Key players in the 1986 People Power Revolution

The month of February marks the anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

The 4-day event from February 22 to 25 will forever be etched in history as the “bloodless” revolution, which culminated with the end of a dictatorship that was also marked by human rights violations.

Thousands of Filipinos took to the streets and clamored for freedom from the two-decade iron fist rule of then president Ferdinand Marcos.  

Rappler recalls the prominent figures of that period and the roles they played during the people’s revolt and revisits their post-EDSA lives.

NEW PRESIDENT. President Corazon Aquino takes her oath as president, marking the culmination of the 4-day People Power Revolution in 1986.

Photo from Official Gazette

Corazon Aquino

Corazon Aquino, a self-proclaimed housewife, became a prominent figure of the opposition after the death in 1983 of her husband, also the staunchest critic of Marcos, Benigno Aquino Jr.

Her loss in the presidential snap elections against Marcos in 1986 was widely believed to have been attended by fraud, sparking a "People Power Revolution". The 4-day uprising ended with her taking her oath as the 11th president of the Philippines.

Aquino served as president from 1986 until 1991, her administration hounded by several coup attempts, the Mendiola massacre, and power blackouts.

In 2008, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and died in 2009 at age 76.

Following her death, people clamored for her only son Benigno Aquino III to run for president under the Liberal Party (LP) in 2010. LP’s original presidential candidate, then senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, gave way to Aquino and eventually became his vice presidential running mate.

LAST HURRAH. Ferdinand Marcos' 'final' speech at Malacañang Palace after his inauguration and before his flight to Hawaii.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Marcos held on the presidency from 1965 until the uprising forced him and his family to leave the country in 1986. His two-decade rule saw the imposition of Martial Law and various human rights abuses – especially against those he deemed critical of the government.

As disdain for his administration grew, Marcos called for a snap election in 1985 with Arturo Tolentino as his running mate. In 1986, he won but faced allegations of tampered results to favor him over then opposition bet Corazon Aquino.

He, however, maintained that he had won a 4th term amid the growing supporters of the opposition and defecting government officials as reflected during the People Power Revolution. In February 25, Marcos took oath as president in Malacanang Palace but, together with his family and close allies, fled to Hawaii with the help of United States authorities later that day.

Marcos died after two years in exile on September 28, 1989. His body was flown to the Philippines – and later interred inside a crypt in his bailiwick Ilocos Norte – in 1993.

In 2016, after the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte, the long-running issue of whether or not former president Ferdinand Marcos should be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) has finally been put to rest. Marcos was stealthily buried at the Heroes' Cemetery past noon on November 28, 2016 with full military honors. (TIMELINE: The Marcos burial controversy)

FINAL OATH. The Marcos family moments after taking his oath of office in ceremonies at Malacañang Palace on Feb. 25, 1986.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Imelda Marcos and the Marcos children, Bongbong, Imee, and Irene

Imelda Marcos spent most of her time as First Lady projecting the Philippines to the world through extravagant events and infrastructure such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the controversial Manila Film Center.

But the so-called Steel Butterfly is also famous for her vast shoe collection which was reported to contain more than 1,000 pairs.

After 6 years in exile and two years since her husband’s death, she was allowed to go back to the Philippines in 1991. Her political aspirations pushed her to run for president during the 1992 presidential elections but she lost. Three years after, she was elected first district representative of Leyte.

Imelda also served as 2nd district Representative of Ilocos Norte until 2019.

Among the 4 Marcos children who spent a huge part of their childhood living a privileged life as presidential children, two are also serving as government officials along with their mother.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr served as Ilocos Norte governor and representative before being elected to the Senate in 2013.

The only Marcos son – who closely worked with his father during his reelection bid and eventually during the People Power Revolution in 1986 ran for the vice presidency as running mate of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago in the 2016 polls. He lost to Liberal Party's Leni Robredo but contested the results.

In February 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed the electoral protest filed by Marcos against Robredo after more than 4 years. (TIMELINE: Marcos-Robredo election case)

Imee Marcos, who had held government positions during her father's regime – Kabataang Barangay head and Ilocos Norte Assemblywoman from 1984 to 1986 – returned to politics as 2nd district representative of their bailiwick in 1998. She served as Ilocos Norte government and currently a Senator after winning in 2019.

SUPPORT. Fidel V. Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile call for support.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Juan Ponce Enrile

Juan Ponce Enrile is regarded as the architect and implementer of martial law as defense minister under Marcos. But after the 1986 snap election, he, together with then Lt General Fidel Ramos, publicly declared withdrawal of support for Marcos.

Enrile later served as National Defense secretary but eventually resigned in the latter part of 1986. He later became a senator in 1987 and in 1995.

In 2014, Enrile was indicted for plunder and graft before the Sandiganbayan in relation to the misuse of the Priorirty Development Assistance (PDAF) Fund. He was detained, and after more than a year, regained temporary liberty after posting bail amounting to P1.45 million ($30,462.50)* in 2015. (TIMELINE: Enrile and the pork barrel scam)

He ran for senator in 2019 but lost.

