The Final Report of the Fact-Finding Commission: III: The Environment of the Philippine Military




Coups begin in the minds of men. Soldiers who launch coups have a particular state of mind — values, perceptions, attitudes, and expectations — that define coups as desirable and feasible.

Chapter I notes that a military group must have both the occasion and the disposition to intervene in political affairs. Occasion refers to the opportunity or conditions which are favorable to staging the coup. Disposition refers to a combination of conscious motives and of a will or desire to act. Chapter II analyzes the transformation of the Philippine military in response to political changes in the country.

This chapter takes a closer look at the economic, political, and foreign environment of the Philippine military. Environment refers to the surrounding conditions or forces that influence or modify the behavior of the military and its component units or individual members.

In examining the coup environment, this chapter focuses on the specific environment of the December 1989 coup attempt. However, it is necessary to look into the general environment of the previous seven coup attempts as a series, and of the continuing occasion for military groups to attempt a grab for power.

Two inseparable but distinct concepts of the environment are used — the idea of the “objective milieu,” or the environment as it really is, and the idea of the “psychomilieu,” or the environment as it is perceived by an individual or group. Thus, this chapter seeks to provide an objective interpretation of the landscape of the coup attempts and to describe the military’s perception of that environment. Necessarily, the psychomilieu is an approximation of the objective milieu and is distorted to some extent.

Some psychomilieus are more accurate than others. Regardless of their accuracy, however, men act on the basis of their psychomilieus. Whether they are in fact right or wrong, military groups who believe coups are right and have a high chance of success will continue launching them, until the consequences of their actions tell them otherwise.

The presentation of the milieus, objective and psycho, of the Philippine military begins with an overview of the socialization process through which the specific psychomilieu of Filipino military officers are formed. This is in Section A. The objective economic, political, and foreign environments of the military identifying the specific factors that may have induced a predisposition among military men to launch coups are discussed in Sections B, C, and D. Finally, Section E provides a description of the actual political predisposition of selected military officers, men, and their units. These predispositions are the closest this Report could get in conjecturing how strategic military units might act in the event of another coup attempt. These political orientations are telling indicators of how these units appreciate and interpret the environment as being conducive or not conducive to military intervention in government and politics.

A. The Socialization of Military Officers

This section describes and analyzes the socialization process that shapes the contemporary Filipino soldier, identifying the factors that may influence his political orientation and predisposition towards coups. The data and analysis were generated by a study on military socialization engaged by the Fact-Finding Commission.1 The study conducted in-depth interviews of 64 officers purposively, rather than randomly selected from different service units.

The study also conducted in-depth interviews of key personnel from eight military schools — the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the Metropolitan Citizen Military Training Command (MCMTC), the AFP Training Command (AFP TRACOM), the Philippine Air Force Flying School (PAFFS), the Philippine Army Training Command (PATRACOM), the Naval Training Command (NTC), the Philippine Constabulary Training Command (PC TRACOM), and the Command and General Staff College (CGSC).

Other sources of information were training materials and school records, personnel files of 72 officers, 47 of whom are suspected coup plotters, case studies of three individuals, and secondary research materials. Newspapers were also content-analyzed.

A.1. Socialization Factors

Socialization is the process by which the behavior of members of a given society is shaped by other members of the society. More specifically, it is the way in which a member acquires a knowledge of the standards and rules that are required to function in a particular society. It involves behavioral conformity, the internalization of norms and values, and the development of more autonomous internal principles.

A.1.a. Personal Background and Cultural Influences

Officers come from middle-class families. Many have relatives in the military. Their families tend to view the military positively. A military career is viewed by many families as a source of a free education and a secure lifetime job.

As gathered from the interviews, stressed in the families of the officer-respondents are respect for authority, the value of education, discipline and loyalty, hardwork, cooperation, thrift, and Christian values — values that reflect those prevailing in Philippine culture as a whole.

Additionally, Philippine society at large teaches the future soldier more authoritarianism, strengthening the predisposition learned at home. The future soldier growing up in Philippine society learns to view his world in terms of personal relationships. This is carried over to his view of leadership. Personality traits as well as personal relationships with the leader are emphasized.

The recruit into the military begins formal military training with certain predispositions from his home background and from the culture at large. He views the military and a military career favorably and expects positive outcomes from his joining the military. The cultural traits just discussed interact with the norms of the military establishment.

A.1.b. Philippine Military Academy and
Other Military Schools

There are selected subjects in all regular courses that are politically relevant. Specifically, these are Civil Military Operations, Military Justice (which includes Human Rights), Insurgency, History and Constitution, Socio-Humanistic subjects at the PMA, and the Management-Leadership subjects at the CGSC.

More than half of the subjects in all regular courses are combat-oriented and teach the soldier how to win in battle. The teachers are Tactical Officers. Ideally, the best faculty members for these subjects would be those who are in the field and who excel because of their military skills, moral integrity, and constitutional orientation. This is because personal values are unconsciously but effectively passed on to the student during the highly-charged war game experiences in training camps.

But such “good” military leaders seldom teach in training schools because their commands need them in the field and refuse to let them go. Moreover, military culture tends to look down on teaching duties as assignments for weaklings, old officers or ineffective ones, and the career advancement incentives are lower for training assignments and higher for field assignments (“Invisible” income from other assignments may also not be available in a school setting).

Almost all military training experiences are physically and intellectually isolated from civilian life. This results in a psychological gap between military men and civilians. Intense bonding takes place among cadets, a function presumably of hazing and a very tough plebe year. But this bonding combined with military-civilian separation merely serves to build discomfort, suspicion, and, ultimately, group conflict between these sectors.

The training centers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) teach students that the primary task of the military is to fight the enemy — the communists. Anti-communist sentiment (oddly, not pro-democracy sentiment) becomes inculcated in the minds of the student. Such strong anti-communist feelings may actually lead to the appeal of rightist authoritarian rule which coups represent.

Although PMA barracks are immaculately neat and the honor code is drummed into their minds for four years, there are few opportunities for the cadet to freely and spontaneously express what he is thinking or feeling. The most rewarded phrase in camp is “Sir, yes Sir!.” Thus, the formation of consciousness and conscience is highly external with little attempt at interiority. And this is done during the highly impressionistic age between 17 and 22 years.

Such an arrangement produces its desired results when the environment is highly structured. But placed in situations where no clear-cut behavior is defined by an authority, the external-based conscience may not function adequately. In the field, circumstances are unpredictable and are not clearly right or wrong. More so in coups d’etat, when multiple authorities demand obedience.

A.1.c. The Military Career

The main reasons for joining the military are glamor and prestige of the military, influence of relatives, desire to become pilots and ship navigators, economic need, and patriotism. The typical career path follows a cycle —


although this is not always implemented properly as some stay too long or too short in an assignment. Field assignments are consistently viewed as more desirable than staff assignments.

The rewards and punishments system within the military as an organization is a function of the rewards and punishments system applied to the military by its governmental, political, and economic environment. For instance, room for promotions depends on the military’s share of the national budget. The internal system of rewards and punishment in the military is governed by the Articles of War, the hiring policy and guidelines, the traditions of the unit, and the policy of the Commanding Officer.

According to the respondents, officers are rewarded for gallantry, bravery, honesty, dedication to duty, and excellent performance on the job. They are punished for violations of the Articles of War, unnecessary violence, involvement in coup attempts, immorality, and failure to perform one’s duty. Their reactions to the system are mixed; half views the system of rewards and punishments as generally effective, while the other half claims that the system is poorly implemented and the system of rewards and punishments is ineffective.

The top characteristics respondents admire in military leaders are: being principled (fair, straight, honest); disciplinarian/”nonsense man”; decisive but fatherly; very knowledgeable/intellectual/analytical; and “action man”.

The most mentioned shortcomings of military leadership are: involvement in or serving the interests of politicians; absence of coordination among themselves; indecisiveness/inconsistency; improper implementation of the reward and punishment system; abusiveness/leniency; being out of touch with his men; complacency; being misinformed; and, involvement in graft and corruption/materialism.

Aside from co-workers and their families, the officers are closest to their classmates with whom they train. Because of that special bond, classmates influence their decisions, sympathies, and attitudes.

The respondents were asked to rate the military on prestige, power, competence, honesty, support to civilian government, and morale of soldiers for three different periods upon joining the military, ten years ago, and today. They give most favorable ratings for the period when they joined the military and the least favorable ratings today. PA officers give the lowest ratings. Junior officers give lower ratings than senior officers. The lowest ratings are for morale, prestige, and honesty.

The pre-martial law years are viewed positively as productive years. The first years of martial law are also viewed positively as years of order and discipline. But its later years are seen as the country’s and the military’s worst. The assassination of Ninoy Aquino is perceived as the greatest blunder of the Marcos government.

The February 1986 events are viewed differently by the respondents. One group views them positively as the height of people power and the prestige of the AFP. Another group views them negatively as being motivated by vested interests of military leaders and leading to instability because they started the series of coup attempts. The recent coup attempts are viewed as stemming from valid issues but using the wrong means.

The literature on the Philippine military obtained and reviewed by the study suggest a military mind peculiar to the profession. This military mind views conflict as part of human history and only the build up of arms can prevent war. There is emphasis on the threats to security particularly from the communists.

A.2. The Military Socialization Process

The young recruit brings into military school the authoritarian and personalistic values of Philippine culture. Military school has a strong and lasting impact on the young recruit. Through the formal program of instruction in school, he acquires knowledge and skills needed by an educated man and a competent professional soldier. He learns the military code which emphasizes discipline, honor, and courage. He is taught to be a good leader by first being a good follower.

Through the increased number of social science courses, he broadens his socio-political awareness. This is enhanced by the political atmosphere in the rest of society as well as by key historical events. At the PMA, the young cadet experiences violence and aggression through the practice of hazing. He also learns to use arms, fulfilling what is probably part of most Filipino males’ fantasies. The authoritarian values he brought with him into the military school are further strengthened by the authoritarian culture in the military. In school, he becomes very close to his classmates and the rest of the young men with whom he goes through the rigors of training. Intense loyalties are formed. Through special rituals and ceremonies, a strong identification with the military establishment is developed and the young recruit is proud to be a soldier.

A3. Seasons in a Military Career

After training, the graduate is commissioned and begins his military career. Life in the military has its high points and low points, but whether up or down, the socialization process continues and the young officer faces a lifetime of exposure to such socializing agents as the military culture, role models, peer influence, reward and punishment, organizational climate, and historical events in the country.

