MILITARY INTERVENTION IN THE
PHILIPPINES: 1986 – 1987
The most significant development arising from the series of military interventions from 1986 to the present is the emergence of the AFP as a potentially decisive political force in our society. There had been seven attempts at military intervention from the period of 1986 until just before the latest one in December 1989. These are (1) the February 1986 coup attempt, (2) the July 1986 Manila Hotel incident, (3) the November 1986 “God Save The Queen” plot, (4) the January 1987 GMA-7 incident, (5) the April 1987 “Black Saturday” incident, (6) the July 1987 takeover plot of the Manila International Airport (MIA), and (7) the August 1987 coup attempt.
All the coup attempts are irretrievably linked and cannot be analyzed in isolation of each other. Thus, the December 1989 attempt can only be fully understood if viewed in the light of the previous ones. This chapter will analyze the 1986 – 1987 attempts, while the succeeding chapter will deal with the December 1989 incident. On the basis of the testimonies and separate accounts of events, the “God Save The Queen” plot was the most dangerous threat to the Aquino government, if it had been executed as planned — a chain-of-command takeover. Fortunately, top military officers led by then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP) Gen Fidel V. Ramos refused to go along with it and effectively contained it. That very little is publicly known about it, since there was no actual fighting, does not detract from this conclusion.
A. February 1986 Coup Attempt
Much has already been written about the bloodless EDSA People Power Revolt (EDSA Revolt) that occurred from 22-25 February 1986, when Filipinos massed in the streets of Metro Manila, mostly around Camps Crame and Aguinaldo, to openly defy the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos and to show support for a group led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ramos, who had declared their withdrawal of support for the Marcos government. However, not enough has been written about the original plan to stage a coup d’etat by a group of middle-ranking officers referred to as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), but which was eventually overtaken by the now historic People Power Revolt. A review of the event from different perspectives raises questions on the motives of the principal actors and the historical accuracy of their version of the event. The narration of events in this chapter is largely drawn from published materials, unless stated otherwise.
There is no exact date when RAM was founded, but those close to the officers identified with it place the year as 1982.1 It is clear, however, that the RAM was controlled by military officers closely linked with then Defense Minister, and now Senator Enrile. The emergence of RAM was principally a reaction of young officers against such issues as the widespread corruption in the military, the lack of professionalism, promotions based on favoritism, and “overstaying” generals who blocked the younger generation’s career advancement. What is less evident is that RAM also served Enrile’s political agenda and provided him personal security, as he perceived increasing threats from Mrs Imelda R. Marcos, and Gen Fabian Ver, who was appointed Chief of Staff by President Marcos in 1981. Enrile himself revealed at the 1986 press conference that announced his break with Marcos that, “As far back as 1982, we have been getting persistent reports that there were efforts to eliminate us . . . and it was [at] that point that we decided to organize a group to protect ourselves . . . now known as the AFP Reform Movement.”2
According to Cecilio Arillo, a journalist closely identified with Enrile and the RAM, matters became untenable for Enrile when defense intelligence reports disclosed that barely a few weeks after Ver’s appointment to General Headquarters (GHQ), a “hit” team was allegedly formed in Mindanao to liquidate the defense minister.3 To counter this, Enrile’s security group at the Ministry of National Defense (MND), mostly PMA graduates led by Lt Col Gregorio Honasan (PMA ’71), underwent rigid training in counter-terrorism in Quezon province. Some 300 men were trained by two retired British instructors of the elite Special Air Service Regiment. Moreover, they were armed with specialized weapons, mainly Uzis and Galils, imported from Israel and allegedly brought in through connections in the Bureau of Customs, where Enrile was once commissioner.4
In 1982, to avoid detection, the training of these men was moved from Quezon to the Sierra Madre mountains in northern Luzon. However, this did not escape Ver’s attention and it was reported to Marcos, who became furious about it, fanning his suspicions about the defense minister’s political ambitions. When the President confronted him with the report, Enrile completely denied it and blamed it on political or personal intrigues.5 By July 1983, Enrile’s men had resumed their training in Quezon province.
At this time, while the hostility between Enrile and Ver intensified, a parallel conflict on the personal level seemed to have been developing between Honasan and Col Irwin Ver, Gen Ver’s son who was a year ahead of Honasan at the PMA.6 As a sign of further consolidation of his power, Gen Ver acquired operational control of the Integrated National Police (INP), a responsibility that normally should have been vested on Ramos as then Chief of Philippine Constabulary (PC), but was transferred by Marcos to his Chief of Staff on 1 August 1983. By then, too, rumors were rife about Marcos’s illness and the problem of his successor. As the names of Mrs Marcos and Gen Ver circulated as leading contenders, Enrile’s own chances seemed to diminish.
By 21 August 1983, RAM had formed an 11-man Ad Hoc Steering Committee to give direction to the organization and analyze current events, including the implications of the Aquino assassination.7 According to a member of this Committee, the 11 members are (ranks shown as of 1985 – 1986): the late Col Eugene Ocampo PC (PMA ’58), Capt Rex Robles PN (PMA ’65), Lt Col Hector Tarrazona PAF (PMA ’68), Lt Col Gregorio Honasan PA (PMA ’71), Lt Col Victor Batac PC (PMA ’71), Maj Alejandro Flores PC (PMA ’72), Maj Napoleon de los Santos PC (PMA ’75), Capt Charlemagne Alejandrino PC (PMA ’75), Lt Jose Renato Abella PA (PMA 79), Lt Gregorio Catapang, Jr PA (PMA ’81), and Lt Rafael Tadeo, Jr PC (PMA ’81).8 Except for this Committee, RAM does not appear to have a roster of members. It was an unstructured organization whose meetings were said to be open to any officer or soldier interested in reforming the AFP. The objectives articulated by the members were (1) to fight graft and corruption in the AFP; (2) to ask for promotions based on performance, merit, seniority, and fairness; (3) to work for better medical attention and services; (4) to eliminate the bata-bata system; and (5) to improve logistical support for the officers and men fighting insurgency in the field.9 However, it appears that while the RAM leadership was publicly known through the Steering Committee, there was a hidden “inner circle” composed of Honasan Lt Col Eduardo Kapunan (PMA’71), Col Tirso Gador (PMA’66), possibly Navy Capt Felix Turingan (“Baron” of PMA ’65), and one other officer, who plotted the February 1986 coup.10
The RAM steadily grew as Honasan contacted former PMA classmates and alumni, as well as comrades from his Mindanao days (he had been posted there, but was transferred to the MND in 1975 when he was wounded in the leg). Subsequently, even senior officers who were retired from active service, but were supportive of reforms in the AFP, were organized into Senior Cavaliers of RAM (SCRAM) led by, among others, Gen Jesus Vargas (PMA ’29), former CSAFP, and Navy Capt Antonio Tansingco (PMA ’55). Retired BGen Jose Almonte (PMA ’56), then still a colonel, revealed in his testimony before the Fact-Finding Commission on 4 January 1990 that discussions among the RAM in 1986 considered having a political arm which would be the RAM; and an armed group, the Soldiers of the Filipino People (SFP).
Among Constabulary men, Batac, a classmate close to Honasan, became the main RAM organizer in the PC.11 On 6 February 1985, six officers met, mostly from the intelligence think tank of the PC Headquarters. Three days later, another meeting of four officers followed. On 15 February, 23 PC officers met. The next day, they drafted RAM’s Declaration of Principles, which was distributed to officers as the “Preliminary Statements of Aspirations” during the PMA Alumni Association convention on 17 February.
The RAM appears to have escalated its organizing activities in 1985, which could account for the general impression that it was founded in that year. On 15 March, the RAM formulated its nine-point “Statement of Common Aspirations,” and on 21 March, it came out with a position paper entitled “We Belong . . . ,” short for “We Belong to the Reform the Armed Forces Movement.” All three statements were printed in a pamphlet called “Crossroads to Reform.” During the traditional PMA Alumni Parade at graduation time on 21 March, some 300 young officers, mostly from Classes 1971 to 1984, broke away from the long line at the parade ground to display a banner marked “Unity Through Reforms.” They wore T-shirts that said “We Belong.” It was the day before the customary Commander-in-Chief’s address to the graduating class, thus marking the first public protest of the military during the Marcos regime.12
On 2 April 1985, the official name of RAM was coined from another acronym, “R.E.F.O.R.M. the AFP Movement” during a meeting at the MND Social Hall. “R.E.F.O.R.M.” cryptically stood for Restore Ethics, Fair-Mindedness, Order, Righteousness and Morale. Two weeks later, presumably under orders from Malacañang, Ramos, who was then acting Chief of Staff while Ver was on leave to face trial in the Aquino-Galman case, met with RAM officers for seven hours to find out more about the organization. The proceedings of the meeting were taped and must have been relayed to Marcos. At the end of May, the President called RAM officers to Malacañang for another meeting, which mostly consisted of Marcos’s monologue for 40 minutes, berating them. Later, Honasan obtained a copy of a supposedly Malacañang-prepared order of battle with the names of Honasan, Batac, Tarrazona,13 Kapunan, and some ten other RAM officers on it.14 The “war” was on.
Meanwhile, the Enrile forces in Cagayan and at the MND had mapped out contingency plans which went beyond securing Enrile’s personal safety, to preventing Mrs Marcos and Gen Ver from taking over in case Marcos died, to directly maneuvering against Marcos. The RAM was a perfect political vehicle. Even as it publicly advocated reforms in the AFP, its inner circle continued to plan for a coup d’etat. By September 1985, the plans for a coup were well advanced.15
To the RAM, the situation after the 1983 assassination of Ninoy Aquino provided the necessary political and economic preconditions that could ensure a successful move to oust Marcos from power. Furthermore, Tarrazona, a member of the 11-man Ad Hoc Steering Committee of RAM, wrote in 1989 that
the signal and encouragement from the different sectors of society to unite and move against the dictatorship of Mr. Marcos were too loud and strong to be ignored. Eventually, we were subtly encouraged, if not practically pushed, by the Opposition groups . . . to either stage a coup or start a revolution.16
On 10 July 1985, RAM officers met with concerned businessmen at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo. On 1 August, another group of businessmen and media people met with the RAM at the Association of General and Flag Officers Building in Camp Aguinaldo. Later, a bigger meeting was held between RAM and Manindigan at the Center for Research and Communication in Pasig. Other meetings followed with the group of Corazon C. Aquino (Cory), widow of Ninoy Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Manila Public School Teachers Association Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the American Study Mission, members of the press, and many more. 17
The expose by the San Jose Mercury News on Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth became the basis for an impeachment move by opposition members of Parliament, although it was dismissed in less than 24 hours. US President Ronald Reagan had sent Senator Paul Laxalt to Manila for secret dialogues with Marcos, and shortly after that, on 3 November 1985, Marcos announced in a satellite interview on American TV that he had decided to call for a new presidential election, subsequently set for 7 February 1986. Robles revealed three years after the EDSA Revolt that the RAM had planned to launch the coup against Marcos in December 1985, but deferred it after a “snap election” was called. Robles acknowledged, “So we decided to postpone [it] until sometime after elections around April or May in the summer.”18 However, the coup plotters again changed their plans, prompted by the public outrage against the massive election fraud.
The RAM’s own direct participation in the electoral process through its Kamalayan 1986 project must have given its members a clear idea of the strong anti-dictator public sentiment. Tarrazona relates that for the first time in the history of the Philippine military, a group of officers openly got involved in an election.19 The project headed by Turingan promoted free, fair, and clean elections by holding rallies in military camps to urge AFP officers and enlisted men to remain “neutral” and to protect the sanctity of the ballot. This was intended to remove the public perception that the AFP was solidly behind Marcos. The Kamalayan project was secretly funded by a group of businessmen opposed to Marcos. The transfer of funds was arranged through Tansingco who collected the contributions from supporters, consigned them to SCRAM members in the name of retired BGen Manuel Flores (PMA ’34), before finally handing them over to Lt Col Victor Erfe (PMA ’69), designated custodian of RAM funds.20
Other Kamalayan 1986 activities included radio and personal campaigns, as well as requests to PMA alumni and ordinary citizens to write as many letters as they could to the seven top ranking AFP generals and their wives, asking for honest polls, and for peace and order. On 12 January 1986, Tarrazona and Catapang convinced some 800 PMA cadets to sign about 8,000 pre-printed letters appealing for fair and clean elections. Since the PMA Superintendent, BGen Jose Ma Zumel (PMA ’59), and the Commandant of Cadets, Col Nicasio Rodriguez (PMA ’61), both happened to be absent that day, by coincidence or by design, Tarrazona and Catapang easily obtained permission to engage in this activity from the Assistant Commandant, Lt Col Nelson Eslao (PMA ’71).21
The “snap election” provided an opportunity for various opposition groups to unite behind the candidacies of Cory Aquino for President and Salvador H. Laurel for Vice President. A citizen’s watchdog organization called National Citizens’ Movement For Free Elections (NAMFREL) drew thousands of volunteers in a desire to have clean and honest polls. Election violence directed at Cory supporters as well as NAMFREL volunteers intensified the anger against Marcos. A popular young ex-Governor, Evelio Javier, was brutally murdered in Antique while he was working for the Aquino-Laurel campaign.
Initial results from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) showed Marcos leading, but the quick count of NAMFREL favored Aquino. The public suspected that Marcos was going to try to cheat Aquino. A dramatic walkout of a group of COMELEC computer programmers led by Linda Kapunan, wife of Lt Col Kapunan, Enrile’s intelligence chief and RAM inner circle member, reinforced this perception. Their action emphasized in the public mind the rampant cheating that was being done by Marcos’s side. The fugitive computer workers were protected by RAM officers led by Kapunan, with the aid of P20,000 from Enrile.22 On 14 February, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strong statement condemning the election fraud as being unparalleled in Philippine electoral history. Two days later, Mrs Aquino called for a nationwide boycott of “crony establishments” in a rally at Rizal Park which was attended by a huge crowd. Thus was launched the civil disobedience campaign that would take her to Cebu on 22 February.
The “snap election” and its widely perceived fraudulent results gave the RAM the signal to mobilize for action all the elements they had painstakingly put together for many months. The arrangements were so clandestine that for a long time no definite date was set for its launching. The cue to start depended on the favorable political and internal military conditions that would enhance the coup’s success.
President Aquino herself revealed in a retrospective interview last February 1990 that her brother, Peping, had been approached by representatives of the RAM in “either December  or early January ” with the message that, “Your sister will never win. She may be popular but the votes will be manipulated and she will not win. There is an alternative. We are planning something and if she will join us or be with us . . .” They were offering her a seat in a seven-person civilian-military junta to be called Council for National Reconciliation. President Aquino said that her immediate reaction then was to reject the offer because, as she recounted, “I’m not interested in being president for the sake of being president. I want to find out first of all if I do have the support of the people, so I want to go through with the election because they were telling me that since I would have no chance anyway, I might as well bow out of the race and join them in whatever they were planning to do.”23 President Aquino also recalled that she first met RAM officers Robles, Honasan, Kapunan, and Batac at an hour-long meeting on 12 December 1985 at the house of Mila Albert, her late husband’s half-sister. She had just come back from her first day of campaigning and they offered her security for the duration of the campaign.
American author Raymond Bonner relates in his book, Waltzing With A Dictator, that the Aquino camp had been sought out by the RAM on 20 February with a proposal for a coup and subsequent junta, which Mrs Aquino flatly turned down.24 It was apparently the same message as the one previously received by President Aquino. In any case, the junta would have been composed of Enrile, Ramos, Cardinal Sin, Mrs Aquino, businessman Jaime Ongpin, Alejandro Melchor (a former Executive Secretary under Marcos), and Laurel. The Council was supposed to be transitional and tasked to convene a Constitutional Convention within six months, which would then decide on the form of government. There was also supposed to be a committee to coordinate military operations in what was foreseen as a post-Marcos scenario. This committee was to be chaired by Ramos.25 However, as contended by other people who closely followed what was going on, the Council would have only served as a facade for a military junta consisting of Enrile and his colonels. According to Professor Alfred McCoy, this was the real game plan designed by the coup’s political committee composed of Enrile, his civilian aide Silvestre Afable, Robles, and Turingan.26
According to Arillo, the RAM’s military operations plan, on the other hand, consisted of several scenarios, each designed to adapt to particular conditions. One scenario was for Enrile to make a stand in Cagayan, his home province, where he knew the terrain as a young guerrilla during the Japanese occupation, while guerrilla righting is waged simultaneously in Manila and other places in Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao. Another scenario was for a commando squad led by Honasan to cross the Pasig river and land on Malacañang grounds just after midnight. Guided by PSC men recruited for the purpose, Honasan’s team would enter Malacañang and capture President and Mrs Marcos as hostages to prevent an all-out attack on the rebels by troops loyal to Marcos.27
In his testimony before the Commission, retired MGen Rodolfo Canieso (PMA ’56), former Commanding General of the Philippine Army (CGPA) and Director of the NICA, said that the strike force that was supposed to attack Malacañang in February 1986 was to have been led by Kapunan, Lt Col Marcelino Malajacan (PMA ’71), Maj Ricardo Brillantes (PMA ’72), and Maj Saulito Aromin (PMA 74). Arillo, however, denied that there was such a plan for a commando raid. He asserted that such a plan was only contingent on the possible arrest of Enrile and Ramos.28 In an interview with McCoy on 25 July 1986, Honasan claimed that they had “planned for every possible eventuality.” By 7 February 1986, the RAM coup plotters had reportedly recruited 2,500 soldiers, and organized numerous cells in many vital military units around Metro Manila, although lower numbers have been mentioned by other sources.29
A variation of their plan, as later revealed by Almonte, was to ambush and kill BGen Rolando Pattugalan (PMA ’57), former AFP intelligence chief then commander of the 2nd Infantry Division (2 ID) in Tanay, Rizal, and a known Marcos man.30 Pattugalan was generally considered as the candidate to replace MGen Josephus Ramas as Army Chief; thus an attempt on the former would, by logic, be blamed on Ramas, thereby sowing dissension within the Army.
It is generally believed that the coup was scheduled to be launched on 22 February 1986. However, according to Robles, reputedly RAM’s chief political strategist, they had leaked a series of possible dates to create confusion in the Marcos camp and to compel them to maintain a series of taxing security-alert situations. Furthermore, on 16 February, RAM leaked details of the supposed plot to kidnap the President and Mrs Marcos just to test the reaction of their bodyguards.31 The mounting pressure of outright civil disobedience was added to the national outrage at the rampant electoral cheating. Rumors were everywhere that Marcos was on the brink of declaring martial law again and that massive arrests of opposition leaders and their followers would be carried out.
At Enrile’s camp, it was estimated that Marcos would probably reimpose martial law two or three days before he took his oath of office scheduled for 25 February. If he did that, Enrile would most likely be one of the first persons arrested because of the enormous political threat he represented to Marcos. It was, thus, concluded by Enrile’s side that a preemptive move had to be carried out. Gador, then Cagayan’s Constabulary provincial commander and an Enrile loyalist, calculated that the 72 hours before the Marcos inauguration fell exactly on Saturday, 22 February.32
In the evening of 19 February, forces under Gador, known as the “Cagayan 100”, began to deploy in Manila in three waves via a complicated route to avoid detection. Their deployment was completed by the afternoon of 22 February. Their mission was to neutralize the Military Police Brigade in Camp Aguinaldo and to secure the perimeter of the MND building. Other preparations were made by RAM officers to carry out their plan of a Malacañang assault on the early morning of 23 February. A few days before, RAM officers were said to have withdrawn all their money from the bank and left them to their families. Maj Noe Wong (PMA ’75), RAM member and Enrile’s senior aide, left his three children in the care of an aunt before going to his staging point. Tarrazona sent his wife and three children to Cavite City to stay with relatives there, although he had made arrangements with two friends as early as December 1985 to take care of them in case anything happened to him. Almonte’s quarters in Fort Bonifacio were supposed to be the main staging point from where the coup participants would move on to Villamor Air Base (VAB). Some RAM officers were also scheduled to meet at Tarrazona’s house in the air base where they would constitute the advance force. Other officers and enlisted men were supposed to reinforce them later to consolidate their forces at VAB, which had been chosen as Command Post or main operations center due to its sophisticated communication equipment.33 They were later contacted to join the group at Camp Aguinaldo because of a change in plans.
It appears that the only time the coup plotters realized something had gone wrong with their plans was on Saturday morning, 22 February. Enrile had gone to have breakfast at the Atrium in Makati with a group of politicians, businessmen, and journalists, when he was called to the phone by then Trade and Industry Minister Roberto Ongpin. Ongpin told him that 19 of his security men had been arrested by Marines at Fort Bonifacio while on “night training exercises”. This allegedly worried Enrile as three of those men were military personnel from the Defense Ministry “on loan” to Ongpin to train his security unit, and unusual movements like those could call attention to his whole force and their plan for a coup.
At about the same time (10:00 a.m.), Honasan was at his office behind the MND building in Camp Aguinaldo, checking reports of troop and armor movements in Malacañang and other parts of Metro Manila, when he noticed two brief but vital reports. One was the move of the 5th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) from Fort Bonifacio to Pandacan, I just off the Otis entrance of Malacañang Park at 4:00 a.m., and another was the deployment of the 14th Infantry Battalion (14 IB) from Nueva Ecija to North Harbor at 3:00 a.m. that same day. This meant an unusually high concentration of troops in Manila, in addition to those that they had previously monitored. Honasan called Kapunan to his office at once, where they tried but failed to reach Enrile by phone, so they hurriedly drove to his house instead.
After a discussion among Enrile, Honasan, Kapunan, and Wong, Honasan supposedly signalled all the MND security force, RAM, and 300 civilians to be on combat readiness. Enrile then made that famous telephone call to Ramos. At 6:30 p.m., Enrile and Ramos declared their withdrawal of support for Marcos at a hastily called press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, which angered Marcos all the more.
At 10:30 p.m., Marcos announced at his own press conference that a plot to assassinate him and Mrs Marcos had allegedly been discovered by his son, Bongbong, and the Presidential Security Command (PSC) Chief of Staff, Col Irwin Ver. He said that it was aborted with the arrest of some officers. He accused Enrile and Ramos with having taken part in the plot, thus, their preemptive stand at Camp Aguinaldo to cover their participation.
Marcos then presented Capt Ricardo Morales (PMA 77), chief security escort officer of Mrs Marcos, as the one who allegedly squealed to Col Ver on the rebels’ plan. Morales read a prepared statement. He said that the plan was to enter Malacañang and capture President and Mrs Marcos at 12:30 a.m. on 23 February. The attack would be staged from four points. Five commando teams would break through the Palace perimeter from the Pasig river. Malajacan, Commanding Officer of the 16th Infantry Battalion (CO 16 IB), would lead two of his companies and an armor company to create a diversionary action at Malacañang Park. A Ranger Force from the 49 IB would then enter Malacañang’s gate on J P Laurel Street in a convoy of 6 x 6 trucks and a platoon of armor under the cover that they were reinforcements from Fort Bonifacio. This would be led by Aromin, CO 49 IB, with his unit from Quezon. The strategy supposedly would be credible since the Rangers were believed to be loyal to Ver. Kapunan would lead another unit that would force its way behind the Palace gym to cover the commandos coming in from the river. Some three battalions were supposed to be involved in the operation, all led by RAM officers.
Of the officers arrested, four were presented at another TV press conference on the morning of 23 February. These were Morales again, Malajacan, Aromin, and Brillantes. Aside from Enrile and Ramos, Moraleshad also allegedly implicated Gador, Honasan, Kapunan, Wong, and Maj Arsenio Santos, Jr (PMA 72), Enrile’s aide. Aromin, on the other hand, was supposed to have confessed that he was part of five combat teams that were to have crossed the Pasig river to attack Malacañang and kill the Marcoses. He allegedly also implicated Honasan, Kapunan, Malajacan, and Santos.34
The battle plan revealed by Morales resembles closely the commando raid earlier mentioned as one of RAM’s options. He was obviously in a tight spot of some kind when he wrote a “farewell letter” to his parents in Davao dated 17 February, Monday.35 Still, the general public reaction at the time was to initially dismiss the coup plot as just one of Marcos’s prevaricated justifications to declare martial law, as he did in September 1972.
Notwithstanding the meticulous planning and attention to detail that the conspirators gave their coup plot, there were still apparent breaches in security. According to McCoy, for example, the planning sessions in January 1986 were conducted by Honasan and Kapunan almost like open seminars, with as many as 15 officers in attendance at a time. This seeming lack of concern for secrecy allegedly infuriated senior RAM officers Robles and Turingan that they demanded the compartmentalization of information on a need-to-know basis.36
It also later surfaced that PC Lt Col Rodolfo Aguinaldo (PMA 72), a RAM member, disclosed the names of 14 key RAM officers to his Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contact at the US Embassy in an unauthorized meeting. Thus, those who knew of the coup plans at least a week before it happened included the CIA station chief and, therefore, others in the US Embassy, as well as the Australian Embassy.37 The information might well have reached Marcos and Ver, which could explain the unusually high rate of troop movements in Metro Manila at the time. On the other hand, the increased troop movements could have been the prelude to a declaration of martial law and the repression of the expected mass resistance to it.
Another possible source of the security leak was Maj Edgardo Doromal (PMA 74), Malacañang’s perimeter security officer, who was supposedly pressured by Honasan to join the coup plot despite his apparent misgivings and reluctance. Eventually, Doromal allegedly confessed to Irwin Ver. However, the subsequent interview by McCoy on 25 July 1986 revealed that Honasan was convinced the breach in security resulted from Aguinaldo’s CIA contact, who in turn passed on the information to Ver.38 As Robles noted of the Americans: They’re shrewd when they play the game. They would bet on both sides, and they would win regardless.”39
In his testimony before the Commission on 15 June 1990, BGen Memio Tadiar, Jr (PMA ’59) recalled that on 19 February 1986, Wednesday, he was unexpectedly summoned by Malacañang from Zamboanga where he was inspecting troops as Commandant of the Philippine Marines. The following afternoon, in a meeting at the Naval Intelligence Security Force headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Ver told Tadiar about the plan of Honasan and his men to grab power by launching a commando raid on Malacañang, holding Marcos and his family as hostages and putting up their own government. Tadiar said Ver knew the details of the plot at least four days before the planned date of Honasan’s initial attack.