Fidel Ramos

Fidel V Ramos was the AFP Vice Chief and also the Philippine Constabulary chief under the Marcos administration.

In February 1986, he resigned and withdrew support from the government to support the rebel soldiers. He and Enrile were called out over radio by Marcos, who asked them to “stop this stupidity.”

Ramos was appointed AFP chief of staff and later National Defense secretary under the Aquino administration, defending it against several coup attempts.

In 1992, he ran for president with the support of Aquino and eventually won against Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ramon Mitra Jr, and former First Lady Imelda Marcos, among others. He got 24% of the votes. It was during his presidency when the Philippines 2000 socio-economic program was implemented.

Ramos was also instrumental in the second EDSA Revolution against then president Joseph Estrada in 2001.

INSTRUCTIONS. Then Gen. Fabian Ver (R) consults then president Ferdinand Marcos in Malacañang.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Fabian Ver

Fabian Ver was AFP chief under Marcos and was accused of masterminding the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. He, together with other soldiers implicated by the fact-finding commission, was acquitted in 1985.

A known strong ally of the dictator who often clashed with Enrile and Ramos, Ver stood with Marcos throughout the non-violent revolution from February 22 to 25. Several accounts said that he, together with Bongbong Marcos, continually urged the president to blow up rebel camps.

Loyal until the end, Ver and his family fled with the Marcoses and other cronies to Hawaii as Marcos' 21-year rule came to an end. He did not return to the Philippines as Ramos and Aquino considered him a threat to national security.

Ver died in 1998 in Bangkok and was buried in his hometown of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. 

RENEGADES. Members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM).

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Reform the Armed Forces Movement

The Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) was formed in 1982 by junior military officers who were against corruption and cronyism in the AFP. The movement was also considered an important player in the revolt against the Marcos dictatorship.

RAM helped Enrile plan a mutiny but was later foiled. It was then when Enrile enlisted the help of Ramos.

Among the members of RAM were Enrile’s aide-de-camp at the time, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, and Lt Col Eduardo “Red” Kapunan.

Honasan would later lead at least two unsuccessful coup attempts against the very person he and his group supported for the presidency. He was also accused of masterminding the 2003 Oakwood mutiny against the administration of then president Gloria Macapacal Arroyo.

Honasan eventually became a senator until 2019. In 2016, he ran for vice president under the ticket led by then vice president Jejomar Binay.

He was appointed as Information and Communications Technology Secretary in 2018 but only took his oath in 2019.

Kapunan, meanwhile, was implicated in the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay in November 1986. He was detained in 2012 but was released on bail in 2014. The case against him was dismissed in 2016.

In 2017, Kapunan was appointed as ambassador to Myanmar.

INFLUENTIAL LEADER. Comelec chairman Victorio Savellano kisses the ring of Jaime Cardinal Sin during a Mass at the Manila Cathedral.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Jaime Cardinal Sin

The late Jaime Cardinal Sin was instrumental in rallying thousands of Filipinos to flock to EDSA during the people’s revolt against the Marcos dictatorship.

On February 22, the Manila Archbishop rallied people to support Ramos, Enrile, and other rebel soldiers. He aired his plea for food and other aid over Radio Veritas – the Catholic Church-owned radio station which broadcast developments in the uprising against Marcos in February 1986.

His plea came after his conversation with Enrile regarding his plans and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ condemnation of the fraudulent snap election.

He once again played a big role during another people’s revolt in 2001 against Estrada.

In 2005, Sin died due to renal failure at the age of 76.

TANDEM. Salvador P. Laurel poses in front of the Marcos bust in Baguio with his presidential contender in the 1986 snap elections, Corazon C. Aquino.

Photo from Official Gazette

Salvador P Laurel

Salvador P Laurel was a leader of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (Unido), the primary opposition party during the Marcos administration.

Despite him being named as the party's presidential candidate, Laurel stepped aside and gave way to Aquino. He joined her campaign as vice presidential candidate. They both lost, however, in a fraud-marred snap election which eventually led to the People Power Revolution.

On February 25, Laurel took his oath as vice president at Club Filipino. In 1992, he failed to win the presidency after Aquino threw her support behind Ramos.

He later served as chairman of the Philippine National Centennial Commission from 1996 to 1999. He was charged with graft in relation to the Centennial Expo in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. He denied the charges.

Laurel spent most of his private life after retiring from politics in the United States where he died from lymphoma in 2004.

MARCOS LOYALIST. Arturo Tolentino votes during the snap elections.

Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library

Arturo Tolentino

Arturo Tolentino was Marcos’ vice presidential running mate during the 1986 snap elections against Aquino and Laurel. He won but the results were suspect.

Tolentino later launched a coup stating that he was “constitutionally the acting president”, and together with Marcos allies, barricaded the Manila Hotel on July 8, 1986. He, however, did not get the huge support he was expecting and eventually dispersed the crowd two days after.

He won a Senate seat in 1992 and retired from politics in 1995. Tolentino died of a heart attack in 2004. –

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.