The military code continues to be held up as an ideal. Authoritarian values continue to be reinforced and personalistic values are introduced as it becomes apparent that personal loyalties operate beneath the objective system. Out in the real world, the young officer comes face to face with the imperfections of the institutions he has committed himself to protect with his life. He discovers that some of the leaders he is bound by duty to obey have feet of clay. Soon enough he finds out that the career he had selected partly because of its status and economic perks had in fact promised more than it could deliver. There is demoralization and disillusionment.

But through his disappointment and in some cases even through his own betrayal of these ideals, the officer seems to retain clear expectations of what a professional officer should be, as well as the responsibilities of military leadership. In a sense, he retains a certain degree of idealism.

His military career continues the socialization process began in school as the officer reacts to events in the country, particularly those involving the military. The martial law years, the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the EDSA People Power Revolt (EDSA Revolt), and the recent coup attempts all contributed to this process. The problems in the country and the government’s continued difficulty in solving them induce a belief that military intervention might be necessary.

Throughout his career, the officer retains close ties with his classmates through regular reunions and get-togethers. Classmates are a sounding board for ideas and a source of support. Given the risk of being killed in action, class unity becomes even more important as survivors usually adopt the family of their slain classmates.

A.4. Military Socialization as a Factor
in Coup Participation

Having described the military socialization process and the impact of military schooling and career on the young recruit, one asks: What factors in the military socialization process may contribute to an officer’s politicization, i.e., his predisposition to participate in a coup d’etat?

The socialization process broadens the cadets’ perspectives about society and politics making him politicalized. Politicalization is the process whereby one’s socio-political awareness is developed. There are several hypotheses on the factors that heighten both politicization, one form of which is the predisposition to launch coups, and politicalization. These hypotheses are synthesized from the interviews and analysis of data obtained in the study.

A.4.a. The Politicalized Cadet Hypothesis

Some believe that the curriculum at the PMA contributes to the politicalization of the cadet and this politicalization leads to participation in coup attempts. While an analysis of the program of instruction does reveal a number of courses where political discussions may take place, it is also suggested that faculty influence is a contributing factor to political orientation. The most important factor is the general environment in the country itself, i.e., the growing politicalization and activism of students and citizens which make politicization in the PMA not inconceivable. No matter how much the PMA connection appears as a contributory factor, PMA experience is still not a sufficient condition for participation in attempted coups.

A.4.b. The Disgruntled Officer Hypothesis

The poor organizational climate in which officers operate and the demoralization of the military are often blamed for the coup attempts.

A.4.C. The Power-Hungry Officer Hypothesis

According to this explanation, the career paths of coup plotters which led them to the corridors of power during the Marcos years as well as the role they played in the EDSA Revolt are factors that lead to coup participation. These officers believe that they succeeded in grabbing power in 1986 and therefore, should be able to do it again.

A.4.d. The Idealistic Young Officer Hypothesis

This explanation recognizes that many officers still value the ideals they learned early in their military careers and thus, the disillusionment with corruption and incompetence both in the military as well as civilian leadership leads them to launch coups in order to save the country. These officers and a number of their peers believe that coups are justified under extreme conditions.

A.4.e. Problem Personality Hypothesis

Some of the known coup plotters manifest definite personality disturbances that may partly explain their participation in the attempted coups. Persons with high power needs, who are narcissistic and have sociopathic tendencies (psychological patterns that have been established for some plotters) are prime candidates for coups. While a systematic psychological study of all the coup plotters has not been done, it is reasonable to conclude that personality problems contribute to the explanation.

A.5. Military Socialization and the Coup Environment

While these factors all contribute to a predisposition towards coups d’etat, none of these factors working alone or even all of these factors working in combination can explain coup participation. The study suggests that military socialization factors by themselves cannot explain coup-related behavior. A politicalized military will not necessarily attempt to overthrow the government. Military socialization produces a politicalized officer who then interacts with the “coup environment” existing in Philippine society as described in Chapter II and subsequent sections of this chapter. Coups d’etat are a product of that interaction.

Using force field terminology, the coup environment consists of driving forces or those factors which push the politicized soldier towards coups d’etat and restraining forces or factors that keep him from participating in coups. Some of the main driving forces in the environment are (a) the criticism hurled against the Aquino government and the present military leadership, (b) pressure from leaders and peers to join them in support of coups, (c) the fact that past coup plotters have not been seriously punished for their crimes, and (d) the poor quality of military life.

The main restraining forces in the environment are (a) the strong public opinion against coups, (b) the strength of the constitutionalist armed forces who will defend the government against attempts to overthrow it, (c) the popularity of the present government, and (d) the job security and other benefits of a military job that will be lost to the officer and his family should the coup fail.

B. The Economic Environment2

The previous section suggests that personal background and cultural influences, military training, and career patterns, are factors that may help predispose military officers to intervene in government and politics. However, it emphasizes that military socialization factors by themselves cannot explain coup-related behavior. At best, the military socialization process produces a politicalized officer who then interacts with the “coup environment”. When a critical mass is politicized by the interaction, a coup happens.

Violent political events have often been predicated on adverse economic conditions. One popular hypothesis is Davies’s “J” Curve — rising expectations and gratifications, if followed by a period of a short, sharp reversal in gratifications, create a wide gap between what people want and what they get, then the probability of revolution (or other violent event) increases greatly. Conflict develops in a society when major segments acutely suffer this sudden “subjective” deprivation, which usually occurs during an economic downturn. “Violence becomes increasingly likely when any kind of basic need which has come to be routinely gratified suddenly becomes deprived.”3 The conjoining factor is the common state of mind: the profound frustration that develops when the environment in the form of culture, society, and government denies the opportunity for basic needs to get fulfilled.4

In applying these insights to the Philippine coup environment, we may hypothesize that

1. The probability of the occurrence of an intervention (military or otherwise) in government rises with a decline in human welfare.

2. The probability of success of such an intervention approaches certainty as the indicators of welfare sink to a critical level.

People may differ in their opinion of what constitutes a critical level. “Critical” can be defined in two ways — an inability to meet the most basic needs, as posited above, or popular dissatisfaction even when there is an improvement in the objective economic situation. The latter would not necessarily be inconsistent with the relative deprivation hypothesis since actual conditions in reference to expectations, and not to previous conditions, can also result in dissatisfaction. Certainly, the EDSA Revolt created extremely high expectations among the people, especially in Metro Manila, which is the immediate environment of the coups.

Usually, however, a serious economic recession hastens the formation of a consensus that a critical level has been reached.

By way of a test of the above proposition, the behavior of some macroeconomic variables that correlate well with “human comfort” are examined. Welfare is essentially multi-dimensional, and may include items like per capita income, energy consumption, nutritional status, and political freedom. The discussion in this section abstracts from many of these dimensions of welfare.

B.1. Some Macroeconomic Indicators of Welfare

Macroeconomic variables are analyzed for the two years preceding the EDSA Revolt in 1986 and the three years preceding the December 1989 coup. The EDSA Revolt and the December 1989 coup are of interest because one attained its goal of changing the government and the other did not. Were there significant differences in the behavior of these macroeconomic variables that would help explain the differences in political outcomes?

Table III-l shows the behavior of real gross national product (GNP), growth rate of real GNP, and the inflation rate for the period 1984 to1989.5

Table III-1 — The Real GNP and Inflation Rates: 1984 – 1989

Year Real GNP (million pesos) Growth rate (percent) Inflation rate (percent)

























In 1983, the balance of payments difficulties of the country came to a head and the government was forced to negotiate a standby credit arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while the exchange rate collapsed. The conditionalities agreed upon with the IMF called for austerity measures that led to a contraction of real output in 1984 – 1985, the first in the postwar history of the Philippines.

The negative to poor aggregate performance of the economy in 1984 and 1985 can readily be seen in terms of the level and growth rate of real GNP, and of the inflation rate. In 1984, the economy receded with a negative growth rate in real GNP of 5.5 percent. The recession persisted in 1985, as real GNP further declined by 4.12 percent. With respect to the general price level, the inflation rate in 1984 rose to 50.3 percent, surpassing even the average rate of the inflation-ridden 1970s. In 1985, the inflation rate moderated somewhat to 23.1 percent.

The above trends can be contrasted with the behavior of the same macroeconomic variables in 1987, 1988, and 1989. The year 1989 is included because the attempted coup d’etat took place in December 1989s when it was too late in the year for the overall performance of the economy to be adversely affected.

In 1986, the economy experienced a turnaround with a modest 1.86 percent growth rate in real GNP. In 1987 and 1988, however, the economy grew by 5.8 percent and 6.7 percent respectively. While the economy’s momentum slowed down somewhat in 1989 it still registered a respectable growth rate of 5.7 percent. Concerning the behavior of the price level, one notes that the inflation rate was rising from 1987 to 1989 — from 3.8 percent in 1987, to 8.8 percent in 1988, and 10.6 percent in 1989. Although the inflation rate hit the double-digit mark in 1989, it was still low compared to the 23 percent inflation rate in 1985.

Looking at the behavior of output and the general price level two years before the 1986 EDSA Revolt and three years before the 1989 attempted coup d’etat, the contrast is quite marked. In line with the proposition of the political economy model presented above, the chance of success of the 1989 attempt was relatively slim. The segment of the military that staged the 1989 attempt failed to build a critical mass of civilian support. In 1986, a massive coalition supportive of the objective to overthrow the Marcos government responded to the call for a popular uprising.

Additional indicators of economic welfare are shown in Table III-2.6 The figures shed further light on the difference in political results between the 1986 EDSA Revolt and 1989 coup attempt. The figures show personal consumption expenditures of households and compensation of employees, entrepreneurial and property income of persons, both adjusted for the inflation rates. Personal consumption expenditures, a component of aggregate demand, is close to 75 percent of GNP. Taking it from the income side, compensation of employees and other income of persons is slightly above 75 percent of national income. These two measures correlate highly and positively with human comfort. Again, the trends that emerge from these figures are a decline from 1984 to 1985, as against a steady rise from 1987 to 1988, followed by a mild slowdown in 1989.

Table III-2 — Real Consumption and
Compensation/Income: 1984 -1989


Real Personal
(million pesos)

Compensation of Employees
Entrepreneurial and
Property Income of Persons
(million pesos)



















In terms of job creation, 1.2 million new jobs were generated in 1987 and 1.1 million jobs in 1988. The trend dipped to 700,000 new jobs in 1989 but continued to be significantly positive. Poverty incidence also dropped from 59 percent in 1985 to 49.5 percent in 1988 with the National Capital Region, where the coup attempts were concentrated, experiencing one of the highest improvements.