Tadiar also said that Ver had received information that the Honasan group was allegedly planning to kill Tadiar on 21 February, Friday. Thus, on Friday night, some military men in full combat gear were arrested by Marines in a restricted area in Fort Bonifacio on suspicion of coming to kill Tadiar. According to Tadiar, the arrested men, 17 enlisted personnel and one officer, turned out to be the security men of Minister Ongpin, led by Navy LtSG Michael Angelo Asperin (PMA’81). Tadiar then reported this to Ver and supposedly urged him to arrest Honasan and company, but Ver refused.
The following morning, 22 February, Enrile’s office began calling Tadiar to inquire on the whereabouts of the arrested men. Tadiar told them that he had turned them over to BGen Pedro Balbanero (PMA’57), commander of the Military Police. It appeared that with their coup plot discovered and the prospect of certain arrest by Ver’s men, the RAM officers decided to abort the coup and make a stand at Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. Once the decision was made, the coup plotters realized that they had no plan of retreat and most of their orders calling off the action went astray, thus leading to the capture of several RAM members. As Honasan himself admitted after the event, the plotters had violated basic military tactical principles by failing to provide for a retreat contingency.40
For the duration of the four-day revolt, the position of the Enrile-Ramos group would gradually be strengthened by the mobilization of the numerous RAM members and contacts in the different units of the four major service commands, as well as the progressively increasing defections of military officers and men to the rebels’ side. In the Navy, Cmdr Proceso Maligalig (PMA ’69), then Naval Operations Assistant Chief, and Capt Carlito Cunanan, Naval Operating Forces Deputy Chief, who is the elder brother of Col Thelmo Cunanan, (PMA ’61), Enrile’s intelligence officer, activated upon signal “Operation Twiggy,” the contingency plan for the RAM in the Navy. Commo Tagumpay Jardiniano (PMA’57) had defected early to the Enrile-Ramos camp but, like many ranking officers, had asked that the information be kept secret for the time being for security reasons. RAdm Brillante Ochoco (PMA ’55), Navy Flag Officer in Command, did not know what was happening at the PN Headquarters (HQ) as he was in Malacañang most of the time. It was only after midnight of 23 February that he found out 85 percent of his command had shifted to the Enrile-Ramos side.41
In the Air Force, defections began early. At 7:00 p.m. on 22 February; even while Enrile and Ramos were holding their press conference, Tarrazona, among others, was busy contacting PAF officers to appeal for their support. Priority was given to commanders of flying units. Col Antonio Sotelo, CO of the 15th Strike Wing (15 SW), immediately declared support for Enrile and Ramos. In fact, as early as December 1985, PAF Lt Col Oscar Legaspi (PMA ’71) had contacted majority of the Air Force line pilots, including Maj Charles Hotchkiss, then commander of the 20th Air Commando Squadron under Sotelo.42 It must be recalled that it was the 15 SW which later sent its helicopters to Camp Crame in a dramatic defection scene, and was responsible for the firing of rockets over Malacañang.
Legaspi had also recruited Maj Francisco Baula, Jr (PMA ’73), Squadron Commander of the 5th Fighter Wing (5 FW) based at Basa Air Base. It was he, along with two of his pilots, Lts Noe P. Linsangan (PMA ’81) and Nestor A. Genuino, Jr (PMA ’81), who flew over Camps Aguinaldo and Crame during the tense days of February, causing much apprehension and fear among the crowd below who did not know whose side they were on. The fighter pilots later flew to Clark Air Base, where their planes were “grounded” on the pretext of lack of fuel so they would not be used by Ver.
Still uncertain of the pilots’ loyalty and aware of the crucial importance of control of air power, the contingency plans for the capture of VAB and Basa Air Base were said to have been activated. The plans involved the capture of the two bases by the PC Special Action Force (SAF) under Kapunan and Lt Col Reynaldo Velasco (PMA ’71), and the elements from the PC Training Command (PC TRACOM) led by Col Bayani Fabic (PMA ’58). Meanwhile, Maj Arsenio Santos, Jr and Lt Andy Gauran (PMA’82) would launch diversionary operations nearby. To prevent the confusion that could arise from not knowing who were “friendly” forces and who were not, Kapunan came up with the idea of a Philippine flag patch as a countersign, changing its position clockwise everyday, starting with the sun on the top and the red portion on the left. It was, of course, assumed that the coup would not last much longer than 72 hours.
News of other defections and support continued to pour in at Camps Crame and Aguinaldo on the second and third days of the revolt. MGen Prospero A. Olivas (PMA ’53), head of the Metropolitan Command (METROCOM) and Metropolitan Police Force, was an early convert but declined to be announced just yet. Retired BGen Francisco Gatmaitan (PMA’52), then Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) Executive Vice President, pledged continuous electric power to the camps despite pressures from Malacañang to cut off electricity. BGen Brigido Paredes (PMA ’60), a RAM member, recalled that he had been removed by Tadiar as deputy commander of the Naval Training Command on 13 February 1986 because of his suspected RAM activities. He declared before the Commission that his assignment during the EDSA Revolt was to neutralize the Marines, to prevent them from moving against the RAM. The Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) was likewise “neutralized” by RAM officers Col Antonio Samonte (PMA’57) and Navy Capt Warlino Sadiarin (PMA ’67), both holding key positions in the intelligence service.
Aguinaldo was reported to have led the assault on Broadcast City by Task Force Delta. They also reportedly neutralized the loyalist snipers at Channel 4 and went on to provide security for Channel 7, in case Ver’s men decided to forcibly remove the human barricades there. Task Force Delta was a RAM initiative to control the media stations on 22 February, composed of elements of the Constabulary Security Group led by Lt Col Eduardo S. Matillano (PMA ’71); a contingent of the Constabulary Highway Patrol Group under Lt Col Francisco Zubia, Jr (PMA ’71); and a Narcotics Command contingent under Lt Col Teodorico Viduya (PMA’71).
On hindsight, there are at least two noteworthy non-military-related factors that merit special mention in having shaped the direction of events and paved the way for the successful removal of Marcos in February 1986. First is the massive mobilization of people, now aptly referred to as “people power,” and second is the effective media management.
History has shown that the massing of people although unarmed could, by sheer force of numbers, radically influence the outcome of events. There are several historical examples within the Gandhian tradition and the US civil rights movement. But in the Philippines, the February 1986 experience is an unprecedented occurrence of the same phenomenon.
It may be recalled that within four or five hours of Enrile’s and Ramos’s announced defection from the Marcos camp, there were already some 50,000 people surrounding Camps Crame and Aguinaldo, creating a formidable human barricade against any attack by Marcos troops against the splinter military group. In response to the continuous appeals aired over Radio Veritas, then later over the clandestine Radyo Bandido, by Cardinal Sin, and other influential civic and political leaders, the crowds continued to increase around the camps’ perimeters, converting the streets and sidewalks of the areas they occupied as their “home” for the duration of the uprising. It was estimated that more than two million people gathered together. They could not be dispersed, despite attempts by Marcos and Ver because the military units ordered to disperse them were clearly reluctant to shoot at unarmed civilians.
What many considered incredible is the fact that, despite the extremely tense atmosphere and the presence of armed soldiers from both sides, no provocation or untoward incident happened to trigger a bloody encounter, which would have surely killed thousands of civilians in the crossfire. Tarrazona recalled that a few weeks before the February Revolt, RAM’s junior officers, among them Lts Alexander Pama (PMA ’79), George Washington Javier (PMA ’80), Tadeo, Catapang, Diosdado Valeroso (PMA ’82), and others, had coordinated with some civilian groups, giving them advice on how to exercise maximum tolerance and restraint, especially towards soldiers in crowd situations.44 More importantly, the experience of NAMFREL, cause-oriented groups, and other volunteers in the non-violent defense of the ballot; the presence of nuns, seminarians and women at the front lines; and the many “conscientization” sessions by anti-Marcos forces over the years after 21 August 1983 turned out to be perfect preparation for the event. Thus, no one taunted the tank operators or battle-tested Marines. Instead, the soldiers sent by Marcos’s generals were offered prayers, cigarettes, food, drinks, and even flowers.
Arillo’s version is that the RAM had considered using human barricades as part of their numerous contingency plans, and that during the critical periods in the uprising, Enrile, Ramos, and the RAM officers were reluctant to mention the role of the people in the streets as they did not wish to expose to Malacañang any part of the defense plans for the two camps.45 At Camp Crame, during the four-day uprising, Ramos’s guidelines for then Col Alexander Aguirre (PMA ’61), PC Chief of Operations, for the camp’s defense plan included (1) to galvanize and make maximum use of people power and (2) to undertake no provocative military action against the opposing side.46 Since the Ramos guidelines were issued at the time that people were already massing at EDSA, what is undeniable is that the aborted RAM coup attempt at military intervention had been saved by people power.
In his testimony before the Commission, retired BGen Jose M. Crisol (PMA’42), former Defense Under secretary under Presidents Magsaysay, Garcia, and Marcos, opined that the military did not put Mrs Aquino in Malacañang. It was the people. He believed that Marcos’s mistake was in attempting to bargain with the mutineers in the early hours of 23 February, giving time for people to organize and flock to EDSA.47
The second notable factor that helped bring about the successful February 1986 EDSA Revolt is the effective and exceptional use of the media to mobilize popular support for the Enrile-Ramos group. The direct link of Enrile and Ramos with the masses was Radio Veritas. Then, it became Radyo Bandido when the Veritas radio tower was bombed on Ver’s orders. That the public was constantly informed of what was happening in the camps and at EDSA for the duration of the entire event was half the battle won.
From the beginning, the RAM depended heavily on radio, television, and newspapers to articulate their grievances and arouse the people to action, despite the usual constraints of censorship and political intimidation predominant under a dictatorship. Notwithstanding the existence of 26 television stations, 286 radio stations, and 244 newspapers throughout the country, there was no freedom of speech nor of the press. However, this did not stop the anti-Marcos opposition from coming up with an efficient “alternative press” and other forms of expressing discontent and protest, including the ingenious use of humor.
Through the competent management of media (i.e., continuous coverage of events, regular press conferences, interviews, exposes, deliberate information leaks, and other tactical and preemptive uses of media), the RAM had the edge in the propaganda war. But then, winning the hearts and minds of the public in those days was not a very difficult task. More importantly, during those critical four days in February, military units throughout the country were informed of what was happening at EDSA through the media, and RAM members in the regional and provincial commands were provided with up-to-date information needed to perform activities called for by the situation.
The February 1986 attempt may, therefore, be considered as the first attempt at military intervention in the Philippines. It was nevertheless aborted by the security forces of President Marcos and subsequently overtaken by the massive outpouring of people at EDSA. Although it failed, the February 1986 coup attempt opened the possibility of military intervention in our political life.
B. July 1986 Manila Hotel Incident
Barely five months after the assumption into office of President Aquino, a group of armed military men and supporters of former President Marcos occupied the Manila Hotel for 37 hours ostensibly demanding constitutional reform and stronger anti-communist measures, on one hand, while declaring their own government, on the other. There were at least 490 fully-armed soldiers and some 5,000 Marcos loyalists who witnessed former Senator, Foreign Minister, and Marcos’s Vice-Presidential running mate Arturo Tolentino take his “oath of office” as “acting President” of the Philippines on behalf of Marcos, who was then exiled in Hawaii. The hotel was declared as the temporary “seat of government”.
Tolentino said in his speech that Marcos had written him a letter saying that since he (Marcos) could not immediately return to the country, he was permitting Tolentino to take over temporarily. After taking his oath at the driveway of the hotel, Tolentino appointed the following to his “Cabinet”: Rafael Recto as Justice Minister, Manuel Collantes as Foreign Affairs Minister, Manuel Alba as Budget Minister, and Isidro Rodriguez, Jr as Local Government Minister. Tolentino added that he was retaining Enrile as National Defense Minister, as well as assigning him to the position of Prime Minister so that he could continue the fight against the communists without any interruption.48 Tolentino also instructed former Speaker Nicanor Yniguez to convene the abolished Batasang Pambansa so it could immediately call for local elections before the end of the year.
From newspaper accounts, the people who were reportedly present at Manila Hotel for the takeover were a curious mix of military men and civilians, whose outstanding common trait was their loyalty to Marcos. Among the military men who were there were: Ochoco; Olivas; Zumel; Aguinaldo; BGen Antonio Palafox, former Commander, 5 ID based in Tarlac; BGen Jaime Echeverria (PMA ’57), former Regional Unified Command (RUC) 12 chief; Col Rolando Abadilla (PMA ’65), former METROCOM Intelligence and Security Group head; Maj Reynaldo Cabauatan, former Zambales Provincial Commander; Col Jose Mendoza; Col Rolando de Guzman (PMA ’61); Col Dictador Alqueza (not Arquiza as reported in the newspapers), of Jabidah fame and later Samar Commander; BGen Tomas Dumpit (PMA ’57), former RUC 1 Commander; Navy Cmdr Bernardo Patino, Jr (PMA ’67); Lt Pablo Cardenas; and a certain Capt Cardenas.
Aside from Tolentino and Yniguez, among the other civilian personalities there were: ex-Members of Parliament Gerry Espina, Salvador Britanico, Manuel Collantes, and Manuel Alba; former Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation Edmundo Reyes; ex-Gov of Rizal Isidro Rodriguez, Jr, ex-Gov of Zambales Vicente Magsaysay; ex-Mayor of Quezon City Adelina Rodriguez; ex-Mayor of San Juan and now Senator Joseph Estrada; ex-Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros; ex-Manila Vice Mayor Felicisimo Cabigao; former MIA manager Luis Tabuena; ex-Mayor of Kalookan Macario Asistio (subsequently elected Mayor); Batangas Fiscal Felizardo Lota; lawyers Rafael Recto and Oliver Lozano; Gerry Sto Domingo; entertainment personalities Alona Alegre, Elizabeth Oropeza, Annie Ferrer, Amalia Fuentes, Mohamad Faizal, and Weng Weng; Chito Lucero; Sonia Valenzuela; Edilberto del Valle; Carlos Salazar; Rio Diaz; Rick Soriano; Pol Genatin; and many more.
The coup plotters had evidently timed their actions. The Manila Hotel takeover came in the wake of massive student unrest in the colleges and universities of Metro Manila, as the Education Ministry had reportedly failed to respond to the students’ call for a moratorium on mass protest actions. The peasants were restive, despite the announcement of the government’s proposed agrarian reform package for Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) rebel-returnees the day before the Manila Hotel incident. The AFP was very critical of President Aquino’s ceasefire efforts with the CPP/NPA There were increasingly strong pressures against so-called “leftists” in the Cabinet. The Constitutional Commission was still in the process of formulating the new Constitution, which would replace the Freedom Constitution in effect since March 1986. The President was preparing for her state visit to the US, and the important issues of the day were national recovery and the adoption of a new constitution.
The occupation of the hotel was premeditated and intentional. A day or two before the incident, Tolentino reportedly checked into four adjoining rooms on the 14th floor of the hotel, all registered under a woman’s name. Other Marcos supporters also checked into different rooms under assumed names. Codes were used in communicating with each other. They planned to use the MacArthur Suite as their command post.49 Plastic bags of rice and even water were later found in the rooms, showing that the rebels were prepared to hold out at the hotel.
It is likewise clear that the takeover plan was known to some high-ranking officers in the military establishment even before it was actually carried out. In his testimony before the Commission on 15 June 1990, Tadiar revealed that he knew about the plot in advance because Zumel had tried to enlist his and BGen Luther Custodio’s participation in it. He said he had refused and had remained in his quarters instead, although his name was later announced on the radio as being at Manila Hotel. Kapunan, Enrile’s intelligence chief, also knew about the plan at least several hours before the incident happened. American writer McCoy disclosed that he was waiting in the house of Kapunan for an interview on the morning of 6 July. Kapunan arrived in combat uniform, apologizing for being late “because the Marcos loyalists are going to seize Manila Hotel in a coup. . . .”50 Six hours later, the Marcos supporters did in fact takeover the hotel, taking the government, at least the civilian branches, by surprise.
In the morning of Sunday, 6 July 1986, Recto, Yniguez, Espina, and other Marcos followers were seen conferring at the 365 Club of Manila Intercontinental Hotel. Their meeting was interrupted by the arrival of Jack Anderson, a visiting Washington journalist. The loyalists invited him to attend their rally that afternoon, where they promised him a “scoop.”51 Just after 4:00 p.m. that day, while the loyalists were holding their rally at the Quirino Grandstand, some 100 fully-armed soldiers in fatigue uniforms accompanied by dozens of civilians suddenly barged through the doors of the Manila Hotel and commandeered the lobby. Zumel approached Mike Wilson, the hotel’s Food and Beverage Manager, and told him that they were taking over the hotel. In a short time, the group had swelled to about 300.
By around 5:00 p.m., Tolentino arrived at the lobby (presumably from his room upstairs). After a table and microphone system were set up, Tolentino took his “oath of office”. Tolentino later claimed that he had no personal stake in what they had done, and was only after the unity and progress of the people under constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law.”52 The rest of the evening was spent on fiery speeches in the lobby where Marcos-Tolentino banners were hung on the walls. A little after 9:00 p.m., the hotel management began moving out guests gradually on the pretext of transporting them to the airport to catch their flights. At the time, there were about 250 foreign guests billeted at the hotel and around 150 hotel staff members. The evacuation was completed by 8:00 a.m. of 7 July, except for 15 journalists who chose to stay to cover the event and about 20 hotel engineers and security personnel. It was later learned that Marcos had spoken twice with Tolentino at the Manila Hotel via long distance from Hawaii. First, before his oath taking, and then after it, to congratulate him. A hotel executive was able to intercept and tape the calls. Both tapes were subsequently turned over to the military.53
By late Sunday, 6 July, the loyalists had managed to commandeer several buses and to barricade Roxas Boulevard, P Burgos Street, Bonifacio Drive, and T M Kalaw Street. Inside the hotel, Gerry Sto Domingo, former Assistant Executive Manager of Manila Hotel and nephew of Edmundo Reyes, declared that he was taking over hotel management, while Capt Cardenas, Detachment Commander of Fairways Security Agency which was owned by Ver, announced he was going to handle the hotel’s security.
There were vague, conflicting versions about the identity of the rebel troops that occupied Manila Hotel. A number of newspaper accounts mention that there were two companies of soldiers inside the hotel, and some hotel employees said they kept hearing the name of the 225th PC Company. Others said the troops were mostly displaced members of the PSC under Ver, or a motley combination of security guards of Marcos loyalists and ex-cronies. The ones in full battle gear, with insignias of the Special Forces and black headbands, were said to be Guardian members. They had red, white, and blue ribbons tied around the muzzles of their rifles. There were also rebel troops that reportedly took positions behind the grandstand, wearing red and black patches bearing campaign portraits of Marcos and Tolentino. Several reports added that soldiers and policemen from RUC 3 in Camp Olivas, Pampanga trooped to Manila on Sunday evening upon being told that they “were to participate in a revolt against the Aquino government sanctioned by Minister Enrile and Chief of Staff Ramos.”54 They had evidently been fooled. When they heard over the radio that Enrile and Ramos were on the President’s side and organizing the military response to them, they surrendered at once to Capital Regional Command (CAPCOM) Commander BGen Ramon Montano. Furthermore, the rebels were also reported to have had different types of firearms, ranging from M16 assault rifles and M79 grenade launchers, to three .30 cal machine guns mounted at the lobby.
It is obvious that Malacañang had no inkling of the coup plot. President Aquino was in Cagayan de Oro with Ramos and PC Chief MGen Renato de Villa (PMA ’57) when it happened. When Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo found out about it through his own sources, he immediately tried to contact Enrile who was out. He left an urgent message. Then, he called GHQ and spoke with Vice Chief of Staff Lt Gen Salvador Mison (PMA’55), who said they were aware of the situation and were assessing it. Meanwhile, Enrile got back to Arroyo who apprised him of the situation. Enrile denied knowing anything about it, but said he would attend to it right away. After several more calls to verify information, Arroyo contacted President Aquino in Cagayan de Oro, who said Ramos had told her about it, from Mison’s report to him It was then decided that Ramos would rush back to Manila, while President Aquino continued with her original schedule of visiting military camps, as well as receiving 20 rebel returnees in Cagayan de Oro, before flying back to Manila on 7 July.
Enrile summoned the General Staff for a Command Conference at GHQ at 7:00 p.m. to map out tactics to deal with the situation. After the conference, he met with the press. Enrile and the military top brass sought to make light of the event, and even presented Tadiar and Pattugalan to dispel rumors that they had joined the rebels. Enrile added that Custodio was at home, and not at Manila Hotel as had been rumored.
In the meantime, government troops (Marines) had setup checkpoints and blocking forces on all the roads leading to Manila Hotel, and had supposedly cordoned off all routes within a one-kilometer radius. However, journalist Belinda Cunanan claimed that the Marine blockades were not really effective in preventing food and human traffic to the hotel. She managed to visit the premises at about noon on 7 July.55 By that time, however, water and electrical power had been cut off in the hotel. Employees left inside had earlier refused to connect telephone calls and deliberately dismantled the hotel’s public address system.
Elsewhere, Quezon City Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Brigido Simon, Jr reported that loyalists were allegedly recruiting residents in the Commonwealth Avenue, Holy Spirit, and Batasan Hills areas to support those holed up in Manila Hotel.56 The National Telecommunications Commission temporarily closed down radio stations DZME, DZEC, DZXL, and DWAD for irresponsible reporting of the incident and for “being conduits of loyalists’ messages to their followers”. This act received some public and media flak for its perceived encroachment on the freedom of speech. For its part, the Armed Forces leadership relieved Cabauatan as Home Defense Chief of the Central Luzon Regional Command on 7 July, for abandoning his post.
At 2:00 p.m. on 7 July, President Aquino issued a public statement on the Marcos loyalists’ failed “propaganda gimmick”. She assured the People that the situation was under control. She gave the public a quick update on the incident and an ultimatum to the loyalists, allowing them 24hours (until 2:00 p.m., 8 July) to give themselves up. President Aquino also issued strong warnings that “the law will not be flouted with impunity,” and that “an incident like this will not be allowed to happen again.” She further announced that there would be “closer monitoring “loyalists and other similarly subversive activities from here on”.57
In a closed-door meeting with the joint staff, major service commanders and Metro Manila police superintendents on the afternoon of 7 July at the Navy Headquarters, two strategies were discussed to end the Manila Hotel fiasco. One called for a lightning attack on that day, before the 24-hour grace period to surrender expired. The other, which was already partially in effect, was to completely isolate the loyalists in the hotel from their outside supporters by severing the electricity and communications system and by blocking all the roads leading to the hotel to prevent supplies of food, water, medicine, etc, from getting to the loyalists.
That the whole exercise was a lost cause must have dawned on the loyalist leadership early on. Just a day after he took his “oath” as”acting President”, Tolentino shunned responsibility, claiming he “had no role in planning this.” He contended he was pressured by supporters of Marcos to take his oath. At a press conference in the hotel, Tolentino seemed to adopt a conciliatory stance when he urged President Aquino to call for early elections, saying many were “restless”. He further added, “We do not want the restoration of a constitutional government by violence or by force. That is farthest from our thoughts.”58
A few hours after the President issued her ultimatum, Tolentino and some others began negotiating with government representatives at the 11 Army and Navy Club. The loyalist leaders among the military, Zumel, f Echeverria and Palafox, and among the civilians, Tolentino, Yniguez, Recto, and Britanico, either did not bother to return to Manila Hotel from the talks, or left the hotel shortly after.59 Among the leaders who were left behind, Abadilla and Alqueza at first wanted to hold out until the 2:00 p.m. deadline on 8 July, despite the previous consensus among senior loyalist leaders to surrender earlier. The second set of negotiations were held at the police detachment behind the Quirino Grandstand and were attended by President Aquino’s son, Noynoy, Honasan, and Montano’s deputies, Col Emiliano Templo (PMA ’52) and Col Cesar Nazareno (PMA’61), for the government side.
As it turned out, Abadilla, Alqueza, and Cabauatan left Manila Hotel at 4:30 a.m. on 8 July, about an hour ahead of the evacuation schedule, fetched by Enrile’s security men, Honasan and Kapunan.60 At 5:00 a.m., Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) security personnel and CAPCOM men arrived at the hotel to supervise the evacuation of the loyalists. Ten Metro Manila Transit buses fetched 180 soldiers from the rear entrance, while more or less 300 civilians were quietly advised to disperse. Tolentino himself never came back to witness the evacuation at 5:45 a.m. on 8 July, some eight hours before the deadline.
