What Does "People Power" Mean?

Geisha A. Legazpi

"People power" refers to the peaceful social revolution that happened in the Philippines as a result of the outcry of Filipinos against the 20-year rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos. The revolt began as Corazon Aquino, wife of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., launched a campaign for violence-free protest to oust Marcos; this was a consequence of the declaration of his victory against her in the 1986 snap presidential elections. People power is best remembered as a peaceful resistance characterized by daily street demonstrations held mostly at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). It is considered an event that resulted in the rebirth of democracy in the Philippines. Many believe that several later protests became successful because they were patterned after the people power revolution.

People power in some nations is carried out through protests arranged as street demonstrations.
People power in some nations is carried out through protests arranged as street demonstrations.

Marcos, a two-term ruler, declared martial law in 1972 as an action against widespread general strikes, as well as communist and nonconformist Muslim groups. He began his presidential career in 1965, won a second term in 1969, and still ruled the country from 1973 to 1986 by decree. With alleged graft and corruption as well as controversies regarding human rights violations, the Marcos regime was strongly opposed by then Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., who was assassinated in 1983. Marcos ordered a committee to investigate Aquino's death; however, the investigating body made final reports of allegations of military participation in the assassination. Political pressures prompted Marcos to call for a snap presidential election that was held on February 7, 1986, which ultimately led to the fall of his regime.

Corazon “Cory” Aquino, Ninoy’s widow, agreed to run for presidency against Marcos despite her lack of political experience. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) officially announced that Marcos defeated Aquino, but the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), an independent organization that performed an unofficial ballot counting, declared Aquino as the winner. A majority of Filipinos believed Aquino was the winner.

Millions of Filipinos flocked to EDSA in support of the rebel soldiers, leading to the peaceful demonstrations referred to as people power. On February 25, 1986, both Marcos and Aquino took their oath as president in two different venues. With the aid of the United States government, however, Marcos, his family and several allies were transported to Honolulu, Hawaii that same day where they spent their lives in exile. Aquino then assumed power under a reestablished democratic government.

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