Reagan and the fall of Marcos, 1986

Ronald and Nancy Reagan were personal friends of Ferdinand Sr. and Imelda Marcos. In 1969, then California Gov. Reagan attended the opening of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In 1982, the Reagans hosted the Marcoses at the White House. Their friendship ended in 1986 after the Marcoses sought Reagan’s intervention to keep them in power. When the US recognized Corazon Aquino as president of the Philippines, nagsolian ng kandila (they returned candles).

The Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California made Reagan’s Daily Diaries for the years 1981 to 1989 accessible online. Entries relevant to Philippine history begin on the weekend of Feb. 22-23, 1986:

“It started snowing Sat[urday] afternoon & by Sunday morning we had several inches of new snow. I got some homework done but also had conf[erence] calls re[garding] the Philippine situation. On Sun[day] morning I approved a letter from me to Marcos begging him not to resort to force. His Defense minister [Juan Ponce Enrile] & acting chief of the Army [Fidel V. Ramos] have resigned and taken some troops with them. At one point Marcos ordered troops & tanks to go to where the rebels were based but 100’s of 1000’s of civilians blocked them & the tanks turned back.

“… Back in Wash[ington] I met with Cap, John, George & Don in the situation room—well the room was full with rep[resentatives] from St[ate], Defense,—Sec. Treasury, V.P. etc. and of course Phil[ip] Habib—just back [from Manila]. It was a long meeting with no disagreement but lots of frustration. Pres. Marcos is stubborn & refuses to admit he can no longer govern. I made the point that a message from me must appeal to him on the grounds that if there is violence I’ll be helpless to continue support for the Philippines. We must not try to lay down the law. All we can do now is send the message by way of N[ational] S[ecurity] C[ouncil] staffer Sigure who is in Japan & pray.”

Feb. 24, 1986:

“The day started at 5:30 A.M. with a call from John P. & Don R. The situation in the Philippines is deteriorating. The Marcos family & the Vers left the palace & went to the airport. Then Gen. Ver apparently talked them out of leaving. Back in the Palace they went on T.V. The Pres. & the Gen. They got in an argument. The Gen. wanted to launch an attack on the military that has gone over to the anti-Marcos people. The Pres. said no. Well, all of this ended sleep for me.

“In the office at 9—the staff meeting & N.S.C. were on the same subject. I was approving statements for delivery to the Pres.—pleading for no violence.

“… Then a call from Nancy—what to say to Imelda Marcos who was calling her? At same time I’m told Paul Laxalt, Geo. S., John Poindexter & Don R. were coming in about Paul’s call to Marcos. We’ve agreed that he should be told I’m recommending he step down & we’ll take the lead in negotiating his safety & offering him sanctuary in the U.S. He says he wants to live out his life in the Philippines. Well we’ll try to negotiate that.”

Feb. 25, 1986:

“The call this morning was at 6:45. Pres. Marcos & his family & close circle I was told are in our Clark Air base. We don’t know yet his destination but he’s said he wants to stay in the Philippines. He has a home in Northern Luzon. In the office I was met by George S. & the V.P., Cap, John, Don etc. We are ordering our Ambas[sador] & others to contact Aquino to see if we could persuade her to accept his staying in the Islands with a promise of security. As the day went on we learned she wasn’t going to do that. He incidentally is quite ill & is bed ridden at Clark. By evening we learned his party had left by medi-vac plane for Guam. He was carried to the plane on a stretcher.”

Feb. 26, 1986:

“Pres. Marcos & his party departed Guam & are now at Hickam Field Hawaii. They will stay at the base possibly 72 hrs. then he will go to his home on Diamond Head.—Yes he has one there too. The delay at Hickam is because of the large Filipino pop.—there might be demonstrations. We’re going to provide S[ecret] S[ervice] protection for a limited time. So—no civil war and we’ve proceeded to recognize the new Philippine govt.”

Historians may disagree on the past, its presentation, nuances, and meanings, but they always argue from established facts. Edsa 1986 happened, it will not change significantly despite the Marcos version of events.

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