From the start, despite the strong presidential statement, the government attitude towards the rebels at Manila Hotel seemed to be of maximum tolerance. They were promised that no criminal or military charges would be filed against them if they surrendered within the 24-hour limit set by the President. Enrile disclosed that he had been contacted at his office on 7 July by some leaders of the troops occupying Manila Hotel, signifying their intention to break from Tolentino’s group. He therefore arranged for some sort of processing center to be set up at the grandstand where these men could be received. He assigned Honasan to escort the loyalist officers and men out of the hotel towards the receiving area. Claiming he had clearance from the President, Enrile assured the “returning” soldiers that the government would exercise “maximum leniency without any embarrassment, humiliation against any of them, and they would be taken back into our organization without prejudice to their status as military personnel.”61
At the formal acceptance of surrender of the Marcos loyalist troops at Fort Bonifacio gymnasium on 8 July, Ramos welcomed the surrenderees (including four generals and 69 troopers) back to the fold of the AFP. He declared them free from liability of any crime against the Republic and the Armed Forces. He then ordered them to do 30 push-ups. However, based on testimony received in Executive Session, the push-ups were done to relieve the tension. Enrile, on the other hand, reiterated his promise of virtual exoneration by saying, “No punishment will come your way. I stand on this even to the point of gambling my position to see to it that what we have promised you will be fulfilled.” He added further, “There will be no retaliation against you. We shall consider this as past. Let us forget as though nothing had happened.”62
On 9 July, upon the Cabinet’s recommendation, President Aquino announced her offer of clemency (i.e., non-filing of criminal charges) to the Marcos supporters who took over Manila Hotel, on condition that “they take the oath of loyalty to the Freedom Constitution.” There were those who thought the pardon was premature before a full-dress inquiry could be carried out. In other words, it was felt that the loyalists were let off too easily. This was in stark contrast to the treatment given a group of unarmed civilians who demonstrated in front of the US Embassy just a week before, on 4 July. The demonstrators were violently dispersed by truncheons, tear gas, and guns because, as P/BGen Alfredo Lim later reasoned out, they were blocking both lanes of Roxas Boulevard.63
On the other hand, there were people who thought that punishing the loyalists would hamper the government’s campaign for national reconciliation and would only give loyalist leaders a chance to be “martyrs”. Expressing the prevailing sentiment in the Cabinet, then Political Affairs Minister Antonio Cuenco said that resorting to court trials at that time would have been highly divisive and would only have allowed the loyalists the exposure in court and in the media they wanted.64
Two of the arguments used for adopting a policy of maximum leniency towards the loyalists was that no shot was fired and that no casualties resulted from the incident. A damage assessment after the incident, however, showed that the Manila Hotel suffered an estimated loss of P10 million, including the physical and material damage to the facilities, the looting of supplies, and loss of revenue from cancelled bookings. There were also losses resulting from the vandalized buses the rebels commandeered to barricade the streets around the hotel on the first night of their coup. Loyalists were, likewise, reported to have attacked a news patrol jeep outside the hotel early on 7 July, resulting in injury to two people. Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism said at least 670 reservations made by prospective foreign visitors with various big hotels in Metro Manila had been cancelled following the incident.65
Although there was no deadline set for the swearing of allegiance to the Freedom Constitution, mass oathtaking ceremonies were held on 27 July. This was attended by many of those in the military who were implicated in the Manila Hotel incident,66 and who were eventually retired from the service. On the same day, the police filed formal charges of rebellion against Tolentino, 25 other civilians and 15 soldiers. The charges were based on the recommendations of Western Police District Superintendent Lim, who supposedly conducted an investigation of the incident. Even then, negotiations were going on between the accused and the government. Justice Minister Neptali Gonzales drew up the following conditions for dropping the charges against the loyalists: (1) pledge of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and maintenance of fidelity; (2) recognition of the existence of the present government under the Freedom Constitution; (3) renunciation of the use of force and violence for the overthrow of the government; and (4) not to allow one’s name or one’s self to be used directly or indirectly for such purposes. The accused must have accepted the terms because eventually all the charges were dropped against them.
On 17 July 1986, President Aquino created an ad hoc Presidential Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the Manila Hotel incident, funded from the Special Activities Fund. The Committee was composed of Alfredo Bengzon as chairman, with Rafael Ileto, Jesus Ayala, Emanuel Soriano, and Fulgencio Factoran, Jr as members. This group worked for three months, interviewing numerous people and meeting almost daily at the Manila Hotel. The Committee submitted a three-page First Report within a week and a four-page Second Report three weeks later, but instead of a final report, the Committee gave the President an oral report based on a discussion outline.67 The major findings in the First Report included the following: (1) even as early as in May or June 1986, some members of the pres shad already been told or had heard of the plan of the pro-Marcos group to execute the Manila Hotel affair in exactly the manner that it actually happened; (2) the intelligence agencies in the military establishment failed to effectively monitor the movements from San Fernando, Pampanga of the military contingent that participated in the incident; and (3) none of the existing intelligence agencies, either civilian or military, had evaluated the activities previous to the attempt, specifically the Sunday rallies of the pro-Marcos groups and opposition politicians in relation to what could happen. The recommendation in the First Report was, therefore, the immediate establishment of an independent intelligence agency under the President’s personal, direct, and exclusive direction and control.
The Second Report had a more extensive assessment of the event. The findings included the following:
1. The Manila Hotel incident was a pre-planned or pre-meditated conspiracy. [For example, at least three days before 6 July 1986, Honasan already knew about the loyalist plan.]68
2. The conspirators fell into two groups or categories:
a. those who openly identified themselves and admitted participation (open conspirators); and
b. those who even after the incident took every measure to conceal their identities and involvement (hidden conspirators).
3. There was a breakdown in the capabilities of the intelligence agencies. They were unable to forecast the event. [Up to the time of the Second Report (14 August 1986), they apparently had not been able to identify the hidden conspirators.]
4. The main objective of the Manila Hotel incident was propaganda-related, specifically intended to embarrass the Aquino administration. However, the event was so planned and structured that, depending on the response of the military, it could have readily been transposed to an actual takeover or coup d’ etat operation.
5. As of the time of the report, the main thrust and principal philosophy of the incident’s exercise still existed (i.e., a propaganda event with a built-in mechanism for ready transition to a takeover operation).
6. The military as an institution was not involved in the incident. The military establishment, however, is presently fragmented by four major factional groups which, if not hostile to each other, are in the least seriously undermining the morale of the entire organization. The four groups are the RAM, the Guardians, the BROTHERS (Brotherhood of Officers Towards Harmony, Equality and Reform in the Service), and IROG (Integree and Reserve Officers Group). The existence of factions in the military, in itself, poses serious political and security problems for the government because they operate outside the traditional and formal chain of command.
7. The impending visits then of President Aquino to the ASEAN countries and the US raised high risks of another, if not more serious, Manila-Hotel-incident type of occurrence.
8. The handling of the incident by the government, particularly the seemingly contradictory and independent pronouncements made by civilian and military officials, notably Enrile and Ramos, on one hand, and those from the Justice Ministry, on the other, was perceived by the general public as reflections of the Administration’s indecisiveness and weakness. On the whole, such handling of the incident substantially eroded public confidence in the stability of the government. This is especially true with respect to the perceived lax treatment of the high-ranking military officers who openly participated in the attempt.
9. As of the time of the Second Report, the following remained unknown:
a. the hidden conspirators
b. the extent and sophistication of the command structure of the hidden conspirators’ organization
c. the nature and system of linkage with Ferdinand Marcos
d. funding source, and logistical system and distribution
e. the manner and nature of the possible future Manila-Hotel-incident type events
f. the “JPE” [Juan Ponce Enrile] factor
The recommendations of the Committee in the Second Report were the following:
1. As previously recommended, establish an intelligence capability with the President’s full confidence, directly taking instructions from and reporting to President Aquino.
2. An in-depth review of all existing intelligence agencies to be conducted immediately with particular emphasis on their personnel.
3. Use the National Security Council (NSC) as was constituted at the time, as the cover for the President’s Command Structure in case of emergency during her absence in August and September 1986.
4. Order the immediate dismantlement of the organized factions in the military.
5. Direct the Ministry of Justice to review the present disposition of the known or open participants in the Manila Hotel incident.
6. Direct the immediate and effective actions to be taken against the notorious open participants in a manner that will serve exemplary and deterrent purposes.
7. That the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee, in coordination with the proposed President’s intelligence unit, investigate more fully the unknowns mentioned in the findings of the Second Report.
A list of names of civilians and military men was submitted for all intelligence agencies concerned to closely monitor their activities.
According to Soriano in his testimony before the Commission in July 0, of the seven recommendations mentioned above, only number 2 was substantially implemented, number 3 was partially fulfilled by Cabinet Cluster E, while numbers 5 and 6 became moot when the dent granted clemency and all the charges against the accused loyalists were dropped. Despite the order from the AFP leadership prohibiting unauthorized organizations in the military and disbanding the existing ones, there continue to be clandestine organized groups within the Armed Forces, as evidenced by the appearance of new ones like the Young Officers Union (YOU). Thus, number 4 has not been effectively implemented. As for numbers 1 and 7, there has been no new intelligence unit created under the President. It was decided instead to use the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) for this purpose.
The reactions from different countries within the region, judging from various editorials and articles in foreign newspapers, clearly stressed the need to be benevolent but firm in handling the rebels. The idea that the leaders of the attempt must answer for their deeds lest they be tempted to try again,” was a common opinion in the editorials. The US praised President Aquino’s “deft handling” of the aborted coup and reaffirmed their full support for her administration. However, despite its declared policy of non-interference, US embassy spokesman Allan Croghan confirmed that a US vice consul (Ambassador Stephen Bosworth was on leave at the time) had privately conferred with Tolentmo during the loyalists’ occupation of Manila Hotel. But Croghan reasoned, “We do it every time [something like this develops] to get an appraisal of the situation.”69
Perhaps, the most significant indication of the public sentiment towards the Manila Hotel incident was the fact that people generally went about their own business, unaffected by the loyalists’ call for support. The loyalists were apparently trying to re-enact the February 1986 EDSA Revolt, even claiming that thousands of Marcos followers were on their way to support them, and that units of the AFP would be detecting But they were utterly disappointed. The majority of Filipinos were still caught up in the optimism of EDSA, and the Presidents popularity continued to be high. People believed her when, a week after the attempt, she assured them that, “Definitely, no repetition of Sunday (incident) will be allowed to take place. And this is something I am committing myself to in collaboration with the entire government and the support of the Filipino people.”70 It was the first major test on the stability of the Aquino administration, and although it passed the ordeal, some say it may have revealed a sign of weakness and indecision in the complete exoneration of the rebels.
C November 1986 “God Save The Queen Plot”
Many of its members believed that the RAM should have disbanded after EDSA Revolt in February 1986 because its principal goal of ousting Marcos had already been achieved. However, some of its officers resisted this move and, instead, actively continued to plot a coup d’etat.71 This splinter group shall be referred to as the RAM-Honasan Faction (RAM-HF).
The Philippine political climate was turbulent in the months prior to the discovery of the coup plot codenamed “God Save The Queen” in November 1986. Just four months earlier, the government had quelled the loyalist attempt at Manila Hotel. The ratification of the Constitution, scheduled for February 1987, continued to be a principal preoccupation of the administration, which was fully aware that a new Charter endorsed by the majority of the voters would enhance the government’s legitimacy and, therefore, stability. At this point, too, there appeared to be constant infighting among Cabinet members, a fact which the energetic press constantly highlighted. Defense Minister Enrile, the Administration’s most outspoken critic, was also denouncing everything from President Aquino’s “soft approach” toward the insurgency problem, to the provisions of the Constitution.
The visit to Manila of US Congressman Stephen Solarz on the first week of November may have exacerbated the growing schism between the President and Enrile. Commenting on the Cabinet imbroglio, the press quoted Solarz as having said that it would be better for the President to sack Enrile as soon as possible. This unsolicited advice drew negative reactions not only from the Enrile camp but also from other sectors, which viewed the congressman’s comment as American interference in Philippine internal affairs.
Meanwhile, Marcos loyalists continued their public demonstrations for the return of Marcos and his family. There was a rash of bombings in different parts of Metro Manila, adding to the people’s anxiety. Also at this time, peace negotiations between the government and the CPP/NPA were ongoing.
On the economic side, negotiations between the Philippine government and foreign banks for the restructuring of about $12 billion in loans had bogged down. Reports indicated that foreign bankers were apprehensive over the political situation and bickerings in the Aquino Cabinet and laid down stiff preconditions for postponing payments on maturing loans, prompting then Finance Minister Jaime Ongpin to recess the negotiations. The Philippine panel was asking for a reduction in interests, extension of repayment from ten to 20 years, and a multi-year structuring for some $6 billion in debts falling due between 1987 and 1990. 72
Foreign businessmen and potential investors expressed their anxieties over the country’s political situation. Coup and counter-coup rumors dominated the headlines as well as coffee shop discussions, heightening the general political and economic instability. President Aquino faced a dilemma of postponing or pushing through with her four-day state visit to Japan scheduled for the second week of November.
Because of the continuous flow of intelligence information and disinformation on coup plots, Chief of Staff Ramos called periodic meetings among the major service commanders to assess the situation and receive intelligence service briefings from the different sectors of the military. The same names seemed to be cropping up as coup plotters: Honasan, Kapunan, Turingan, Batac, Robles, et al. Although Enrile’s name never appeared in any of the reports, most of the military officers mentioned were closely identified with him.73 It was reported that the plotters made a special effort to recruit officers who directly commanded combat units.
The Commanding General of a major service (CG-witness) testified before the Commission that he first heard about the coup plot from Enrile himself (although he claims it was not yet known as “God Save The Queen”). Around the middle of October 1986, Enrile, who had arrived from Cebu, told CG-witness that he wanted to see him. A week later, Legaspi was sent to fetch CG-witness to bring him to the MND reception hall, where he and Enrile met for around ten minutes. Enrile supposedly told CG-witness that his (Enrile’s) position was becoming more untenable in government. Enrile allegedly said that the government was in bad shape and “it’s about time that we take back the authority we gave them.”74 CG-witness claims he informed Gen Ramos about the visit on the following day, although he was sure Ramos had received intelligence reports about the coup by then.
On 4 November, a week before the President was to leave for Japan, Legaspi fetched CG-witness to attend a gathering at Paredes’s house in Fort Bonifacio. The gathering has been described as an “invitation to a briefing” as well as a celebration of Paredes’s promotion to star rank which had been announced a day or two before, although he had been Marine Commandant since the EDSA Revolt. Among the other people at the party were MGen Canieso, CG PA; MGen Antonio Sotelo, CG PAF; Turingan; Honasan; Robles; and some others. After a while, Enrile arrived to join them. Because of the passage of time the sworn testimonies do not purport to quote verbatim the discussions that night, but they establish references to the coup plot now referred to as “God Save The Queen”. Enrile was reportedly the one who confirmed the launching time and date as 12:00 midnight of 11 November, several hours after President Aquino was to have left for her state visit to Japan.75 It was said that their individual roles in the coup were not discussed that evening although a tacit message to the key holders of power (i.e., the commanding generals) was that if they were not willing to support the coup, they should remain “neutral” and not prevent their men from joining it. There is testimony alleging that the plotters had previously distributed radios and money (P50,000 each) to four sector commanders who were supposed to impose curfew while conducting “surgical” operations against leftists.76
The coup plot appeared to be a rehash of the original plan against Marcos in February 1986, using a commando team to raid Malacañang, capture President Aquino, and pressure her to yield the powers of the presidency while nominally retaining the title and ceremonial role. Two units were supposed to be involved in the operation — the Marines and the Army’s 1st Light Armor Brigade (1 LABde). It is not known where the codename “God Save The Queen” came from, but it could be conjectured that it is an updated version of the earlier plan known as “God Save The King” (referring to Marcos).
Through at least two sources other than the military intelligence community (which gave no early-warning report to its Commander-in-Chief), Malacañang found out about the coup plot so the PSG was immediately placed and remained on red alert throughout those critical weeks of November. President Aquino had summoned Marine Commandant Paredes and the commander of the 1 LABde to ask them if she could count on them. Both had allegedly replied in the affirmative. Sotelo, Canieso, and Jardiniano were also called to Malacañang for consultations with the President and Arroyo, presumably to ascertain their loyalties. News of the coup plot broke into the headlines of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 9 November. It was a deliberate leak to convey a message to the coup plotters that their plan was known.77
Ramos called Deputy Chief of Staff MGen Eduardo Ermita (PMA ’57), as well as Mison, de Villa, Jardiniano, Sotelo, and Canieso, to a meeting at GHQ, after which they went to see Enrile, with whom they supposedly talked about the perception that some Cabinet members were anti-military. Enrile was said to have shown impatience with the government’s handling of national affairs and the insurgency problem. They ended up by signing a resolution urging President Aquino to consider seriously the replacement of those Cabinet members”. One testimony claimed that the top echelon of the military went to see Enrile two or three times, allegedly to dissuade him and his “boys” from carrying out their plan. Another testimony pointed out that military officers do not engage in direct confrontations, but use subtle and indirect remarks.78 In one of these “persuasion visits”, they supposedly used the tack “we’ll do it together,” but that the time was not yet right for it. To buy more time, Ramos was reported to have even suggested doing it after the Christmas season when everyone would be tired of merrymaking.79 Enrile was apparently dissuaded.
However, Enrile was reportedly angered by what President Aquino said during a Dental Association conference which she addressed oa the morning of her trip to Japan. He was said to have walked out of the conference and ordered the hoisting of flags at the MND, which was presumably a signal to launch the coup that night.80
Despite the advice of both Ramos and Canieso not to leave for Japan because “something was going to happen,” President Aquino nevertheless left for her state visit as scheduled. Immediately after her departure, Ramos and the four major service commanders met at the VIP Lounge at the airport. They discussed the intelligence (J-2) report about the coup plot and agreed on the preparations for their respective commands.
According to CG-witness, it was only at 12:00 midnight of 11 November that Ramos felt assured that the service commanders were with him. He believed that Ramos was not really certain of how the other generals would act. At the last minute, Enrile was supposed to have called off the coup, since none of the commanding generals were on his side. Thus, there was no overt movement of forces on 11 November, although preparations were allegedly made at Camp Aguinaldo. Honasan was said to have mobilized about ten V-150s and as many as 800 men (security forces of the MND), without counting possible outside support.81
The day before President Aquino’s arrival from Japan, Ramos again called for an emergency command conference at 4:00 a.m. with the four service commanders. They received a briefing from J-2 about reports that the MND Security Group and other units they had recruited were again ready to take action early the next morning. During the meeting, Ramos made several calls to Honasan, Turingan and some others. At 10:00 a.m., Ramos went to see Enrile to prevail upon him to stop his “boys”.
During that period, the Command Center (Joint Operations Center or JOC) was receiving reports of troop movements, despite orders to stop. At 1:00 p.m., Ramos and then Deputy Minister Ileto went to see Enrile but apparently to no avail. Ileto had supposedly also tried, but was unsuccessful, to dissuade Honasan from carrying out their plan, using their personal links (Honasan’s father and Ileto were classmates, and their families have always been close).82
As a last resort, Ramos and the four service commanders went to see Enrile at 4:30 p.m. and reviewed the situation with him. Enrile was supposed to have asked what he should do, and as everyone was silent, Ramos allegedly signaled Canieso, being the most senior of the CGs, to give the collective opinion .Canieso supposedly told Enrile that whatever happened, the whole AFP would take measures in favor of the government as this was their duty. After a brief silence, Enrile reportedly excused himself and went into the other room. Shortly after, he returned and allegedly capitulated, saying nothing will happen. The five generals then left and returned to the JOC. They were said to have reviewed their plans and then went back to their respective headquarters.83
Upon the return of President Aquino from Japan, another crisis awaited her. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Chairman Rolando Olalia was abducted by unidentified men and his tortured and bullet-ridden body was found in a vacant lot in Antipolo, while that of his driver, Leonor Alay-ay, was discovered three kilometers away. The brutal killing on the eve of the President’s return led to a nationwide protest, where labor and other cause-oriented groups denounced the military as the perpetrators of the crime. Accusations varied from the alleged desire of the military to break up the ongoing negotiations for a ceasefire with the communists, to the military’s intention to inflame the people’s anger towards the government so that the climate would be favorable for a coup d’etat.
President Aquino formed Task Force Olalia to investigate the case. This was headed by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Antonio Carpio, in the absence of Justice Minister Gonzales. The NBI found proof of military involvement in the stake out and surveillance of Olalia’s residence before his disappearance. They allegedly found evidence, to link some RAM-HF officers to the killing.84 The argument was made that the timing and brutality of the murders were meant to create an unstable situation favorable for a coup. Perhaps, it was the realization that their actions could be exploited by the ultra-right that radical labor unions and organizations desisted from prolonged massive demonstrations at the time.
Barely a week and a half after the preempted 11 November plan, military intelligence operatives discovered another coup plot, this time set for 23 November and allegedly involving a RAM-Marcos loyalist Nuance with the intention of simultaneously massing soldiers in Manila to coincide with the convening of the old Batasang Pambansa. The plans were supposedly finalized at a meeting in the house of former Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) Assemblyman Antonio Carag, a known Marcos loyalist and Enrile ally, on early Saturday morning, 22 November in Wack-Wack Subdivision, Mandaluyong. The meeting was reportedly attended by Enrile, Honasan, Turingan, as well as Marcos supporters. Turingan was supposed to have called Ramos at his GHQ office to try to convince him to join them but Ramos refused. Turingan allegedly replied, “We will go it alone then.”85
The plan called for seizing the Batasang Pambansa building in Quezon City, where former KBL assemblymen would convene the parliament that was abolished in March 1986 after the EDSA Revolt. They would then elect former Speaker Yniguez as acting President, nullify the 7 February “snap” presidential election, demand that President Aquino step down from office, and call for a new election, all in one sweep.
In the initial rebel moves, it was said that Lt Col Aguinaldo and Col Hernani Figueroa (PMA’66) moved their forces southward from Cagayan intending to link up with the other rebel troops in Manila. At Camp Aguinaldo, where a Board of Generals meeting was being held at noon on 22 November, CAPCOM Commander Montano reported on some unauthorized troop movements. He said around three trucks of soldiers were reportedly sighted along the North Diversion Road bound for Manila. There was also confirmed movement at the headquarters of Honasan located behind the MND building.
With Honasan’s forces at the MND compound were Kapunan, Turingan, Robles, Erie, and LCdr Jaime Lucas (PMA’73), among others. They had between 100-200 men under them and were backed up by armored vehicles, consisting of about ten Scorpion tanks, advanced infantry vehicles, and V-150s, which were garaged behind the MND building. The RAM-HF officers were aboard three Toyota Land Cruisers in commando team formation. They were all heavily armed and had additional stockpiles of weapons (Ultimax, Galils, Armalites, etc.) inside the vehicles, one of which was owned by Honasan’s brother, Don. Most of the group belonged to the MND Security Unit of Enrile, as well as the Special Anti-Terrorist Battalion.
It was subsequently revealed that months before the attempt, these MND Security Forces would often jog at midnight from Enrile’s house in Dasmariñas Village to the Defense Ministry in Camp Aguinaldo, after which they would practice shooting. Not long often the EDSA Revolt, they had on several occasions invited the men of the 15SW, which Soleto commanded, to jog with them. Perhaps they saw the potential of air support in their future plans as there were only two combat units in the PAF. Among those in the jogging group of Honasan were Legaspi, Hotchkiss (now Commander of the 16th Tactical Squadron under the 15 SW), Capt Elmer Amon (PMA ’81 and also a T-28 pilot), and PAF Lt Gregor Mendel Panelo (PMA ’84), all helicopter pilots of Sotelo.
The Special Anti-Terrorist Battalion was the result of Enrile’s initiative in May 1986, to form an elite group from the units tasked to deal with hijacking (air, sea or land) and other terrorist activities. The battalion directly reported to Enrile as chairman of the National Action Committee on Anti-Hijacking (NACAH), and was headed by Honasan. It was composed of specially trained men in the AFP, including the Navy’s Special Warfare Operations Group (SWAG), the Army’s Special Forces Unit, elements of the Scout Rangers, the PC’s Special Action Force (SAF), and others.86 In fact, this accumulation of military talent in the MND had earlier alarmed several high-ranking officers, not only because it dissipated the AFPs elite forces, but also because of its suspicious concentration in one place. However, nothing was done about it until after November 1986.
In the afternoon of 22 November, Ramos instructed Mison to monitor the moves of KBL politicians. Mison, therefore, sent surveillance teams to the homes of Yniguez, Jose Rono, and Vicente Magsaysay. Yniguez and Rono both denied any knowledge of the plan when Mison called them. Ramos tried to contact Enrile or Honasan in the late afternoon, but to no avail. Commo Virgilio Marcelo (PMA ’61), then a Navy Capt and Commander of GHQ Headquarters Service Command at Camp Aguinaldo, was tasked with preventing the troops of Honasan from leaving the camp at all costs. On the other hand, BGen Javier Carbonell’s brigade was given the responsibility of blocking the only road from the MND out of the camp. Carbonell, who rose from the reserve ranks, was reported to have hurled the challenge: The fight will start and finish there.”
By 7:00 p.m., Marcelo had sent a reinforced company to block Gate 1 of the camp (all other gates had been sealed earlier). The composite forces under Mison were monitoring the rebels’ armor in coordination with Marcelo’s group. Meanwhile, Ramos had conferred with the commanders of the major services, and by 8:00 p.m., all government forces in the three military camps (Camps Crame and Aguinaldo, and Fort Bonifacio) were on full red alert and just waiting for instructions.
At 9:00 p.m., Ramos called PC Maj Efren Arayata, head of the Guardians Brotherhood, Inc (GBI), a military organization which claims membership of about 70 percent of the total AFP strength. It will be recalled that alleged Guardian members also participated in the Manila Hotel Incident of July 1986. Ramos wanted to ascertain the GBI leadership’s loyalty, recalling that many of its members had been recruited for the two previous coup attempts. Arayata reassured Ramos of support. That same night, Ramos sent a message to all military field commanders nationwide to inform them of the situation. He also instructed them to “prepare for any eventuality” and to disregard all orders emanating from the MND, particularly Honasan’s.87 Shortly after midnight, soldiers were sent to guard all vital installations (communications centers, water and electric stations, government buildings). The troops guarding the Batasan complex were beefed up to three battalions.
Also at around midnight on 22 November, Ramos called the RAM-HF officers to a conference, but it was only Turingan and some junior officers who attended. Ramos asked Turingan to locate Honasan but Turingan said he could not do so because Honasan was still “with his troops”.88 Ramos then sent an unequivocal message to the RAM officers: they could leave the camp but would have to face the consequences. They were also warned not to attempt to use the parade grounds as a landing field because there would be orders to shoot them. Eventually, Honasan’s group backed down, probably realizing that they were completely boxed in. At about 3:00 a.m., 23 November, they began going back to barracks.
