Extract of the Transcript of Press Conference by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos:
On the resignation of Defense Minister Enrile and Deputy Chief of Staff Ramos, the order to arrest members of Lt. Col. Honasan’s Reform the Armed Forces Movement, the divide in the Armed Forces, and the possibility of a renewed proclamation of Martial Law
[Released from Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, February 22, 1986]
Q: Good evening, sir.
DEFENSE MINISTER JUAN PONCE ENRILE: How are you?
Q: Good evening, sir.
ENRILE: This evening, I do not know whether this will be a good evening, but anyway—gentlemen, we are ready to answer your questions.
Q: Sir, is it true that the President has ordered your arrest?
ENRILE: Well, I would prefer this by saying that there was an information to round up members of the Reform Movement. And this afternoon, my boys came to my house and caused me to get out and come to this place because we might all be rounded up. I said information reached us that there was a supposed-to-be an effort to arrest all the members of the Reform Movement and this afternoon, some of my boys came to my house and asked me to move to Camp Aguinaldo because we have to group there because there is a possibility that we will all be rounded up.
Q: Were you worried that your life is in dangers, sir?
ENRILE: I must preface your question that as far back as 1982, we have been getting persistent reports that there were efforts to eliminate us and the information was that they brought in some elements from Mindanao to undertake the job. And, it was at that point that we decided a group to protect ourselves. And, this is actually what is now known as the AFP Reform Movement.
Q: How much of the military do you represent? How long do you intend to be here and what your demands will be?
ENRILE: Well, I do not know how long we will be here. It all depends upon the situation. I hope that the situation will come out better. If not, then, we will make a stand here. And, if we have to go down, all of us will have to go down.
Q: Sir, are you fearful for your life?
ENRILE: Well, we are in a camp and we have some people out there who might assault us.
Q: A lot of troops are around the perimeter of the camp. Does that mean you’re controlling the General Headquarters of the army of the Philippines?
ENRILE: Well, we are in the Ministry of National Defense. As of now, I’m still the Minister of National Defense, and that is why I came here because we have no intention to harm anybody, but the fact is that there was a report that we are going to be arrested—all of us. And, if we are going to be arrested, we know what that means.
Q: Who is us, Sir?
ENRILE: The members of the Reform Movement.
Q: Would that include General Ramos and you?
ENRILE: I think General Ramos.
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FIDEL V. RAMOS : I am with Minister Enrile. And, the reason for my being here, ladies and gentlemen, is that because the Armed Forces of the Philippines has ceased to be the real Armed Forces of the Philippines which is supposed to be the defender of public safety and enforcer of the law and what has developed is that there has become an elite armed forces within the Armed Forces of the Philippines that no longer represents the rank and file and the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Q: Minister, what will your demands be?
ENRILE: Well, we want that the will of the people must be respected.
ENRILE: Well, for myself, if I may say this, I believe that the mandate of the people does not belong to the present regime. And I know it is for a fact, that there had been some anomalies committed during the elections; and I search my conscience; and I felt that I could not serve a government that is not expressive of the sovereign will.
Q: Did you have any contact with Mrs. Aquino?
ENRILE: We have not had any contact with Mrs. Aquino.
Q: Mr. Minister, what are your demands going to be? Will you stay here until Mr. Ver steps out? Will you stay here until Mr. Marcos steps out?
ENRILE: [To General Ramos] Are you resigning? Did you resign? I was going to tender my resignation on Monday.
ENRILE: Yes, I can no longer serve the government.
Q: How about you, General Ramos? Did you tender an irrevocable resignation?
RAMOS: I have tendered my offer of retirement on many occasions. But, at the moment as the chief of the Constabulary and Integrated National Police as well as the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I would like to direct the troops under my command as well as all other elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that are professional-minded, that are dedicated to the military service—in the sense of the military service being the protector of the people—the defender of public safety, and the enforcers of the law in our country, to be with me as well as the Minister of National Defense, in our effort to bring about a more normal situation where our people once more can live freely and pursue the aspirations that they have in life.
