To Suppress or Resist: The Dilemma of General Tadiar’s forces at EDSA
Published on February 24, 2021
Heroism in defiance of the 1972-1986 Martial Law Regime was expressed from various areas of Philippine society. These were especially realized with the breakout of the 1986 People Power Revolution. This truth however makes no distinction between uniformed and non-uniformed persons. Among the many civilian sectors which took part, compassion was also reflected in the soldiers who defied Marcos’ orders to suppress the People’s will by force.
non-violence and the lifting of maximum tolerance
Three decades since its conclusion, People Power is still well known for its largely non-violent nature. Accounts of the large crowds which filled Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, of nuns and children approaching military units with flowers and prayers, have been widely publicized and documented over the years. What started as members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) seeking protection from their arrest after a botched coup attempt, evolved into a mass movement calling for the end of Marcos’ Administration.
Marcos, however, was not dissuaded. At around 9:00 AM on February 24 he lifted his government’s policy of “Maximum Tolerance” – permitting the use of force to defend all installations, including communications and freedom of the air. Radio and television stations were told not to broadcast any news about military operations without their consent, and that his inauguration would go on as scheduled.
At around 9:10 AM Ramas is recorded to have given a “kill order” to Brigadier General Artemio Tadiar, directing Colonel Braulio Balbas’ Marines – stationed at a Golf Course near Camp Crame – to bombard the area with their Howitzers.
Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar (left) conferring with leaders of the crowd at EDSA. Taken from the book “People Power: An Eyewitness History”
refusing the "kill order"
The then chief of operations of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police during EDSA, Gen. Alexander Aguirre, recalls the events from Tadiar’s perspective.
Tadiar had previously shown his restraint in refusing to plough through civilians who blocked their advance on the previous day. Camp Crame, by this time, was now occupied not only by the defectors they were sent to neutralize, but also by the same civilians which flooded EDSA. Noting the gravity of the order, the commander sought to confirm it first from Malacañang, but could not get through to them by phone or radio. He had to personally travel to the palace to verify it through General Fabian Ver. Relaying this to Col. Balbas, Tadiar was told that many people – including civilians – could get killed if they fired as instructed. Advised by this, Tadiar told Balbas to use his discretion.
Photo of Col. Braulio Balbas, from the Documentary Video “EDSA 1986: Mga Tinig ng Himagsikan”. Enhanced with cutout.pro
Coverage from the Veritas Special Edition and Cecilio T. Arillo’s book Breakaway offers perspective from Col. Balbas’ situation. Balbas, it would seem, was given the kill order directly from Maj. Gen. Ramas himself at around 9:00 AM. Unsure if this was really cleared by Marcos, he looked for Commander Tadiar to inquire, but was told that he had gone to Malacañang. When Balbas finally managed to speak to Tadiar, informing him of Ramas’ orders, he was instructed to wait while Tadiar obtained confirmation. Tadiar would return with word from General Ver that Marcos had approved the order. Balbas would tell him that people had been let inside Crame already and that they would be hurting a lot of civilians. Tadiar paused, then told Balbas to hold his fire and use his discretion.
Photo of Col. Balbas’ artillery stationed to fire at Camp Crame – sourced from Breakaway.
Throughout the ordeal Ramas pressed for Balbas to comply with his instructions over radio, ordering Balbas to fire at Camp Crame. Col. Balbas would reply that he was still positioning their cannons and looking for maps. Accordingly, the Colonel’s marines did not fire their weapons – refusing to risk killing innocent civilians.
Later that day at 6:30 PM, Commander Tadiar was told that attacking units would move on foot and fight their way through the crowd if necessary. He called his staff officers and unit commanders in a conference to deliberate on their course of action. He and his men decided they would no longer participate in an operation which would result in the injury and death of unarmed civilians. He would delay the attack at 2:15 AM on the next day by calling another briefing on the plan – where staff officers brought forward multiple issues on the plan. The attack was called-off an hour later.
after the revolution
The outcomes of the EDSA Revolution did not absolve the facts of the past. 11,103 victims of gross human rights violations committed during the Marcos Regime have already been recognized. Section 3 of Republic Act No. 10368 defines that these violations were carried out by agents of the State. This also considers orders directed from the office of the President and Ministry of National Defense, which were further implemented by the Nation’s security forces.
Photo of a civilian handing over flowers to a marine at EDSA. Uploaded by Yen Catinga at My Pope Philippines.
Nonetheless, we also recognize the courage of the soldiers on the ground to refuse committing actions which would have drastically altered the course of the peaceful, non-violent demonstrations that they were sent to oppose. EDSA was a movement which dismantled more than a decade of Dictatorship responsible for many punitive human rights violations. At the time when it appeared most critical, these soldiers chose to side with and protect the people from the same kind of harm which the regime had inflicted on its victims.