Popular revolt sweeps Marcos out, Aquino in. Marcos flees palace in largely bloodless transition; Aquino faces daunting tasks, high popular expectations
Manila — The Marcos era is over, ended by a popular rebellion that swept Corazon Aquino into power. At 9 p.m. Tuesday, Manila time, Ferdinand Marcos, his family, and entourage fled by helicopter from the presidential palace.
Only hours before, he and Mrs. Aquino had each taken separate oaths of office in different parts of the city. At press time, the Marcoses were reported to be resting at Clark Field, the US air base 40 miles north of Manila.
After the jubilation dies down, Aquino faces daunting problems: an ailing economy, growing communist insurgency, signs of some friction between her supporters and those of Vice-President Salvador Laurel, and high popular expectations.
The end for Marcos came suddenly. Helicopters were heard over the capital around 8:30 p.m. Two were seen heading for the palace, shortly after another had landed briefly at the US Embassy. A few minutes later six truckloads of troops moved away at high speed from the direction of Malacanang, the presidential palace.
``We're going home,'' they said. ``It's all over.''
Ten minutes later reporters arrived at a deserted palace. Barbed-wire barriers were open, and two armored cars were moving back into an empty barracks. Lights still burned in the buildings, armored vehicles were still parked in the grounds, and the small stage where Marcos took his oath of office was still decked with flowers.
The sound of helicopters could be heard just behind the main palace building. At 9 p.m., the first helicopter lifted off. Troops were nowhere to be seen, but several hundred Marcos loyalists were still milling around the main gate. Crowds of Aquino supporters had been blockading the main approaches to the palace all day, and there had been several clashes between the rival groups.
Many of the loyalists carried wooden clubs; many were hostile to foreign journalists.
``No foreign journalists here. Scram,'' one group shouted. By the end of the evening at least three foreign journalists were beaten.
The loyalists were also confused. They refused to believe Marcos had left. And they were bitter at the last-minute desertion of former Marcos supporters.
``Many generals have become backsliders,'' said one loyalist. ``When we find them we shall kill them.''
The crowd outside the palace grew as Aquino supporters began to gather. Clashes also increased: Supporters of both groups clubbed their adversaries to the ground. Automatic weapons fire, apparently from inside the palace grounds, and probably fired into the air, spread panic among the crowd. Then around 10:30 a police general and aides arrived. They confirmed that Marcos had left. The loyalists were at first in disbelief.
``How many times do I have to tell you,'' a colonel shouted at one of the leaders. ``He is gone.''
Throughout the day Marcos's last vestiges of power had disappeared one by one. The rebels secured control of the media. Just as Marcos was about to be sworn in, rebels broke the live transmission simultaneously on three TV stations. By the afternoon only one TV station -- the pro-Aquino Channel 4 -- was working.
An announced attack on the rebel headquarters at Camp Crame never materialized. Rebel officers said they had made it clear to Marcos that they would respond to any attack by bombing the presidential palace. At least one of the elite forces committed by Marcos to the attack disintegrated after its officers went over to the rebels. An effort by pro-Marcos troops to retake Channel 4 was repulsed with the reported loss of three lives. Small skirmishes continued around the city until nightfall.
Shortly before Marcos took his oath, Aquino was sworn in as president in a Manila sports club. She announced two Cabinet appointments and eight task forces to handle key areas of government. As expected, Vice-President Salvador (Doy) Laurel takes on the added role of prime minister. Juan Ponce Enrile was named minister of defense, the position he had held for most of the last two decades under Marcos.
Mr. Enrile's co-plotter in the military revolt that overthrew Marcos, former Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos, was promoted to full general and made chief of staff of the ``new armed forces of the Philippines,'' as the military has been called over the last few days.
Subtle signs of friction between followers of Aquino and Laurel were discernible. Spontaneous shouts of ``Cory, Cory'' were quickly corrected to ``Cory, Doy'' by Laurel supporters.
The inauguration was delayed for an hour while Aquino, Laurel, and some lieutenants consulted. A prominent Aquino supporter and member of the National Assembly said during the delay that he expected Laurel to become foreign minister, not premier.
When Laurel's premiership was announced, the Aquino supporter looked irritated. ``That's what Doy must have been holding out for,'' he said. He complained that Laurel was trying to obtain cabinet positions for ``terrible old hacks.''
Once the jubilation dies down, Aquino will find herself faced with some daunting problems. The economy has been in disastrous shape since the assassination of her husband, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, in August 1983. It has been further damaged by Marcos's massive spending in the course of his election campaign.
Aquino will also have to handle the communist insurgency. This, however, may turn out easier than it first appears. Aquino's rise to power in tandem with a military that has suddenly become the darling of the nation exceeds the gloomiest of the Communist Party's worst-case scenarios. The biggest problem Aquino has may well be the unnatural height of popular expectations.
``Our biggest danger will be the sense of letdown people will feel after her first few months in office,'' remarked one of her closest advisers, Aquilino Pimentel, during the presidential campaign.
``People are hoping for so much from her. They're bound to be disappointed when they discover she's just a mortal.''