Canieso, who was then CG PA, revealed to the Commission in June 1990 that the intelligence briefings they had received in November 1986 mentioned several other units as being involved in the destabilization plot now known as “God Save The Queen”. These units were the Scout Ranger Companies attached to the MND and to the PSG, the light Armor Companies attached to the Defense Ministry and to Malacañang, the 16 IB under Malacañang, the 49 IB led by Aromin, and the 42 IB with many junior officers and soldiers formerly with the MND Security Group.
Canieso also disclosed that there were indeed some planned maneuverings by some of these units but they were dealt with effectively. In the case of the 49 IB, Arorain moved three-fourths of his battalion (about 300 men) to Manila from Quezon province. Canieso sent a superior officer to meet the troops along the way and to direct them to Fort Bonifacio to a “reserved quartering area” where they could be controlled. Canieso then sent for Aromin to tell him that he only had two options. One was to follow Canieso’s orders as his CG and the other was to disobey them. Canieso said he was giving Aromin a few minutes to think about it. If Aromin chose the second, Canieso would arrest him immediately for mutiny. But if he opted for the first, then Canieso was going to allow Aromin to report back to his men and they would be authorized to return to the Bondoc Peninsula. Aromin chose to obey Canieso’s orders.89
In the cases of Malajacan’s troops from the 16 IB and some elements of the 42 IB, when reports were received that they were preparing to leave their areas of operation to come to Manila, the Army Chief sent them urgent messages to stay put despite whatever plans they had, and to await orders only from him. The troops were, thus, prevented from moving out. In effect, the coup became a chess game with each side trying to anticipate and block the moves of the other. In the end, the rebels backed down without firing a shot. Thus, the majority of the civilian population was never really aware of all of the activities until the incident, which a retired general termed as a “non-event”, was over. President Aquino herself was not provided all the details by Gen Ramos, even as he took all remedial measures to contain it.90
On 23 November, Sunday, at 2:00 p.m., President Aquino briefly met with Enrile in her Malacañang office where she asked for his resignation and then immediately appointed Deputy Minister Ileto to replace him. She further asked the rest of her Cabinet ministers to resign in order to “give the government a chance to start all over again.” Then, the President went on nationwide radio and television broadcast to announce her decision. She also gave government peace negotiators only until the end of November to produce a ceasefire agreement or terminate all further talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) [the NDF had called off the negotiations following the Olalia murder]. In her statement, President Aquino firmly added, “My circumspection has been viewed as weakness, and my sincere attempt at reconciliation as indecision. This cannot continue. I hereby give notice to all those who may be inclined to exploit the present situation that sterner measures will be taken against them if they try.”
Hours after the President announced her decisions on radio and television, RAM-HF soldiers surrounded the MND building, some even positioned themselves on the roof. The men were in full battle gear. Newly-appointed Defense Minister Ileto hurriedly called for a closed-door conference of the four major service commanders. Later, Ileto issued a statement that the Armed Forces were in full control of the situation. That same Sunday afternoon, the military released to the media an AFP message sent by Ramos to all major commanders and field commanders, declaring that the plot to convene the defunct Batasang Pambansa, with the support of certain military factions, had been aborted without loss of life. Ramos said that the situation in Metro Manila was calm, with the President in full control of the government. In the same message, Ramos reiterated to the commanders the need for “maintenance of order, sobriety and stability in their respective areas, and to play down any alarm the report might generate.” He also called on them to strengthen the chain of command from Commander-in-Chief down to the lowest unit.91
On Monday, 24 November, Press Secretary Teodoro Benigno confirmed that the newspaper expose on the coup had been true. He said some military forces outside Manila had planned to join former KBL assemblymen in the takeover of the Batasang Pambansa to reconvene a rebel parliament. However, he said, the plot had been uncovered and “checkmated” by government troops. On the other hand, that same day, Minister Ileto appeared vague if not evasive about the details of the attempt. He said: “This plot is still a rumor. We do not have the evidence. We do not have the facts of the case.” Asked about the fate of Honasan, Ileto replied, “It’s too early for me to tell.” However, Ileto mentioned that some of the plotters, most of whom were said to be members of Enrile’s staff, had tendered their “courtesy resignations”. He named Robles as one of those who resigned. Minister Ileto further stated that a preliminary investigation into the coup attempt was underway and that the results of an “informal investigation at intelligence level” would determine whether a full-dress investigation was warranted.92 Ileto had been given a free hand in meting out punishment against the coup plotters by President Aquino.
As testified in Executive Session, no formal investigation was ever made of the incident. On the other hand, Mison told the Commission in June 1990 that an investigation of the incident was ordered by Ramos but he was not aware of any charges filed against the coup plotters. He explained that Ramos’s moves had always been conciliatory, not wanting to deepen the cleavages existing within the AFP. He said if the “iron fist” had been used, the military leadership was not sure about the sentiments and reactions of the troops in the field.93 For his part, Ramos maintained that as CSAFP there was not much he could do inasmuch as the plotters were mostly under the jurisdiction of the MND and answerable to someone else.94
The group of Honasan remained at the MND for a while even after Enrile’s resignation and during Ileto’s initial tenure. They were later redeployed or given different assignments back to their branch of service. One of Ileto’s first acts as Defense Minister was to return the armor and heavy weaponry as well as the military personnel accumulated at MND by his predecessor to their respective major service commands. Mison was assigned to formally carry this out. In the process, he discovered that a substantial number of firearms, radios, vehicles, and some 1P2 million were unaccounted for. After a prolonged official inquiry, the AFP Anti-Graft Board ordered Honasan to account for the money which was supposed to have been spent for the purchase of equipment. His appearance before the Board was scheduled on 30 August 1987, but this was overtaken by other events.
In the aftermath of the announced Cabinet revamp, the various reactions of people and groups were both predictable and generally optimistic. Not much was really known about the details of the coup now referred to as “God Save The Queen” nor about how it was quashed at the time, but the majority of the people appeared relieved it was over. Government officials and even some opposition leaders welcomed the Cabinet revamp which they felt would give the administration a “fresh start”. Perhaps as a compromise with rebels’ demands of “cleansing” her Cabinet of “left-leaning” members, President Aquino subsequently removed Labor Minister Augusto Sanchez. For its part, the KBL, through its Secretary General Salvador Britanico, vehemently denied any participation in the coup plot. He claimed that the accusations against his party were all part of a disinformation campaign in the struggle between factions of the military.95 Vice President Laurel said that the resignation of Enrile should not cause panic and worry as the AFP was in the hands of the “ablest military men” (referring to Ramos and Ileto). Cause-oriented groups and some leftist organizations were more cautious in their reactions. The NDF hailed Enrile’s ouster but expressed fears about the government’s policy towards the CPP/NPA because they claimed Ramos and Ileto were rabid supporters of the US, which has been behind the implementation of the comprehensive anti-insurgency scheme.96 They predicted that the so-called “left-leaning” Cabinet ministers would be removed from the administration.
The foreign reactions were likewise supportive and fairly optimistic. Australian Foreign Minister Bill Hayden said his government fully backed President Aquino. An Indonesian editorial said that the President’s decision to sack Enrile would strengthen her government, while a Thai newspaper commenting on the same said, “It had to happen.” The US reaffirmed its now familiar “strong and unequivocal support” for President Aquino. Congressman Stephen Solarz said Resident Aquino had “won the hearts and minds of the American people when she came here in September.” Senator Sam Nunn, chairman of the US Senate Committee on the Armed Forces, commented, The Philippine military has to be reorganized. The military has to gain the confidence of the people.”97
A PMA graduate assigned to Central Luzon expressed what could possibly have been a dawning realization for many at that time: “The heroes of February are now the villains of November.”
D. January 1987 GMA-7 Incident
On Tuesday, 20 January, there were again reports of a possible coup attempt, this time to be launched over that weekend. The reports to the Army CG pointed to four groups that had an interest in seizing power. These were the Marcos loyalists; military men loyal to Enrile; members of the AFP who were disgusted by the security and counterinsurgency policies of the Aquino administration; and some big businessmen.98
One scenario of the plan supposedly involved the abduction or liquidation of the Army Chief, his staff and military commanders. This was meant to paralyze the operations of the Army and prevent its personnel from responding to the normal chain of command. The ultimate objective was to topple the government of President Aquino. However, the plan was disparaged by the Army CG himself, Canieso, saying it had little chance of succeeding.
The political situation took a turn for the worse when, well into the 60-day ceasefire agreement to hold peace negotiations between the government and the CPP/NPA, hundreds of peasants demonstrating for land reform at Mendiola bridge near Malacañang were fired at by elements of the military and the police on 22 January. Many farmers were killed in what is now known as the “Mendiola Massacre”, causing the NDF to suspend their participation in the peace talks and government negotiator Maris Diokno to resign from the panel. The ceasefire was scheduled to expire on 7 February, five days after the plebiscite on the Constitution.
On 24 January, an alleged coup plot was uncovered by the military before it was put into operation. The plotters were said to be a disgruntled faction of the Armed Forces, Marcos loyalists, and some right-wing politicians. The attempt was supposedly held off, at least temporarily, when Ramos called for and met behind closed doors the alleged military leaders of the plot led by Honasan and Kapunan.99
Three days later, a group of Marcos loyalists, many of whom were members of the GBI, attempted to take over military camps and a TV station with the intention of reinstating Marcos into office before the new Constitution was ratified. There were at least four target areas that the rebels were apparently going to hit, judging from their staging points: VAB, Sangley Point Air Base, Fort Bonifacio, and GMA-7 television station. On their way to reinforce the other rebel troops, a group of soldiers numbering a little over a hundred, coming from the Philippine Army Training Command (PA TRACOM) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija and Regional Command (RECOM) 3, were intercepted and apprehended by elements of the CAPCOM led by Col Reynaldo Dino at the North Expressway by the Balintawak Toll Gate, as they were entering Metro Manila at 1:30 a.m. on 27 January. The fully-armed military personnel, mostly Guardians, were headed by Capt Nemencio Carvajal, although their orders had come from Cabauatan, as was revealed by later sworn testimonies.100
As early as December 1986, Maj Romeo Daclan, a GBI member, had been reportedly seen at Fort Magsaysay recruiting other Guardians to join him in a destabilizing action. He was said to have met with Carvajal and Maj Pedrito Magsino at the PA TRACOM. On 26 January, GBI leaders from Fort Magsaysay were met by PC Maj Manuel Divina (PMA ’73) and his brother, Lt Edgardo Divina (PMA ’77) in San Fernando, Pampanga regarding a planned disruption of the plebiscite on the Constitution scheduled for 2 February.
On the other hand, the movement at VAB appears to have been connected with the meeting of about 20 PAF officers at Kowloon Restaurant in Makati on the evening of 20 January. The meeting was reportedly presided over by Lt Col Rodolfo Calzado, despite the presence of a more senior officer, Col Romeo Javelosa. The same group supposedly met again in a private home in Quezon City on 26 January, this time with the presence of Col Bertuldo de la Cruz, Capt Nonito Calizo, and some enlisted men.
After the meeting, Calizo accompanied by Sgt Samuel Nagac went to the PAF Security Group in Porac and then to Bacolor, Pampanga to allegedly recruit more Air Force men through the GBI network for their Planned activity. A group of about ten of them then headed back for Manila but due to mechanical problems, they did not arrive at VAB until 11:30 p.m.
From the meeting in Quezon City, de la Cruz went to another one at the house of Dr Arturo Tolentino, Jr, where he briefed PC Maj Francisco Ovilla and 21 others, after which he gave them an armalite each and a substantial amount of ammunition. From there, the military men went to VAB on board a Toyota car, a jeep, and a rented coaster. Joined by another group of 41 soldiers along the way, they proceeded to VAB in front of the 205th Helicopter Wing (205 HW) headquarters.
In the meantime, at 9:15 p.m. inside VAB, intelligence reports were received that a group of loyalists were planning to attack the armory and communications facilities of the base that night or the next day. After an emergency meeting of all VAB commanders at the PAF chiefs quarters, the interior guard of the 205 HW was doubled, security of the armory was beefed up, and all Wing staff and unit commanders were instructed to take precautionary measures. At 1:45 a.m., 27 January, while Col Loven Abadia (PMA ’60), Wing Commander, 205 HW, was briefing his men about the current situation in the aircraft parking area, a convoy of vehicles loaded with armed men arrived. This was presumably the group of de la Cruz. Refusing to identify themselves to Lt Col Dante Bernabe who had been sent to question them, the armed soldiers dispersed and deployed at the far side of the road facing the 205 HW headquarters, while the personnel of the 205 HW took up defensive positions. Loven Abadia then went into the headquarters building where he called up the PAF chief and the Wing Commander of the 520th Air Base Wing (520 ABW) to report the presence of the armed men, who were later identified as the “Blue Thunder Commandos”.101
For his part, Calizo and his ten recruits joined another group of about 50 soldiers aboard an M35 cargo truck which dropped them at the Air Material Wing Savings and Loan (AMWSL) area in the early morning of 27 January, while the others got off at different points around VAB. After a short briefing, Calizo’s men divided into groups of three and headed towards the 520 ABW.
Meanwhile, an exchange of automatic fire ensued between the commandos led by de la Cruz, and personnel of the 205 HW backed up by other Air Force units at 2:30 a.m. Shortly after, the rebels boarded their vehicles and tried to make their way towards the Baclaran gate (Gate 1) of VAB. However, the road was blocked by government troops positioned in front of the 520 ABW. Another exchange of gunfire followed, during which de la Cruz was wounded.
Calizo was also hit on the leg when firing erupted at 3:30 a.m. from the direction of the PAF Security Command (PAFSECOM) tower towards where he and his men were holed out. He ordered his men not to return fire but to call an ambulance instead. When the ambulance arrived, he and his men surrendered to the Air Provost Marshal. Calizo later admitted having left Pampanga with his men to meet up with other troops at VAB in order to take over the Wing Operations Center (WOC) of the 520 ABW and to control the aircraft parking area. The men cited varying reasons for having joined the mutiny, ranging from wanting a stronger government policy against communism, having long pent-up grievances against the assignment and promotion policies of the PAF, to feeling discriminated against because they were loyal to former President Marcos.
By 5:30 a.m., the commandos realized they were outnumbered and had no chance with daylight breaking, so they surrendered one by one. Loven Abadia approached de la Cruz, the leader of the commandos, to ask him to surrender and turn in his gun, but the latter arrogantly refused. He only agreed when Abadia fired a warning shot. Altogether, there were 68 members of the commandos who surrendered, 16 of whom were wounded. There was only one killed, rebel soldier Pfc Daniel Hubag.
The Sangley Point takeover attempt began with the raid on the armory of the 240th Composite Wing just after midnight of 27 January. The raid was led by Maj Crispin Galacgac with suspected inside collusion from Capt Alonso Canete and Lt Tomasito Macatangay. Canete was said to have distributed armbands marked with the word “Retwis” in red as a countersign to the rebels.102 Orders to withdraw firearms from the armory were given simultaneously to their men by rebel officers Lt Col Domingo Bayan, Maj Benjamin Rome, Capts Rodolfo Moral, and Jesus Sam, and TSgt Celestino Fran purportedly because of the “red alert” status at the time. Recruits among enlisted men from the nearby Naval Support Command in Fort San Felipe, Cavite City, were also given firearms by PO3 Vicente Anog, Jr, who had earlier told the men they were going to attend “a happening” at Sangley Air Base.
Thus armed, the officers and soldiers went towards the 15 SW headquarters, joined by two other officers, Capt Rodolfo Jequinto and Lt Villamor Lazo. The guards at the main gate of the headquarters were easily disarmed and their outpost taken over by the rebels. At exactly 1:00 a.m., both BGen Generoso Maligat, 15 SW Commander, and Col Santiago Pitpitan, his deputy, were simultaneously awakened by armed Wel officers in their respective rooms and told to dress up because of some simulated story about an impending communist attack. The two officers were then whisked out of the base in a car owned and driven by Rodolfo Prudente, a civilian rebel sympathizer, who took them to his house in Cavite City, then later to a less accessible house in a barrio in General Trias, Cavite.
By 2:00 a.m., the rebels had overrun the WOC of the 15 SW, taking Col de Dios, Director of Operations, into custody. Bayan, the acknowledged leader of the group, controlled the communications at the WOC by ordering the removal of the mouthpieces from the telephones, except the one beside him. He also ordered the commercial radio frequency to be changed to 10.8. At one point, he told de Dios, “It is the day of the return of Marcos and we are protecting the government from communism.”103
Seven hours later, realizing the futility of the siege, Bayan and the rest of the rebels at Sangley Air Base agreed to lay down their firearms. Negotiations were facilitated by PAF officers Col de Dios, Lt Col Baquir, Hotchkiss, and Capt Ortizo. At 10:00a.m., through negotiations between PAF chief Sotelo and Bayan, Galacgac was sent to fetch Maligat and Pitpitan, earlier held hostage by the rebels in Gen Trias, Cavite. The other rebel officers who surrendered were Capts Manuel Rodis, Jequinto, and Danilo Galvez, and Lt Leodecario Aspan. At 2:30 p.m. on 27 January, the rebel officers from Sangley were airlifted to the VAB for a conference with the PAF commanding general.
At Fort Bonifacio, a group of soldiers and some civilians belonging to the GBI assembled at the quarters of Daclan on 26 January, starting from around 9:00 in the evening. Lt Rogelio Buendia and five Marine enlisted men went there and were told by Daclan that they were going to undertake a purely Guardian action against communism. At 4:00 a.m. of 27 January, on the basis of a report that armed men were grouping there, Daclan’s house was raided by combined elements of the Scout Rangers, 202nd Military Police (MP) Company, Light Armor Brigade, and some other units. Daclan, Buendia along with 11 Army soldiers, five marines, one patrolman, and 21 civilians were rounded up and brought to the 202 MP Company headquarters for interrogation.
Most of those apprehended said that they were at Daclan’s quarters to attend a prayer meeting led by Buendia. However, they were all heavily armed when arrested. Seized from them were three M14 rifles, 16 armalite rifles, one M6O LMG cal 7.62 with spare barrel, one smoke grenade, a radio set with two handsets, and numerous ammunition. Subsequently, one of the soldiers revealed that Daclan had told him and the others that 28 chapters of the GBI would stage a revolution against the communists.104
The occupation of GMA-7 appeared to be better planned compared to the other incidents. At 1:30 a.m. on 27 January, PAF Special Reaction Group (SRG) elements from the RPN-9 transmitter and La Mesa Dam areas entered the GMA-7 compound purportedly to augment the security detail there. The group was led by Maj Ruben Sagmit and Lt Zaragoza, assisted from the inside by A1C Romantico. The rebels took the firearms from the SRG arm rack of GMA-7 and distributed them to the members of the group. In the meantime, Sagmit told Maj Pastor Razon, CO SRG unit assigned to the TV station, that a coup d’etat was taking place.
The 43 employees and visitors of GMA-7, who were around at the time, were directed to gather at the Talent Room and were prevented from leaving by rebel soldiers. At 2:20 a.m., three truckloads of heavily armed military personnel led by Maj Divina arrived to reinforce the rebels at the GMA-7. Shortly after, Col Hernando Lopez (PMA’66), SRG chief, who had been contacted by his men, arrived at the GMA-7 compound. He was supposedly told by Sagmit and Divina that they had launched a coup because they did not like the way the government was treating the military. To further convince him of the rebel cause, Abadilla spoke with Lopez by telephone for some 20 minutes. Abadilla allegedly told Lopez that PAF Col Oscar Canlas (PMA ’63) would soon arrive at the station and that Lopez should not put up any resistance.105
At 5:00 a.m., Canlas arrived at GMA-7 with some 100 men to join the rebels there. At about the same time, a group of 100 civilians claiming to be Marcos loyalists also entered GMA-7. Lopez requested Canlas to allow the former to pull out his men, their firearms, and belongings. The petition was granted by the rebel officer and carried out an hour later, after Lopez and his men failed to convince the rebels to give up.
Meanwhile, the government was in a dilemma as to how to resolve the crisis without bloodshed or extensive damage to property. The other four incidents had ended without great losses, except for the death of a rebel soldier and the wounding of some others. The siege at GMA-7, however, was taking longer to end, while in the meantime, it was receiving ample media coverage both here and abroad, a factor damaging to the country’s image. There was also a growing number of civilians rallying to the rebels’ side, most notable of whom were movie stars Alegre, Oropeza, Ferrer, and “Amay Bisaya”. By 12:30 p.m., 27 January, more civilians had managed to enter the GMA-7 compound by passing over the fence, despite the military’s having cordoned off the area.
At 4:00 a.m., 28 January, Gen Ramos sternly ordered Canlas and his followers to vacate the premises of the TV station but the rebels refused.
Instead, Canlas wrote a letter addressed to the Filipino people explaining the reasons why they took over GMA-7. Their basic intentions were supposedly to make people aware of the growing menace of communism, to protest against what they perceived was the “communists’ access to sensitive government positions”, and to decry what they saw as the uneven application of justice among members of the military organization. They called on President Aquino to step down from the presidency and for Marcos to be restored as Chief Executive because for them “only he could solve the country’s problems.”106 Marcos and his family allegedly made an attempt to return stealthily into the country from their exile in Hawaii to coincide with the coup attempt, but were prevented from doing so by the US government.
As the second day of the siege ended, the military had begun to examine more drastic options to resolve the problem. Ramos was in a house next door to GMA-7 and they were thinking of digging a tunnel underground so that crack troops could get into the station and launch a surprise attack.107 It was on the evening of 28 January that a group of PMA officers led by Honasan met with Ramos to present a “plea” to stop the planned assault by CAPCOM troopers on the rebels, arguing that any drastic action would merely divide the AFP.108
The PMA officers, mostly belonging to Classes 1965 to 1983, made the following petitions:
1. A major reform and overhaul of the AFP and a hard line communist stand;
2. The terms of military officers having reached retirement age should not be extended;
3. All soldiers, including supporters of former President Marcos, should receive equal treatment;
4. Civilian supporters of the rebel troops should be allowed to leave the Channel 7 building; and
5. There must be a guarantee that no force would be used against the rebels.
After a long series of negotiations, the rebels finally agreed to lay down their arms. By 9:00 a.m., 29 January, the civilian rebel supporters left GMA-7 and were brought to Camp Karingal in Quezon City where records-processing was done. Seven hours afterwards, the military personnel under Canlas were escorted out of the TV station and brought to Fort Bonifacio by BGen Rodolfo Biazon (PMA’61). The siege was over after 64 1/2 hours (almost three days). On 30 January, Ramos ordered the arrest of Zumel, Abadilla, Cabauatan, and Baquiran for their alleged involvement in the rebellion.109 Charges were filed both in military as well as civilian courts against those who participated in the coup attempt. Some were acquitted, some had their cases dismissed, some still have their cases pending, while others are already serving sentences.
In subsequent inquiries and assessments after the coup attempt, it was found that rebel soldiers had sabotaged the transmitter facility of the government television station (PTV-4) before taking control of GMA-7. They had also destroyed some transmission lines of RPN-9, preventing it from broadcasting for a time. The lines were restored by about noon time of 27 January, and the station was able to go back on the air. GMA-7 was estimated to have lost about P3 million in the three days that it was not able to broadcast. Electronic equipment from the studios, personal valuables, and cash from the offices were found missing after the rebels had left. The GMA-7 canteen lost P45,000 when it was ransacked. Thirty-five people, mostly civilians, were reported to have been wounded during the GMA-7 incident.110
It was said that the rebels, at some point, also tried to take Camp Aguinaldo, the MND building, and Fort Bonifacio, but were repulsed by government troops. This could be connected with the report that the Special Anti-Terrorist Battalion, the same one attached to the MND during the November 1986 coup attempt, had been observed making some movements. There reportedly had been military men in formation in front of the MND building, although not the size of a battalion. In his testimony before the Commission in June 1990, Mison admitted that the unit had remained surprisingly intact by 27 January 1987, despite previous attempts to dismantle it and the fact that Honasan was no longer at MND.
On 21 January 1987, perhaps in anticipation of future coup attempts, Defense Minister Ileto created an AFP Board of Officers headed by the Inspector General, BGen Hermogenes Peralta, Jr (PMA ’59), tasked to investigate destabilizing activities against the government. Just six days after its establishment, the Board had its first coup to investigate. Among some of its findings in relation to the 27 January 1987 coup attempt were the following:
1. Most of the Guardians and prominent personalities (military and civilian) who had participated in the 6 July 1986-Manila Hotel incident were also involved in the 27 January 1987 coup attempt.111
2. There definitely had been support given to the military coup plotters from the civilian sector, mostly in the form of food, refreshments, use of homes and vehicles, and other resources. In at least one residential compound in Little Baguio, San Juan, for example, food and refreshments had been prepared for those who participated in the GMA-7 incident.
3. The leaders of the GMA-7 incident were identified to have been Col Rolando Abadilla PC (he was subsequently acquitted), Col Oscar Canlas PAF, Maj Ruben Sagmit PA, and Maj Manuel Divina PC.
As a direct response by the executive branch of government to the coup, and to prevent its being caught by surprise again in the future, President Aquino created a Cabinet Crisis Committee on 28 January 1987. Its task was “to attend to the matter of preventing a recurrence of the 27 January 1987 attempted coup and how to meet a similar situation, should it occur.”112 The Committee was composed of Dr Soriano as chairman, in his capacity as National Security Director; Ministers Jose Concepcion, Jr, Aquilino Pimentel, Jr, Alfredo Bengzon, and Vicente Paterno as members. The composition of the Committee altered when Pimentel and Paterno subsequently resigned to run for the Senate. Later, other government officials were also included.