Q: Is the Army and Navy and Air Force against you?
ENRILE: Well, not quite. We have some friendly forces in the Navy, Army and Air Force, even the Marines.
ENRILE: No, I did not. I did not discuss this with anybody.
Q: Are you saying that you no longer recognize President Marcos as President?
ENRILE: As of now, I cannot in conscience recognize the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. And, I am appealing to my brother-members of the Cabinet to head the will of the people expressed during the last election. Because in my own region, I know that we cheated the elections to the extent of 350,000 votes.
Q: Are you going to stay and serve under Mrs. Aquino?
ENRILE: No, I will not. I will not serve under Mrs. Aquino even if she is installed as the president. I do not know whether she can be installed as a president. But, I am talking of a country and people, and not men. Our loyalty is to the Constitution, to the Filipino people, to our country. And, I am calling on all decent elements in the government, the decent Filipinos, and the decent soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who are trained to respect the Constitution, and to protect the welfare of this nation and its people, to wake up and support this movement.
Q: General Ramos, will you recognize Marcos as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces?
RAMOS: I think the President of 1986 is not the same President that we used to know before to whom we pledged our loyalty and to whom we dedicated our service. But, it is clear that he no longer is the able and capable Commander-in-Chief that we count upon because he has put his personal interest—his family interest.
I would like to appeal likewise as Minister Enrile has done to the fair-minded, to the dedicated, and people-oriented members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Integrated National Police to join us in this crusade for better government. I would like to appeal to our personnel in the thirteen regions of this country, however, to avoid any bloodshed; to maintain calm, and be able to influence the people’s power in our country to support this appeal of Minister Enrile and myself, because…
ENRILE: You know, we realized the gravity of the situation as far as our lives our concerned, and if it should come to pass that we will lose our lives in this particular moment, we will gladly do it in the service of our people and our nation for that is the oath that we have taken when we entered the public service. It is our duty to see to it that the sovereign will of the Filipino people expressed through the ballot must be respected.
Q: Have you heard of any plans against Cory Aquino or the opposition?
ENRILE: No. What plans are you asking?
Q: The same way they did to you, that they are going to arrest you…
ENRILE: I do not know whether there is any such plan, but I heard that there was a meeting in Malacañang sometime two weeks ago. I think there where some members of the—some generals were present and there was a plan to arrest all the leaders of the opposition, in fact, even some members of the Parliament. And in fact, I just talked to the RUC Commander from the South and I understand certain, some hit men or hit list, directed against UNIDP leaders have been prepared. And, I do not know why this thing is happening in this country.
Q: Can you tell us, sir, what you know about the cheating during the last election—what you personally know about?
ENRILE: In my region, the President obtained 233,000 margin in Cagayan. In Isabela, he got 164,000 votes. In Kalinga, Apayao, he barely made it. In Quirino—I do not know the results there. He lost in Ifugao and in Batanes. I am bothered by my conscience that we have done this to our people. Because under the Constitution, powers of government are supposed to emanate from the sovereign will of our people, and yet, we do not respect the will of our people. The question that I asked myself before I came before you is: Is it worth living to serve a government that does not really represent the will of the people?
Q: Mr. Minister, are you willing to accept the authority of Mrs. Aquino as president?
ENRILE: I am not making any conclusion, whoever is considered by the Filipino people to be representative of their will must be respected.
Q: Is coup d’etat a part of your options?
ENRILE: We never had any plans to stage a coup d’etat. What we are doing is to defend ourselves against an assault that is quite imminent and apparent.
Q: How can the situation be resolved?
ENRILE: I do not know. It is only the President who can resolve this.
RAMOS: I am willing to dialogue with the President, ladies and gentlemen, to express the feelings of those in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And in fact, that is my primary and only approach.
