1986: Marcos flees the Philippines

MANILA, the Philippines, Feb. 26, 1986 β€” Ferdinand E. Marcos fled the Philippines Tuesday, ending 20 years as President. Corazon C. Aquino succeeded him, saying ''a new life'' had begun for her country.

Mr. Marcos, facing pressure from all sides to step down, left the presidential palace shortly after 9 P.M. (8 A.M. Eastern standard time) and traveled by helicopter to Clark Air Base.

There, accompanied by his wife, Imelda, and Gen. Fabian C. Ver, a close associate and former chief of the Philippines military forces, he boarded an American Air Force plane for Guam, a United States territory in the Pacific. Greeted by Acting Governor Mr. Marcos arrived at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam this morning, where he was greeted by Acting Gov. Edward D. Reyes. In Washington, officials said the 68-year-old leader, who reportedly suffers from a kidney ailment, would receive treatment at the Naval Medical Center on Guam. One official described his hospitalization as precautionary.

According to a Defense Department spokesman in Washington, Mr. Marcos was to leave Guam this evening (between 5 A.M. and 8 A.M. E.S.T.) for an unspecified air base near Honolulu.


The departure of Mr. Marcos from Manila ended a day in which he pleaded with Washington for help in clinging to office, then went through an inaugural ceremony that was held apparently after he had decided to leave.

Mrs. Aquino was also inaugurated in the morning to head what was dubbed a provisional government, and although Mr. Marcos made no public resignation when he departed, the United States immediately recognized her administration.

The news of Mr. Marcos's departure set off celebrations in the capital as hundreds of thousands of Filipinos surged into the streets, honking horns, setting off firecrackers and burning tires.

As crowds converged on the presidential palace, fighting broke out between supporters and opponents of Mr. Marcos. Stones and knives were used in the clashes, and a number of injuries were reported. Eventually, a noisy crowd surged into the palace, tearing down portraits of Mr. Marcos and his wife and helping themselves to souvenirs.

Earlier, three civilians were reported killed in Manila during a pitched battle between loyalist and rebel troops for control of a television transmitting tower.

In Washington, the Reagan Administration hailed Mrs. Aquino for ''her commitment to nonviolence'' while praising Mr. Marcos for a decision ''characterized by the dignity and strength that have marked his many years of leadership.''

The official said that even after Mr. Marcos arrived at Clark Air Base, he asked if he could remain in his home province in northern Luzon, but that the Aquino side refused.

Legal questions remained to be resolved about Mrs. Aquino's mandate following the Feb. 7 election in which Mr. Marcos was proclaimed the winner by the National Assembly, which he controlled, on the basis of a vote count marred by widespread fraud and violence by his supporters.

Thirty people were taken by helicopter from the palace to the United States Embassy and 80 others were evacuated down the Pasig River and then by car convoy to the embassy, according to Mrs. Aquino's new military chief, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. General Ramos did not say who was evacuated besides Mr. Marcos and his family, which includes his wife, Imelda, a son, Ferdinand Jr., two daughters, Imee Manotoc and Irene Araneta, and three grandchildren.

Mrs. Aquino, wearing a yellow dress, as she did throughout her campaign, appeared on television in the early hours of the morning to tell the nation, ''The long agony is over. A new life starts for our country tomorrow.''

For her 52-second address, which was repeated periodically, Mrs. Aquino removed her glasses, as she does for photographers when she wants to look her best.

''We are finally free, and we can be truly proud of the unprecedented way in which we achieved our freedom, with courage, with determination and most of all in peace,'' she said, smiling at the camera.

''A new life starts for our country tomorrow, a life filled with hope and I believe a life that will be blessed with peace and progress.''

Her sentiments appeared to be reflected throughout Manila, where there was a tangible sense of elation and relief. ''We are free now,'' cried a man who had worn a ''Marcos for President'' button throughout the campaign. 'Happy New Year'

Late into the night, cars traveled the streets of Manila honking their horns, as people shouted to each other, ''Happy New Year!'' and ''Happy Birthday!''

''This was their show,'' said a senior American Embassy official this morning. ''They deserve all the credit. We find the whole thing an engulfing human experience.''

He praised Mrs. Aquino's patience and serenity throughout the pressures of the election and its aftermath, and the courage of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Ramos in challenging the power of Mr. Marcos.

The official also praised the democratic drive of the Filipinos against the forces of Mr. Marcos and his military.

The groundswell of support that has carried Mrs. Aquino into office appears to have left no doubts here about her mandate, despite her inability to win a formal proclamation of victory from the Marcos-controlled National Assembly, the nation's parliament.

The desire of many Filipinos for change and their frustration with Mr. Marcos's long years in power were heightened over the past three weeks as he openly manipulated the forces at his command to deny Mrs. Aquino her victory.

The role of the popular will, rather than political dealings, in her victory was underscored over the past four days by the massing of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in the streets to protect a group of breakaway military officers who challenged Mr. Marcos.

It was this final challenge by Mr. Enrile and General Ramos that helped force Mr. Marcos out of power.

The two men, who were named Tuesday morning to Mrs. Aquino's new Cabinet as her Defense Minister and military Chief of Staff, barricaded themselves in a military base. Although their forces were far inferior to those of Mr. Marcos and General Ver, the massed presence of the people around them made retaliation by the Government impossible.