Still another response to the coup was the official designation of the National Capital Region Defense Command (NCRDC) about a week after the 27 January attempt. It was specifically assigned as the unit responsible for the security of Metro Manila amidst the destabilizing activities launched against the government. The NCRDC was not really a new unit. The counter-coup composite forces that make it up were organized right after the EDSA Revolt by then Vice Chief of Staff Lt Gen Mison, on orders of CSAFP Gen Ramos because “the situation was so unstable.” The January 1987 coup simply formalized its existence, an act that perhaps could be interpreted as immense foresight, given the important role the NCRDC played in the defense of the government in succeeding coup attempts.
The clearest response to the attempt of 27 January was the people’s overwhelming ratification of the 1987 Constitution on 2 February. The new Charter confirmed the legitimacy of the government and emphasized the primacy of civilian authority over the military, a provision found in several of its sections. This should have sent an unmistakable message to the coup plotters that the people preferred to settle political questions through electoral processes, rather than through violence or civil disruption. However, the message seemed to have been lost on the coup plotters because within two months thereafter, they launched another coup attempt.
E. April 1987 “Black Saturday” Incident
Prior to the “Black Saturday Mutiny”, as the 18 April coup attempt has been called, the political situation was again volatile. The campaigns for congressional seats were just winding up in preparation for the first legislative polls since the fall of the dictator, scheduled for 11 May. Opposition candidates had been lambasting the Aquino administration for its alleged corruption and insincerity, for the breakdown in peace and order conditions, for the alarming power outage that hit all of Luzon, for the worsening water shortage problem due to the nationwide drought, for pegging the price of cement which had led to hoarding, and for just about every other problem that plagued the country at the time.113
However, some of the complaints did have their bases. Insurgency, for example, had escalated within Metro Manila and in the countryside. Some three weeks before the coup attempt in April, 200 communist guerrillas had brazenly raided two police stations and a PC detachment in Polillo Island in Quezon province. Heavy military reinforcements were supposed to have been sent to the area but had been stalled because of reported ambush plans for the military teams.
On the same day that the coup attempt was launched, two bombs had exploded, one after the other, at the Colgate-Palmolive complex in Makati at 4:25 a.m., then at the Philippine Refining Company compound at 4:45a.m. Nobody was injured in either blast although glass windows and lighting fixtures were destroyed in the first explosion. The police could not be sure if the bombs were related to the coup attempt at Fort Bonifacio, but it had been speculated that they could have been meant as some form of diversionary tactic. Just a month before, three bombs had exploded at the PMA grandstand four days before President Aquino was scheduled to address the graduating cadets at that very stage. Four people were killed, while 43 were wounded by the explosion. AH these terroristic activities added to the people’s feelings of political insecurity and confusion.
The coup plot had been hatched in a series of meetings, mostly among enlisted personnel and Guardian members. Later investigations revealed Cabauatan as the mastermind of the attempt. Early intelligence reports mentioned a meeting of Cabauatan’s group on 4 February 1987 at East Rembo, Fort Bonifacio (a subdivision where many enlisted men and their families live). The coup, which entailed a takeover of the Army headquarters, was to have been launched on 13 March but did not push through due to lack of support. On 15 March, another meeting was reportedly held, this time at the residence of a former assemblyman at Greenhills, with Zumel, Mrs Romeo Daclan, Abadilla, Cabauatan, TSgt William Quitulvo, and ex-Cpl Nestor Bete in attendance, among others. Zumel and Abadilla had allegedly promised the plotters financial support.114
The coup plotters met again on 3 April at a house in Philamlife Homes, Quezon City, where Cabauatan allegedly gave out eleven M16 rifles, three radio sets, countersign patches, P10,000 to Quitulvo, and P500 each to former enlisted men, Bete and TSgt Ernesto Librado. A similar meeting was held at a coffee shop on Ortigas Avenue and EDSA where Cabauatan gave Librado seven M16 rifles and more money. Still at another meeting in Philamlife Homes on 14 April, the same people met with the addition of Nilo Tayag, Alona Alegre, and Cesar Zagala, all known Marcos supporters.115
Intelligence reports show that at a meeting in Quezon City on 16 April, Cabauatan directed Librado and Bete to go to Quezon province and give P20,000 to Majs Aromin and Jamora. By then, the plotters had been discussing more drastic actions (e.g., bomb Malacañang) to pressure President Aquino to step down from office, restore Marcos to the presidency and create a military junta.116
The attempt was launched on 18 April, Easter weekend. At around 4:00 p.m., Librado led a group of 13 enlisted personnel aboard a jeep owned by Daclan and a yellow six-wheeler truck to ram through Gate 1 of Fort Bonifacio. Shooting wildly, they drove straight to the 202 MP Coy stockade where, assisted by eight MP soldiers from inside, they released the 108 military men detained there, most of whom participated in the 27 January coup attempt. However, only 42 of the 108 men joined them. In the meantime, the gate guards had alerted the Army Operations Center (AOC), which then ordered the closing of all entries to Fort Bonifacio and the augmentation of guards at all gates.
At about 5:00 p.m., the rebels proceeded to the Provost Marshal’s headquarters where they raided the armory, then went on to the Headquarters Philippine Army (HPA) building where they converted the office of the army chief of staff to their command post. Meanwhile, Bete and his group, who had previously been given other instructions, decided to join the rest of the mutineers at the HPA, bringing with them civilian and military passengers of the 12 cars they had intercepted along the way, as their hostages.
At 7:00 a.m., there was an exchange of gunfire between the rebels and the government security forces deployed around the HPA. Camp authorities had arranged to selectively deactivate telephone lines to prevent the rebels from calling for reinforcements. In other parts of the city, security had been beefed up at Malacañang and the other military camps, while the roads to Manila were supposedly secured to stop any possible reinforcements of rebel troops coming from the provinces. Ramos later said that the mutineers apparently had not intended to hold out in the camp and were forced to do so only upon realizing that all exits had been closed and were heavily guarded.117
At 7:30 a.m., a telephone negotiation with the acknowledged leader of the group, Librado, was conducted while government forces tightened the security ring around the HPA building. An eyewitness photographer recalled that at least four Scorpion light tanks, several armored cars, and jeeps mounted with machine guns surrounded the building.118
At 10:00 a.m., the mutineers fired at the government forces from the second floor where they had by then retreated to. Half an hour later, the government troops had entered the HPA building and secured the first floor. At 11:00 a.m., another telephone negotiation went on for the rebels to surrender, which they did half an hour later. The rebels admitted that they gave up after they realized they were “outnumbered and outgunned”. One said they surrendered after a light tank fired a shell at the building as a prelude to an attack.119 By 12:15, the HPA building had been completely cleared of the rebels, following President Aquino’s earlier directive to Ramos and Canieso “to resolve the problem before noon”.
Of the 56 mutineers estimated to have participated in the “Black Saturday Incident” (also known as the “Enlisted Men’s Revolt”), there were 45 who surrendered, 10 escaped, and one died. Some of the mutineers had white armbands with the initials “NAP” printed on them, Presumably signifying “Nationalist Armed Forces of the Philippines,” an organization allegedly created by Cabauatan with anti-communist aims. Others, like Librado, had black triangular tattoos on their upper arms with the words “Guardians Revolt”. Librado was a “dishonorably discharged” member of the Marcos security forces who allegedly had missing since February 1986. He was said to be a member of the Guardians Centre Foundation, Inc (GCFI), a splinter group of the GBI, founded by Honasan.
Military interrogators had quoted some of the rebel surrenderees as admitting that the assault at Fort Bonifacio had been “part of a bigger plot to topple the Aquino government. This included the attempt to take over the International School in Makati and hold children of foreign diplomats enrolled at the school as hostages and the takeover of media establishments and vital public utilities.”120 It was also discovered that most of the mutineers were former members of the military and came from Nueva Ecija. From among those detained at the MP Stockade who had joined the mutineers, it was found out that they were former men of Cabauatan, who had been part of that rebel force intercepted at the Balintawak Toll Gate during the 27 January 1987 coup attempt.
The rebels allegedly had similar grievances and demands as those articulated in the past coup attempts: that President Aquino’s approach towards insurgency was too “soft”; that she should sack the alleged “leftists” in her Cabinet; that the communists were winning because the President was weak; and that the present Cabinet set-up was corrupt and inefficient.121 In a telephone interview with DZRH at the time of the siege, a leader of the mutineers who had identified himself only as “Col Avila” asserted: “Our demand is to let the people from Malacañang turn over the country to the military for the time being.” He had also said, “We are going to fight to the last drop of our blood. We hope this is going to be the last revolt.”122
In the after-coup assessment, it was found that there was only one casualty, a mutineer, ex-Sgt Toto de Guzman, while seven had been wounded (three rebels and four civilians). Not much had been materially damaged except for the gate that the rebels had destroyed to enter Fort Bonifacio, and the HPA building that had been left pockmarked with bullets. The damage was more perhaps on the image of the country faced with these obviously recurring coup threats. Although the attempt to destabilize the government on 18 April, a few weeks before the elections, had failed miserably, questions were raised about the administration’s ability to survive more attempts in the future. Consequently, however, the government appeared to have been strengthened somehow by the attempt as was evidenced by the electoral exercise. Not even the claims of “mass fraud” by the opposition party, Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD), after the polls could throw doubt on the legitimacy of the elections and of President Aquino’s administration. Two cornerstones of democracy had been laid — the Constitution and Congress.
After undergoing court-martial, the 41 non-commissioned officers who participated in the “Black Saturday” incident were acquitted. For his part, Cabauatan was sentenced to 12 year s and one day imprisonment at hard labor, similar to the sentence given some of those in the GMA-7 coup attempt.
On 15 June 1987, after five months of investigations, the AFP Board of Officers headed by the Inspector General came up with its conclusions regarding the January as well as the April 1987 coup attempts.123 Some of the findings on the Black Saturday incident include the following:
1. The participation of the Guardians surfaced in both coup attempts (i.e., many of those investigated, detained or facing charges were identified with or admitted Guardian membership).
2. Failure of the intelligence community to follow up leads (e.g., previous meetings held, etc.) which could have nipped in the bud such activities.
3. The groups identified as being involved in coup attempts, particularly the Guardians, have become so pervasive and influential that some officers have joined these groups in order to have some leverage over their own subordinates, thereby obviously relegating their positions as military commanders behind those of their positions as members of the fraternity.
4. Interviews with those implicated in the coups reveal that their sentiments favored Marcos, Ver or Enrile. Also, many viewed the proliferation of fraternal associations within the AFP as military men taking it upon themselves to bring about better treatment for themselves, since they felt that not enough attention is being given them. Others felt that they are neglected, treated badly or ostracized for being Marcos loyalists.
5. In the 18 April 1987 attempt, although the plotters conducted their various meetings at the residences of civilians, the Board supposedly could find no other evidence to warrant the civilians’ prosecution before the appropriate court.
6. Substantial funds had been provided to the participants of the 27 January as well as the 18 April 1987 attempts.
The Board’s recommendations included the following:
1. Dismantling of all fraternal organizations within the AFP, except those authorized by law;
2. Assignment of “stigmatized” officers and enlisted personnel to positions commensurate to their skills, training, experience, and overall potential;
3. Vigorous and sustained indoctrination and reorientation; and
4. The intelligence community should closely follow up leads related to destabilizing efforts.
F. July 1987 MIA Takeover Plot
The most obscure of the attempts at military intervention is the one that was exposed in the press in July 1987 probably because, like the “God Save The Queen” plot in November 1986, it was a “non-event” — meaning, it had been discovered before it could be launched.
As far as the limited information available reveals, there seemed to have been two separate plots to overthrow President Aquino’s government in July. One was publicly exposed by then Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairman Ramon Diaz at a press conference on 9 July. He used as evidence the taped conversation of former President Marcos with Robert Chastain, a French businessman, and American attorney Richard Hirschfeld, a former Marcos lawyer. The two were supposedly acting as middle-men in the sale of arms to Marcos. The three-hour conversation took place at Marcos’s beachside residence-in-exile in Hawaii on 27 May and was secretly recorded by Hirschfeld. Diaz, however, claimed that three tapes of the conversation were furnished to him only in June during his trip to the US. He, in turn, gave copies of the tapes to President Aquino on 12 June during the Independence Day reception at Malacañang.
The taped conversation revealed that Marcos wanted to buy “from a European country” some 1,000 Armalite rifles, ammunition good for three months, 90 mm recoilless rifles, 100 .50 cal machine guns, 100 grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers, Stinger air-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles, laser-sighting tanks, Blowpipe anti-tank equipment, helicopter gunships, and other weapons. He was planning to launch an invasion on the Philippines to be staged from Tonga, where the King was his personal friend and had offered him his island in the South Pacific. However, he would be using Hongkong as the transshipment point for the arms to be used in the operations, originally scheduled for end of June, but was supposedly changed to mid-July, for some reason.124
The purchase of weapons worth some $25 million was supposed to be financed by a loan from Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Fassi and repaid with gold Marcos claimed to have hidden in the Philippines. The plan was to land in northern Luzon, presumably in his home province, “and if they oppose the landing,… that’s when we start the battles,” declared Marcos in the tapes. Regarding what will happen to President Aquino, Marcos said they would “hold her hostage or, if necessary. . . .” Although left unsaid, assassination seemed to have been implied.
What was interesting in this belatedly exposed invasion plot, besides its fanciful scenario, was its simultaneous revelation in Washington, DC before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs. On 9 July, the subcommittee heard the Marcos tapes along with the testimonies of Chastain and Hirschfeld, who disclosed that they had posed as middlemen in the deal to get Marcos the weaponry, and had taped the conversation allegedly on their own initiative after they had failed to get US Justice Department backing for the activity.125 The evidence from the hearings and pressure from the US Congress had supposedly prompted the State Department to place Marcos under severe travel restrictions (i.e., barring him from leaving Oahu island where his beachhouse is located).
In a written statement released to the press from Hawaii on 12 July, Marcos claimed that “The discussion in the tapes concerning arms and military action was premised on the prediction of the loss of the Philippines to a communist takeover or to a communist coalition with Mrs Aquino, and that the only hope of restoring freedom and democracy there would be a US-approved invasion which I would lead.”126 He did not, however, deny at any point the tape’s contents.
The highly incredible invasion plot and the rather bizarre circumstances surrounding its revelation had induced most people to laugh it off or dismiss it as being just one more of those coup rumors. The military leadership downplayed the story. AFP spokesman then Col Honesto Isleta (PMA ’58) said that they doubted the veracity of the story. Although they did not question the tapes’ authenticity, they think Marcos knew he was being taped so “he was giving this message to boost the sagging morale” of his supporters.127 On the other hand, President Aquino was “pleased” about the US warning to the ousted dictator against moves to topple her government.
Barely a week after the Marcos tapes had been made public in Manila and in Washington, DC, news of another coup had leaked to the press on 13 July. This had followed the order to arrest at least 20 more military officers implicated in the new plot by an Army major, who had been nabbed on 10 July and had supposedly confessed. The new coup plot was said to have been codenamed “Oplan Inang Bayan” and had consisted of two substage operations: Luisita I and Luisita II. The first allegedly involved an assault by helicopter gunships at the MIA and the holding of foreign hostages who would be used as shields against government troops. The second phase called for an attack on VAB also by helicopter gunships, aimed at disabling all military aircraft there. Then CAPCOM Chief BGen Alexander Aguirre said that the coup had the financial backing of a right-wing group of civilians and politicians who were said to be Marcos supporters. He added that the series of bombings in the last weeks prior to the discovery of the plot appeared to have been related to the coup bid.
Newspaper accounts mentioned that the coup plotters supposedly consisted of two colonels, one on absent-without-official-leave (AWOL) status and the other still in active service; two majors in active service and holding sensitive posts at the time; two captains; six PAF officers; four Army officers; and a Marine officer. It was said that a former military officer who ran in the 11 May polls under the opposition party was also allegedly involved. Some of the officers were said to have been identified with Enrile, while the others, with Ramos.128
Reports revealed that the coup had been planned during several meetings in Makati. On 24 June, at 10:00 p.m., a meeting was said to have been held lasting until midnight, with the attendance of Abadilla; a Col Espejo; Majs Divina, Almario Hilario (PMA ’73), Brillo, and Ribaya. The agenda reportedly included the plan to occupy the MIA and VAB, and to establish a Council of State.129 Another meeting was supposedly held on 2 July.
Other bits of information included the plotters’ having sought the assistance of the Guardians, who had reportedly promised to provide 3,000 fully armed members, while a Marine officer pledged 400 of his men. A big food conglomerate was supposed to have promised to help the rebels by providing them with food during the execution of the coup.130
On 15 July, news reports came out regarding six unnamed military officers being questioned about the most recent coup plot. Defense Secretary Ileto, while confirming the interrogation, had said the officers under question “will not be arrested. Nor can they be liable to charges for their alleged participation in the plot.” He added that while the supposed plotters might have considered staging a coup, nothing was actually done. “Anybody can sit down and drink beer and say a lot of things. But to actually accuse you is a different question.” It would have been different if the plotters tried something like the attempt to capture Fort Bonifacio and their short-lived occupation of GMA-7, he further qualified.131
Although the coup plot had been admittedly “neutralized”, the attitude of the military regarding additional information about it seemed confusing, if not contradictory. While acknowledging that there indeed had been another coup plot, it tried to downplay its importance. And yet, speculations increased when the military leadership suddenly declared a news blackout by ordering all officers to withhold further information on the plot other than what had already been published in the press. Col Isleta said that this was because the military did not want to “jeopardize ongoing investigations on the plot.”132 However, no other information has ever been released on “Oplan Inang Bayan” since then. There is a case pending in the military court (People of the Philippines vs. Maj Manuel Divina, et al) regarding the MIA takeover attempt on 2 July 1987, with four officers named as the principal coup participants.133 These four are Maj Manuel Divina, Maj Romeo Elefante, Capt Reynaldo Regacho, and Capt Christopher Mesias. Elefante was acquitted, while Divina, and Regacho have not been arraigned because they are still at-large. Mesias was recently arrested. The July 1987 plot remains a perplexing incident in the line of past attempts at military intervention in the Philippines.
G. August 1987 Coup Attempt
Weeks before the 28 August coup attempt, the political atmosphere was again particularly tense and extremely uncertain. Labor unrest in the cities and the dim prospects for land reform in the countryside dominated many political debates, even as Congress formally opened on 27 July. There were talks of postponing the local elections originally scheduled for November to sometime in January or February, upon recommendation of the COMELEC (they were eventually held on 18 January 1988).
Earlier, a spate of bombings had rocked Manila, making the populace unusually jumpy. Tensions peaked on 14 August when the government announced an 80-centavo increase in oil prices. The widespread public outcry against the hike extended among the different sectors and social classes in society. Strikes and demonstrations were held all over the country, followed by the intermittent violent dispersals of protestors, which elicited even more public protests. Transportation and work stoppages were resorted to, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in the streets, or work places abandoned. The militant labor unions and student organizations, who were at the forefront of the protests, had declared a nationwide Welgang Bayan starting from 26 August. Despite a price cutback ordered by the President on the eve of the 26th, the national strike successfully pushed through, paralyzing 11 cities.
It is said that the RAM-HFs original launching date for the coup was 29 August, but it was moved a day earlier to coincide with the culmination of the Welgang Bayan, when thousands of protestors were expected to be out in the streets. The plan of the rebels appeared to have been identical to the November 1986 “God Save The Queen” coup plot, with minor adjustments. Reportedly codenamed “A Star Will Fall, The Sun Will Rise,”134 the plan called for the takeover of Malacañang, key military installations, and radio and television stations in Metro Manila. With the occupations of the Palace and Camp Aguinaldo, which are the symbols of civil government and military authority, respectively, the coup plotters would have used the media stations to broadcast their propaganda in order to generate support from both the civilian and military sectors. The takeover of VAB and other airports, such as the one in Legaspi City, was expected to provide pick-up points for reinforcements from areas under their influence to be airlifted to Manila, the seat of government and therefore the principal battleground. By controlling these key installations for a period of time, the coup plotters expected military units as well as hordes of civilians to defect to their side.
During the coup, there were at least eight areas of major conflict between the rebels and government forces, and numerous other areas of what could be considered as minor confrontation. The eight were Malacañang, Camp Aguinaldo, PTV-4/Camelot Hotel, Broadcast City, VAB, RECOM 3-Camp Olivas, RECOM 7-Cebu, and Legaspi Airport. In the one-and-a-half-day mutiny, the rebels were able to control, at least for a time, seven of the areas mentioned above, with the exception of Malacañang.
A review of intelligence reports prior to the August coup shows that, like in many of the past attempts, there was not really a lack of information, but perhaps more a deficiency in the follow-up of leads and potential sources of information, as well as the collation and evaluation of all such data. For example, on 10 July 1987, Honasan and a certain CPO Raquion were frequently monitored at Signal Village in Fort Bonifacio, while on 22 July, Nueva Ecija local officials reported that massive recruitment of police and military men by RAM-HF officers was taking place in their area purportedly for anti-insurgency operations. Regular meetings were supposedly being held to discuss perceived threats of a communist takeover, and yet these leads were not followed up. On 3 July, Lt Col Legaspi was said to have solicited Aromin’s support “in case the core group that triggered the February ’86 revolution would again move to save the country from communists.” When Aromin asked what his role would be in the effort, Legaspi allegedly told him he would inform him about it in the near future. Aromin and Legaspi were neighbors then in Fort Bonifacio. It must be remembered that Aromin was the CO of the 49 IB in February 1986 and one of those arrested and publicly presented by Marcos as having been involved in the RAM plot against him. His name surfaced again in November 1986 when he brought most of his men to Manila to participate in the “God Save The Queen” plot.
Other intelligence reports included the supposed plan to liquidate the CSAFP and the PAF Chief by the groups of Hilario and Baula. The plan also included the takeover of VAB and the bombing of Malacañang. On 5 August, a report was received that some 2,000 troops would be led by a provincial commander in RECOM 3 who would take over key government installations and selected media facilities in Metro Manila. The move was to have been followed by similar military actions in other key cities in the country. On 15 August, an open meeting was reported of officers formerly identified with Enrile and the defunct PSC-NISA. I he meeting could have been considered a normal one except for the Presence of Lt Col Reynaldo Berroya PC (PMA ’69) who had been previously reported to be meeting with different AFP units and the Chief of Staff, PSG. On 19 August, another intelligence report stated that key Personalities in the AFP were included as targets by disgruntled elements in the military in a coup attempt to be undertaken at a given signal.135 It was said that a military junta would be established composed mostly 0 young officers. More reports of an impending coup kept coming in. On 22 August, the PC Vice Chief of Staff called for an emergency meeting to verify the persistent reports reaching their headquarters out a plan to overthrow the government by way of assaults on Malacañang, military camps in Metro Manila and other parts of the country and media stations. Civilian and military personalities were said to have been earmarked for “neutralization.” On the same day, red alert status was declared at VAB. The following day, the situation became even more tense when a telephone call received by some civilian employees of Camp Crame from their relatives who are soldiers warned them “not to stay out late at night”, and that the critical period was anytime within the month.136 On 27 August, reports were received about two separate meetings of plotters. One said that during a meeting at a restaurant in Timog Avenue, Quezon City, orders were given that the loyalists would move on 28 August at 2:00 a.m. Target areas would be Malacañang, military camps, media stations, and key government officials perceived to be “communists”. It was said that simultaneous actions would be initiated in Cebu, Davao, and other provinces. The other meeting was supposedly at the Grand Atrium in Makati and talked about the Guardians launching an attack on all AFP installations. Although it is understandably difficult to verify and process the numerous bits of information received by the different intelligence units of the military, having the capability to do so and sharing this information with the civilian authorities would probably improve the government’s security.
As early as 20 August, key officers of the units that would be mobilized by the rebels for the coup appeared to have known their launching date. The 14 IB stationed in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija, under Lt Col Melchor Acosta, Jr (PMA ’71) was alerted for action, using the scheduled visit of President Aquino to the RUC 3 as a cover. Company commanders Capt Danilo Baguio and 2Lt Rolando Cailing (PMA ’85) were supposed to prepare for the security of the President during the visit, on orders allegedly received from the headquarters (HQ) of the 3 Bde. On 23 August, in Camarines Sur, 16 IB company commander Lt Hernando Caraig, Jr (PMA ’84) supposedly received information that something was going to happen in Manila. Thus, he and Maj Eufemio Santos prepared a troop movement plan the next day. On 25 August, Nueva Ecija PC Provincial Commander Eduardo Matillano placed his command on red alert, directed all his officers to prepare their strike forces to be on call within 24 hours for combat operation, and to bring provisions and clothing good for three days.
On the morning of 27 August, 14 IB company commander Cailing called his three platoon leaders, Lt James Joven (PMA ’84), 2Lt Alberto Gulmayo, and 2Lt Romulo Evangelista, for a meeting and gave them instructions to restrict their personnel to camp, prepare one week’s provisions, and check firearms and ammunition for possible deployment anytime. Baguio did the same for his company. By 5:00 p.m., seven officers and 117 enlisted men of the 14 IB were ready to move out. Acosta conducted a briefing of the troops. He told them their mission would no longer be to provide security for the President’s visit, but instead would be to go to Manila to act as a “blocking force” at Ayala Bridge against a supposed impending attack on Malacañang, after which they would converge at Camp Aguinaldo. Their rendezvous point would be the Sta Rita toll gate on the North Expressway.
