EDSA as commemorated by Marcos, Duterte, and the media

FEBRUARY 25, 2024 marked the 38th year of the EDSA People Power anniversary as Ferdinand Marcos Jr. moves through his second year as president. As the dates continue to resonate with the power of remembrance for many Filipinos, the milestone continues to pose a challenge to him and his administration. The events of 1986 gathered people on the streets to support renegade officers who called for the resignation of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. causing his ouster and exile, along with his entire family, his cohorts and cronies. 

The regime detained 70,000 people, tortured 34,000, and killed more than 3,000 people, according to Amnesty International. 

After some fourteen years of power, an economic crisis showed up the cracks in governance that affected even the military. On the night of February 20, a break-away group encamped in the headquarters of Camp Crame was led by Philippine Constabulary Commander Fidel V. Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.  

They called for help; the leading prelate of the Roman Catholic Church went on its radio station to call the people to support and safeguard the group holed out in Camp Crame. As the crowds outside swelled, Marcos and his generals sent government troops to control the situation and arrest the renegades. But the throng increased its numbers through the night. 

The next day, there were thousands lined up on EDSA, the main avenue crossing through Metro Manila. As the tanks approached the area of the present crossing on Ortigas, people held up Marian images, rosaries and flowers and stood or knelt on the street. Confronted by unarmed citizens, soldiers put a halt to the tanks and joined the people. 

All the while, the group in Crame exchanged messages with the Palace indicating Marcos’ resignation as a non-negotiable condition. Ramos began calling generals for their support to establish a “new reformed armed forces.” 

Ordinary Filipinos – men, women, students and countless young people in the country had found the path to peace, a transition of power without bloodshed.  People Power caused a brutal regime to come to an end. 

EDSA through the years

But through the years, as politicians who were not connected with the experience of EDSA took over, the dates themselves lost the force of shared remembrance. With each new generation, the significance of the dates waned. Unlike Ninoy Aquino Day, which a law has declared a national holiday under Republic Act 9256 to honor the leader who opposed Marcos Sr., February 25 has been left to the discretion of the incumbent president. 

During the years of Corazon Aquino, the people gathered on site with civic and church leaders to celebrate on their own. With quite a number of political and civic leaders who actually lived the experience, government participation was a given. Official ceremonies were maintained through the presidency of Fidel Ramos, who would re-enact his leap of victory as well as join marchers on the streets. 

The next two presidents were more distanced from EDSA. President Joseph Estrada began his political career in local government while Marcos Sr. was in power. President Gloria Arroyo was not involved in any of the political moves to oppose or to check government power. 

However, almost all presidents post-EDSA have declared February 25 as a special nonworking holiday through official proclamations. Official rites were held and a new monument built a long block away from the original site where a chapel has since reserved its use only for religious, not political, activities. 


Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the leading opposition figure against Marcos Sr. was imprisoned for seven years and seven months from September 1972 when Marcos declared Martial Law. When he suffered a heart attack while detained in solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, Malacanang ordered his release so he could seek treatment in the US. 

Marcos’ age and illness became a subject of public concern as he continued to govern, showing signs of decline and disability. In 1983, Aquino announced he would return to the country so he could discuss with other leaders and with President Marcos Sr. an orderly transition when the need for it arose. 

In anticipation, supporters tied yellow ribbons on posts and fences to signal their welcome. On August 21, 1983, Aquino flew into NAIA and was murdered as he was escorted by soldiers dow he side stairs from the aircraft. His death lit up the fire of discontent and dissent; pushed the trajectory of to shift from a call to reform to an open demand for Marcos to step down. 

The four days of EDSA culminated years of rallies and demonstrations when prudence dictated the government’s policy of maximum tolerance. Dissidence and dissatisfaction built up within the military, culminating in the four days of people power on EDSA 

Duterte and EDSA

Former President Duterte made clear what he thought of the “dilawan” and all that the Aquino family represented. His communication team set up a narrative of the Aquinos and the Marcoses as two feuding families and it was clear which side he was on. As president, he stayed remote from any official program but sent official messages to be published in newspapers or to be read during the ceremony. 

In the last year of his presidency, he said in a statement that the celebration “serves as a strong reminder that with unity, cooperation, and faith, there is nothing that we cannot collectively achieve for the greater good of our country.”

Media coverage of EDSA People Power events followed the mood or inclination of the sitting president. During Duterte’s time, news followed Duterte’s line of response. Journalists did little to counter the revisionist narratives being peddled by Marcoses and echoed by Duterte and his administration. 

