"‘What can I do for you?’ Cory asked. ‘Nothing, just pray,’Enrile replied."
(Continued from Thursday)
It was not until late in the evening that Saturday (Feb. 22, 1986) that Fidel Ramos actually joined the rebellion at Camp Aguinaldo. He had contacted his loyal PC-INP commanders, like Rene de Villa in Bicol, and Rodrigo Gutang in Cagayan de Oro and found to his dismay no troops could be readily airlifted to Manila to reinforce Enrile’s men, who were undermanned and under-armed.
Cory learned about the brewing rebellion at 4 p.m. the same Saturday in Cebu. She had led a destabilization and boycott rally there, which I covered.
After hearing about rumors of the Enrile defection, I went to the Mactan airport to book a flight to Manila. I landed in Manila shortly after 9 p.m. With Boy del Mundo of then UPI, I took a taxi to Camp Aguinaldo.
I was surprised to find the camp commander welcoming us with open arms. Enrile and Gringo had no troops at that time. Enrile had made a deal with Marcos—No shooting on the first night. Also, foreign correspondents were to be allowed inside Camp Aguinaldo.
Inside the Defense Ministry headquarters, Enrile and Ramos were giving an extended press conference. I asked if Cory Aquino called them up. Enrile said yes. “What can I do for you?” she asked. “Nothing, just pray,” Enrile replied.
After Cory got the presidency, Namfrel made recount of the votes cast in the February snap election. The tally still showed Marcos was the real winner, not by two-million votes, as canvassed by the Batasan, but by 800,000 votes as recounted by Namfrel.
In the Comelec-sanctioned official count, the legal and official winner was Marcos, by a margin of 1.7-million votes.
It was thought Marcos had cheated because his Solid North votes were transmitted very late to the tabulation center at the PICC. Two Namfrel volunteers were hanged in Ilocos. The Ilocano votes were enough to overwhelm Cory’s lead in Metro Manila and other places. The canvassers claimed Marcos was cheating and so led by the wife of a RAM major, walked out, as if on cue. The day before the celebrated incident, we, foreign correspondents, had been alerted about the planned walkout and to be there to cover it.
Cory Aquino didn’t have any participation in the four-day People Power revolt of Feb. 22 to 25, 1986 or Edsa I.
Cory disregarded the 1973 Constitution and proclaimed a Freedom Constitution to sidetrack critics from questioning her legitimacy.
Cory had a tumultuous reign. Her Cabinet was riven by discord between right- and left-wingers. She battled a nasty communist insurgency whose guerillas swelled to their highest number ever. She tried to placate Muslim separatists with an aborted autonomy deal, ala Tripoli Agreement of Imelda Marcos.
The century’s worst earthquake, the century’s worst volcano eruption, and among the most massive floods happened during her time. Twelve to 18-hour blackouts scared the daylight out of investors. An unruly military mounted nine coup attempts against her.
Only raw courage and the power of prayer saved her and her administration from ignominy.
When Aquino left office, the economy was in the throes of a recession. Daily blackouts paralyzed business. She mothballed the Bataan nuclear plant which would have been the principal power source for the main island of Luzon, which produced half of the total economic output.
Still, aside from restoring the people’s freedoms and democracy, Mrs. Aquino is credited for the 1987 Constitution.
The 1987 charter was flawed for a number of reasons.
First, it abolished the old two-party system dominated by the Nacionalista and Liberal parties. The NP and LP had ensured regional balance in the choice of senators and competent and popular officials.
For the NP or LP to capture the presidency, it must first capture the Senate, which had 24 senators, eight of whom had to be elected every four years. To control the Senate, both parties had to field the best and brightest and most popular candidates. One proof the old system worked is that seven Philippine presidents were bar topnotchers and first served in the Senate (or Congress) before being ushered into Malacañang.
The lack of regional balance under the present system of electing senators led to a ridiculous situation during Aquino’s time where a small snooty village in La Vista in the Manila suburb of Quezon City had four senators in residence while the entire Mindanao island didn’t have a single senator.
Second, in lieu of the Senate Commission on Appointments, it created a Judicial and Bar Council (a small cabal of men and women actually who are very susceptible to suggestion) to screen judges and Supreme Court justices instead. This resulted in a corrupt if not incompetent judiciary or both.
Third, the Constitution banned foreigners from owning majority of real estate and other key areas of the economy. This turned off investors and the Philippines missed the flood of foreign investments that swept through Southeast Asia in three waves in two decades.
Fourth, the 1987 charter banned nuclear power. This denies the Philippines the option to tap one of the cleanest and best sources of energy.
The multi-party system that replaced the old two-party system enabled communists to get seats in the 280-seat Congress.
Because poll inspectors of the two largest parties were no longer paid wages by the state on election day, presidential candidates had to raise private money to man electoral precincts in 40,000 barangays or villages, making them vulnerable to vested interest and election financiers and crime syndicates. The setup opened doors to corrupt elected officials and worse, incompetent administrators.
Summing up, the love and affection of her people secure Cory’s place in history as perhaps, one of the best loved of Philippine presidents.