Meanwhile, the Special Operations School (SOS) of the PATRACOM in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, was on “red alert” because of a scheduled visit of the CSAFP. The SOS then was under the command of Honasan, assisted by Maj Rodolfo Lazaro. It had a Scout Ranger (SR) department under it, headed by Capt Ernesto Lasco, with Capt Faustino Dantes as his assistant and Capt Roque Calagui, Jr as the administrative officer. At that time, the SOS was conducting SR training for three classes: SR Class #87-87 under Capt Dominador Lina, SR Class #88-87 under Lt Edmundo Malabanjot, and SR Class #89-87 under Capt Fidel Legiralde, as course directors. On 27 August, at around 10:00 p.m., the whole group of SR trainees with their officers left Nueva Ecija to link up with the other groups at the Sta Rita toll gate. Some of them were told they would be on a graded practical exercise and test mission, while others were simply ordered to board the trucks waiting for them. Lina pulled out 105 of his students on combat maneuver exercise in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija to bring them directly to Camp Aguinaldo on the morning of 28 August.
At the Regimental Training School (RTS) of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) in San Miguel, Bulacan, the 94 new recruits attending an SR Orientation Course were ordered to board an M35 truck and were brought to the Sta Rita toll gate, passing by the junction of Tartaro and Maharlika Highway where some of the men transferred to a waiting BaliwagTransit bus. Lt Mario Antonio, OIC, 6th Company, FSRR, also based in San Miguel, mustered 14 of his men armed with three days’ provisions, and headed for the rendezvous point. On the other hand, Capt Reynaldo Ordonez (PMA ’78) and his men arrived at the Army detachment in San Miguel, where they teamed up with the armor platoon of the 2 LAC led by SSgt Abraham Valenton, and then went to join the convoy parked at the national highway of Bulacan with one APC and one V-150 combat vehicle. Valenton claimed that the Army detachment had received a radio message earlier from the 3 IB HQ to bring the V-150 to Camp Aquino, Tarlac. It was later discovered that no such message had been sent and that it had been a ruse to get the armor out.
Maj Abraham Purugganan (PMA ’78), CO, 7th SR Company and about 18 of his men had left Benito Soliven, Isabela on two Land Cruisers at 11:00 a.m. on 27 August. They headed for San Miguel, Bulacan where they joined the batch of vehicles loaded with armed soldiers waiting along the highway. Purugganan’s group later headed directly for Camp Aguinaldo where they secured the Communications-Electronics Service (COMMEL) area during the rebel’s siege.
In the meantime, Lt Col Reynaldo Ochosa (PMA ’72), CO 62 IB, met all of his officers on 27 August at 11:00 a.m. and instructed them to get the men ready for an “operation”. His officers included Capt Daniel Mamaril, battalion operations officer; Maj Manuel Santos, battalion logistics officer; Lt Alfredo Manabat, CO “A” Coy; platoon leaders 2Lts Villamor Belmes, and AmandoEscoto; Capt Felipe Muralla, CO “B” Coy; platoon leaders 2Lts Julian Mamuri, and Pablo Biglete; Capt Andres Fadrigalan, CO “C” Coy; Lt Francisco Atutubo, EX-0 “C” Coy; platoon leaders 2Lt Silver Linsangan and 2Lt Lazaro Alcoba; Capt Evaristo Bilog, CO HQ Svc Coy and his EX-O, Lt Edgardo Chua. Other officers who joined them were Capt Felipe Manlapaz and 2Lt Mario Capaycapay. Earlier, the men had already been alerted for a seven-day operation. Thus, fully armed and led by their officers, some 200 men of the 62 IB boarded 14 vehicles and left their base at Camp Tinio, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija at 10:00 p.m. for a mission known only to a few of them. Upon reaching nearby Sta Rosa, some of the troops transferred to the four Baliwag Transit buses earlier arranged for by the PC provincial headquarters in Cabanatuan City. The convoy arrived at the Sta Rita toll gate at around 11:00 p.m. and waited for the other troops to arrive.
At Camp Aguinaldo, Commo Marcelo called for an informal conference at 4:00 p.m., 27 August, attended by Capt Sonny Sabado and LtSG Alvaran, among others. Marcelo gave instructions on the actions to be taken in the light of a projected rebel attack on the camp. After the conference an hour later, Sabado and Alvaran returned to their unit, the Security and Escort Unit (SEU), to brief their chief, Lt Col Jerry Albano (PMA ’71), who at the time was in a meeting at his office with Lt Jesus Quisano of NCRDC. When Quisano left, he ominously told one of the SEU personnel, “Maghanda kayo at may madugong labanan na mangyayari.”
Still at the camp, Lucas had been gathering a group of people at the lobby of the DND building supposedly to secure the Defense Department against any untoward incident. This began in the early evening of 27 August and went on all night. They were later able to pressure Rolando Cabral, Supply Accountable Officer, to issue them weapons from the DND supply room. At 12:45 a.m., 28 August, CSAFP Ramos and Vice Chief of Staff de Villa decided to set up a GHQ advance command post at Camp Crame after receiving continuous intelligence reports of unauthorized troop formations in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan. Montano and later on, Ermita were assigned to take charge of GHQ, while the other service commanders were contacted and apprised of the situation. Ramos contacted Col Voltaire Gazmin, PSG commander, and discussed the adequacy of Malacañang’s defenses in view of the unusually large force reportedly moving toward Manila.
Soriano, then chairman of the Cabinet Crisis Committee and National Security Adviser, joined Ramos and de Villa at Camp Crame a little after 1:00 a.m. Soriano said he learned about the coup at 1:00 a.m. through one of his contacts in Davao. He contacted Ramos immediately who, in turn, asked him to join the battle staff at Crame. Weeks before the coup, the Crisis Committee had been meeting every other week. They knew something was brewing but did not know when it would be launched.137
In the meantime, the rebel troops had all arrived at the Sta Rita toll gate by midnight. All the men were instructed to transfer their flag patches over their breast pocket with the red portion on top. Honasan instructed Acosta and his men from 14 IB to head for the Ayala bridge near Malacañang. Most of the elements from the SOS PATRACOM and the RTS FSRR were to go directly to Camp Aguinaldo. It is not clear which troops Honasan himself led, but it may be surmised that he had under him a composite group made up of men from the units that met at the Sta Rita toll gate.
At about 1:45 a.m., 28 August, the rebels launched their attack on Malacañang. Some 20 rebels ransacked the armory of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force of the PSG at the foot of Nagtahan bridge. They attacked Malacañang from two directions along Aguila and J P Laurel Streets, but were blocked by PSG and CAPCOM elements deployed at all possible approaches. A firefight ensued, where several men from both sides were killed or wounded. The V-150 under the command of rebel Capt Reynaldo Ordonez (PMA ’78) was confronted by a Scorpion tank coming torn the Malacañang area near St Jude Church. After Ordonez spoke with its driver, the tank withdrew and the V-150 later left for Camp Aguinaldo. The 62 IB led by Ochosa arrived at the Nagtahan bridge area 2:00 a.m., passing through La Loma. They engaged in a firefight with government troops, where three of their companions were killed while two were wounded. After about 30 minutes, they too headed for Camp Aguinaldo. The men of the 14 IB led by Acosta arrived at the Ayala bridge at around 2:30 a.m. and were deployed on both ends of the bridges.
Later, after hearing shots from the area of Malacañang, they fired three rounds of flares to signal their withdrawal to Camp Aguinaldo.
Unable to get into Malacañang, the rest of the rebel troops under Honasan headed for Camp Aguinaldo through the Sta Mesa route. But in the course of their withdrawal, they shot at civilian onlookers who were jeering at them, killing 11 and wounding 54. Earlier, they had also fired at the convoy of President Aquino’s son, Noynoy, who was then rushing home to Arlegui near Malacañang. Noynoy was wounded, while his bodyguard was killed. Two other people died, and a third one was seriously wounded in the car behind them.138 The Marine reinforcements led by Biazon composed of five companies and four LVTs arrived at the Malacañang area at 4:30 a.m., but the rebels had by then withdrawn to Camp Aguinaldo.
G.2. Camp Aguinaldo
At 1:00 a.m., just before the rebel attack on the Palace, the DBX telephone system at Camp Aguinaldo was evidently subverted, rendering the AFP communication network inoperative. When two technicians tried to fix it, Maj Romeo Ranay (PMA ’74) of the AFP Computer System Center told them to keep it shut, allegedly on orders of Erfe. It remained shut for 13 1/2 hours. Ranay would return, several hours later, with orders to call up the Antipolo radio relay station and likewise shut off the repeaters there. The orders were complied with.
Meanwhile, Marcelo was informed at 2:00 a.m. that the 2nd GHQ Battalion, composed of three companies and one APC, led by Col Luisito Sanchez (PMA ’67) and five armored vehicles under the PALAB unit of Lt Col Luis Severo Melendez would be arriving to help secure Camp Aguinaldo. When they entered the camp, they were instructed to go to the GHQ grandstand and for Sanchez to report to the camp commander. However, instead of going to Marcelo’s office, Sanchez went to the DND building to speak with Erfe. Later, in the crucial confrontation between rebels and government forces, Sanchez and Melendez would again refuse to follow orders to attack the rebel troops, saying “The Cory government is not worth dying for.”139 In fact, by 4:00 a.m., members of the PALAB unit had removed their flag patches and ammunition from their machine guns.
A similar “neutral” behavior was observed of the SEU under Albano and Sabado. Both officers were later found to have ordered their men to stay in their barracks, instead of reinforcing the GHQ building, as had been their instructions. Albano and Sabado were subsequently found guilty of failure to do their utmost to suppress a mutiny or sedition in violation of Articles of War 68 (AW 68).
At 3:00 a.m., the rebel forces under Lt Col Acosta, CO 14 IB, arrived outside Camp Aguinaldo’s Gate 1 but did not initiate any hostile action, until the long convoy of military vehicles and civilian buses full of heavily-armed mutineers arrived shortly after. Acosta’s men again fired three flare shots to signal their arrival to other rebels inside the camp. Honasan then demanded entry through Gate 1 but was refused by Templo, then NCRDC Chief of Staff, together with Marcelo and Col Pedro Juachon (PMA ’58), AFP Provost Marshal. Juachon reportedly told Honasan to return to Nueva Ecija with his men, but Honasan replied: “No way, sir. We came here and we’ve decided to stay.” Juachon further told him: “Gringo, it might help to let you know that we already have the order to hit you now, kawawa naman ang mga mamamatay mong tauhan because we will hit your tank with our tanks and the armor column is on its way out to Boni Serrano.” Honasan supposedly answered, “It’s alright, sir, we are prepared to neutralize your tanks.”140
Failing to enter through Gate 1, the rebels went around Camp Aguinaldo through the White Plains Road and looked for a break into the camp. Meanwhile, Lucas, with some 30 heavily armed men, left the DND building and went to Gate 5 where they overpowered the guards and forced them to open the gate, thus allowing Honasan’s troops in. By about 5:00 a.m., rebel forces were inside the camp and were taking up their assigned positions. The 14 IB elements were deployed in the premises of Gates 2 and 3. Those from the 62 IB took charge of the area fronting the W Soliven building on EDSA, while Ochosa established his tactical command post at the Golf Club building. The SOS elements were deployed at Honasan’s residence, the KKK, and the golf course. The SR Class #87-87 under Lina guarded the DND and COMMEL buildings, while SR Class #89-87 occupied positions in the area of the Mapping Center and the Civil Relations Service (CRS). The elements of the RTS PSRR also occupied the CRS and Mapping Center surroundings, and the front of the GHQ building. The SR Class #88-87 were deployed in the golf course area. The 6 SR Coy under Antonio were initially deployed in the vicinity of the CRS HQ, then transferred to the area of the Officers’ (Row) Quarters. The 7 SR Coy under Purugganan, on the other hand, secured the COMMEL area.
After overpowering the guards at Gate 5, the group of Lucas went back to the DND building which served as rebel headquarters for the duration of the siege. Honasan had instructed the group of SOS (organic) Personnel to position themselves within the perimeter of his house. He told them their mission in going to Camp Aguinaldo was “to negotiate for the welfare of the Filipino”.141 Ordoñez, for his part, also entered through Gate 5 in the V-150. After refueling at the camp, he went to PTV-4, then later came back to Camp Aguinaldo where he eventually abandoned the tank and its crew at 3:30 p.m. on 28 August.
Earlier, Marcelo had sent Alvaran to Gate 5 to check what was happening there. Alvaran met Honasan along the way. Honasan allegedly told him: “Why did your MP try to stop us from entering our camp. I came here to reinforce you because the Aquino government has already sold us to the communists. Join me because what we are fighting for is for our children.”142 As Honasan answered a call on his handheld radio, Alvaran left and reported to Marcelo.
In the meantime, an SEU reaction force led by Capt Vicente Cervano had been sent from within the camp to augment the guards at Gate 5, not realizing that it had already been completely overrun by rebels. When the SEU force arrived there, a PC SAF team was also there confronting some 300 heavily-armed rebel Scout Rangers with their supporting tank. Honasan then appeared and tried to win over the government troops. He told the SAF team that his men “will not fight them,” and that they only went there because they had heard “the camp had been attacked by the NPA.” With Honasan’s group were Alcoba and Ordoftez, classmate and armor instructor, respectively, of Cervano. Eventually, both the SAF team and the SEU force backed down. However, government forces were deployed at EDSA from Ortigas Avenue to Gate 5 to seal off the rebels inside the camp.
By 8:00 a.m., the rebel forces had control of Gates 2, 3, 4 and 5, as well as the Communications Center (COMCENTER) and the surroundings of GHQ building. Honasan went around talking with the officers and men, trying to convince them to join the rebel cause. He went to the SEU to speak with Albano and Maj Jose Jamora, HSG commander. Later records show that Albano, Jamora, and Quisano had prior knowledge of the coup. By 9:00 a.m., the rebels had hoisted the inverted Philippine flag to show that they allegedly controlled the whole camp.
At 9:30 a.m., the rebels were operating the armed forces radio DZAF and airing a casette tape which announced that Camp Aguinaldo, VAB, Regions I, II, III, and IV, and Cebu City were under rebel control led by Honasan. They repeatedly played this until 11:00 a.m. when there was a power failure. At 10:00 a.m., Robles and Maj Arsenio Santos, Jr were seen in fatigue uniforms walking towards the grandstand. An eyewitness later narrated that she had seen Robles earlier that morning talking with Mrs Honasan in the tatter’s house, and had overheard him saying, “Atin na ang COMMEL.”143 Robles subsequently denied his participation, and the CSAFP on 19 May 1988 approved the recommendation of the Board of Officers to drop and consider closed the case against Robles.
Meanwhile, successive gunshots were heard all throughout the morning, from around 10:00 until the afternoon. On the government’s side, a team had been sent to the rooftop of the W Soliven building overlooking Camp Aguinaldo, to monitor rebel troop movements. It was reported that boxes of ammunition and recoilless rifles were unloaded by rebels from a combi and Army jeep at the golf course around 10:40 a.m. It had earlier been reported that a helicopter had landed near Honasan’s house loaded with food supplies. Meantime, Marine units from Zamboanga had been flown to Manila as reinforcements. Additional CAPCOM troops from Bicutan were sent to augment the PC forces in Camp Crame. Tanks and more troops were at the ready along EDSA, by the Corinthian Garden area.
At around 11:30 a.m., government soldiers exchanged heavy gunfire with the rebels in front of Camp Crame, and Gates 2 and 3. Several civilian bystanders were hit in the crossfire. A counter attack was launched by the CAPCOM combat group under Nazareno (later reinforced by 100 cadets of the National Police Academy) and a PA Counter-Terrorist (PACT) Battalion led by Col Rene Dado (PMA ’66). A Marine Task Force under Col Braulio Balbas, Jr (PMA ‘6O), with Maj Emmanuel Teodisio (PMA ’72), CO MBLT 2, breached the rebel defenses at Gate 2 shortly afterwards.
Carbonell, CO 703rd Brigade, and his men had been assigned to force their way through Gate 3, then go to the GHQ building to relieve the pressure on MGen Ermita and BGen Montano. However, due to some lack of communication, Dado’s PACT team, who by then had gotten control of Gate 3, were not informed of this, thus a misencounter occurred between both units. However, by mid-afternoon, the Marines managed to forcibly open Gate 3 and assault the rebel 62 IB elements, leading to their eventual surrender.
In the meantime, fighting had broken out in front of the GHQ building, still controlled by Ermita and Montano. A firefight had also started at Gate 4, with three V-150s firing at the rebel troops who were forced to withdraw about 150 meters. Fighting intensified as Logistics Command (LOGCOM) forces attacked the rebels from behind at the DND building. Two rebels were killed. By then, the 14 IB rebel group ofAcostahad withdrawn towards the golf course area. At about 2:00 p.m., rebel soldiers burned the GHQ building to flush out Ermita and Montano. However, an air strike by two Tora-tora planes coming from Sangley Air Base relieved the rebel pressure on the government troops holed up in the GHQ.
From then on, rebel troops gradually began to surrender. Many had earlier separated from their units, changed into civilian clothes and slipped out of the camp. Others had gone to the St Ignatius Chapel to surrender or to wait it out. Honasan was said to have left the camp in a Huey helicopter piloted by Capt Rogelio Seradoy, not long before the air strike by Tora-tora planes. There are at least two versions of Honasan’s escape from Camp Aguinaldo. One states that the helicopter ferried him to VAB, from where he escaped by land and the pilot (Seradoy) later abandoned the Huey at Camp Aquino, Tarlac. The other claims that a pilot, coming from Camp Olivas, flew to Camp Aguinaldo, picked up Honasan and brought him to an undisclosed place in Baguio.144
The government’s air strike and marine attack seemed to have been decisive in the battle at Camp Aguinaldo. By 11:30 p.m., the camp had been cleared of all rebel elements with the capture or surrender of 12 officers, including Lt Cols Acosta and Ochosa, Majs Purugganan and Lazaro, Capts Dantes, Calagui, and Legiralde, among others. With the retaking of Camp Aguinaldo from rebel hands, the other rebel-held areas were easily regained.
G.3. PTV-4/Camelot Hotel and Broadcast City
The troop movements of the rebels who attacked PTV-4 began on 27 August, at 7:00 p.m., when soldiers from the different PC line companies and police stations under the territorial supervision and control of the Nueva Ecija Constabulary Command began arriving at the PC HQ in Cabanatuan City. At 10:30 p.m., all the troops were ordered to board the various vehicles available and proceed to PTV-4, arriving there at around 1:30 a.m. 28 August. Upon arrival at the PTV-4 gate, one of the rebel soldiers shouted, “Ito na,” signaling the exchange of gunfire between the attacking forces and the station’s security force (5 GHQ Bn). The gunbattle ended after an hour, with five of the defending troops wounded.
At 3:00 a.m., Matillano, Nueva Ecija Provincial Commander, and his men, numbering about 120, forcibly entered and occupied the Camelot Hotel, located near the PTV-4 station. One of the hotel executives, who was ordered to cut off the hotel’s internal communication system, overheard Matillano speaking over the telephone with Berroya in Pampanga. Some of the officers with Matillano were Assistant Provincial Commander Maj Eduardo Carino, Capt Jessie Arriola, Capt Cesario Valencia, Capt Antonio de la Cruz, Lt Paterno Orduna, Lt Demetrio Soriano Mamaed, 2Lt Ramon Colet Apolinario (PMA ’85), and 2Lt Magno Biag.
PTV-4 and ABS-CBN, both located in the same compound on Bohol Avenue, went off the air when the network employees and other civilians caught inside began withdrawing from the area at about 9:20 a.m. The outnumbered military security of the station eventually abandoned their posts due to exhaustion, hunger, and uncertainty of reinforcements by midmorning. The rebels then occupied PTV-4 and the Camelot Hotel simultaneously.
At noon, on direct orders from President Aquino, combined elements of the police under P/BGen Alfredo Lim and the PC Special Action Force from Camp Crame led by Maj Avelino Razon, Jr (PMA ’74) attacked the rebels at PTV-4. They were able to regain control of the station an hour and a half after heavy fighting, which resulted in the capture of 12 rebels.
The rest of the rebels under Matillano then withdrew to the Camelot Hotel nearby where they held out until the late evening. A follow-up assault by government forces using two V-150s and 90 mm recoilless rifles, supported by a helicopter gunship, forced the rebels to negotiate their surrender at around 10:00 p.m. However, from mid-afternoon when guests and hotel employees were being allowed to leave, many of the rebels were able to slip out by changing into civilian clothes or uniforms of hotel employees and leaving with the civilians.
On the same day, at 4:30 a.m., another group of rebels led by Maj Benhur Ferandez, 2Lts Marcelino Mendoza (PMA ’81), and Andy Gauran (PMA ’82) went to IBC-13 at Broadcast City and took over the television station. The station’s chief security officer, Rodolfo Demillo, and some 63 soldiers under him put up little resistance. Some of the government troops from the 6 GHQ Bn under Lt Col Arsenio Esguerra, who had been sent to secure the station, even joined the rebel soldiers. These included Lt George Avila (PMA ’84), Capts Jose Cruz, and Wilfredo Milagrosa.
At around 9:00 a.m., RAM-HF officer LtSG Robert Lee (PMA ’81) went to Broadcast City from the rebel-held Camp Aguinaldo. He was accompanied by TSgt Carlito Dematera and MSgt Buenaventura Clavecilla, both from the PC. Lee’s mission was to broadcast over television the rebel’s prepared statement, which he was eventually able to do at 12:00 noon. With other young officers and soldiers in the background, Lee appeared as the rebel spokesman on IBC-13. He denounced the “overindulgence in politics which now pervades in society,” and asserted the rebels’ supposed role and responsibility to “initiate the struggle for justice, equality and freedom which our senior officers had failed to do.” This seemed to unveil the increasingly popular belief, especially among the young officers, that the military, as an important social institution, had the overwhelming prerogative to determine what was good for the country.
After the rebels read their manifesto on the air, IBC-13 as well as RPN-9 were knocked off the air by a power outage arranged by MERALCO. However, some technicians were able to activate their generators and put IBC-13 on the air again for rebel use at about 3:00 p.m. Among the civilians who were later found to have voluntarily and willingly assisted the rebels broadcast their propaganda were Jose and Manuel Jalandoon, Godofredo Lim, Felino Janairo, Domingo Torres, Enrique Ochangco, and Bert Honasan (brother of Lt Col Honasan).
By the evening of 28 August, while the rebels were negotiating their surrender at PTV-4, the bulk of the combined police forces led by Lim went to retake Broadcast City. After a brief firefight, the government forces were able to regain control of the media stations by 11:00 p.m.
G.4. Villamor Air Base
“Red alert” had been declared at the base since 22 August due to the persistent rumors that another coup was going to be launched soon. Evidently, BGen Federico Pasion, VAB Commander and PAF Vice Commander, had issued an order that when the base siren sounded, all military personnel assigned in the different PAF Headquarters (HPAF) units should withdraw their firearms and ammunition, and secure their respective units as well as all gates to HPAF. This seemed like standard procedure, except that Pasion was later suspected of being a rebel sympathizer.
When the siren sounded at 2:30 a.m., 28 August, Pasion together with rebel officers Lt Cols Dante Bernarte and Legaspi, Maj Baula, Jr, and their men occupied the first and second floors of the HPAF. MGen Sotelo was placed under siege in his office on the third floor. The directive of Pasion was for all the gates to be closed and only military personnel belonging to the HPAF would be allowed entry. Rebel troops controlled the lower floors of the HPAF, the 419th Air Force Motor Transport Squadron (AFMTS), Gates 1 and 2, the transient officer’s quarters, and the ramp area where helicopters were parked. Also directly held hostage by the rebels was Sotelo’s son, Nickie, whom the rebels forced to telephone his father several times to try to convince him to join the rebel cause, but MGen Sotelo was adamant. Subsequent reports revealed that Tarrazona had also contacted Sotelo at some time during that morning allegedly saying that the rebel force was “composed of 60,000 troops” and that they had to stage the coup because if they did not, “the communists would take over the next year.”145
The takeover of VAB was said to have been planned in four phases: controlling the main gates, neutralizing aircraft parked in the base, demobilizing the motorpool, and occupying the first two floors of HPAF. The seizure of the HPAF was allegedly dependent on the rebels’ holding Sotelo as hostage, guarding critical areas through the supposed assistance of Pasion, using the psychological presence of a V-150 armored vehicle (to be procured later by a rebel officer from Fort Bonifacio), and deploying armed troopers and base air police for the security of strategic places.
At 3:00 a.m., rebel Capt Dionisio Balisacan and some 20 men from the 521st Air Police Squadron, of which he was EX-O, were able to enter the 419 AFMTS on the pretext of gassing up. Once inside, they surrounded and disarmed the soldiers there, saying they had been sent by Pasion. At about the same time, Col Alfredo Reyes, went to Gate 1 of VAB which was already rebel-controlled. He tried to convince the men to obey him, claiming he was the newly designated acting wing commander (WC) of the 520 ABW. Just then, Legaspi and Bernarte arrived and asked Reyes to stay “neutral” because by 12:00 noon, they claimed, everything would be over and there would be a new government. Bernarte further added, “Sa amin ka na, sir. Ginagamit ka lang nila.” Failing to convince the rebels, Reyes left.
At the 205 HW Wing Operations Center (WOC), the first indication that things were not normal was when they received a call at 4:10 a.m. from A2 asking for additional troops to secure the CG PAF. Thus, a force led by Capt Lauro Catalino de la Cruz (PMA ’80) was sent to HPAF.
At around 5:00 a.m., Sotelo, despite being hostaged in his office, ordered the manning of all helicopters in the line. However, this was not possible because the whole parking area was by then controlled by the rebel 521st Air Police Squadron personnel. They had a jeep mounted with a .50 cal machine gun and a recoilless rifle trained on the choppers. It was later agreed between the rebel officers there (Bernarte, Maj Lorenzo Luistro (PMA ’74) and Capt Pablo Honrade) and a pro-government officer sent to negotiate, that the 205 HW pilots would not fly the helicopters on condition that neither would the rebels. Thus, a temporary stand-off was reached.