Speaking on television this morning, General Ramos said that ''pockets of resistance'' remained but that ''99.5 percent'' supported the new Government.

Throughout the campaign, and as late as his final statements before leaving the country, Mr. Marcos made it plain that although he had called this special election 16 months before the end of his six-year term, he had no intention, whatever the outcome, of relinquishing office.

He continued to struggle with all the legal and military forces at his command for a technical victory, long after it had become clear that the national will was not with him.

In the face of his stubbornness, Mrs. Aquino's victory was seen as victory for the millions of people who protected their right to vote in the face of intimidation by Mr. Marcos's backers.

''Now he is one of the soon-to-be-forgotten exiles,'' said Homobono Adaza, an Assemblyman who supported Mrs. Aquino. ''I never thought Marcos would go along the same classical way the others have gone, the Somozas and the Batistas.''

He said legislators supporting Mrs. Aquino, who hold only one-third of the National Assembly seats, would meet today to seek an agreement with the majority to gain parliamentary proclamation for the new President.

Mrs. Aquino has said that if the legislature stands in the way of reforms she intends to institute, she will use Mr. Marcos's special decree-making powers, which she has opposed, for one last time before abolishing them.

She and her supporters have also said a priority of her new Administration would be the drafting of a new constitution to replace the one Mr. Marcos fashioned under martial law.

At her inauguration Tuesday morning, Mrs. Aquino named Mr. Enrile and General Ramos to their new posts, and said her Vice President, Salvador H. Laurel, would also hold the position of Prime Minister.

She called for the resignations of high public officials and Supreme Court justices, but assured civil servants that they could keep their jobs if they had not violated the law.

On the question of the Communist insurgency, Mrs. Aquino has said she will declare a six-month cease-fire and an amnesty for insurgents who lay down their arms and renounce violence.

On the issue of Clark Air Base and the American naval base at Subic Bay, Mrs. Aquino has said she will allow the current agreement to run its course through 1991 and then seek to negotiate a full-fledged treaty rather than the current executive agreement.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Mr. Marcos made a number of telephone calls to both Filipinos and Americans, seeking some way to remain in office, if only as the shell of a President, giving all the real power to Mrs. Aquino.

''It's too late,'' Mr. Enrile said he told Mr. Marcos when he telephoned him.

''I said I thought that was impractical,'' said Senator Paul Laxalt, Republican of Nevada, who had visited Mr. Marcos as a special envoy of Mr. Reagan.

''Then he asked me the gut question, 'Senator, what should I do?' '' Mr. Laxalt said. ''I wasn't bound by diplomatic niceties. I said, 'Cut and cut cleanly. The time has come.'

''There was the longest pause. It seemed to last minutes. It lasted so long I asked if he was still there. He said, 'Yes,' and then he said, 'I am so very, very disappointed.' ''

The conversation ended without Mr. Marcos saying what he intended to do.

Before leaving Clark Air Base for Guam, Mr. Marcos told American officials he had made a last plea to Mrs. Aquino's supporters to be allowed to retire to his home province of Ilocos Norte, in northern Luzon, a senior State Department official said.

The President was quoted as having said he was told the idea was not ''practical.''

In holding an inauguration, which came at noon Tuesday, Mr. Marcos left office in much the same way he had held it, with a tenacious insistence on the forms and legalisms of government, though holding a less firm grasp of the spirit of the law.

Though his mandate had slipped away, he stood firmly and confidently on a low platform in the reception hall of the palace. Hundreds of supporters - though no foreign representatives and few of his own officials - sat on the floor and on chairs and cheered as he looked directly into a television camera and raised his right hand to take the oath.

His wife stood smiling radiantly in a white dress just behind him, and at one point kissed him on the cheek. His son, dressed in green fatigues, stood behind her. At their side, his daughters, both in white, sat on velvet chairs, smiling at their supporters and sometimes quietly joining them in calling ''Mabuhay,'' or ''Hooray.''

''No man can be more proud that I am at this moment,'' Mr. Marcos said, as if forcing himself to proceed with the forms of the leadership he now knew he had lost.

''Whatever be the challenges, whatever be the obstacles before us, I say to you as I say to everybody else that we will overcome,'' he said.

His supporters cheered, and one whispered, ''Just like Lincoln.''

But in a final indignity, as he stood with his right hand raised, his opponents, who had been waging a pitched battle for the television station, disconnected it at the very moment he was to take the oath of office, and television screens went blank.

The battle for the television transmitter, which began at 7 A.M., was one of the few real military engagements of the change in government.

Forces under the command of General Ramos surrounded the 1,000-foot television tower, with an armored car with machine guns and small cannons, and exchanged fire with government troopers positioned at the station.

The thousands of people gathered in the street, part of the masses who have made ''people power'' the catchword of this political event, threw themselves onto the ground screaming. Three were killed.

The confrontation calmed as a priest, the Rev. Nestor Rabon, came forward to negotiate, a symbol of the decisive role the church has played in the election and its aftermath.

Television reporters said it was not the battle itself that disconnected transmission at the moment of Mr. Marcos's inauguration, but technicians who managed to cut the microwave signal from the palace at the decisive moment.

Coverage of the inauguration was replaced by a John Wayne movie.

”It was absolutely pointless,” she said.

Copyright The New York Times