The Truth Untold: The 1986 Snap Election
After being dared by an American journalist, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared a snap election during an interview on the American Broadcasting Company political affairs programme, This Week with David Brinkley in November 1985. On 3 December, the Batasang Pambansa passed a law setting the date of the election on 7 February 1986 On 4 February 1986, Marcos declared 6 and 7 February as nationwide non-working special public holidays to “give all registered voters fullest opportunity to exercise their right of suffrage.” The campaign period lasted 45 days, from 19 December 1985 to 5 February 1986. 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 doing well in the ratings. They also mentioned that a similar request by Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) was also declined.
It was during this time when it was alleged that Marcos’ World War II medals for fighting the Japanese Occupation was first publicly questioned. During a campaign in Manila’s Tondo district, Marcos retorted: “ You who are here in Tondo and fought under me and who were part of my guerrilla organization–you answer them, these crazy individuals, especially the foreign press. Our opponents say Marcos was not a real guerrilla. Look at them, These people who were collaborating with the enemy when we were fighting the enemy. Now they have the nerve to question my war record. I will not pay any attention to their accusation. ” Marcos was referring to both Presidential candidate Corazon Aquino’s father-in-law Benigno Aquino Sr. and Vice Presidential Candidate Salvador Laurel’s father, José P. Laurel, who were leaders of the KALIBAPI, a puppet political party that collaborated with the Japanese during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Both were arrested and charged for treason after the war. The polls were marred by electoral fraud as well as violence. The International Observer Delegation concluded that “the election of February 7 was not conducted in a free and fair manner.” By virtue of Resolution No. 38, the Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Marcos and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senate President Arturo Tolentino as the duly elected President and Vice-President after receiving the highest number of votes for their respective positions. The opposition, headed by Corazón C. Aquino (the widow of assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.) and former senator Salvador Laurel refused to accept the fraudulent results. The International Observer Delegation concluded that the proclamation was invalid, among other reasons, because the Batasan “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 representatives of the opposition party”.
On 9 February, thirty five computer programmers walked out of the COMELEC’s electronic quick count at the Philippine International Convention Center, some fearing for their safety and seeking sanctuary in Baclaran Church. The technicians—whose protest was broadcast live on national television—claimed that the Marcos camp had manipulated the election results. The walkout was considered as one of the early “sparks” of the People Power Revolution. However, not known to many, the walkout of computer technicians was led by Linda Kapunan, wife of Lt Col Eduardo Kapunan, a leader of Reform the Armed Forces Movement, which plotted to attack the Malacañang Palace and kill Marcos and his family, leading some to believe that the walkout could have been planned with ulterior motives. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines President Cardinal Ricardo Vidal released a declaration in lieu 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 “now 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.” The United States Senate passed a resolution stating the same. This chain of events eventually led to the resignation of Marcos’ Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, and Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos. Enrile and Ramos then secluded themselves in the military and police headquarters of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame, respectively, leading to the People Power Revolution from 22–25 February 1986, which toppled the Marcos regime. On 24 March 1986, the Regular Batasang Pambansa passed a “people’s resolution” signed by 150 lawmakers. The resolution nullified the election returns that proclaimed Marcos and Tolentino as the winners, and instead confirmed the victory of President Aquino and Vice-President and Prime Minister Laurel.