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Corazon Aquino - President of the Philippines

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This Back in Time article first appeared in an annual publication that supplemented The World Book Encyclopedia. It was written during the year in which the events took place and reflects the style and thinking of that time.

Philippines (1986)

Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines on Feb. 25, 1986, and former President Ferdinand E. Marcos fled to Hawaii.

The ouster of Marcos followed a disputed election. Marcos had called an election for February 7 because of complaints about economic problems, official corruption, and human rights abuses. In addition, there was a growing threat from Communist guerrillas. Marcos, who had been president since 1965, sought a new mandate.

Marcos' opponents united behind "Cory" Aquino, the widow of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., an opposition leader who was murdered in 1983. She blamed Marcos for the murder. Her running mate was Salvador Laurel.

The Election Campaign was marked by violence, and more than 40 people were killed on election day. Aquino's supporters charged large-scale fraud and intimidation. They said that voter lists disappeared, ballots were stolen, and Marcos supporters cast multiple votes. Thirty computer operators compiling results for the government said the count was being manipulated and quit their jobs. On February 15, the National Assembly, in which Marcos' party held three-quarters of the seats, proclaimed him winner of the election.

Aquino claimed that she had won. On February 16, she called for nonviolent strikes and boycotts to force Marcos from office.

Military Role. Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the deputy chief of staff, Lieutenant General Fidel V. Ramos, threw their support behind Aquino. They occupied the Defense Ministry on February 22 and called on Marcos to resign, saying they would no longer accept his authority because of the election fraud and past misconduct.

Meanwhile, General Fabian C. Ver, the armed forces chief of staff and a relative of Marcos, began organizing an attack on soldiers supporting Enrile. Crowds of civilians, however, turned out to support Enrile's rebels and obstruct any attack. Some 20 people, mostly soldiers, died in scattered fighting over the next few days.

The United States threatened to cut off military aid if violence persisted. It also called for "a peaceful transition"--thus signifying that U.S. support for Marcos had been withdrawn.

Aquino Takes Over. In a chaotic situation on February 25, Aquino held a makeshift ceremony during which she was inaugurated as president at 10:45 A.M. At noon, Marcos was inaugurated for another term. But Marcos was under siege from crowds in the streets and under pressure from the United States to resign. He accepted a U.S. offer of asylum, and U.S. helicopters took him from his palace at 9:05 P.M. to Hawaii. He was accompanied by his family, Ver, and other close associates.

Aquino charged that much of the Philippines' $27.5-billion foreign debt had gone into foreign acquisitions by Marcos' family and friends. Marcos denied this, but documents showed that he had huge holdings abroad.

Amid popular celebrations and the looting of Marcos' palace, Aquino assumed control. Laurel became vice president, prime minister, and foreign minister. The post of prime minister was eliminated on March 25, when

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