“People Power” in the Philippines refers to the overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Famous in the West for his wife’s taste in shoewear, his administration was also known for embezzlement, corruption, despotism, fraud and rigging elections.
In 1972 President Marcos declared martial law in response to a bombing in Manila that killed killed nine civilians. Marcos had his political opponent Benigno Aquino arrested, and though no evidence connected him to the crime, a military tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death by firing squad. The sentence was later mitigated, but he remained in prison for seven years. In jail Aquino suffered a heart attack and was granted leave to receive surgery in the United States.
Aquino and his wife Corazon did not return to the Philippines for 3 years. In that time both were active speakers against the Marcos government, which had amended the Constitution in the 1970s and 80s to extend martial law, increase the scope of Marcos’s power and the length of his term.
Benigno Aquino returned to Manila on August 21, 1983. He was assassinated “by a lone gunman” according to the government, the moment he stepped off the airplane.
He was reportedly called “The Greatest President we never had,” by Liberal Party leader Jovito Salonga.
There was never proved any direct evidence linking Marcos to the assassination, but it sparked widespread discontent with the Marcos administration. In November 1985 Marcos announced Presidential elections to take place in February. Benigno Aquino’s widow Corazon ran against Marcos.
The Marcos government claimed to have won the election, but accusations of extreme voter fraud and massive public demonstrations against his rule combined with military opposition and U.S. pressure forced Marcos to resign on February 25, 1986.
Today People Power Day is not one day but four days, from February 22—marking the beginning of the demonstrations—to February 25, when Marcos stepped down.
Marcos loyalists attempted to bring down the Corazon Aquino administration, but were unsuccessful. President Aquino was the first woman and the first Asian to deliver a keynote address before the United States Congress.