ENRILE: They can kill all of us here. We are all gathered in this holding and in this camp, but the blood that they will shed will be the blood of Filipinos who love their country more than any man. And, we are not here to serve a man but to serve a republic and a people.
Q: Sir, how many are you in here?
ENRILE: I cannot tell you our number.
Q: General Ramos, have you ordered your troops to come and get you?
RAMOS: I am only appealing to the troops now to do what is right by the Constitution and to do what is right under our laws. And, I would like once more to address an appeal to the Commander-in-Chief to allow us to peacefully negotiate and talk to him. I have transmitted to the President in many occasions in writing as well as face-to-face conversation the feelings of the smaller as well as my humble perceptions of the worsening situation in our country. But as you will know, he has largely ignored these appeals and he has not acted on the very serious problems that confront the country today insofar as peace and order are concerned.
ENRILE: The Armed Forces of the Philippines is no longer the armed forces of the Filipino people as it should be. There is already an attitude on the part of some people that they own the Armed Forces of the Philippines; they own the country; they own everybody. The say that General Ver was retired on Sunday only to be reinstated again; only to be retired again, and they announced General Ramos to be an Acting Chief of Staff but there is a secret order saying that the Chief of Staff must continue until such time that they will announce his retirement. We can no longer live under this condition. This is no longer a civilized country if this is the way we are running our affairs.
Q: How does Mrs. Marcos figure in this trouble?
ENRILE: I do not know. I have not talked to her.
Q: Mr. Minister, what can you say about the presence of US military warships here?
ENRILE: I do not know why they are here.
Q: Minister Enrile, in this situation where the two of you are holed up in a building with a certain number of men around you, are you causing a split in the military right now?
ENRILE: I think right now, we have a split in the military.
Q: May we have the names of the commanders of major services who are against you?
ENRILE: I think the commanders of the armed services are all with the President and I suppose they have to serve him. But, we are confident that the decent elements in the ranks, in the lower ranks, will know how to deal with the situation. If they will fire their guns against us, so be it, but we have committed this final act in order to bring to the world and to our Filipino people that the sad situation in the country is now coming to pass. And, the day of reckoning is now approaching.
ENRILE: If they will kill us, I think they will find that the situation in the land will no longer be governable.
Q: When you talk with the President, you and General Ramos, will you ask that he step down…
ENRILE: I think we should respect the will of the people. Personally, I believe that the President did not win this election. He was proclaimed by the Batasan in a hasty manner. And, I felt embarrassed when I was sitting there watching the proceedings. I had to raise my hand to show that I voted for him, but inside me, it bothered me that I had raised my hand. And, I am sorry to say this because I had served him well over the years, but I am a Filipino over and above anything else.
Q: Will you call on the people to support you and General Ramos? Will you ask that he step down…
ENRILE: It’s up to them, if they want to support us. We are here to take a stand. If anyone of us will be killed—I think all of us must be killed.
Q: Sir, has there been any communication with the other provinces? Do they know what is happening now?
ENRILE: No, we have not communicated with them, but I talked to several military commanders and they feel that the situation must be handled because we cannot split the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Q: With this development, will the President proclaim martial law?
ENRILE: I do not know what he will do. I am not privy to his thinking at this moment.
Q: What can you say if the President proclaims Martial Law?
ENRILE: Well, if they will arrest us, we are willing to be arrested if they will arrest us. After all, martial law has never really left us.
Q: Will you resist the Proclamation of Martial Law?
ENRILE: I will. I will because it is going to be against the interests of our people. I think that it will just be a matter of time before the outbreak of violence if the President will miscalculate the situation.
Q: Mr. Minister, will you resist arrest?
ENRILE: I will cross the bridge when I come to it.
Source: Radio Transcript, February 22, 1986.
Javate-de Dios, A., Daroy, P., & Kalaw-Tirol, L. (Eds.). (1988). Dictatorship and revolution : roots of people’s power (1st ed.). Manila : Conspectus Foundation Incorporated.