Based on the objective statistics, it seems curious why a segment of the military thought that their coup attempt in 1989 would receive popular support. Going by the behavior of the macroeconomic variables described above, the coup plotters might have thought that the slowdown in the growth rates of these macroeconomic measures was misery-inducing enough to push civilian groups to support their cause. Obviously, it was an erroneous assumption, evident from the fact that civilian groups did not rally to their call.

Their miscalculation may have been influenced by several events in late 1989. As also mentioned in the discussion of the political environment, there was in fact some restiveness among the people. A legislated minimum wage increase in June 1989 was widely criticized by industry, particularly small and medium-scale Filipino enterprises, at the same time that labor was protesting the inability of government to enforce compliance with minimum wage laws by a large number of enterprises. Petroleum prices increased in August and November 1989, along with transport fares, resulting in inflationary pressures on prices of basic commodities. Students protested tuition fee hikes, government workers were aggrieved by the Salary Standardization Law, farmers clamored for an increase in the palay subsidy, thousands of commuters could not get a ride to and from work. There were threats of Welgang Bayan (general strike) and jeepney drivers and teachers engaged in selective labor demonstrations. There were also frequent power outages in the third quarter of 1989.

These were on top of unrest in the streets by a broad cross-section of Philippine society not due to economic but to political reasons: Marcos loyalists wanting to bring back the body of Marcos, and military elements complaining of bad treatment by the civilian leadership. The proposed PC-INP bill also agitated the military top brass of the PC because it created uncertainty and morale problems in the ranks.

The resulting price increases and sectoral agitation did not, however, result in serious enough economic slowdown in the aggregate, which could have meant a drastic fall in human comfort, at least by the time of the coup attempt in December 1989. In other words, the critical level was not reached.

This section shows that while economic misery marked the period before February 1986, the same could not be said for the period before December 1989, when the economy was experiencing output growth and relatively mild inflation. While some groups may have been bypassed by the growth in the economy, their economic difficulties were not sufficient to induce a critical mass of civilians to support the forces aimed at overthrowing the government headed by President Aquino.

B.2. The Present Economic Situation
as a Coup Environment

However, given disquieting current trends in the economy (i.e., growth rate, inflation rate, interest rate, trade balance, budget deficit), and the domestic economic reverses resulting from the drought and recent massive earthquake, appropriate government policies to address critical areas of economic performance assume added importance.

The government has to institute measures at a time when sectors which have been very supportive of it have become openly critical of two key economic policies, namely, influential members of the church hierarchy with respect to the management of the external debt, and the business community with respect to the restructuring of tariffs. The government has had to backtrack on the implementation of tariff reform in the face of the criticism and of a probable rebuff from Congress.

That task is made more difficult by unfavorable international developments — external resources are less easily obtainable as the industrial countries pay greater attention to the needs of Eastern Europe at a time when the total available foreign aid is declining, and trade protectionism continues to rise. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait will also have tremendous adverse repercussions for the Philippine economy. It has disrupted overseas contract workers’ output and earnings, reduced further deployment opportunities of contract workers, and raised the cost of oil. The expected increase in domestic oil prices will trigger other price increases and labor demands for wage increases, unless the government can mitigate the impact with a comprehensive fiscal reform program.

Some experts hazard a guess that a recession as severe as the one in 1984 – 1985 may give rise to a predisposition by a significant portion of the civilian population to support, or at least not actively resist, another attempt at military intervention. While the deterioration in economic indicators has become more pronounced than at the time of the December 1989 coup attempt, with real per capita income declining in the second quarter of 1990 for the first time since 1987, a balance of payments crisis and a recession of that severity are still avoidable depending on how promptly and effectively the government handles the situation.

C. The Political Environment7

The previous section compared the economic environment preceding the February 1986 events with that of the December 1989 coup attempt. It showed that in terms of “relative deprivation” there was no basis to warrant an expectation on the part of the coup plotters that their attempt would receive massive popular support. Contrary to their perception, the objective economic situation, despite some deterioration by the end of 1989, could not have been a real cause for launching the coup. The restiveness of various sectors was misread by the coup plotters and served to influence their timing.

Independent of the economic environment, there were other variables that may have influenced the behavior of the coup plotters for the December 1989 attempt as well as the six others launched against the Aquino administration. These were the state and dynamics of national leadership, government, politics, and political performance. They constituted the political environment of the coup, which is discussed next.

C.1. An Auspicious Start

The period between February 1986 when Corazon C. Aquino was ushered into power and December 1989 when the latest and most serious coup attempt was mounted, is vital in getting a sense of the political climate surrounding the repeated attempts to destabilize the Aquino government. In spite of the failure of her major initiatives in the first year of her administration to forge peace pacts with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), two developments in 1987 augured well for her fledgling government. The first was the overwhelming ratification of the new Constitution in February, which strengthened the legitimacy of her government. The second was the May national elections, the first credible elections since Marcos placed the country under martial law rule in 1972. The May elections resulted in overwhelming majorities for the candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives who were personally endorsed by President Aquino and the coalition she headed. She had a convincing mandate to govern.

C.2. A Beleaguered Government

Despite that mandate, the most important feature of the political environment of the Aquino administration has been what Ninoy Aquino predicted — whoever became president would face a most unenviable task. Philippine history has been a parade of no less than ten crises administrations from Emilio Aguinaldo to Ferdinand E. Marcos that have failed to satisfactorily contain or resolve the outstanding social, economic, political, and foreign policy crises of their time. The accumulated crises of the past have conjoined to constitute the most severe test of any Filipino political leadership. On top of age-old problems of poverty, gross inequities of income, wealth, and political power, and graft and corruption exacerbated by the excesses of the Marcos administration, the country has to contend with a foreign debt burden of staggering proportions and the problem of governance inherent in a newly-restored democracy.

The gravest threat to the survival of the Aquino government has been the coup attempts. Almost from the start, the repeated attempts by military groups to wrest power from the Aquino government have diverted its attention, time, energy, and resources and sidelined efforts at a systematic resolution of the myriad problems of the nation.

All the coups failed because, among other reasons, they were lacking in political strategy and support. The plotters apparently expected a spontaneous display of “People Power” against the Aquino government which never materialized. The August 1987 coup attempt was deliberately timed to ride on Left-oriented protest demonstrations and strikes against the Aquino government’s inaction on agrarian reform and its decision to increase petroleum prices. The December 1989 coup followed a strike of jeepney drivers demanding a fuel price rollback, a teachers’ strike for higher pay, and a mass walk-out of hospital workers. Such restiveness turned out to be insufficient to ignite popular support for a coup d’etat. The plotters miscalculated the sentiments of the people against military interventionism.

What could have emboldened this miscalculated adventurism are two beliefs shared by some segments in the Armed Forces, namely: that the Aquino administration is too soft on the communist insurgency, and that the military handed power to the Aquino administration in February 1986.

To counter this perception, President Aquino visibly hardened her approach to the insurgency problem, in her words, “unsheathing the sword of war” and giving more prominence to the military aspect of her total war strategy. The coups helped pull the Aquino government incrementally to the right, through successive cabinet reorganizations and policy adjustments. It endorsed the organization of armed civilian anti-communist vigilantes in both rural and urban areas. In February 1988, the Secretary of National Defense, Rafael Ileto, was removed over a disagreement within the military regarding the counter-insurgency approach.

The people did not lend support to the second belief, as they applauded the dismissal of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile in the wake of the “God Save The Queen” coup attempt, who had been demanding a power-sharing arrangement on the basis of that belief. Despite his initial popularity after the EDSA Revolt, Enrile barely made it as a senator in the May 1987 congressional elections.

The people supported the government throughout the various coups that have been mounted against it. However, it seems the government has mismanaged each post-coup situation and failed to capitalize on its reservoir of mass support.

For example, after renegade Lt Col Gregorio Honasan was caught in November 1987, he was put on a Navy ship in Manila Bay with guards who eventually helped him escape in April 1988. On hindsight, President Aquino’s handling of Honasan now appears to be a case of reluctance to confront a problem squarely. As Commander-in-Chief, she could have ordered a court-martial for Honasan. However, Malacañang chose to deal cautiously with Honasan, saying the government did not want to make a martyr of him and other rebels, nor did it want to antagonize a segment of the military. The December 1989 coup attempt is partly the result of the indecision of government to deal firmly with the participants of earlier coup attempts, despite massive popular support for such an approach.

The coup attempts periodically reinvigorated the Aquino presidency. The cause-oriented and centrist groups, despite their increasing disappointment with President Aquino’s temporizing over socio-economic reforms, came out strongly after each coup attempt in defense of the Aquino government and the democratic institutions and space it restored.

However the Aquino government has not effectively consolidated and mobilized its popular support on a systematic and long-term basis.

Hence, her presidency has been “invisible” to supporters who needed a focus for political participation and wanted to see decisive action on major governmental efforts. She would time and again encourage the formation of grassroots organizations, but would not follow through with a major governmental effort, until June 1990 when she finally launched Kabisig.

President Aquino also sought to draw from foreign, governments’ support that the EDSA Revolt generated. She immediately set out to visit ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, the UN Headquarters, the United States, and Japan within her first year in office. She later visited China and Europe. The US government and the American people were clearly the biggest potential source of assistance.

There is a growing perception that the Aquino government has become less of a rallying point for post-Marcos reforms in the areas of human rights, participatory democracy, agrarian reform, urban land reform, and the establishment of a new moral order. It is claimed that her last two years would just be a matter of survival, with her accomplishments in re-establishing democratic institutions, constitutional government, and the restoration of democratic space serving as the staging point for more comprehensive reforms by the next administration. This seems consistent with her own concept of a transitional leadership from a dictatorship to a full-fledged democracy.

C.3. De-Marcosification

One of the tasks of the Aquino administration was to remove the pernicious practices of the Marcos years in society, the economy, and in government. The effort included recovering the hidden wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, prosecuting them, neutralizing Marcos politicians and civilian forces, and dismantling the authoritarian machinery and institutions built by Marcos for more than a decade. There have been significant accomplishments in such areas as the abolition of monopolies in certain major commodities, re-direction of government financial institutions, and privatization of some government assets.

On the other hand, the President has not been very successful in consolidating her political base through a political party or movement. This may be due to her desire to avoid criticism that she was copying Marcos’s tactics. She understood that she had to get her people into key national and local governmental positions, ousting Marcos loyalists, but she has not ensured, either by selection or indoctrination, that they share her vision for the government and the nation.

C.4. Democratization

Domestic politics in the last several years have also been characterized by a continuing process of democratization. The President commissioned the drafting of a new Constitution and called for a plebiscite to ratify it. Upon its overwhelming approval by the people, the first free, honest, and credible congressional, local, and barangay elections in a decade were conducted separately.

