a war hero, talented lawyer and Yale academic, is chair of the Philippine Commission on Good Government; Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, a local Mindanao politician who had repeatedly been thrown in jail for his fierce opposition to Marcos, is appointed local government secretary; Rene Saguisag, the prominent human rights lawyer, is called on to be presidential spokesman; Neptali Gonzalez, the lawyer and freedom fighter, is named justice secretary; Joker Arroyo, the first lawyer who challenged the legality of Marcos’ declaration of martial law and took the case to the Supreme Court, is executive secretary.

    Aquino naturally draws from the ranks of her major allies, but tragic compromises are also made. General Fidel V. Ramos, who under Marcos headed the feared Philippine Constabulary, which had been responsible for the arrest, torture and killing of civilians, is appointed chief of the armed forces.

    Then she turns to the man who was known as the “architect” of Marcos’ Martial Law, a man who had become hideously rich and powerful during his 21-year association with Marcos, and who had served the dictator as justice secretary and then defense secretary. The New York Times called him the “most formidable” member of Aquino’s cabinet, who “now has undiluted control of the military, and the potential power to dictate terms to the new president.” He is Juan Ponce Enrile, and Aquino renews his tenure as defense secretary.

    When asked whether she intended to extradite Marcos and put him on trial for crimes he is accused of committing—notably the extrajudicial killing of over 3,000 people and masterminding the assassination of her husband—Aquino answers: “No. I would like to show by my own example that the sooner we can forget our hurts, the better. Let’s forget the past.”

    Aquino’s decision was wrong, a terrible mistake. We are still paying the price today. The past should not have been forgotten. The past should never be forgotten.



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