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The chaotic presidential election of 1986

Apr16Page16d (168x250)Apr16Page16a (250x172)Apr16Page16b (250x167)BY RENATO

PERDON – Towards the end of its twenty year rule of the Philippines, including the dreaded Martial Law period, the Marcos administration was having trouble. People started to show their disgust and displeasure as the Marcos family continued in their power, raid and abuse of the government coffers.

Imelda Marcos was the first lady and at the same time she was appointed by Marcos himself as the first governor of Metro Manila Commission created by Marcos in 1975. Metro Manila covered the cities of Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan, Pasay and the thirteen former municipalities of Rizal and Bulacan provinces.

The eldest daughter Imee Marcos was entrenched in the Kabataang Barangay which she founded while brother Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.,  popularly known as Bongbong Marcos, was serving as governor of their home province of Ilocos Norte.

People had enough

The visibility of the Marcos family in the national political and social scene was becoming a major criticism and issue from the general public. This negative feeling reached its peak when oppositionist Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated and the people, in general, have regarded the Marcosess as guilty of such crime.

The political situation continue to deteriorate and this was taken by Marcos as the appropritate time to declare snap elections, not only to legitimize his hold on to power but to show the public that the international community was still behind him as the legitimate head of the Philippine government. The snap election was set on 7 February 1986 which would follow the end of Martial Law.

Marcos confident

Thinking that the international community was still supporting him as the leader of the Filipino people, in November 1985, during an interview on the American Broadcasting Company political affairs programme, ‘This Week with David Brinkley,’ Marcos announced his decision to hold a ‘snap’ election. This was a year before his last six-year presidential term would ran out. Marcos was still confident that his decision to have an election would solidly continue with the United States behind him, at the same time to silence his critics inside and outside the Philippines, and ultimately the public would eventually forget the Aquino assassination, if he is returned to the presidency.

On 3 December 1985, the Batasang Pambansa passed a law setting the date of the election on 7 February 1986. The presidential proclamation was followed by the campaign period that lasted 45 days from 19 December 1985 to 5 February 1986.  A day before the end of the campaign period, on 4 February Marcos declared 6 and 7 February 1986 as nationwide non-working special public holidays to ‘give all registered voters the fullest opportunity to exercise their right of suffrage.’

Media control

By this time, all radio and TV network were under the control of the Marcos administration. Television stations Radio Philippines Network and Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation declined to give airtime to the candidates of the opposition. In their letters addressed to Lupita Kashiwahara, media director for the Cory Aquino for President Movement, both companies cited a policy that prohibited the sale of airtime for political programs to avoid disruption of regular programs already being aired. To justify its decision, the network even mentioned that the Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan political party was also declined airtime.

As the election heated up, it became a common knowledge that polls were marred by electoral fraud, as well as violence. In fact, the International Observer Delegation concluded that ‘the election of February 7 was not conducted in a free and fair manner.’ Despite this development the Marcos controlled legislature, the Batasang Pambansa, proclaimed Marcos and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senate President Arturo Tolentino as the duly elected President and Vice-President, respectively, by receiving the highest number of votes for their respective positions.

Opposition react

The opposition, headed by Corazon C. Aquino (widow of assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.) and former Senator Salvador Laurel refused to accept the fraudulent result of the election. Moreover, the International Observer Delegation added that the proclamation was invalid for the Batasang Pambansa ‘ignored explicit provisions of the Philippine Electoral Code [Batas Pambansa Blg. 881] requiring that tampered or altered Election Returns be set aside during the final counting process, despite protests by representativies of the opposition party.’

Earlier, on the day of the election, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) guarded ballot boxes and tried to get a rapid tally of the results to prevent irregularities. A team of United States observers, together with a joint congressional delegation, issued a mild criticism of electoral abuses. US Senator Richard Lugar claimed that between 10 and 40 percent of the voters had been deprived to vote after their names had been removed from registration rolls.

Election results

The results of the snap election held on 7 February 1986 was tabulated by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and chaired by Ramon Felipe. It concluded that Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency with 53.62% or 10,807,197 votes, while Corazon Aquino has 46.10% or 9,291,761 votes. The results from the COMELEC have shown a massive margin of votes ahead for Marcos.

On the other hand, the incomplete and unofficial count on votes issued by NAMFREL showed a total lead count of 800,000 votes for Presidential aspirant Cory Aquino against re-electionist President Marcos.

Despite the election fraud, the administration of American President Ronald Reagan’s support for Marcos remained strong. However, a consensus of policy makers in the White House, the Department of State, Pentagon, and US Congress emerged and advised the American government ment ton withdraw support for the Marcos administration.