The new Constitution captures the idealism of the EDSA Revolt in both domestic and foreign policy. It establishes an agenda that is more far-reaching than what a conservative Congress is prepared to legislate. The Constitution also circumscribes the- Executive within stringent safeguards against a return to authoritarianism. The resulting structure is a delicate system of checks and balances that requires a high degree of statesmanship in the country’s political leadership.

After EDSA, the mass media quickly blossomed under the restored democratic atmosphere, with national daily newspapers alone increasing to more than 25. While a number of newspapers clearly maintain a high level of social responsibility, there is a debate about some of the others as to whether they have deteriorated into the sensationalist, licentious pre-martial law genre. The same can be said about radio. While many practice responsible journalism, there are commentators who concentrate on dramatic political tidbits and still others who deliberately undermine the government.

In the free market of information where government has often been ineffective if not reluctant in speaking for and explaining itself, it has become the victim of propaganda offensives by its enemies — coup plotters, insurgents, foreign interventionists, secessionists, and the political opposition.

However, on balance, the Constitution has been strengthened by the coups and the continuing insurgencies that have challenged it. Democratization has brought democratic space to Filipinos, even though the elite, both old and new, have been quick to corner its benefits in and out of government, possibly preempting wider socio-economic reform.

C.5. Return of Traditional Politics

The first two elections under the Aquino government were a testimony to the durability, if not of the traditional elites, then certainly of traditional styles of political support and mobilization.

Traditional politicians have been cited by coup plotters and by communist insurgents alike as a major reason for their actions. Even the administration itself, in launching Kabisig, hit a raw nerve among the politicians in Congress when the movement was depicted as a movement to bypass the “trapos” (meaning traditional politicians, but the contraction literally means “dirty rags”).

It must be recalled, however, that alliances with some traditional politicians [even those who belonged to the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) and were loyal to Marcos] were resorted to by the allies of the Aquino administration in a bid to win congressional and local posts and build a nationwide political machinery in 1987 and 1988.

In the final analysis, the return of traditional politics may be traced to the lack of opportunities for various elites to surface during the Marcos regime. The recruitment process for the “best and the brightest” in various fields was disrupted and corrupted. It is only under the democratic space created under the new administration that the normal process of renewal of societal elites, in government and politics, business and industry, the military, and perhaps also in the arts and culture, has resumed. The results of this renewal process are not yet apparent, because of the early lead and positioning the traditional elites have taken.

C.6. Break-up of the Ruling Coalition

The EDSA revolt brought together a broad spectrum of interests, including segments of the military, united by their outrage of Marcos. From this diverse array of forces was drawn the political leadership for the post-Marcos government, led by President Aquino. This incoming ruling coalition in the Aquino government was studded with prominent erstwhile Marcos cabinet members and politicians, side by side with veteran political leaders who fought Marcos and the “best and the brightest” non-political types. Their main challenge was to revive democracy and restore basic freedoms to Filipinos. They assumed that the factors that bound them together in the so-called “rainbow coalition” were sufficiently strong to overcome deep-seated disagreements on social reform and economic policy. Unfortunately, much more is required of political leaders.

Ruling elites usually possess a coherent structure, infused by a particular ideology. In Singapore, the ruling class is almost a homogenous grouping of economic-minded followers of Lee Kuan Yew, who set the tone and direction for national development. In Thailand, one can predict that the ruling clique will come from the ranks of the military and bureaucracy, bound together by their elite status in society. In Malaysia, the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) elite will certainly dominate national political leadership. In Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and in Taiwan the Kuomintang are the predictable sources of the ruling elite.

Elites in these countries think as one in moving their countries ahead. The ruling elite has a clear consensus indicative of a disciplined process of decision-making.

This has not been the case with President Aquino’s ruling coalition. Only after a few months, the deadly virus of Philippine politics — fractiousness — reemerged. The May 1987 elections further depleted the Aquino circle of advisers. In time, some of these former cabinet advisers would chart their own agenda, and while still loosely considered part of the coalition, they would have very little in common with the President.

In fact, the appointing power of the President became a focus of politics between the executive and the legislative branches of government which included legislators who were clearly elected on the basis of the President’s endorsement. President Aquino refused to subject some of her appointments and promotions to the review of the Congressional Commission on Appointments. She vetoed a bill delineating the powers of the Commission, and Congress threatened to override her veto. The controversy may be viewed as part of a larger effort to determine the appropriate sharing of policy-making powers by the legislative and executive branches of government. As played by some legislators, the game deteriorated into pure political grandstanding.

The constant changes in the national leadership contributed to the political insecurity of the country in the two years separating the 1987 and 1989 coup attempts. In some areas, such as land reform, there were changes just about every year. In terms of the economic agenda, the Central Bank would have one idea and NEDA, another. A third dimension would be contributed by the Department of Finance. This fragmentation was an indication that institutional coordination was lacking and no one was in firm control.

But the fractiousness in government and politics is a price for democracy which often leads to a dilemma. Its essence is openness and accommodation. But without firm institutional moorings and a unifying political vision, this becomes sterile and even destructive, often leading to chaos. The ensuing turmoil in civilian politics is an invitation to military intervention. As Fr Joaquin Bernas sees it, “Once politics get into the military, the danger is that the military will get into politics.”8 The ultimate result is a political polarization in society at the expense of national consensus and unity, and the danger of military adventurism.

C.7. The Legislature

The government under the 1987 Constitution places greater initiative for policy on the legislature compared to the previous dispensation. The powers of the Executive are significantly reduced. The adoption of the presidential form of government with broad constitutionally guaranteed civil, political, economic, and social rights of the people shifts the center of political gravity from the Executive to the Legislative.

The people, however, continue to look to the President for major decisions affecting national life. Their expectations of the Presidency. are too high, especially for an admittedly inexperienced even if charismatic leader such as President Aquino. For example, on agrarian reform, it did not sit well with the people that the President chose to shift the resolution of major issues to the incoming Congress.

The state of confusion and lack of direction that has characterized the political situation is therefore attributable not only to the President’s action or inaction, but also to the legislature’s. The problems besetting the nation and specific sectors, such as the military, teachers, students, workers, fanners, and urban poor, are problems not only of implementation, but of policy formulation and coordination between the Executive and the Legislative. Thus, the restiveness of the military might have slackened if numerous bills relating to the military had been passed promptly.

Congress had never been rated highly by citizens in pre-martial law years. The new Congress in the Aquino Government was welcomed in July 1987 mainly because it completed, along with an independent judiciary and the restored civil liberties of the people, the return of the democratic system. It also looked promising because of the election of a significant number of so-called “non-traditional politicians” which indicated a growing maturity of the electorate. But the new Congress is still predominantly conservative.

It did not take long before the body’s popularity began to decline precipitously. In September 1988, the House margin of satisfaction (percentage of very satisfied/satisfied minus percentage of dissatisfied/ very dissatisfied), according to a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey was +22 percent, which was healthy. That dipped to +8 percent in February 1989, decreasing by 14 percentage points. The Senate declined even more in satisfaction ratings. From +26 percent in September 1988, it fell by 21 percentage points to only +5 percent in February 1989.9

What accounts for the sudden drop for both chambers? The survey mentioned “sexcapades, imported Uzis, imported luxury cars, self-granted bonuses, new Congress building, and many more” as the reasons. These were no doubt reinforced by media reports which are easy to come by in exaggerated form. Because members of Congress are very visible, they are vulnerable to media exposure. It takes only one legislator to misbehave for the whole institution to be tainted.

With barely two years left of the term of its present members, Congress may not be able to enact vital legislation to implement several provisions of the 1987 Constitution which require immediate action, such as its provisions on human rights and social justice, i.e., diffusion of wealth and political power.

C.8. The National Leadership

Upon assuming power in February 1986, President Aquino and her Cabinet, mostly newcomers to government service, had to formulate and oftentimes agonize over piecemeal policies, even as an expectant nation and an international audience demanded a comprehensive political and socio-economic blueprint.

Not wanting to be dictatorial, President Aquino was reluctant to decree under the Freedom Constitution not only such a blueprint but also key policies despite the vast legislative power she held until the convening of Congress on the fourth Monday of July 1987 Instead she concentrated on restoring the democratic process, so she could immediately pass on to the new Congress the task of substantive policy-making. This departed from past practice, considering that the President even under the previous liberal democratic regime (1946 -1972) prior to Marcos’s authoritarian rule, usually set the tone of domestic and foreign policy.

Her main decisions in her first two years in office were institution-oriented. Amidst threats to the survival of her government, she sought to restore democratic institutions and practices to the country. The democratic space she created, however, has encouraged the reemergence of the traditional elite and caused hopes for a new politics to recede. Without resolute government leadership in pursuing needed socio-economic reforms, the forces for the status quo have prevailed.

The people’s expectations for meaningful reforms remain high, despite the disappointments of the past four years. Innovative paths continue to be proposed by non-government organizations such as the peace process.

On the other hand, while agreeing that the post-Marcos environment would not be easy, institutions, groups, and concerned individuals have not adequately responded to the challenge of strengthening participatory democracy at the grassroots. This is particularly true at the barangay level where presumably the ordinary citizens feel competent and willing to participate and express themselves as citizens. However, no frenzy of grassroots, community, village, or barangay organizing, discussing, and meeting has ensued since the EDSA Revolt.10

The centerpiece of the Aquino administration is purportedly the agrarian reform program. This program was projected to cost about $2.5 billion over a five-year period. Doubts were widely expressed that the government would have the support of the landlords who demand the most in terms of cash settlement. The big question was whether they were willing to subordinate their short-term interest in favor of the nation’s industrial future by accepting, say, bonds instead of cash. Given the reactionary nature of this elite, as validated by the nation’s history, the answer would be negative. It was demonstrated by the House of Representatives’ emasculation of the agrarian reform legislation. Yet there was insufficient public pressure for the legislature to act otherwise. The emasculated Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law is as much the failure or default of grassroots organizations to mobilize for social reforms as it is a victory of traditional power groups.

This state of affairs in the circles of power prompted Jaime Zobel de Ayala, a prominent industrialist and well-known Aquino supporter, to comment that “there must be anarchy in our blood.” In essence, “resident Aquino was being left to govern alone. “Politicians, save a few, seem to have forgotten that they are there to serve the people. They waste their time playing to the grandstands of their own creation. And often, we let ourselves be used as their cheering squad.”11

In his analysis of the disarray in Aquino’s administration, Zobel de Ayala castigated his fellow businessmen as well. “We have forgotten that our companies are more profitable than ever, principally because she has made it possible. . . In the meantime, the President stands by herself, dissected, criticized and crucified daily for all kinds of failings. And not enough are willing to come to her defense.”12

C.9. The Bureaucracy

Except for the top layer, the one-million-strong bureaucracy has essentially remained the same, despite the efforts of the Aquino Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization and the one-year purge of misfits from the bureaucracy authorized by the Freedom Constitution. The elimination of progressives from the top echelons of the bureaucracy, victims of compromise and horse trading, helped derail bureaucratic reforms. Bureaucratic corruption continued as existing networks of grafters and misfits were left untouched by the reorganization.

