by Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI
Millions of Filipinos shouted the battle cry, “Cory! Cory! Cory!,” throughout the campaign period for the Snap Elections of 1986. Finally Filipinos had real hope in ousting President Ferdinand Marcos from an office he had held since 1965. More than an icon of democracy, Cory was and is to me my personal symbol of Inang Bayan, our beloved Motherland. I first met President Cory Aquino during her campaign sortie to Kidapawan. While many of her fellow campaigners delighted the huge crowd in the town plaza, she came for a quiet visit to the Bishop’s Residence. She wore her signature yellow dress. Obviously she was the darling of our lay staff and she had picture taking with them. After exchanging pleasantries I asked her to go with me and visit the grave of Fr. Tullio Favali, P.I.M.E., The brutal murder of this gentle Italian missionary priest in 1985 by paramilitary forces had demonstrated for me the darkest side of the Marcos regime. We walked the few meters from the Bishop’s residence to the grave and we prayed for Fr. Tullio. Her brief visit and presence was a lifting of the spirit for a Church that had known so much suffering from human rights abuses from 1980 to 1985. From that time on Cory was for me the woman who best symbolized motherland, Inang Bayan. And her gracious, gentle, laid back and kind manner just reinforced that first intuition. From afar I followed her progress during the campaign and prayed for her to win. We organized NAMFREL in Kidapawan. Thank God, most of our Clergy, Religious, and Lay Leaders were willing. A handful did not think that the elections would help and opted with the Left for boycott. Cory campaigned with a simple down to earth, womanly and motherly style of talking, like telling a story, devoid of the oratorical and sometimes pompous style of many campaigners. Her enthusiastic reception by millions of people made it increasingly clear that change was imminent, in the air. The agents of change would be the enthusiastic millions, young and old, who listened to her and shouted “Cory! Cory! Cory!” The Snap Elections were held on February 7, 1986. On February 13-14, 1986, the Bishops gathered in plenary assembly as they had previously agreed, should any emergency take place. This was emergency. The government press was saying that Marcos had already won the elections. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, called for each Bishop to share the experience of NAMFREL in his diocese regarding the honesty and integrity of the elections. He asked me to moderate the session, summarize and synthesize the results. Each of the Bishops spoke. There was no doubt – the elections were filled with fraud, fraud that literally changed the results. We then went to reflect on this situation and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The Bishops came together again and worked on a statement which they approved by consensus. This was the dramatic post-election statement. The Bishops declared: “According to moral principles, a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis.” Until today I deeply regret that I had no direct hand in drafting the final statement. Cardinal Vidal had asked me to help write the draft. But I had to go to the hospital. I gave Cardinal Vidal my three essential points for a draft: (a) that the elections were substantially fraudulent; (b) that President Marcos had no moral basis to retain power; (c) that this immoral situation had somehow to be corrected. I gave all my notes to Cardinal Vidal. Cory called for strikes and boycotts. Then Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos broke away from the Marcos government. With that came the call of Cardinal Jaime Sin for people to go to EDSA and protect the small breakaway band of soldiers. For me the call to EDSA was genuinely a call to protect Cory, my personal symbol of Inang Bayan.