Thursday, February 22, 2007

American nun’s EDSA 1 letters (1)

Maryknoll missionary Sister Helen Graham has been working in the Philippines since 1967. As a theologian who teaches Sacred Scriptures in two religious institutions, Sr. Helen has put her theology into practice and has been very involved in justice and peace issues.

During the volatile season that preceded and culminated in the February 1986 EDSA 1 people power uprising, Sr. Helen chronicled daily events (from Feb. 10 to Feb. 26) in her letters to friends abroad. Here are excerpts:

Feb. 23, 1986

Dear everybody,

Greetings from Quezon City!! As you know Sec. Philip Habib was sent here by Reagan on a “fact finding” mission. He spoke with a number of influential figures and two times each with Ferdinand Marcos and Cory. Cory said that she told him not to bother seeing her if he was going to ask her to join Marcos’ government. Habib left around noon yesterday. At around 3:00 p.m. (or so) the drama began…

I got home about 8:30 p.m. to hear the news that Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Lt. General Fidel Ramos had announced that they no longer supported Marcos as the lawfully elected president but were supporting Cory and they and their supporters were holed up in Camp Aguinaldo. They were being interviewed over Radio Veritas—they had called a press conference for the local and foreign press. At around 10 p.m. FM appeared on TV (picked up by RV) and held a press conference also. FM announced that he had aborted a coup and that they had arrested some of the officers involved and he presented two of them who read their ‘confessions’ before the cameras…

Voice of America was airing the situation at 9 p.m. By 6 a.m. the next day statements were coming from Sen. Kerry and Rep. Solarz. Also a statement was issued from the White House, approved by Reagan, agreeing with Enrile and Ramos concerning the massive fraud in the elections. I am wondering just how connected the US government is to what is happening at the moment. Cory and Doy are in Cebu—they left yesterday morning. They seem to be out of sight at the moment.

At 5 a.m. this morning 16 armed men entered the RV compound in Bulacan and destroyed their 50-kw MW transformer and three SW transformers. So RV is operating now on a 10-kw emergency transformer in Fairview.

I went to camp Aguinaldo this morning. I just returned so that I could write this letter (10:45 a.m.). Apparently just after I left, Gen. Ramos came out and spoke to the crowd outside—approximately 5,000 people. These people are guarding the military inside. As long as the civilians and the foreign press are outside, FM might think twice about attacking the camp.

In my Feb 11th letter, in the last paragraph I said that I would not “exclude the possibility of a US backed coup d’etat on the part of the so-called reform group in the military (which seems to be associated with Enrile…).” You know I feel very uncomfortable about the whole thing. Emotional feeling is HIGH. People follow behind ‘quick’ heroes. RV announced this morning that Ramos and Enrile are the new heroes. Well I cannot forget so many detainees who were tortured, who have disappeared, who have been killed and for whom there was NO JUSTICE COMING FROM RAMOS OR ENRILE…. I have close friends who were tortured and killed. If you remember the BBC film, you have there an interview with Enrile concerning the part played by Col. Aure in the torture and death of my friend Puri Pedro in January 1976.

6:00 P.M. Feb 23, 1986
Just came back from Camp Aguinaldo/Camp Crame area. The numbers have swelled from what they were in the morning. Those who had been there during the night (an estimated 30,000) had gone home to sleep, eat and bathe. So we were about 4,000 to 5,000 persons. This afternoon the group had swelled to 200,000 to 300,000 easily…perhaps even more. EDSA (the main city artery), from Farmer’s Market to Ortigas Avenue, was blocked off and was like one big grand ‘block party’.

RV is announcing that the marine battalion and tanks that were parked at the Ortigas end are now marching toward Meralco. People are being asked to blockade the area so that they cannot get through. As darkness comes across the skies the situation for those keeping vigil during the night becomes more serious.

Ramos is giving a press conference from Camp Crame recounting the support of the field commanders for them—90 per cent. Both Enrile and Ramos have consolidated their forces in Camp Crame and have abandoned Camp Aguinaldo. The marines camped at the crossroads of EDSA and Ortigas consist of 7 tanks, 14 jeeps and 6 6X 6 trucks with about 500 to 600 men.

7:00 a.m. Feb 24th

Voice of America just announced that the camp is being attacked and that Reagan has announced that he will cut off all aid if the loyalist forces attack the rebellion. So I am going now to the camps to see what is really happening. Even to the last hour FM carries on the lie. …Cardinal Sin is speaking on the radio now, asking for calm and quiet and saying a prayer…

RV has announced that there is confirmation that FM and Imelda have left the country. There will be dancing in the streets tonite!!! There is dancing in the streets right now outside of Camp Crame right now!!!

Call from the US says that FM stopped over in Guam and was shown on TV. Also that the US will give him temporary permission to stay in the US. I urge you to write to Congress to let them know that we, the American people, DO NOT want the US to be a place where dictators can find a home. Send him with that fellow from Haiti… let them go to Antarctica or outer space. We do not want them in America!!!


(to be continued)