C.10. Graft and Corruption

President Aquino’s image and character are one of integrity and uprightness. Since the time she decided to fight Marcos for the presidency, she has been on moral high ground. Within a year after her accession to power, the government had filed 39 civil cases-with the Sandiganbayan involving 314 defendants headed by Marcos and his family. These cases were mostly for graft and corruption, theft, embezzlement, fraud, and other crimes allegedly committed by Marcos and his cronies.

But President Aquino’s moral ascendancy has not filtered down to the lower reaches of the bureaucracy and to other branches of the government where corruption remains. Rumors about the questionable activities of certain presidential relatives began to circulate. In her official family, one of the most damaging scandals was the Garchitorena case at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). Smuggling of all kinds of commodities, including guns, was unabated during this period. A member of the House of Representatives was caught smuggling in more than 300 pieces of handguns a few months before the December coup attempt. However, it is a credit to a concerned media and public and the leadership and membership of the House that the convicted member eventually resigned.

C.11. Civil Order

The upshot of a weak power center in a polity is the propensity of the larger civil society to be restive and disaffected. Alienated groups are politicized. This perpetuates a vicious cycle, because central authorities begin to crack down on civil dissent and a hardening of lines becomes more acute.

Public school teachers, the religious sector, and even those in the creative arts, conventionally apolitical, have increasingly taken to the streets. Political awakening is infectious, and it is not surprising that military elements get politicalized as well.

A politically charged atmosphere also invites crime and other types of anti-social behavior. This especially becomes pronounced in times of economic hardship. Manila has one of the highest crime rates internationally. In a report of Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos, 179,661 crime incidents were registered nationwide in 1987, or 26 incidents per 100,000 people.13 But what has created the image of civil disorder in the minds of the people, perhaps beyond what is warranted by the objective situation, is a number of sensational cases that have been particularly mishandled by government and which media have seized upon. Among these are hostage crises such as the Rizal Alih drama that led to the deaths of BGen Eduardo Batalla and Col Romeo Abendan and the assassinations of Congressman Moises Espinosa and American Col James Rowe. The President and Department of National Defense strongly condemned the Digos and Asturias massacres, but like other incidents in the past, these two major crimes are likely to remain unsolved.

Contributing to the general state of civil disorder were the strikes, work stoppages, demonstrations, and other forms of protest actions by all kinds of organizations representing teachers, students, workers, fanners, fisherfolk, women, jeepney drivers, and other constituencies. The problems fed into each other; people were confronted not only by transportation, garbage, and traffic problems, but also power outages and water shortages. This confluence of events provided the setting for the launching of the December coup attempt which nearly put the country over the edge. A final straw was the increase in oil prices a few days before the attempted coup. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) were poised to go on a Welgang Bayan.

C.12. Fragility of Democracy

There is a greater consciousness among Filipinos of the reversibility of political arrangements. Change applies not only to administrations, but to systems as well. The coup attempts, the insurgency, and the, secessionist movements are persistent reminders that if real reforms are not obtained under a democratic dispensation, radical alternatives may become acceptable, feasible, and even affordable.

It is far easier to dismantle a dictatorial regime than to make a democracy work. The forces and resources for achieving the former maybe the least appropriate in achieving the latter. People power was easier to galvanize against a hated dictator than to build consensus on pressing and crucial issues such as foreign debt, retention of the US military facilities, agrarian and urban land reform, decentralization, and population control.

Democracy requires an atmosphere of experimentation, pluralism, tolerance, empathy. Such an atmosphere is instantaneously denied by the resort to terrorism and violence that accompany coup attempts. The survivalist response of government to the coups detracts from its developmental functions, as well as impairs its ability to guarantee a democratic space under which democratic institutions can take root and gain strength.

The choice of democracy is at once a choice, at least in the short term, of “inefficiency” in discerning and pursuing the collective purpose. Premium is given to the participatory process as an end in itself, detracting resources and attention from the objectives of poverty-alleviation, social equity, delivery of basic services, and sustainable economic growth.

The change of government from Marcos to President Aquino demonstrated the desire of the people to make Philippine democracy more participative. This much is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. However, the government has not been as supportive of grassroots organizations as it promised, and no law has been enacted which would effectively allow people’s organizations to participate at “all levels of social, political and economic decision making” as envisioned in Article XIII, Sections 15 and 16 of the Constitution. If the government were more responsive and such a law passed, the people’s stake in the working of democracy would increase and grassroots organization would provide an effective force against undemocratic attempts to gain political power.

C.13. Popular Support for Government

A review of the social history of protest movements in this country reveals an increasing emphasis on the notion of “rights” and a corresponding ability to mobilize action in pursuit of those rights. It is no longer just a matter of asking for higher wages or more amenities from the government. People’s groups have become more militant in asserting their rights, and in the process, questioning, confronting, or even seeking the overthrow of duly constituted authority.

While there has been an increasing political sophistication among various citizens and groups on the issue of people’s rights and entitlements, there has not been a corresponding increase in their ability to assume more responsibilities and obligations. As University of the Philippines (UP) President Jose Abueva puts it, we have a societal imbalance that may be traceable to the “expansive and romantic” rhetoric of the Constitution and the fact that “our constitutional rights are not balanced by a bill of duties and obligations.”14

While the people themselves are not blameless for the general ills of our society, a more transcendant leadership in the various sectors of government, particularly the Executive, is crucial, when the age-old problems of social unrest, political alienation, economic inequities, lack of progress especially in relation to our Asian neighbors, and graft and corruption are complicated by an unusually heavy debt problem and the dynamics of a society in transition from a dictatorship.

The political environment for the December 1989 and earlier coup attempts saw the increased restiveness of various sectors of the population in response to issues and problems. This may have led the coup plotters to believe that the environment was conducive for such an attempt, thinking that the people would rally behind them.

The people did not. No matter how dissatisfied and frustrated the people have become under the current political situation, a military takeover has not been considered a preferred alternative by a significant number of people. In the August 1987 coup, civilians were shot, wounded, or killed by coup participants because they were jeering the soldiers. The people denounced the violence that was perpetuated by the coup forces, especially in August 1987 and in December 1989. Clearly, while many sectors are restive and are demanding governmental action on political, economic, and social reforms in response to the complex crisis that appears to grip the nation, it was a mistake for the plotters of the December 1989 coup attempt to read this political climate as being conducive to a military takeover of government.

D. Foreign Military Influence15

This section looks into foreign military organizations particularly in Southeast Asia for plausible influences on the Philippine military and the predisposition of some of its elements to launch coups. These influences will be categorized into (1) shared regional security perspectives, (2) demonstration effects of the neighbors’ military establishments on the AFP, (3) relative deprivation of the Philippine military compared to its foreign counterparts, and (4) doctrinal and logistical influence of a patron military organization.

The shift in Philippine foreign policy that occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s brought the Philippines closer to the region where it belongs. Regional cooperation entailed closer interaction among the military establishments of countries in the region. Interaction occurred in joint short-term training programs, familiarization tours, participation in joint sea and air exercises, conferences, and symposia in the ASEAN, as well as in the broader Asia-Pacific region. These regularly and continuously exposed Filipino military officers to the role of the military in other ASEAN countries, and the nature, benefits, and quality of military careers in neighboring countries.

D.1. Shared Southeast Asian Security Perspectives

Internal security problems in Southeast Asia stem primarily from the contested legitimacy of governments, manifested in insurgency, secessionism, cultural strife, and incessant intra-elite struggles. In addition to subversion, the inherent weakness of societies in meeting the domestic security and welfare requirements of their populations has also encouraged continued foreign involvement in internal affairs. To cope with internal and external security requirements, states have increasingly relied on their instruments of legitimate coercion and violence — the military establishment—to help resolve critical issues of state viability and political independence.

Political institutions and military establishments at present have been fashioned in part by the constant and critical interplay between internal and external security requirements in the ASEAN countries of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. These countries in a sense constitute a security community, because none of them considers any other ASEAN member a likely aggressor.16 Since 1975, they have increased military cooperation among themselves especially in the exchange of intelligence, regularized meetings of military staffs, and combined training exercises. As a result of these interactions, there is an awareness that the military establishments in Southeast Asia share common security problems, and that for a number of them, a more active military role has proved effective in bringing about not only security, but welfare as well.

D.2. Demonstration Effect

The eight coups so far attempted in the Philippines are not uncommon by Third World standards. Of 157 coup attempts and successful golpes de estado which occurred during the 1958 – 1977 period, only six took place in Europe, while a vast majority of the coups took place in 55 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. By 1985, the military controlled governments in 58 of 109 countries in the Third World.17

The military-dominated governments in Indonesia and Thailand serve as working models of a developmental role for the military. The Philippine military could not be oblivious to the fact that in Indonesia and Thailand (as well as elsewhere in East Asia — Taiwan and South Korea), the military has been active and effective not only in combatting communist aggression, quelling multi-ethnic disturbances, and warding off external threats, but in pursuing national development goals as well. The better benefits and higher level of psychological satisfaction enjoyed by military officers and men in these countries reflect their success in performing a combined defense and welfare role.

D.2.a. Indonesian Model

The armed forces has proven to be an influential instrument in Indonesia’s struggle for national independence, political stability, economic development, and legitimization of an authoritarian rule. When civilian supremacy no longer proved to be an effective principle in the conduct of government, Indonesia opted for the political dominance of its military, which has been steeped and disciplined in the traditional values of Pancha Sila and the Soldiers’ Oath. The Indonesian military has been effective in armed conflict such as the abortive 1965 communist uprising, the East Timor controversy, and external ones such as the 1963 Konfrontasi with Malaysia.

The economic development of Indonesia owes a great deal to the active developmental role played by the armed forces under the uninterrupted leadership of President Suharto, the general who brought the military to power in 1965. Working with a team of professional economists, the military gradually re-allocated government resources from defense to socio-economic development, successfully striking a path toward social welfare and national prosperity.

The Indonesian Army has also effectively fashioned itself as an effective arbiter of national issues and problems through the institutionalization of the principles of Pancha Sila and Dua Fungsi. Pancha Sila refers to five principles: belief in one God, humanitarianism, national unity, consultative democracy, and social justice. By guiding the proper conduct of society, Pancha Sila is considered above politics. The Doktrin Dua Fungsi is the performance by the armed forces of an active social and political role in addition to the military or defense role. The former entails efforts to develop a prosperous and joint social development.

