The most definitive end of the Marcos fascist dictatorship came Feb. 25, 1986, when the despot Marcos and his family had to be flown out of the presidential palace by U.S. helicopter. There was no other way for them to escape the wrath of the people because tens of thousands of progressive workers and students belonging to Kilusang Mayo Uno and League of Filipino Students respectively had already massed up around the palace.
Since Feb. 22, 1986, hundreds of thousands of people, peaking at 2 million, had occupied the EDSA highway in order to support the breakaway of a military group from the dictatorship and in order to effect the complete isolation and downfall of the autocratic regime. The progressive multisectoral alliance BAYAN served as the hard core of the mass uprising.
Mass uprisings organized and spearheaded mainly by BAYAN also burst out in provincial capitals, cities, and towns outside of Metro Manila. The most dramatic among these was the one in Angeles City, which blocked the tanks of General Palafox from Camp Aquino in Tarlac. The mass uprisings in the provinces served to neutralize and paralyze the civilian and military followers of Marcos.
The doom of the Marcos fascist regime began in 1979 when international credit for the Philippines as well as for the third world countries started to tighten. As a result, the state corporations and the crony corporations – all big comprador enterprises – started to collapse in 1981. More and more groups of big compradors and landlords started to openly criticize Marcos and his cronies who were the only ones bailing themselves out of the crisis with state financial resources.
The regime had difficulties providing funds for the over-expanded military establishment. The fascist dictatorship had failed to suppress the armed revolutionary movement. Instead, it succeeded in causing its accelerated growth in strength. The legal democratic movement had by then started to make conspicuous advances in the form of new militant mass organizations, increasing indoor and outdoor rallies and workers' strikes.
In 1983 Benigno Aquino, who had been in exile in the United States since his 1980 release from prison, thought it was time for him to return home and seize the political initiative from Marcos. He decided to fly to the Philippines on Aug. 21, 1983. The Marcos clique got into a political panic and decided to have Aquino assassinated.
The Aquino assassination proved to be the biggest political mistake of the regime until then. The outrage over it unlid the long pent-up hatred of the broad masses of the people and resulted in unprecedentedly huge mass actions in urban areas and further intensification of the armed struggle from 1983 up to the fall of Marcos. At the core of the revolutionary mass movement was the Communist Party of the Philippines.
It was the revolutionary mass movement that had consistently and vigorously isolated and weakened the Marcos dictatorship over a long period of time. And it was fear of this revolutionary mass movement already making large strides that drove the United States and the majority of the big compradors and landlords, including the Catholic Church, to decide on preparing the way for Marcos' replacement in anticipation of the whitewash of the Aquino assassination.
Marcos' successors have proven to be fundamentally no different from Marcos as oligarchs of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class.
If we single out the most decisive factor that brought about the fall of Marcos, we must point to the revolutionary mass movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines. This fact is, however, obfuscated by the rise of Corazon Aquino and her pro-imperialist and reactionary cohorts to government positions. The balance of forces was such that the revolutionary movement could cause the downfall of Marcos but could not as yet seize political power or get a major share of power in a government headed by Aquino.
The EDSA uprising, which went far beyond the scale of the Edsa highway, was a sovereign act of the Filipino people in order to overthrow the Marcos fascist dictatorship, which had been instigated and supported by the United States. For a while, the Filipino people were euphoric about having liberated themselves from tyranny. They expected national independence and democracy to flourish. They hoped that violations of human rights would cease as political prisoners were released and a ceasefire agreement was forged between the new government of Aquino and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
But from month to month in 1986 and 1987, the Aquino government exposed itself as the chief agent of U.S. imperialism and the anti-Marcos section of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords to which Aquino herself belonged. She upheld as valid the anti-national decrees of Marcos favoring U.S. economic and security interests. She agreed to pay the odious foreign debts incurred by Marcos. She retained and applied the anti-labor decrees of Marcos and she gave the go signal to her military minions to massacre the peasants in front of the presidential palace. Thereafter, she unleashed the so-called low-intensity conflict strategy against the people and the revolutionary forces.
The successors of Marcos, from Corazon Aquino to her son Benigno Aquino III who is the current president of the Philippines, have proven to be fundamentally no different from Marcos as oligarchs of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. Their only difference is that Marcos blatantly proclaimed martial law to oppress the people, whereas his successors employ pseudo-democratic embellishments on the chains of the people. The EDSA uprising succeeded in overthrowing an autocrat but not the entire ruling system of big compradors and landlords beholden to U.S. imperialism.
As a consequence to this day, the Filipino people and the revolutionary forces continue to wage the people's democratic revolution through a protracted people's war. They celebrate the 30th anniversary of the EDSA uprising to call for the intensification of the revolutionary struggle, while the oligarchs headed by the ruling Aquino family celebrate the continuance of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system in the Philippines.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison is Chairperson of the International League of Peoples' Struggle