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How Bloodless was the EDSA Revolution?

‘The Filipino is worth dying for’



As we celebrate the “bloodless” EDSA Revolution of 1986 that lead to the overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos and the end of his Martial Law regime, we should also remember the blood that was shed before that fateful day by resistance groups and individuals mobilized against the Marcosian regime. It was also because of their work and sacrifice that the Filipino people were able to revolt “peacefully,” because so much violence had already occurred.

Below is a very incomplete list of heroes and martyrs we may remember for their opposition against the regime during this People Power Day:

  1. Victims in The First Quarter Storm
    Fifty years ago, the first quarter of 1970 was marked by numerous staged mass demonstrations against Marcos and his regime. The first protest, on Jan. 26, during Marco’s State of the Nation Address, was organized by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), led by their student leader Edgardo Jopson, commonly referred to as Edjop, who was later killed in a military raid of his home in 1982.

    Edjop_speaks_to_a_huge_crowd_at_a_multi-sectoral_rally_in_Plaza_Miranda,1970 Photo from the Jopson Family Collection

    YOUTH IN REVOLT Edjop speaks to a huge crowd at a multi-sectoral rally in Plaza Miranda, 1970 (Photo from the Jopson Family Collection)

    The protest turned violent on both sides. Three days later was the Battle of Mendiola, the worst student rally in Philippine history so much so that it had been referred to as an “insurrection,” with four students reported killed and over a hundred injured. Over the next three months, deadly riots ensued in protest of the abuses of the Marcos regime and it is now considered a watershed moment that would lead to the non-violent 1986 EDSA Revolution.

  1. Liliosa Hilao
    A student activist from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) who was in the running for cum laude honors, Hilao was arrested and tortured to death while in detention. She had written for the student newspaper outspoken works such as “Democracy is Dead in the Philippines Under Martial Law.”


    THE POWER OF THE PEN Liliosa Hilao was studying Communication Arts and was a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (Photo from Xiao Chua)

    In 1973, two years after Marcos suspended habeas corpus, the Philippine Constabulary raided her residence and brought Hilao to Camp Crane for questioning. Three days later, her family would find her in the emergency room severely beaten. She was reported as the first prisoner to die in detention during the Marcos regime.

  1. Macliing Dulag
    Respected elder and leader of the indigenous Butbut tribe in the Cordellias region, the “incorruptible” Dulag was never formally educated, and he had the one thing that could not be taught, no matter how many diplomas and certificates a person has: integrity. The Marcos regime proposed the Chico River Dam Project, which would interfere with the rights of the indigenous community, who would have been displaced.


    THE INCORRUPTIBLE Macliing Dulag was said to have declined numerous bribes presented to him by the Marcos government

    Indigenous communities around the world, past and present, are some of the most marginalized peoples, all for asking that they maintain human rights and the land that they are the original settlers on. Because of Dulag’s opposition, voicing the frustration on behalf of his people who would not stand as their land was being taken away, government soldiers murdered him on April 24, 1980.

  1. Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.
    A political rival of Marcos and his authoritarian regime, Aquino was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983, at the Manila International Airport upon returning from his self-imposed exile. While there has been no definitive proof over the direct role of Marcos in the assassination, it is generally accepted that it was politically motivated because of his outspoken remarks.


    THE FILIPINO IS WORTH DYING FOR Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the Manila international airport, now named Ninoy Aquino National Airport in his honor

    By doing what was difficult, not shying from saying what needed to be said, he put himself in harm’s way for his fellow Filipino. His assassination is credited for transforming the opposition movement that spurred the EDSA Revolution. In a speech given three years earlier, Aquino declared the words that he would be remembered by: “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

  1. The Moro people
    The Marcos regime was reported to have targeted and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Moro people in Mindanao, some attributing this violence against them as prompts for the greater radicalization of future separatist movements. In 1969, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was formed as a reaction to the alleged killings of 11 Muslim Filipinos. The massacres perpetrated by the regime include the Jabidah Massacre, the burning of Jolo, the Malisbong Massacre, to name a few.

    Tausug warriors of the MNLF’s National Security Command during the March 18, 1988 commemoration of the Jabidah Massacre somewhere in Calanogas, Lanao del Sur. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

    WE ARE ALL FILIPINOS Tausug warriors of the MNLF’s National Security Command during the March 18, 1988 commemoration of the Jabidah Massacre somewhere in Calanogas, Lanao del Sur (Photo by Bobby Timonera)

    The Moro conflict continued to be an ongoing struggle between the Philippine government and various groups even after the Marcos regime. There are no easy solutions, but one insight we can glean from the EDSA Revolution is that violence begets violence until enough people make a stand on what they know to be right and call for an end to what they know to be wrong.

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