The most potent doctrine that galvanized the Indonesian military since its postwar independence struggle has been its nationalism and its anti-communism. The Indonesian Army has enjoyed immense prestige because it was successful in the struggle for independence from the Dutch and the Japanese, unlike its immediate neighbors, including the Philippines, whose independence was rewon by civilian leaders.

Indonesia’s anti-communism is evident in President Suharto’s warning to President Aquino during her state visit to Indonesia in 1986: “If you give [the CPP/NPA] any opportunity to consolidate, form forces, they will use it.”18 To signal their unflagging anti-communism, the Indonesian Army executed nine members of the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in October 1986, some 19 years after their sentencing.

The model that Indonesia presents to coup plotters is not only the developmental role of the military, but also the radical solution to the communist threat. The so-called “Indonesian solution” to the communist problem refers to the physical elimination by the Indonesian Army of more than half a million suspected communists during the period , 1965 – 1969.19 The Indonesian solution is said to have inspired the anti-communist purge led by the Chilean military in 1973.20 The Indonesian solution appears to appeal to the RAM-Honasan Faction (RAM-HF) and the Young Officers Union (YOU), who consider a “surgical operation” justified to achieve their purpose.

D.2.b. Thai Model

The Thai and the Indonesian military are complementary and mutually reinforcing models for the Philippine military.

A notable feature in the rule of the military in Thailand is reflected in the interlocking relationships between it and the business sector. Through the numerous business and economic connections of the military, much of the economic growth and development of Thailand was spurred. However, this kind of politico-economic relations in at least one instance, disturbed the generally close relationship between the military and the monarchy which is the key factor to Thai stability.21

Another feature of the Thai military that may have inspired similar developments in the Philippine military is the formation of the Young Military Officers Group (Young Turks) of the Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTAF). The Group questioned the posture and beliefs and distanced themselves from their elder officers and superiors.22 The populist and democratic sentiments of the Young Turks resulted in the successful overthrow of the civilian government in 1977. After losing power, they tried again in 1981 but they were unsuccessful because of the timely intervention of the royal family. Nevertheless, the young military officers have laid claim to being arbiters of conflict and to being an activist force for social change.

The Thai Young Turks may have inspired a group of junior Filipino military officers who participated in the failed December coup to step out of the shadow of RAM-HF to mount their own opposition to the Aquino government. They call themselves the YOU. According to an AFP document, YOU’s earliest manifestations were the statements and press’ releases issued in 1986 by the so-called Young Lieutenants, Captains and Majors (YLCM) which during that time expressed plans of forming apolitical party within the military as a counter-force to the CPP/NPA. The document identified the YOU’s membership as revolving around PMA batches 1978 to 1988 and reservists who are mostly assigned in the National Capital Region.23

Unlike the RAM-HF, there seems to be no personality cult in YOU and no traditional political sponsors to compromise the group’s principles. According to observers, there was considerable unhappiness within the ranks of military rebels over the macho-like image woven around Honasan. This may explain why the YOU chose to release its statements through a collective fictional spokesman — Capt Carlos Maglalang.24

The YOU believes that “the military institution is not limited to being a mere security force but is an active partner in nation-building.” It contends that instead of depoliticizing the military, it should be ideologized into a pro-people army and a law enforcement institution.25

Just like the Thai Young Turks of the 1980s, the YOUs initial grievances focused on its own military hierarchy. The main issues raised were those of low pay, a distorted promotions system, and graft and corruption in the higher echelons. The YOU sought to differentiate itself from the RAM-HF and the Soldiers of the Filipino People (SFP) through their ideology of Filipinism, which it defines as the non-communist Left alternative to imperialism, fascism, and communism. Similar to the Thai Young Turks, the YOU has also employed leftist rhetorics, e.g., mass democracy, anti-capitalism, anti-elitism.

D.2.c. Limited Applicability of the Models

While the Indonesian and Thai models may have persuasive influences on the Filipino military interventionists, various prerequisites for the apparent success of these models are not found in the Philippines.

The degree of socio-economic development in Indonesia at the time of independence was so low that the Indonesian Army was the modern sector in Indonesia. The communist uprising in 1965 which induced the prominence of the military in society has no parallel in the Philippines. The so-called Indonesian solution where more than half a million were executed based on mere suspicion would be unacceptable to Filipinos.

Other conditions in Indonesia do not apply to the Philippines. For one, oil resources have allowed the military to play a developmental role, earmarking resources for national development, despite the inefficiencies of widespread graft and corruption. Indonesia is also one of the world’s largest nations, and like China and the Soviet Union, authoritarian rule and an increased political role for the military have found greater legitimacy and justification. Furthermore, the Indonesian military is also inextricably linked to intense Indonesian nationalism that developed out of the struggle for independence.

On the other hand, the Thais have a stable and powerful political institution in the monarchy, which has served as a moderating, checking, and legitimizing influence on military rule. As the ASEAN frontline state, it has been deeply involved and concerned with the conflict in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Actual penetration of the Thai border has led to the military’s engagement of external forces. These are conditions that have necessitated and justified a high-profile political role for the Thai armed forces, conditions which are not present in the Philippine case. The fact that the Thais have no colonial experience may also explain the self-confidence of the Thai military which may not be present in equal measure to the Philippines.

In both the Indonesian and Thai cases, there are also religious and cultural variables that must be considered. The Buddhist religion in Thailand and Islam in Indonesia give these countries a different cultural perspective from the Philippines, which is predominantly Roman Catholic. In fact, studies suggest the Philippines is closer to Latin America in terms of psycho-cultural make-up, rather than to Asia.

On the whole, the military forces of Indonesia and Thailand are able to work within the framework of philosophical ideas, historical factors, and national objectives that had long taken root in their respective indigenous societies.26

D.3. Relative Deprivation

The constant interaction of Filipino military officers with their counterparts from other ASEAN countries conceivably makes the former feel underprivileged, less modern, and less prestigious by comparison, in terms of the overall quality of the armed forces, and the benefits and privileges of individual military officers. For example, the Malaysian government purchased some US$2 billion worth of new military equipment over the last two years for its army. Indonesia and Singapore have outfitted their air force with F-16 A/B aircrafts.27 By comparison, the AFP suffers as most of its equipment are either surplus or used.

The quality and capability of the AFP can also be gleaned from the levels of military expenditures. The Philippine military spends the least amount, as a percentage of GNP, among the ASEAN countries even though as a percentage of central government appropriations, ranks third. Within ASEAN, the Philippines receives less US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) credits than Thailand, which does not host a US base.

The uniformed services in Malaysia are well-paid, well-cared for upon retirement, and enjoy commercial opportunities when no longer in active duty. There are no glaring grievances to justify exceeding their traditional role. Also, the police balance off the army with their paramilitary activities, manpower, equipment, and control of the intelligence apparatus of the country.

In addition to the formal rewards and benefits provided by the military establishment, Thai military officers have also enjoyed for decades lucrative business affiliations and operations.28 Commercial benefits are likewise enjoyed by Malaysian and Indonesian officers upon retirement.

Not even the martial law years provided a comparable situation for the Philippine military, because of the inequity in the distribution of benefits. Though these years gave the military the biggest share in the national budget (about 24 percent of government expenditures in 1974), equity and distribution among the military men were not fulfilled.29

While the average Filipino soldier remained in a dismal economic state, the favored military officers enjoyed relative comfort due to additional income from government -owned and -controlled enterprises. The drastic reduction in such business-related benefits under the present administration may have led to heightened feelings of relative deprivation among many military officers.

D.4. Doctrinal and Logistical Influence

The persistent influence of American security perspectives and military doctrines primarily stems from the inertia of Philippine-American “special relations”, which has continued to be manifested in the participation of Filipino officers in American military training programs and the continuing logistical dependence of the Philippines on the United States.

These “special relations” most obvious on the area of military relations have for decades predisposed the Philippine military to adopt or be sympathetic to the “security” and “threat” perceptions of the US. In the Cold War era, the Philippine armed forces supported the military campaign of the US against communism in Korea and Vietnam. Presently, the anti-communist struggle in Philippine territory is said to conform to the “low-intensity conflict” strategy favored by the Pentagon. The defeat or containment of communist insurgencies remains one of the pillars of American security policy in Southeast Asia.

The United States tops the other countries in terms of the extent of the training programs it offers Philippine military personnel. Its security assistance to the Philippines under the International Military Education Training Program (IMETP) started in 1950. By 1985 about $41,529 million had been expended for training of 18,071 Philippine military officers.30 The influence of the program may perhaps be discerned in the training policies of the AFP meant to continue and be directed towards developing highly-trained personnel in small unit operations. The rationale and content of the curriculum reveal an unmistakably US pattern and orientation.

AFP defense capabilities are primarily geared for maintaining internal order, rather than meeting external security needs. This development is a function of the security arrangements between the Philippines and the United States (Military Bases Agreement, Military Assistance Pact, and the Mutual Defense Treaty) since 1947. As already noted in Chapter II, the Philippines has been dependent on the US for its external security, and for its internal security weaponry. This twin dependency provides the US continuing leverage to retain its military facilities in the Philippine bases.

Philippine dependence on a single source of arms (i.e., the United States) seems to have increased as evidenced by the fact that it obtained 82 percent of its weapons from the US for the 1981 – 1985 period, compared to 76 percent during the 1961 – 1965 period. Moreover, without prior American consent, the Philippines cannot purchase weapons from third countries. Thus, Philippine-American security arrangements, coupled with low Philippine economic capabilities, have led to the AFP being the least modern armed forces in ASEAN.

E. Political Orientations in the Philippine Military31

This section presents the psychomilieu of selected officers, men, and units of the military. Central to the soldier’s psychomilieu are his political orientations — values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations about government and politics. These may or may not correspond to the objective milieu.

To examine the present political orientations in the AFP, a number of private research organizations and individual social scientists were invited by the Commission to present proposals. The Commission evaluated several proposed methods for studying the political orientations of officers and men in the military establishment. Basically, two methods were considered: a random survey of the military, and interviews with purposively selected respondents from military units of particular interest to the Commission. The Commission decided to undertake the latter approach instead of a full random sample survey of the entire military establishment. It was neither feasible nor prudent for the Commission to attempt an AFP-wide sample survey because (1) it could anticipated and manipulated by renegade elements to reflect a biased political orientation, which could then be used to create a bandwagon effect in swinging military and civilian support for the coup plotters; (2) it would involve obtrusive measures, plausibly politicalizing a significant cross-section of the military by exposing them to novel, politically sensitive questions and possibly inducing an “opinion” where there may have been none; (3) a random sample would require interviews of specific officers and men who may be deployed in combat zones, entailing extremely high costs, or an unacceptably large number of substitutions; and (4) such a study would take too long to conduct, process, and analyze.