At 6:00 a.m., an Air Force Rescue Development Center was hurriedly organized, consisting of one officer and 19 enlisted men. It was composed of three striking forces, one of which was led by Maj Dexter Huerto. Huerto’s team was tasked to observe the activities of the rebels at Gate 1, VAB, particularly of Bernarte, and if possible, to isolate him from the group. The team observed about 20 rebels manning Gate 1, among them Bernarte, Capt Roberto de la Pena, and MSgt Elmo Glorioso. They also saw two mini-cruisers, one with a mounted machine gun, a buggy, a passenger jeep, and a maroon car parked near the gate. All of this information was reported back to the PAF leadership.
In the meantime, BGen Loven Abadia, 205 HW WC, was able to make it back to the base at about 8:00 a.m. from Mactan, where he had been on official business when the coup broke out. Abadia immediately called for a conference of his officers. At around 9:30 a.m., a firefight erupted at the HPAF building between the rebels and troops loyal to the government. This went on for about an hour. At 1:00 p.m., rebel Maj Allen Querubin (PMA ’74) LABde operations officer, took out without authorization a V-150 combat vehicle from Fort Bonifacio into VAB. He ordered the driver of the tank to go to the Air Police HQ, apparently based on previous agreement with VAB rebels. At that very moment, with their actions covered by government forces on the ground, Abadia led a group of pilots to take off in the helicopters guarded by the rebels. Continuous firing went on until the five helicopters were able to take off. They landed in Fort Bonifacio some 15 minutes later.
The getaway of the helicopters accomplished two purposes: the escape from rebel stranglehold of the helicopters and pilots, and as a ruse to allow Gen Sotelo to make a run for it from the HPAF building controlled by the rebels. Shortly after the helicopters landed at Fort Bonifacio, Col Ruben Ciron (PMA ’68) accompanied by another person reportedly approached Capt Jorge de Jesus (PMA ’79) to try to convince the latter not to send out helicopters against the rebels, seeming to imply that he was on the rebels’ side. When de Jesus suggested that he talk with Abadia, Ciron left without a word.146
With the AOC serving as the temporary command post of Gen Sotelo, PAF air operations in support of government troops in the coup resumed. For example, a helicopter was able to check the reported advance of a convoy of rebel reinforcement troops at the Calamba entrance to the South Expressway.
Back at VAB, rebel forces began withdrawing from Gates 1, 2, and 3 of the base at 5:00 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., the siege had ended and the rebels had left. Residents of VAB reported that they saw rebels board three 10-wheeler Army trucks and head for the South Expressway at around 7:45 p.m. On 29 August, combined forces of the 205 HW and 420 SW pressured the rest of the PAF rebels, mostly from the 520 ABW, into surrendering.
It was subsequently reported that elements of the 49 IB led by Aromin had left their station in Guinyangan, Quezon on 28 August in answer to the call for rebel reinforcements from Legaspi at VAB, and in clear defiance of an earlier order from their superior officer. However, when the troops arrived at VAB at 7:30 p.m., 28 August, the siege had ended and the rebels had withdrawn. Aromin thus ordered his troops back to their station and then went on AWOL himself the next day.
G.5. RECOM 3 – Camp Olivas, Pampanga
The rebel occupation of Camp Olivas was effected by parallel actions on two fronts: an “internal group” that simply declared they were taking over, and an “external group” that invaded the camp.
From as early as 27 August, in the evening, BGen Eduardo Taduran (PMA ’58), RECOM 3 Commander, had been receiving continuous reports of unauthorized troop movements in Nueva Ecija (probably Honasan’s group). At 10:00 p.m., he called his battle staff to a conference and ordered the implementation of “Oplan Dimatarusan,” which called for the setting up of check points and blocking forces, among other things.
Meanwhile, the “external rebel group” was getting ready and their staging point was at Valle Verde Lodge in San Fernando, Pampanga. The rebel officers who assembled at the lodge on the evening of 27 August reportedly included Berroya; Majs Cabauatan, Divina, Nestor Sanares (PMA ’73), and Alejandro Lapanid (PMA ’73); Capts Teofilo Melliza (PMA ’77), Roque Maranon (PMA ’77), Pacifico Avenido, Jr (PMA ’78), Loreto de la Cruz, Montano Nazario, and Christopher Mesias; Lt Abner Dimabuyo (PMA ’82); 2Lt Agripino Javier (PMA ’85); and others. While there, the officers and the soldiers they brought along with them were given or asked to invert their flag patches, red side on top over their left breast pocket, as a countersign. Firearms and ammunition were also distributed. The rebels then left for Camp Olivas in separate convoys and apparently at different times.
The PC checkpoint set up along the Gapan-Olongapo road allegedly tried to hold off the convoy of 2Lt Javier’s group heading towards Camp Olivas, but later allowed them to pass through when the rebels pointed their guns at them. The convoy consisted of one PC mini-cruiser, one 10-wheeler, six cars, and one V-150 as back-up. When the convoy arrived at the camp, they passed through the gate without resistance. It was even reported that by that time, many military men within the camp were already sporting inverted flag patches, and the flag in front of the administration building had also been inverted.
Even as the battle staff was meeting at Taduran’s office at midnight, elements of the RSAF 3 led by Maj Clifordo Noveras (PMA ’73) had began to occupy the administration building, specifically surrounding the Regional Commander’s office. At 2:00 a.m., Taduran was informed that Camp Olivas was under the control of the rebels led by Berroya, and that at that very moment the rebels were already occupying the offices below. Taduran sent two of his officers to find out what the rebels’ intentions were. Later, RECOM officers locked themselves inside Taduran’s office. The rebel RSAF 3 elements then fired flares to signal Berroya’s group to enter the camp.
As a matter of fact, Javier’s group left the Valle Verde Lodge at 2:00 a.m. and arrived at the camp at 4:30 a.m. Upon arrival, Javier ordered his troops to occupy the second floor and rooftop of the administration building. The rebels then forced the signal officer to shut off the communication lines inside the camp. The principal purpose of the rebel takeover of Camp Olivas was supposedly to prevent reinforcement of government troops in Manila emanating from the camp and to declare the regional command in rebel hands, for propaganda purposes.
By around 9:00 a.m., reports from Camp Olivas to Camp Crame said that Berroya had taken over as RECOM 3 Commander, with Maj Divina as his deputy, and Noveras as the camp commander. It was also reported that a helicopter had taken off for an air reconnaissance flight. When it came back, Sanares, Nazario, and its pilot, Mesias, went to report to Berroya.
At 6:00 p.m., another helicopter arrived at the camp. A meeting among the rebels was reportedly held on the ground floor of the administration building. At 9:00 p.m., Taduran was informed that the rebels were going to change their command post to Basa Air Base and would bring him and his key officers with them. Taduran refused to go with them, instead he and his officers decided they would stay put at all costs.
Perhaps due to the failure of the mutiny in Manila, Berroya went to gee Taduran at 11:00 p.m. to inform him that they would be clearing out before midnight. Also, perhaps sensing that government troops were closing in on the camp, Berroya and his men quickly slipped out of Camp Olivas so that when the liberating forces arrived at 11:30 p.m., the mutineers were no longer around. By 6:00 a.m., 29 August, it was reported that the situation in RECOM 3 was back to normal. However, subsequent investigations found Taduran and his staff to have failed “to do their utmost” to defend Camp Olivas because at the time they had given up without resistance to the RSAF forces of Noveras, they still outnumbered the rebels who were only 75 at the time. It was only at 4:30 a.m. that the convoy of rebel troops from Valle Verde Lodge arrived. Moreover, it was felt that if the RECOM officers had thought their forces were not enough to resist the rebels, they could have asked for reinforcements from the Zambales or Bataan Constabulary Commands, whose commander had offered his troops earlier.
The rebel actions in Cebu were, unlike in any of the other locations, dictated from the top. The Regional Commander himself had openly and directly supported the rebels, thus the widespread effect of his authority became a boon to the rebel cause, especially in terms of propaganda. However, in order not to pre-empt the events in Manila, RECOM 7 Commander BGen Edgardo Abenina (PMA ’58) did not immediately announce his defection.
At 3:00 a.m., 28 August, Abenina called up all the major service unit commanders in his area and informed them of the occurrence of a coup in Manila. At 4:30 a.m., he sent a radiogram to all provincial commanders and the Cebu Metropolitan District Command (Metrodiscom) CO, with this apparently deceiving text: “In view of recent developments in Metro Manila, fortify your stations and strengthen your camp defenses. Do not allow any movement of troops and take slant. Obey orders only coming from me, repeat only orders coming from me.”
By 8:40 a.m., there were reports about the stand of the RECOM 7 Commander to support the rebels. An hour later, Abenina called up BGen Dominico Casas (PMA ’59), WC, 220th Airlift Wing (220 AW) based in Mactan to ask him to join RECOM 7 in support of the rebels, but was turned down by Casas. The latter also denied requests from Abenina to release a C-130 transport plane to pick up rebel troops from Legaspi City and ferry them to VAB, as well as the appeal to close down Mactan Airport. At about the same time, Abenina and all his officer s met with the RECOM 7 soldiers at the HQ parking lot to explain the rebel movement which was allegedly done in the interest of soldiers and policemen, and to ask for their support.
At 10:00 a.m., Abenina came out publicly in support of the rebels. He went on the air over DYLA radio and announced that the entire PC/INP RECOM 7 was backing the rebels. Abenina said, “We have decided to take this stand because we feel that our rights as citizens and policemen have been abridged and trampled by the policies of the present government.” He further added, “We shall be in this status until the cause we have been fighting for shall be properly attended to.”147 He ordered the takeover of three government buildings and two residences, the hoisting of the Philippine flag with its red field on top, and the closure of TV and radio stations, except for DYLA which they used for rebel propaganda. Abenina also asked Col Anselmo Avenido, Jr (PMA ’67) CO Cebu Metrodiscom, to secure the city and municipal halls in his area, secure the mayors, and request the media stations to stop broadcasting temporarily until further notice. Moreover, he asked Maj Digman Cenon, Assistant Provincial Commander of Cebu, to secure the provincial capitol.
Later, RECOM 7 officers carried out their commander’s orders by taking over the PNB offices in Cebu, the Land Bank and its premises, the Central Bank regional office, and the DBP-Cebu branch. Similar defections and takeovers, but in a minor degree, occurred in Toledo City, Siquijor, Cordova, and Naga on the island of Cebu, as well as in Dumaguete under Col Samuel Tomas (PMA ’67), and Tagbilaran under Maj Irving Malunda and P/Capt Benjamin Absalon. Closely assisting Abenina in generating support for the rebel cause were, among others, Lt Col Hiram Benatiro, RECOM 7 operations officer; Lt Col Rodolfo Tor (PMA ’72), RECOM 7 intelligence officer; Lt Col Neon Ebuen (PMA ’71), Region 7 AFPSLAI Manager; Lt Col Tiburcio Fusilero (PMA ’71); and Lt Cecil Sandalo (PMA’80), RECOM 7 administrative officer.
Despite the constant requests made by Abenina to Casas to join the rebel cause, close down Mactan Airport, and send a C-130 aircraft to fly rebel reinforcements to Manila, the latter allegedly refused each time, but apparently did not actively attempt to engage Abenina’s troops. Records show that on several occasions a week before the coup, Abenina had made similar appeals for planes to ferry him and his men to Manila, but had been refused.148 BGen Romulo Querubin, then RUC 7 Commander, also apparently did not actively check Abenina’s unlawful activities nor arrested him, allegedly because the “flow of information was delayed” and the latter “had not taken any hostile action against the military.”149 Querubin, along with his officers, Cols Apolinario Castano (PMA ’58) and Miguel Abaya (PMA ’59), were subsequently found to have been indecisive in their actions towards Abenina and the mutiny, and thus reprimanded under Articles of War 105. On 29 August, Abenina was relieved as RECOM 7 Commander and placed under technical arrest. Col Mariano Baccay, Jr (PMA ’59), his deputy, took over as acting Regional Commander. Casas was likewise relieved from his post.
G.7. Legaspi City Airport
On 28 August, at 4:00 a.m., elements of the Albay PC/INP Command consisting of six PC officers, one INP officer and some 135 military personnel took control of the Legaspi City Airport for about 27 hours. The officers involved were Capt Leovic Dioneda (PMA ’78) CO 255 PC Coy stationed in Tiwi; Capt Reynaldo Rafal (PMA ’79) CO 254 PC Coy based in Ligao; Lt Renato Hernandez, OIC 251 PC Coy based in Camp Bagong Ibalon; Lt Diosdado Valeroso, Intelligence and Operations; 2Lt Eliseo Rasco (PMA’86) Junior Officer Coy RSAF Bn; 2Lt Allan Cuevillas (PMA ’87) Squad leader of V-150; and P/Lt Lito Pitallano, Malilipot INP Station Commander. The group, using the rebel countersign of inverted flag patches, arrived in two 6×6 trucks, two mini-cruisers, a Toyota staff car, and a V-150 commando vehicle. They hoisted three Philippine flags, with the red on top, at the airport and posted men at the arrival and departure areas, runway and control tower. They claimed that on orders of Batac, Albay Provincial Commander, they would be picked up by a C-130 aircraft to ferry them to Manila. We now know that the plane never arrived, because it was never released in Cebu.
Before he left for Manila on 26 August, Batac had requested in writing the RECOM 5 Commander for two 6 x 6 trucks and a V-150 commando vehicle to be available at 10:00 p.m., 27 August, supposedly for the use of Albay PC/INP command operations. The request was granted with SSgt Rodelito Katigbak, SSgt Alberto Ribay, and 2Lt Cuevillas as drivers for the two trucks, and squad leader of the V-150, respectively. Cuevillas later voluntarily joined the rebel forces when they took over Legaspi Airport.
At about 6:30 a.m., Lt Col Melecio Asis, Jr and Capt Jose Arne de los Santos (PMA ’79) went to the airport to verify the report they had received about armed men roaming around the airport premises. While were, they spoke with Dioneda, Rafal, and Valeroso who claimed their only purpose in positioning themselves there was to “insure airport security” while they waited for the plane to transport them to Manila. They added that they would only take orders from their provincial commander, Batac, who had left for Manila on 26 August supposedly on orders of the Secretary of National Defense (SND). The rebels were insistent that they would remain there until their aircraft came but that they would not commit any violent acts against other military units of the RECOM or against any civilians.
Earlier, Valeroso, acting as spokesman of the group, contacted local radio stations by phone and announced that they were supporting the so-called “idealist” soldiers who had launched in Metro Manila and other parts of the country what he termed as “the continuation of the EDSA Revolution”.
Meanwhile, BGen Luis San Andres (PMA ’57) RECOM 5 Commander, assembled his staff to analyze the situation and take appropriate actions. The provincial commanders of Camarines Norte and Sur were contacted to set up checkpoints and roadblocks to prevent any rebel reinforcements passing through their areas. Then several people were called to try and convince the rebel group at the airport to give up their plan, among them, Bishop Concordio Sarte of Legaspi City, Col Diony Ventura (PMA ’67), Lt Col Orbase, and P/Lt Fuentes. Relatives and families of the rebel soldiers were also contacted to convince their relatives-soldiers to forego their plans. Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Legaspi was advised to cancel all afternoon flights in order to deny the rebels any access to the planes. Moreover, the Albay Electrical Cooperative was told to cut off power at the airport to prevent any landings at night time.
For their part, the rebels held a press conference at the airport cargo check-in area at 5:30 p.m., presided by Dioneda, Rafal, and Valeroso. They had spent the whole day in giving interviews, and press releases and undertaking other propaganda efforts. The rebel leaders aired their alleged grievances, including their perception of government mishandling of the insurgency problem and the deplorable economic conditions of the rebels. After the press conference, RECOM 5 emissaries relayed to the rebels the assurance of San Andres that no offensive actions would be taken against them during the night. Furthermore, according to de Villa who had called San Andres earlier, the rebels would not be subjected to investigations in connection with the coup, if they returned peacefully to their stations. At 8:00 p.m., Dioneda sent word to San Andres that he and his men would pull out from the airport at 7:00 a.m. the next day.
On 29 August, at 7:00 in the morning, Dioneda and his men cleared out of the Legaspi City airport as promised, with no violent incident happening. Regular flights continued after the rebels vacated the area.
G.8. Minor Incidents
Three minor incidents merit inclusion here as they reveal what could be classified as rebel strongholds in the military: 16 IB, Fort Magsaysay, and PMA in Baguio.
G.8.a. 16th Infantry Battalion
In the early morning of 28 August, even before news of the rebel attack on Malacañang spread, Maj Eufemio Santos and Lt Caraig, Jr instructed their men in the 16 IB based in Tigaon, Camarines Sur to prepare for a military operation. The men were issued firearms and ammunition. At 8:00 a.m., Santos and some 150 battalion soldiers boarded three 6 x 6 trucks, two mini-cruisers and one Philtranco bus, and headed for Manila, escorted by a V-150 armored vehicle and three crewmen of the 4 PALAB. Maj Morris Perez CO 16 IB, who had that morning arrived at Legaspi City from Manila, caught up with the convoy in Labo, Camarines Norte, and from there, took charge of the troops.
Their mission appeared to be to join the rebel forces in Manila. However, when they reached Lopez, Quezon province at noon, they were blocked by Col Conrado Infortuno (PMA ’58), a batallion commander from the 202 Bde. They were then instructed by BGen Alejandro Galido (PMA ’58), CG 2 ID, via radio to proceed to Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal, in an attempt to neutralize them. When the battalion reached Atimonan, Quezon at 8:00 p.m., Perez decided to bring the men back to their headquarters in order to avoid a possible violent confrontation with SOLCOM elements manning checkpoints along their route. Upon their arrival at Tigaon on 29 August, 7:30 a.m., Perez, Santos, and Caraig Proceeded to the 102 Bde HQ in Pili, Camarines Sur and reported to BGen Abraham Manuel (PMA ’57), Brigade Commander. The next day, they went to Camp Capinpin and reported to Galido, who placed them under technical arrest. The 16 IB enlisted personnel were later redistributed to different line units by the SOLCOM in its counter-insurgency operations. Only 15 from the battalion were subjected to an investigation in connection with the 28 August 1987 coup attempt. It must be remembered that the 16 IB was also the unit supposedly implicated in the original RAM plot to overthrow Marcos in February 1986. It was then commanded by Malajacan.
G.8.b. Fort Magsaysay
Maj Horacio Lactao (PMA ’74), CO 3 LAB, had already been suspected as sympathizing, if not supporting the group of Honasan. On 27 August, at 10:30 p.m., Army headquarters called Col Antonio Yamzon CO PA TRACOM in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, and told him to keep an eye on Lactao as he was apparently “being pressured” to join the coup plotters.150 After the call, Yamzon went to Lactao’s office and “invited” the latter to stay with him at his (Yamzon’s) office, with the intention of preventing him from going to Manila to join the rebels. Lactao went with Yamzon. After breakfast on 28 August, however, Lactao asked permission to return to his HQ and by 5:00 p.m., the troops of Lactao were ready to leave. Consisting of two Scorpion tanks, two armored infantry fighting vehicles, two V-150s, and some APCs, the force of Lactao supposedly overpowered that of the PA TRACOM, thus, Yamzon claimed he had no choice but to let them go. Aside from the combat vehicles, Lactao’s men also availed of one 6×6 truck, two Pepsi-Cola delivery trucks, and a number of military and civilian vehicles.
On their way to Manila, perhaps discovering that the rebels had already lost in the capital and that there would be no troops to reinforce, the 3 LAB under Lactao decided to return to Fort Magsaysay at 9:00 p.m. They arrived there at 11:30 a.m., 29 August, after which Lactao reported to Yamzon.
The move by PMA cadets to support the coup effort in Manila came too late. However, it would be difficult to deny the propaganda leverage the rebels gained from the public declaration of support by the whole cadet corps. On 28 August, at noon, two broadcasters from Radio Bombo in Baguio attended a gathering of some 30 officers at PMA. They interviewed Lt Fernando Baltazar (PMA ’81), who claimed to be the spokesman of the group, and Capt Gregorio Catapang. When asked about the events in Manila, Baltazar replied that speaking for the junior officers at PMA, they were supporting the cause of Honasan’s group, and renouncing allegiance to the government of President Aquino. Furthermore, if asked, he added, he would personally go down to Manila to support Honasan. At the mess hall, then Cdt (lC) Allen Paredes (PMA ’88) read a prepared statement saying, “In behalf of the Cadet Corps Armed Forces of the Philippines, we hereby affirm our stand by the principle of anti-communism which the forces of Col Honasan are fighting for.”151 By 1:00 p.m., the interviews and statements of the cadets had been aired on Radio Bombo of Baguio, creating quite a stir among the public.
At 4:00 p.m., a group of four cadets went to the radio station DZWT of St Louis University in downtown Baguio and submitted a longer statement supposedly expressing the sentiments of the cadet corps. They said in consideration of the events of the past 24 hours, PMA Classes of 1988 to 1991 were reaffirming their support for the rebel cause. Moreover, they believed that politicians should observe a “hands-off policy in purely military affairs; that persons in authority must exercise justice and good sense in dealing with the rebel soldiers, avoiding drastic solutions; and that there should be a dialogue between the government and rebel representatives with full media coverage.
An hour later, three other cadets accompanied by Maj Wilhelm Doromal, a PMA tactical officer, went to Radio Bombo in Baguio to submit still another manifesto of support. It said that to protect the inherent right of the people as mandated by the Constitution, they supported the movement seeking the establishment of a better government, and that in order to move the country from imminent collapse, the cadet corps was pledging its support to the reformist cause. The manifesto was taped and aired over the radio.152
By midnight, the cadets were getting ready for unauthorized deployment. They received a briefing from Capt Alfredo Bambico, Jr (PMA ’78), PMA Tactics Group, on the camp defense plan and the moving out of cadets from Fort del Pilar to the different roads of entry to Baguio City, particularly Kennon Road, Naguillan Road, and Marcos Highway. Evidently, the intention was to serve as blocking forces against “unfriendly” forces that would enter Baguio, although it was not clear why they wanted to isolate Baguio, unless the rebels were thinking of making a last stand there. Among the other officers present at the briefing were Kapunan, then a PMA instructor, and Nelson Eslao, both former PMA classmates of Honasan. It will be recalled that Eslao was we RAM contact for the Kamalayan election campaign drive at PMA in February 1986, when he served as Assistant Commandant of Cadets.153
On 29 August, at 2:00 a.m., the PMA cadets boarded two 6 x 6 trucks and one bus procured by Kapunan. They began moving out with Catapang in a jeep that was to lead the convoy. However, they were stopped at the PMA checkpoint. Catapang got down to talk to someone at the gate, then came back shortly after to say the whole thing was off. The coup they were supporting in Manila had failed.
The following day, two cadets delivered a copy of their letter of support for the rebels to the Baguio Midland Courier, which published it. Still restive, some cadets were reported to be arming themselves and planning to go around Baguio. This was thwarted when Col Lisandro Abadia (PMA ’62) Commandant of Cadets, confronted them in their barracks. Their planned strike in support of the rebels was aborted when PMA officials initiated a series of dialogues to thresh out the cadets’ grievances.
G.9. The Aftermath
The 28 August coup attempt lasted for about a day and a half. In the end, there were some 53 people dead and more than 200 wounded, many of them civilian bystanders who were sprayed with bullets as they chided the rebels and cheered for the government troops in the area of Malacañang.154 This was the first time coup participants had ever fired directly at unarmed civilians, an act that has done irreparable damage to the rebels’ reputation and credibility. The failed coup was participated in by around 2,160 military personnel, with damage to properties surpassing millions of pesos. The Camelot Hotel alone suffered over P1 million in property losses, while the burned GHQ building was estimated to be worth over P41 million.155 Then, there were the television stations whose sophisticated equipment, costing millions of pesos, were destroyed in varying degrees.
As an immediate reaction to the coup, the militant Coalition Against Oil Price Increase (COAPI) cancelled their protest against increased gasoline rates and the crack-down on participants of the Welgang Bayan. The demonstration had been scheduled for 31 August. Other reactions to the coup included panic-buying and hoarding of food supplies, withdrawals of money from the banks, power outages in some areas near Camp Aguinaldo because MERALCO facilities had been damaged by heavy fighting, people flocking to buy gasoline, among others. In general, it was bad for business because of the uncertainty it created, and also bad for the tourist industry, where again hotels suffered huge losses in cancellations of bookings not only for individuals but for conferences and conventions that were going to be held in the country.
In Congress, bills were rushed to grant pay increases to soldiers. Across-the-board salary increases for the whole AFP were unprecedentedly granted (106 percent for a Master Sergeant, to 36 percent for a General). Furthermore, there was a joint Senate and House investigation on the coup attempt supposedly to determine whether anti-government politicians, including deposed President Marcos and rightist elements in the US government, were behind the mutiny. Opposition Senator Enrile strongly denied any involvement in the coup. He said he deliberately made himself unavailable to the press because he had no knowledge of it and could not answer any questions about it. In an interview over DZRH, Senator Enrile was ambivalent at one point, refusing to make any statement of “condemnation or absolution”. Then, he said he did not make any statements because “he did not want to get involved,” and that because those men once served under him (referring to Honasan, et al), the least he could do was to keep quiet. Later in the interview, however, he capitulated by saying the mutineers should “rethink their positions.”156
Many political watchers believe that the 28 August coup attempt pulled the Aquino administration towards the right in the ideological spectrum. They cite, as an example, her having sacked Joker Arroyo as Executive Secretary in reaction to the rebels’ demand to rid the Cabinet of supposedly left-leaning members. Another example was President Aquino’s tacit approval of armed quasi-military groups by renaming the Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF) as Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU). Others believe Gen Ramos emerged as the second most powerful person in government as a result of the attempt. There are some, however, who think the coup revealed some discontent within the Armed Forces against the leadership of the Chief of Staff (e.g., one of Honasan’s demands was the resignation of Ramos).157
It was said that the police emerged with a new role after 28 August. They were given the task of retaking the media stations and they succeeded. Some observed that the reason for their effectiveness was that they were not bound by the fraternal ties that allegedly inhibit soldiers from fighting soldiers, and therefore, they had less hesitation to shoot at the rebels.158
The simultaneous lightning attacks by rebels on key target areas during the 28 August coup constituted a marked improvement in strategy compared to the earlier coup attempts. However, these were not supported by sufficient forces to execute a successful seizure (as what happened in Malacañang), or to sustain control over the occupied area. Time was an important factor for both sides. If the rebels had held on to those installations long enough to produce a stalemate, then it could Perhaps have induced the shift of allegiance by some regional and Provincial commands who may have been wavering to their side. On the government’s side, it had to act quickly and attack early (as it did in Camp Aguinaldo and the television stations), before any of the rebel reinforcements arrived. As in all the past attempts, however, the rebels d not receive any widespread popular backing despite their having chosen the timing of the coup to coincide with massive discontentment against the government. Surely, the best gauge for the success or failure of a coup is whether the people would support the alternative that the coup plotters offer.