First-hand accounts of Martial Law survivors were featured on the Op-Ed section; but there was little news coverage of the event and related issues. Further and in particular, The Manila Times, the Daily Tribune and the Manila Standard on February 25, 2022 did not report on EDSA activities nor any of the commemorative events. 

Marcos Jr. and EDSA

The dates clearly put the administration of Marcos Jr. in an awkward spot. No one could expect him to show support or participate in the commemoration of the events that caused his family to give up power and to depart in haste to lie in exile for years until they could negotiate their return.

Official silence was probably the best that could be expected from the situation. In 2023, CMFR noted the silence of the Palace as the 37th anniversary of EDSA People Power approached, suggesting that the national holiday would be forgotten or ignored.

By the evening of February 23, 2023, Malacañang released information that February 24, not February 25, will be a special non-working day. Media went on to fully cover the non-government activities and programs in different parts of Metro Manila organized by civil society groups. 

On the eve of February 25, Marcos went to Ilocos to lead a festival celebrating the “greatness of the Ilocano.” Despite his absence in Manila, media made much of Marcos’ gesture of sending a wreath to the People Power Monument on February 25. News accounts in print, TV and online featured the photo of the wreath bearing Marcos’ name, but without any other message. Most news accounts highlighted the President’s statement issued on February 25 in which he said that he was offering his “hand of reconciliation to those with different political persuasions.” An Inquirer feature included the competing ideas at play: “Marcos Sr.’s son, the President, offered a wreath of white flowers with no message attached” – a grand gesture, but one that was intent to carry little feeling. 

By October 2023, media was quick to point out that EDSA was missing from the list of holidays for 2024, adding the explanation from the palace that the date fell on a Sunday which is already a rest day. Inquirer in its editorial read more to it saying that “more than the economic value, the message it conveys is loud and clear: Edsa should not be remembered, much less celebrated.”

February 25, 2024

This year, media did not change the established routine of reporting EDSA related events nationwide, highlighting groups and prominent icons of People Power. Despite the silence of the Palace, reports also focused on statements made by the Dutertes and other members of the Marcos family. 

Media took note of Marcos Jr.’s vlog posted on the same date, saying “we have much to learn from history;” adding that  students should be more discerning about “fake news” and read “everything” as sources.

This year, media made an effort to map out the different perspectives of those who lived through the repression of Martial Law, drawing in recollections of survivors and families of victims. The framers of the 1987 Constitution were heard, the church, students, and civic leaders all echoed the sense that the spirit of EDSA lives. There were enough notes expressing the need to communicate and share its lessons with those who were too young and many more who were not even born at the time. Without continued efforts, these memories will fade and history’s lessons would be lost to future generations. 

Organizers did say that more people attended the events, appearing more eager to be in the company who shared the experience not just of EDSA but the many activities that helped them organize demonstrations, working on publications so that Filipinos everywhere could share their ideas with one another. Some felt that the threat of constitutional amendments has something to do with it, as these amendments could lessen the guarantees of freedom and human rights. The latter theme played prominently in programs and speeches of the day.

Annual challenge 

The passage of time makes it more difficult to keep the coverage of historical events relevant and interesting. The power of social media makes these efforts even more difficult and the communities who uphold the values of People Power realize that it will be much more difficult to keep communication lines open. 

Overall, despite the media’s tendency to focus on official statements and the government’s perspective, the media have kept EDSA prominent, guiding the public to fix attention on points highlighted by reports.

Journalists must find ways to make the ideas that fueled People Power current and timely. EDSA after all was rooted in people’s individual and personal choices, it was history written from the ground. 

“How did we get here?” It is in the remit of news to explore answers to this question. History and its milestones present opportunities to mine these realities for meaningful answers. With or without government’s active participation, the press must set its own agenda, acknowledge the limitations of news conventions and create new ways by which news can help a nation grow and develop, including knowing their shared history. 

This was invigorated by the various events organized by Filipinos who want to keep alive the spirit of EDSA, not just for nostalgia, as demonstrated this year by those who connected its commemoration to the threat of charter change. 

Perspective of press freedom 

If news makes possible the encounter with history, then we must evaluate the journalistic assessment of these events. It is important that journalists see the value of knowing the history of one’s society or nation, for only then can they make news about its remembrance of these events in 1986 meaningful to all. 

The events of February 1986 are too valuable an experience to be left in the hands of the government. The events on EDSA in 1986 showed how people can set the national destiny on a course of their choice.