In adopting the key respondents approach, the Commission settled for an indicative reading of the state of mind of selected strategic military units — most of which were directly involved as coup forces in the December 1989 coup attempt (with some anti-coup forces included for comparative purposes). The results of the study would be useful in suggesting how far reforms and changes undertaken by the government and the military leadership since the last coup may have rendered participation in another coup less likely for officers and men of the selected strategic units.

Since the units which supported the previous coup were already “neutralized” (i.e., confinement, re-assignment or dismissal) of rebel elements in the aftermath of the failed December 1989 coup, the questions that had to be answered were: As they presently stand, what are the political orientations of the officers and men in these selected military units? How conducive are these orientations to unauthorized military actions? Based on their political orientations, what is the likelihood that the selected units would join yet another coup?

The selected military units consisted of company- or battalion-sized formations identified by the Commission as having played a role in the December 1989 coup attempt. A few of the units studied were not exactly the same units which participated in the said coup attempt because the latter had been disbanded and their leaders and men detained. Hence, a few of the study units consisted of reconstituted military units to which participants in the failed December 1989 coup had been re-assigned.

The study plan called for interviews with key respondents from 12 units pre-identified by the Commission to be conducted in June and July 1990. For each unit, the pre-selected key respondents were the unit’s Executive Officer (EX-O), one platoon leader, and the company sergeant. Two “opinion leaders” in the unit identified by these pre-selected key respondents were added to the list. At five respondents for each of the 12 units, a total of 60 interviews were to be conducted.

An interview guide was designed to enable eight field researchers to cover uniformly and comprehensively the aspects of political orientation the study was concerned with. The respondents were asked to describe not their personal attitudes, but the attitudes of the members of the unit with regard to the various political subjects broached in the interview. It was part of the intention of the study, however, that in describing the attitudes of the other members of the unit, the informant would actually be “projecting” faithfully his own attitudes. Such projections, from the study’s point of view, were acceptable as representations of the orientation of the whole unit, especially where the information and data from the five respondents in the unit cross-validated one another.

The results of the study using this method were meant to be indicative rather than conclusive. The results are applicable only to the selected units taken as a group and should not be extrapolated to the entire AFP. The key respondents were not randomly selected from the members of the units, so the information is not, strictly speaking, generalizable for the unit. However, validity in this case may not be any less than in a random survey where soldiers are asked about their own opinion, but mask their true predispositions.

The Commission was able to access the tentative results of a survey conducted by the AFP involving 1,519 respondents in November and December 1989 (just before and immediately after the coup attempt). The results of the two surveys seem to validate each other.

The respondents in the June-July 1990 study were asked to describe the political orientations of the officers and men in their respective units towards the following:

1. political issues and problems, personalities and institutions
2. the nature of Philippine government and politics
3. preferred mode of political change in the Philippines (status quo, reform, or radical change)
4. the role of the military in Philippine government and politics, and
5. unauthorized military actions

E.1. Political Orientation

E.1.a. Military Issues and Problems

Within the military, issues relating to their material well-being and that of their families are foremost in the minds of officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). The main concerns of soldiers in the selected units are their low salaries, allowances, and benefits; the inadequate, inferior, and delayed distribution of equipment; and disparities in pay, promotions, and disciplinary actions. Issues of a non-material nature were the ineffective AFP leadership, the public outcry against the politicization of the military, graft and corruption within the military establishment, and unfair treatment of rebel soldiers compared to communist rebels.

E.1.b. National Issues and Problems

From a national perspective, issues relating to the quality of political leadership and the government are the greatest concern of officers and NCOs. The main ones are grail and corruption in government, weak and ineffective national leadership, poor economic conditions of the people, “too much politics” in government, the continuing growth of insurgency, and the slow justice system.

Officers show much more concern about graft and corruption than NCOs, while NCOs show much more concern about the socio-economic conditions of the people. The officers appear to be more politically-oriented than the NCOs.

E.1.c. Preferred Resource Person
on the National Situation

Soldiers in the selected military units prefer national leaders and high-ranking military officers to be their resource persons on the national situation. Among the favorites were ex-Secretary of Agrarian Reform Miriam Santiago, President Aquino, Secretary Ramos, Gen Renato de Villa, MGen Rodolfo Biazon, and Senators Jovito Salonga, Ernesto Maceda, Rene Saguisag, and Aquilino Pimentel.

E.1.d. Assessment of Overall Operation of Government

Seven out of ten of all respondents say their units are dissatisfied with the overall operation of government. The main reasons given were (1) government is incompetent and ineffective, (2) government has not been able to provide for the soldiers’ basic needs, (3) there are too many politicians and corrupt government personnel, and (4) government is unable to deliver basic services to the people.

Eight out often officer respondents are dissatisfied with the overall operation of government compared to six out often NCOs.

E.1.e. Perceptions of Threats to Government

The two greatest threats to the stability of government are the communist rebels and politicians and corrupt officials. A majority of officers think the communist rebels are a more serious threat than politicians and corrupt officials; a majority of NCOs believe politicians and corrupt officials are a more serious threat compared to the communist rebels.

E.1.f. Attitude Towards Political Change

Nine out of ten respondents think their units prefer reforms as against radical change or maintenance of the status quo as a solution to the problems of the country. More officers are radical-minded than NCOs; more NCOs are conservative than officers. Interestingly, the respondents almost to a man understood “radical change” to mean a military takeover of government.

E.1.g. Attitude Towards Military Participation in Politics

There is a wide range of opinion among the respondents as to whether the military should have a bigger share in government decision-making or not. These range from (1) the military not sharing in government decision-making, (2) the military participating but only in areas where “it has expertise”, to (3) the military participating because “it has a role to play.”

More officers believe the military should not participate in government decision-making, while more NCOs think the military should participate as “it has a role to play” in politics.

E.1.h. Issue and Problem Areas Salient to the Military

The respondents think that if the military should participate, in decision-making, it should be in the areas of counter-insurgency, the organization of the military, US military bases issue, treatment of coup participants, human rights policy, government’s socio-economic program, and morality and ethical concerns in government, in that order.

E.1.i. Qualities Conducive to Military’s
Political Participation

If the military were to help solve the problems of the nation, the respondents believe that the military’s discipline is its most important contribution. They also mentioned sense of service, duty, and self-sacrifice; the military’s first-hand experience with the insurgency problem; and field experiences that render the military better informed of people’s problems than local civilian officials.

E.1.j. Foremost Concerns in Unauthorized Military Action

The respondents agreed that soldiers have no way of knowing in advance whether their unit is about to undertake an unauthorized military action. Family is the foremost concern of a soldier involved in an unauthorized military action. Unit “esprit de corps” is a bigger concern for officers compared to NCOs, while “career” is a bigger concern for NCOs compared to officers.

E.2. Classification of Coup Participants

Based on the description of the respondents, the participants in coups and similar unauthorized military actions may be classified into six categories of awareness and involvement — the deceived, the conformist, the gambler, the agnostic the believer, and the plotter.

E.2.a. The Deceived

He joins because he thinks he is on some secret mission, or is told it is for some exercise. When fighting starts and he realizes what is happening, he becomes a conformist, as esprit de corps gets the better of him.

E.2.b. The Conformist

He joins the coup because everybody else in his unit does. He figures if he would not be a target of the constitutionalist forces, he would be the target of the rebel forces. As one informant says, “Magsisisinalang kung tapos na. Nandiyan na yan. Napasubo na.” (The time to regret is when its all over. It’s already there. We’re already in it.)

E.2.c. The Gambler

In the event of a coup, he would initially be on the government side, but ultimately, for whichever is the winning side, because he has to think of his career and his family. He regards brigade- or division-level “unauthorized moves as acceptable as their probability of success is higher compared to company or battalion moves.

E.2.d. The Agnostic

He is generally against a coup d’etat or any illegitimate measure to subvert the government. But, in extreme cases, when the government persists to be unresponsive, he will find a coup justifiable.

E2.e. The Believer

He joins a coup because he believes absolutely in his superior officer. He does not mind risking his personal safety; he does this everyday. He is more likely to be a younger than an older officer.

E.2.f. The Plotter

He is convinced that the military holds the solution to the ills of the nation and military intervention is the avenue to personal political power. He justifies his actions through some ingenious interpretation of his “constitutional duty”, e.g., to save the President from the politicians who surround and control her or to save the country.

E.3. Predisposition of Selected Units for Political Action

On the whole, seven out of the 12 selected units appear predisposed to participate in future unauthorized military actions against the government (Interventionists), while five units appear predisposed to defend the government and uphold the Constitution (Constitutionalists). A brief political orientation profile of each unit is presented below to provide a sense of this rather serious conclusion. For the moment, the real identity of the units are not disclosed.

E.3.a. Results By Units

Commands. Based on interviews with selected respondents from the unit, Command A shows constitutionalist inclinations. The present Commanding Officer (CO) happens to be the single officer who resisted the orders of the previous CO to join the December 1989 coup attempt. A firm believer in the Constitution, he is widely respected. The respondents are one in saying that the appointment of the CO and the reforms he has instituted are the best and most memorable events in the Command.

Similarly, Command B displays constitutionalist inclinations. Although, the respondents are politicalized and dissatisfied with government, most expressed an aversion to coups as these foster factionalism in the military, apart from their having proved futile in previous attempts.

On balance, Command C shows constitutionalist inclinations. The respondents from the Command are not politicized and their concern is largely the economic welfare of soldiers and their families. They believe the military should be consulted in government decision-making, but that decisions must all be left to officials in government.

Air Force Attack Squadron. There is reason to believe that elements of Attack Squadron D of Strike Wing E of the PAF have interventionist inclinations. The enmity between the Flying School and PMA graduates may again prompt them to take opposite sides in the event of another coup. Both officer and NCO respondents in the unit are also politicalized; they consider graft and corruption the root cause of government problems and the major threat to its stability.

Philippine Marines. The members of Company E of Marine Battalion Landing Team(MBLT)F indicate constitutionalist inclinations. This company was only provisionally organized as a counter-coup force and cannot have any participation in a coup unless reconstituted. Nonetheless, its former members are generally committed to democracy, are believers in civilian supremacy over the military, and are strongly anti-coup.