Computer technician walkout

The difficult political situation of Marcos was compounded by the event that took place on 9 February when thirty five computer programmers walked out of the COMELEC’s electronic quick count being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). The computer analysts and tabulators did not finish counting the votes.

They walked out in protest, at some risk to their lives, and seek sanctuary in Baclaran Church. It was alleged when the computer technicians were interviewed live on national television that the Marcos camp had manipulated the election results. Also, it was reported that Antonio S. Lopez, a journalist and editor-in-chief of BizNews Asia, one of the foreign correspondents, heard the massive walkout in PICC. With other foreign journalists they immediately covered the unfolding events and came out with the news that the canvassers claimed massive cheating by the Marcos political party.

Catholic Church support

The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines President Cardinal Ricardo Vidal released a declaration in behalf of the Philippine Church Hierarchy stating that ‘a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so.’ The declaration also asked ‘every loyal member of the Church, every community of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls’ telling all the Filipinos ‘[n]ow is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people; on what they are willing and ready to do.’

Presidential aspirant Corazon C. Aquino, PDP-Laban Party, received the following popular votes – 7,502,601, according to tally made by NAMFREL while 9,291,716 votes according to the tally made by the COMELEC, representing 46.10% of the votes. President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan Party, according to NAMFREL only got 6,181,716 votes while the COMELEC counting showed 10,807,197 or 53.63% of the votes. On 17 February 1986, NAMFREL completed virtually all of votes with a total of 69.03% of the precincts tabulated. The election watchdog reported that Mrs. Aquino garnered 7,502,601 votes and President Marcos got 6,787,556 votes.

Despite the church’s condemnation of the elections as fraudulent, on 15 February, the Marcos-dominated National Assembly (Batasang Pambansa) proclaimed him the officialwinner. The legislative body has its own official tabulator of votes and the power to proclaim the winner of the snap elections. Marcos and Tolentino who also dominated the Batasang Pambansa were declared the winners of the snap election.

This announcement angered many of the members of the Supporters of Cory Aquino Movement and decided to initiate action from all sides of the political and social spectrum declaring that the snap election results are very questionable. There was massive cheating according to the opposing party. Mention was made of the numerous Marcos votes coming from North transmitted very late to the tabulation center at the PICC. Many Marcos supporters believed that the Ilocano votes would overtake the Aquino’s winning lead in Metro Manila and to other places.

Turning point in PH history

The pandemonium that followed led to the resignation of President Marcos’ Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, and Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos. They issued a joint statement demanding Marcos’ resignation. Both former Marcos supporters established their rebel headquarters inside Camp Aguinaldo and the adjoining Camp Crame. They were guarded by several hundred military troops. This lead to the People Power Revolution from 22–25 February 1986, that eventually toppled the Marcos regime.

Marcos ordered his loyal supporters to suppress the uprising while Cardinal Sin of the Catholic Church broadcast over Radio Veritas and appealed to the people to bring food and supplies to the rebels and use non-violence to block pro-Marcos troop move ments. Hundreds of thousandsfollowed Cardinal Sin’s call, priests, nuns, ordinary citizens, and children with linked arms protected the rebels and faced down the tanks and machine guns of government troops. Despite the chaos that followed, it was an almost bloodless revolution.

Two inaugurations

By 25 February 1986, Cory Aquino was announced as the 11th President of the Philippines through the power vested by the People Power revolution. Supreme Court Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee, Sr. sworn Mrs. Aquino into office at the Club Filipino in Greenhills.

Meanwhile, on that same day, Marcos held an inaugural ceremony at Malacañang Palace. President Marcos won the 1986 Snap Elections with a margin of 782,002 votes. His inauguration would make him the only President of the Republic of the Philippines elected three times. He could have been the country’s president until his death in 1989 without completing his term that would expire in 1992. But the Marcos inauguration was generally boycotted by foreign ambassadors. United States Senator Paul Laxalt, who was in regular contact with US President Ronald Reagan advised Marcos to ‘cut and cut cleanly’. It was then that Marcos realised that he had lost the support of the United States. The same evening, the Marcosses fled Malacañang Palace and went on exile in the United States while the Filipino masses surged into Malacañang Palace to see for themselves the evidence of the extravagant lifestyle of the Marcos family.

On 24 March 1986, the Regular Batasang Pambansa passed a ‘people’s resolution’ signed by 150 lawmakers nullifying the election returns that proclaimed Marcos and Tolentino as the winners, and instead confirmed the victory of President Cory Aquino, as the elected president and former Sanator Salvador H. Laureal as the elected Vice-President. ©Renato Perdon, Sydney, Australia