Likewise, Marine Company G shows constitutionalist inclinations. The CO and other officers of the unit hold constitutionalist views and are well-liked by their men. These officers express strong disdain for rebel soldiers. They are most concerned and emotional about the damage the December 1989 coup attempt has wrought on the image of the Marines.

Infantry Units in Luzon. Company H of the Infantry Battalion I operating in Central Luzon would likely be interventionist in the event of another coup. The CO of the unit, who allegedly joined the December 1989 coup attempt, is unrepentant about his involvement in that coup. He remains dissatisfied with government and believes in radical change if no reforms are forthcoming from government.

The same interventionist predisposition is true of Company J of Infantry Battalion K operating in Cagayan Valley. The CO of the unit exhibits sympathies for the RAM-HF/SFP. He has little confidence in government, and feels a visit by President Aquino to their unit would be useless.

Another likely interventionist is Company L of Infantry Battalion M also operating in Central Luzon. Prior to its reorganization as Infantry Battalion M, the company’s mother unit was Infantry Battalion N which sided with the RAM-HF during the August 1987 coup attempt. As Infantry Battalion M, they participated in the December 1989 coup attempt on the orders of a well-known renegade lieutenant colonel, their battalion commander at the time.

Infantry Units in Mindanao. Company P of Infantry Battalion Q, operating in Mindanao would be predisposed to join another coup. In fact, the CO of the unit said he would follow an order to join a coup if this were to come from higher levels such as the brigade or division.

Similarly, Company R of Infantry Battalion S, also operating in Mindanao is inclined to be interventionist. The CO and EX-0 are disgruntled with the present government because of its weak and inefficient leadership. This unit is additionally susceptible because its battalion commander is a brother of a renegade officer and the current CO was reportedly a participant in the failed December 1989 coup.

The third Mindanao study unit, Company T belonging to Light Armor Battalion U operating in Mindanao, is also inclined to intervene. The unit’s CO complains about the “politicking” in government, and graft and corruption both in the military and in the civilian government. The CO is well-liked by his men and could sway them to his side.

E.3.b. Other Findings

In many ways, the distinction between the Interventionists and the Constitutionalists does not lie in whether units are or are not politicalized. With the exception of Command C, all of the study units are rather politicalized in that they (1) view politicians with disdain; (2) complain about graft and corruption in government; (3) perceive President Aquino as a weak President; (4) are dissatisfied with the present government because it is unable to deliver basic services to the people; and (5) favor a bigger decision-making role for the military in areas pertinent to it such as counter-insurgency, US bases, human rights, military organization, and trial of rebel soldiers.

What distinguishes the two is the nature and extent of the units’ participation in previous coups, particularly the December 1989 attempt. A unit’s participation in earlier coups has tended to heighten its anti-government sentiments along the areas mentioned above, leading the unit to be more convinced of the righteousness of coups. If the Interventionist units were to find themselves in another coup, they may move with more determination.

E.4. Leadership, Socialization, and Milieu Factors

Apart from the levels of politicalization and dissatisfaction within the military, the data in the study indicate the following factors help to motivate soldiers to join a coup. However, it should be noted that the very same factors can motivate a soldier to resist a coup. These factors are:

E.4.a. Fraternal Ties and Family Relationships

Family ties appear to be extensive, given the tendency of military men to encourage their sons and other relations to pursue a career in soldiering. Similarly, fraternal “batchmate” and “schoolmate” ties endure and have been mobilized to subvert the chain of command through a coup attempt.

E.4.b. In-groups and Out-groups in Military Training

The “in-group, out-group” distinction that is fostered to mold military units into effective combat units also creates the inter-service rivalries (e.g., Army vs PC) and intra-unit factionalization (Marines vs other Navy units, Flying School vs PMA graduates in the same Air Force squadron), that render military units susceptible to manipulation and often places them on opposite sides in a coup attempt.

E.4.c. The Role of COs and Other Ranking Officers

In addition to the hierarchical and authoritarian structure of the military, soldiers tend to idolize their commanding officers, which enable disgruntled officers to persuade entire units to side with anti-government forces. In a case where the commanding officer is disliked by his men, soldiers are prone to take the opposite of whatever stand the CO takes.

E.4.d. Other Personal Factors

The participation of soldiers in unauthorized military actions may also be influenced by other factors, such as religious affiliation. According to one Iglesia ni Kristo soldier, it was the strength of their religious convictions that prevailed on them not to join the coup, even as their fellow soldiers ostracized them for not doing so.

E.5. Summary of the Study

The study shows that two units shifted from their previous predisposition to join a coup to its present anti-coup attitude. This indicates some success in the government’s corrective measures. The shifts are attributable to the assignment of respected commanding officers with a constitutionalist orientation. However, other units, in spite of having been neutralized of rebel elements but with the same commander, appear to retain a predisposition towards coups.

As suggested above, participation in previous coup attempts is crucial in explaining the predisposition of military men to participate in succeeding attempts.

The next chapter discusses how the previous coup attempts were preludes to and preparations for the December 1989 attempt, tracing the continuity of the effort to grab power, the involvement of key personalities and military units, and the interaction of military principals with civilian co-conspirators and supporters.


(1) This section is based on the background paper prepared for the Fact-Finding Commission by Patricia Licuanan, Cristina Montiel, and Natividad Dayan, “The Socialization of Military Officers,” marked as Exh. “HHHHHH-3”- Commission.

(2) This section is based on a paper prepared for the Fact-Finding Commission by Dante B. Canlas, “On Military Interventions: Some Considerations from a Political Economy Model,” marked as Exh. “IIIIII-2”-Commission, as well as the paper of Maria Socorro H. Gochoco, The Overall Macroeconomic Situation,” marked as Exh. “IIIIII-1”-Commission.

(3) James Chowning Davies, “Aggression, Violence, Revolution, and War” in Jeanne M. Knutson, general ed., Handbook of Political Psychology (San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1973), p. 247. Ted Robert Gurr in Why Men Rebel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970) advances a similar theory of relative deprivation which posits that people feel deprived when there is a gap between what they want and what they can get. Comparison is not just over time, but also as between the differing rewards of various social groups.

(4) Ibid.

(5) National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Statistical Yearbook (Manila: NEDA, 1989); National Statistics Office, National Income Accounts, various issues.

(6) Philippine Statistical Yearbook, Ibid.

(7) This section is based on the background paper prepared for the Fact-Finding Commission by Belinda A. Aquino, “The Political Environment of the 1989 Coup Attempt” and the paper of Segundo E. Romero Jr, “Philippine Domestic Politics and the Foreign Policy Debate,” in Robert A. Scalapino, et al, eds., Asia and the Major Powers: Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy (Berkeley: University of California, Institute of East Asian Studies, 1988), pp. 200-229.

(8) Joaquin Bernas, S.J. in Pansol Reflections. The Role of the Military in n Third World Democracy: The Philippine Experience (Manila: Senate Publication and Editorial Division, 20 January 1990), p. 4.

(9) Tony Guidote, “Performance Rating of the Senate, House of Representatives, the Military and the Police,” Senate Weather Bulletin, 89-14 (July 1989), p. 2.

(10) Segundo E. Romero, Jr, “Opinion of Selected Filipino Publics Since the Aquino Assassination: Implications for Participatory Democracy in the Philippines” (Doctoral diss., College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 1990).

(11) Jaime ZobeldeAyala, “Social Justice in Sound Business Practice,” Philippines Free Press. 2 December 1989, p. 45.

(12) Ibid. Underscoring in the original.

(13) Fidel V. Ramos, “The DND-AFP Leading the People for Democracy,” Fookien Times Philippine Yearbook (Manila: Fookien Times Yearbook Publishing Co., 1987 – 1988).

(14) Jose V. Abueva, “The December Coup Attempt and the State of the Nation: Some Lessons and Implications,” in Belinda A. Aquino, ed., The Failed December Coup Attempt — View from the UP Community (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Office of Public Affairs and Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 1990), p. 15.

(15) This section is based on the background paper prepared for the Fact-Finding Commission by Natalia M. Morales, Aileen Baviera, Cecilia Hidalgo, Francisco Magno, EliseoCubol, and Jorge Tigno, “External Factors and their Possible Influence on the Perceptions, Attitudes, and Behavior of the Philippine Military,” marked as Exh. “JJJJJJ”-Commission.

(16) Sheldon Simon, “ASEAN’s Strategic Situation in the 1980s,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 2 (Spring 1987).

(17) Edmundo Garcia, “Resolution of Internal Armed Conflict in the Philippines: The Quest for a Just and Lasting Peace,” in Edmundo Garcia and Carolina G. Hernandez, eds., Waging Peace in the Philippines (Quezon City: Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs and the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 1989), pp. 25-42.

(18) Asia Yearbook 1987, pp. 24-25.

(19) This estimate, considered conservative by others, is by Admiral Sudomo, then head of the Indonesian state security agency given in a Dutch television interview in 1976.

(20) Edmundo Garcia, The Filipino Quest: A Just and Lasting Peace (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1988), pp. 121-151.

(21) This happened in the 1970s, when Praphat Charusathien, the deputy of Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn, owed his power to his allegedly corrupt business connections.

(22) See Chai-anan Sumudavanija, The Thai Young Turks (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1982).

(23) Fe Zamora, “YOU: How the Reb Group was Formed,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 June 1990.

(24) John Mcbeth, “Who are YOU?,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 7 June 1990, pp. 24-26.

(25) Capt Carlos Maglalang, Interview by Center for Investigative Journalism and Asahi Shimbun, 8 and 17 February 1990, Metro Manila, Exh. “ZZZ”- Commission.

(26) “Not Quite a Coup in Thailand,” The Economist, 16 June 1990, p. 27.

(27) Appendix E, ASEAN States: Major Items of Military Equipment on Order or Recently Delivered, Mid-1987, in Chin Kin Wah, ed., Defense Spending in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1987), pp. 315-321.

(28) David Morell, “The Political Dynamics of Military Power in Thailand” in Edward Olsen and Stephen Jurika, Jr eds., The Armed Forces in Contemporary Asian Societies (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986), p. 139. See also Thak Chaloemtiarana, Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism (Bangkok: Social Science Association of Thailand, 1979).

(29) Philippine Daily Inquirer. Series on RAM Boys, 1-12 January 1990.

(30) Felipe B. Miranda and Ruben F. Ciron, “The Philippines: Defense Expenditures, Threat Perceptions, and the Role of the United States,” in Chin Kin Wah, op. cit., p. 155.

(31) This section is based on a background paper prepared for the Fact-Finding Commission by Virginia A. Miralao and Segundo E. Romero, Jr, “Political Orientations in Selected Units of the Philippine Military,” marked as Exh. “HHHHHH-1”- Commission.