H. Concluding Observations on Military Interventions, 1986 – 1987
The political events in the last four years have shown that the Philippines has firmly been introduced to the phenomenon of military intervention in politics. When analyzed collectively, the series of coup attempts, starting from the February 1986 plot to the August 1987 one, present a pattern of interwoven factors that put forward the idea of a continuing effort by a group of determined military officers, backed by their civilian supporters, to overthrow the administration of President Aquino and install a military junta. Although there are some variations to this pattern, the underlying image remains the same, that is, there were two main groups of people behind all the destabilizing activities which culminated in the seven coup attempts discussed in this chapter. The groups are the RAM, or more accurately after February 1986, a faction of the RAM under Honasan, and the so-called Marcos loyalists led by Zumel. Ironically, they were the opposing protagonists in the February 1986 coup attempt who were both left out after EDSA
Following this line of argument, the coup attempts may thus be classified into those led by the RAM-HF, those by loyalists, and those that reveal a possible connection between the two. This is despite the, fact that Honasan had scoffed at the idea of an alliance with the Marcos followers, saying that the younger officers of the RAM who were uncompromising idealists would never tolerate working with soldiers and civilians tainted by association with the dictator’s excesses.159 The February 1986 plot was definitely a brainchild and product of the RAM. The July 1986 Manila Hotel Incident, on the other hand, was a loyalist attempt, but may have been known to some RAM officers. The latter may have bailed out a few of the loyalist plotters, possibly to earn their goodwill for some future collaboration. The November 1986 “God Save The Queen” plan was principally a RAM-HF plot but could have been another attempt at some sort of collaboration between the two groups. But because the coup was never launched, the extent of collusion is not clear. The January 1987 plot reveals another loyalist effort, even if again Honasan seemed to have stepped in to intervene during the negotiations for the surrender of the rebels at GMA-7. The April 1987 destabilizing activity should not really be considered a coup, but rather a loyalist-instigated jailbreak and short-lived blitz possibly intended for propaganda purposes. On the other hand, the July 1987 attempt appears to have consisted of separate plots by the two groups, though due to the lack of official information available on the events, it is difficult to pinpoint responsibility. The July effort may have been the premature version of the August plot, which was principally led and executed by RAM-HF, but with the apparent support of some loyalists. The Commission has received testimony that in the Manila Hotel and GMA-7 incidents, the RAM-HF planned to step in if the Marcos loyalists were able to produce a critical mass of at least 500,000 people.160 Whether there was an explicit “understanding” between the two groups is not established. It is clear, however, that the so-called tactical alliance between the Zumel and Honasan groups in December 1989 had its antecedents and should not have been a surprise to anyone who had done an analysis of the linkages between them in previous coups.
Seen as a whole, the seven cases that were discussed here reveal certain common features, as well as some innovations unique to particular attempts at political intervention by a section of the Armed Forces. Among the common characteristics, we find that each attempt was launched during a period of crisis, when the government was perceived to be at its weakest and when people were generally at their most vulnerable. Observing the political and economic conditions during each coup attempt, thus, gives an idea of the different settings that were deemed by the plotters as propitious for military intervention. These triggering events may be classified into two types: (a) genuine events that were brought about by socio-political and historical developments, such as labor and peasant unrest, widespread poverty and economic hardships, massive discontent resulting from years of authoritarian rule; and (b) simulated events that could be created or provoked in order to effect the tense and unstable atmosphere necessary for a coup. A good example of the second type is political assassination, which the brutal Wiling of Rolando Olalia could have been.
It is possible that if a crisis does not exist, coup plotters could find a way to bring it about. With the effective use of media, they can exploit civilian and military complaints against the government to build a favorable political climate for a coup d’etat. There are always popular issues against the administration that can be cultivated. Moreover, they can and have taken advantage of the President’s physical absence from the capital. It is after all in critical periods that the government’s ability to respond quickly and decisively is put to the test. On this depends its Political survival.
Looking at the pre-coup environments of the seven cases, we find similar circumstances that support the idea of coup attempts being launched under a particular political climate. The triggering events of toe past coups have included periods of division among the people, such as during elections and plebiscites; nationwide protests like the Welgang Bayan; massive student demonstrations; constant labor strikes; extensive consumer disaffection with rising prices of commodities; strong public reactions against increases in oil prices or transportation fares; regular bombings and other terroristic activities; highly publicized cases of graft and corruption in government; widespread criminal lawlessness; and others. It is under such a climate that the government’s attention is necessarily divided, while the public is generally unorganized and confused. There is another reason for creating an environment where the citizens are afraid, insecure or disgusted with the authorities, and that is, people would then tend to be more susceptible to the idea of drastic military action, such as the imposition of martial law or the establishment of a military junta.
Another common denominator among the seven cases was the target areas attacked by the coup plotters. In all the coup attempts, the focus of hostilities and confrontation was Metro Manila because it is the seat of the national government which the rebels are trying to overthrow. The inclusion as targets of the regions around the capital, such as Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Bicol, seemed to have the dual purpose of providing easy access for rebel reinforcements to Manila from key units where the RAM-HF had built support, or allowing the rebels to intercept military reinforcements thereby crippling the government’s capacity to respond to the emergency in Manila. During the August 1987 attempt, the rebels also attacked and/or occupied civilian and military targets outside of Luzon (i.e., Cebu, and to a lesser extent, Bohol and Negros Oriental). This could be, on one hand, simply because of rebel supporters coming from those areas or, on the other hand, it could be indicative of the coup plotters’ endeavor to widen their sphere of influence and give the impression of their movement being national in scope.
The specific target areas within Metro Manila hardly varied with each coup attempt. The rebels invariably attacked or planned to seize Malacañang to capture the President; the military camps, for logistics and communications; the media stations, to gain public support; and Villamor Air Base or the airports, with the intention of controlling air power and facilitating the rapid airlift of rebel reinforcements from the provinces to Manila. The takeover of the Manila Hotel in 1986 and Camelot Hotel in 1987 could be considered as exceptions to the rule.
The grievances and demands expressed by the coup plotters were basically similar in all the attempts. There were complaints internals the military, such as inadequate pay and benefits; insufficient logistical services and supplies to soldiers in the field; favoritism in promotions and assignments; and discriminatory treatment, in the case of Marcos loyalists. Curiously enough, many of these were the same ones raised by the RAM against Marcos in 1985. The complaints directed against the government, on the other hand, included the consistent issue of graft and corruption and the perceived “soft-approach” of the President in her counter-insurgency policy, which the rebels implied was connected with the presence of so-called “left-leaning” officials in her Cabinet and their alleged anti-military biases.
While the grievances openly declared by the rebels may be valid, and the idealistic aspirations for good government of some younger rebel officers may be genuine, it is nevertheless important to delve into the possible unstated intentions of the key coup plotters. Most of the leaders of the loyalist attempts were senior military officers who had served under the Marcos regime. In the Manila Hotel incident, they were directly supported by former officials of the past administration. While Marcos was alive, they seemed to have a binding commitment to work for his return. However, with his death, this unifying factor has been removed and the loyalist cause appears to have gradually lost vigor. The identified loyalist leaders who have gone underground have little choice but to give up, or to support other destabilizing activities in the hope of succeeding and regaining power, even if it is snared with the RAM-HF.
On the other hand, a closer look at the principal coup plotters of the other attempts would lead us to the RAM. Although the RAM was originally organized to work for reforms within the military, its existence was related to the political survival and physical safety of then Defense Minister Enrile, by his own account.161 Thus, it becomes unavoidable for his name to be linked with any activities that former RAM officers, led by Honasan, undertake. Though some new personalities have surfaced as coup participants in the investigations of succeeding coups, the same names associated with the February 1986 events keep reappearing. Then, as in the succeeding RAM-HF attempts, their ultimate goal seemed to be the overthrow of the government and the creation of a military junta, presumably composed of people of their choice. This appears evident in the February and November 1986 attempts, as well Win the August 1987 coup plot. In all the seven cases taken up here, no clear post-coup political and economic program has ever been presented to the public; instead, it appears that this would depend on who sat in the junta.
According to Secretary Ramos, the first direct involvement of the troops of the Scout Rangers was during the 28 August 1987 attempt. However, according to retired BGen Almonte, a key RAM officer in the early years of the organization, Honasan had recruited battalion commanders from the FSRR, mostly majors then, for the February 1986 coup plot.162 This is not surprising as Scout Rangers, like the Marines, are considered among the best trained and disciplined members of the AFP. They are mobile units of the Armed Forces, continuously operating as a team and assigned from one place to another to influence any given military situation. Moreover, and more importantly perhaps, the Scout Rangers are given such rigorous, specialized training that they later develop strong camaraderie and loyalty towards each other—valuable traits in a coup attempt. The FSRR no longer exists today. Its members were absorbed by other units of the AFP after their extensive participation in the December 1989 coup.
Another source of recruitment in the past coup attempts was from the Guardians organization, a military fraternity composed mostly of enlisted personnel said to extend to about 70 percent of the AFP.163 There are actually two related groups existing: the Guardians Brotherhood, Inc (GBI), which has its roots in the Diablo Squad, allegedly formed in the early 1980s; and the Guardians Centre Foundation, Inc (GCFI), founded in 1986 with Honasan as the lead signatory in its Articles of Incorporation. There was said to be considerable Guardians participation in all the past coup attempts, particularly in the February and July 1986 coups, as well as in the January and April 1987 ones. It was reported that the GBI officially disowned any connection with Honasan after the August 1987 attempt.164
The bond that unites the coup participants thus appears to be primarily based on personal loyalties, friendships, and other personal ties, rather than on shared political beliefs, principles, and a vision of the future. It is true that for many coup participants, the rallying call seemed to be anti-communism but the network of RAM-HF recruitment still frequently relied on personal relations.
The general reactions of the government to the past coup attempts have included a revamp of the Cabinet, including the ouster of some of its liberal members due to the rebels’ demands; the announcement of reform measures; and the conduct of an investigation on the coup attempt (e.g., Bengzon Committee, Cabinet Crisis Committee, Vice President Laurel’s informal survey of military camps). An immediate response has been the increase in budget for the military (e.g., after the 1987 coup attempts, the Senate restored P373 million out of the P500 million proposed cut in the DND’s P23 billion budget). There were also measures taken to promote the soldiers’ welfare by expediting action aimed at increasing their material benefits.
The military, for its part, has also conducted investigations on the coups but there appears to be uneven inquiry and reporting into the seven cases. Official military reports were only available on the January, April, and August 1987 attempts. The executive department also seemed to have been left out in the military’s pre-coup reporting, as evidenced by Malacañang’s lack of information and preparation in several of the past attempts. The public, on the other hand, has reacted to the coups by giving unprecedented attention and interest in military affairs. Academic studies and public fora dealing with the topic have also increased. Even religious groups have now focused on the Armed Forces as subject of prayer rallies and pastoral letters. Moreover, there has been heightened media coverage on the military since the advent of the kudeta. The importance of mass media, especially radio, in informing people of what was happening during the coups cannot be overemphasized. However, it has also been in this environment that the release of misinformation and disinformation about the coups has occurred. For instance, much speculation and even inaccurate information coming from foreign media were repeated in the Philippines through the wire services during some of the past attempts.165 On the other hand, plotters have admittedly also manipulated the media with half truths and false “leakages” for their own purposes.166
In retrospect, the coup plotters employed certain strategies that manifest careful planning and perseverance in their implementation. In recruitment, for example, the rebels generally harnessed the active participation of strategically situated, middle-level troop commanders. For the August 1987 coup, it is said that their major effort was directed at field commanders who controlled significant units in the AFP, like battalion commanders of the Army, provincial commanders of the PC, some squadron commanders of the PAF, and maybe some unit commanders of the Navy. The officers who command infantry or tank battalions stationed in or near Manila, as well as those who have control over helicopter gunships and other aircraft within striking distance of the seat of power, are crucial for a coup’s success. It was easy for the KAM-HF to recruit because most of the commanders were of their age group and from the PMA, either former classmates or contemporaries at the PMA of the Honasan group. This was in contrast to the February 1986 plot where, outside of the RAM members, recruitment went up vertically to the major unit commanders with the rank of brigadier general. In 1987, the RAM-HF worked on the “horizontal cut” at Battalion level and below, as MGen Montano pointed out.167 The plotters undermined the chain of command by likewise getting the loyalty of company commanders. They talked to captains and lieutenants who actually handle the troops.
Former CSAFP and now DND Secretary Ramos disclosed that rebel recruitment for the August 1987 coup was done among junior officers, sometimes even involving key non-commissioned officers, under the guise of school reunions, training sessions, dialogues, and ordinary get-togethers.168 For the August attempt, it was observed that Honasan, then head of the Special Operations School (SOS) of the Army’s Training Command in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, trained various classes of Scout Rangers but did not graduate them. About five or six classes were accumulated at one period, and instead of being graduated normally one class after the other, they were extended at the school and later mobilized for the coup.169
To begin with, the reassignments of Honasan at the SOS and Kapunan at the PMA after the November 1986 coup attempt appear to have been used to maximum advantage by the coup plotters. These are precisely the places where they could considerably influence the younger soldiers and recruit them for coup or terrorist activities. Between a group that had a single-minded purpose of taking power, regardless of means, and the Ramos/de Villa group which was sincerely working for genuine reconciliation, the former had a clear edge in planning and conspiring. There are lessons to be learned from these past coups for purposes of handling the aftermath of the December 1989 coup. These will be discussed in Chapter VII.
(1) Retired Col Guillermo G. Cunanan, who was then assigned to the MND, places the date of RAM’s founding as 1982, see “Open Letter to Gringo,” Philippine Star, 7 September 1987, pp. 1 and 10. Journalist and author Cecilio T. Arillo gives a more exact date of 23 July 1982 in Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Four-Day Revolution in the Philippines, February 22-25, 1986 (Manila: CTA and Associates, May 1986), p. 166. On the other hand, retired BGen Jose Almonte, Commissioner of the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau and RAM member, says the idea for RAM was crystallized in 1985, although discussions had been going on long before that [from his Sworn Testimony before the Fact-Finding Commission (FFC), 4 January 1990]. American writer and Political Science Professor Alfred W. McCoy mentions two conflicting dates of “late 1984” and “early 1985” as RAM’s founding dates in two separate articles in “RAM Boys Series,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 1990, p. 3 and p. 4.
(2) McCoy, Ibid., p. 4.
(3) Arillo, op. cit., pp. 136-137.
(4) McCoy, op. cit., p. 4.
(5) Arillo, op. cit., pp. 138 and 141.
(6) Cunanan, pp. op. cit. pp. 1 and 10.
(7) Arillo, op. cit. p. 167.
(8) Sworn Testimony of Col Hector Tarrazona before the FFC, 21 August 1990.
(9) Col Hector M. Tarrazona, After EDSA . . . (Volume I) (Manila: By the Author, February 1989), pp. 25-26.
(10) Tarrazona Testimony, op. cit.
(11) McCoy, op. cit., p. 4.
(12) Tarrazona, op. cit., pp. 10-15 and 21.
(13) Tarrazona was promoted to the rank of colonel by President Aquino. It appears, however, that by virtue of a recommendation of a panel that he be severely punished under Article 105 of the Articles of War for his alleged involvement in the 28 August 1987 coup attempt, for which in time he was reprimanded, the CSAFP recommended to the President that his name be stricken off the list of officers for promotion submitted to Congress for confirmation. This recommendation was favorably acted upon by the President. Tarrazona, nevertheless, continues to wear the insignia of a colonel because he filed a motion for reconsideration which, according to him, is still pending.
(14) Tarrazona, op. cit., p. 22.
(15) McCoy, op. cit., p. 10. However, in his book, Raymond Bonner mentioned that by October 1985, coup plans were well advanced See Raymond Bonner, Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (New York: Times Books, 1987), p. 434.
(16) Tarrazona, op. cit., p. 26.
(17) Ibid., pp. 26-31.
(18) From an interview of Navy Capt Rex Robles aired over DZRH on the mutiny’s third anniversary. See “RAM Officer Talks on February 1986 Mutiny,” Daily Globe. 23 February 1989, pp. 1 and 8.
(19) Tarrazona, op. cit., p. 32.
(20) Ibid., p. 33.
(21) Ibid., pp. 37 and 38.
(22) Sylvia Mayuga in Monina Allarey Mercado, ed., People Power: The Philippine Revolution of 1986, An Eyewitness Story, (Manila: James B. Reuter, S. J., Foundation, 1986), p. 77.
(23) Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, “There’s Still So Much to Know About EDSA,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 February 1990, pp. 1 and 8.
(24) Bonner, op. cit., p. 434. Bonner cites his interviews with American intelligence and diplomatic officers as his source for the information on the proposed junta.
(25) Sworn Testimony of BGen Jose Almonte (Ret) before the FFC, 4 January 1990.
(26) McCoy, op. cit., pp. 10 and 11. Also see Cunanan, op. cit., pp.1 and 10.
(27) Arillo, op. cit., p. 11. See also Ros Manlangit, “RAM Planned to Put Marcos Couple on Public Trial in ’86,” Daily Globe, 25 February 1989, p. 1, for interview with retired BGen Jose Almonte and other RAM members.
(28) Arillo, Ibid., p. 37.
(29) McCoy, op. cit. However, McCoy claims on p. 11 that the rebels counted on only 300 troops at the start of the revolt. Capt Robles, on the other hand, said the mutineers initially numbered only 185; “RAM Officer Talks on February 1986 Mutiny,” op. cit., p. 8.
(30) Manlangit, op. cit., pp. 1 and 12.
(31) “RAM Officer Talks on February 1986 Mutiny,” op. cit., p. 1 and 8. Also see Arillo, op. cit., p. 20.
(32) Arillo, Ibid., p. 149. After Cory Aquino took over the presidency, Gador briefly took charge of the Presidential Security Command (PSC) upon Enrile’s recommendation but was replaced by Col Voltaire Gazmin, a personal choice of Aquino. The PSC changed its name to Presidential Security Group (PSG) on 1 March 1986.
(33) Manlangit, op.cit., pp. 1 and 12. See also Tarrazona, op. cit., p. 46.
(34) Nick Joaquin [Quijano de Manila], The Quartet of the Tiger Moon: Scenes from the People-Power Apocalypse (Manila: Book Stop, Inc., 1986).
(36) McCoy, op. cit., p 11.
(39) “RAM Officer Talks on February 1986 Mutiny,” op. cit., pp. 1 and 12.
(40) McCoy, op. cit., p. 11.
(41) Arillo, op. cit., pp. 170 and 172.
(42) Tarrazona. op. cit., PP. 49-50.
(43) Arillo, op. cit., pp. 172-173.
(44) Tarrazona, op. cit., pp. 55-56.
(45) Arillo, op. cit., pp. 30-31.
(46) Ibid. p. 51.
(47) Sworn Testimony of BGen Jose M. Crisol (Ret) before the FFC, 24 August 1990.
(48) “Tolentino Courts Sedition Charges,” Philippine Daily Inquirer. 7 July 1986, p. 6.
(49) Luis D. Beltran, “Alcuaz and Loyalist Radio Stations,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 4.
(50) Paper presented by Professor Alfred W. McCoy before Philippine-American Community in Los Angeles, California in February 1990. Cited in Antonio C. Abaya. “Twixt the RAM and the NDF,” Manila Chronicle, 23 May 1990, p. 4.
(51) Beltran, op.cit., p. 4.
(52) “The Philippine Experience,” Final Report of the Department of National Defense Special Investigating Committee to President Aquino, 22 March 1990, p. 1.
(53) Rey Arquiza, “Allegiance? No Way—Recto,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 July 1986, p. 6.
(54) Victor Agustin, “Cabinet to Decide on Loyalist Plot,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 July 1986, pp. 1 and 2. See also Belinda Olivares Cunanan, “Questions on the Loyalists’ Caper,” Philippine Daily Inquirer. 10 July 1986, p. 5.
(55) Belinda Olivares Gunanan, “A Quiet Sunday at the Historic Manila Hotel,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 5.
(56) Victor Agustin, “3 p.m. Today or Else,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 11.
(57) “The President’s Statement,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 1.
(58) “Tolentino: I Was Pressured,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 2.
(59) Belinda Olivares Cunanan, “Now That the ‘Other Party’ Is Over. . . ,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 July 1986, p. 5.
(60) “No Charges, Retaliation — Enrile,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 July 1986, p. 1.
(61) “Enrile: No Charges, If. . .,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 2. In a separate article, Hilarion Henares makes the connection between Honasan, who was listed as signatory in the Articles of Incorporation of the Guardians Center Foundation, Inc, and some of the troops that occupied Manila Hotel, who were reportedly Guardian members. Henares further notes that the negotiating panel sent by Minister Enrile to deal with the rebels were: Honasan himself, Kapunan, and Boy Vasquez. See Hilarion M. Henares, Jr, “Who Will Guard Us from the Guardians?” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 July 1986, p. 5.
(62) “No Charges,” op. cit., pp. 1 and 3.
(63) “Special Treatment for Loyalists,” Philippine Daily Inquirer,9 July 1986, p. 4.
(64) Cunanan, “Questions on the Loyalists’ Caper,” op. cit., p. 5.
(65) See the following for reports of damages and losses resulting from the Manila Hotel Incident: “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., pp. 1-2; Tolentino: I Was Pressured,” op. cit., p. 2; and various newspaper articles covering the incident.
(66) It was reported that Gen Prospero Olivas and Col Rolando Abadilla did not attend the oath taking ceremonies. See “Loyalists Back Down,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 July 1986, p. 2.
(67) The findings cited here are from the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee Reports on the Manila Hotel Incident of 6 July 1986 (First Report, 24 July 1986, and Second Report, 14 August 1986).
(68) Sworn Testimony of Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon before the FFC, 11 July 1990.
(69) Rey Arquiza, “No Sanctuary for Turing’ and Henchmen,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 1986, p. 2.
(70) Victor Agustin, “Loyalists Go Free,” Philippine Daily Inquirer,10 July 1986, p. 1.
(71) From various testimonies received by the FFC in Executive Sessions.
(72) “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., p. 6.
(73) Sworn Testimony of Rear Admiral Tagumpay Jardiniano (Ret) before the FFC, 27 June 1990.
(74) Testimony given before the FFC in Executive Session.
(78) Sworn Testimony of MGen Rodolfo A. Canieso (Ret) before the Fact-Finding Commission, 29 June 1990.
(79) Testimony given before the FFC in Executive Session.
(82) Sworn Testimony of NSC Director General Rafael Ileto before the FFC, 10 July 1990.
(83) Canieso Testimony, op. cit.
(84) Sworn Testimony of Former NBI Director Antonio Carpio before the FFC, 19 July 1990.
(85) Dave Veridiano, “The Foiled Coup Try: How It Was Planned,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 November 1986, pp. 1 and 9.
(86) Sworn Testimony of Former CSAFP and now Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos, before the FFC, 16 April 1990.
(87) Veridiano, op.cit., p. 9.
(88) Sworn Testimony of Lt Gen Salvador Mison (Ret) before the FFC, 27 June 1990.
(89) Canieso Testimony, op. cit.
(90) Testimony given before the FFC in Executive Session.
(91) Veridiano, op. cit., p. 9.
(92) “Coup Attempt Probed, Putschists on the Run,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 November 1986, pp. 1 and 3.
(93) Mison Testimony, op. cit.
(94) Ramos Testimony, op. cit.
(95) Veridiano, op. cit., p. 9.
(96) “Aquino Decision Generally Okay,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 November 1986, p. 8.
(97) “U.S. Backing for Cory Reaffirmed,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 November 1986, p. 8.
(98) “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., p. 7.
(99) Ibid., p. 8.
(100) Final Report (MND Order No. A-005) from the Office of the Inspector General (OTIG) Board of Officers to the SND, dated 15 June 1987, Exh. “RRRRR-3”- Commission.
(101) Chronology of Events of January 1987 Attempted Coup Submitted by BGen Loven C. Abadia, Vice Commander, PAF and Wing Commander, 205 HW, dated 3 August 1990.
(102) PTI Report on Sangley Point Incident from PTI Panel to CSAFP, dated 7 April 1987, Exh. “OOO-3-C- Commission.
(104) Summary of Events of 27 January 1987 from the SND to President Aquino, dated 28 January 1987, Exh. “RRRRR-3”- Commission,
(106) “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit.
(107) Testimony before the FFC in Executive Session.
(108) Vittorio Vitug and Sonia Dipasupil, “Ramos Orders Gen. Zumel, 2 Colonels, Major Arrested,” Malaya, 31 January 1987, p. 6.
(109) Ibid., p. 1.
(110) Jose de Vera, “Siege Ends As Troops Pull Out of TV 7,” Manila Bulletin, 30 January 1987, pp. 1 and 18.
(111) Final Report, op. cit.
(112) Memo on the Creation of a Crisis Committee, 28 January 1987, signed by Executive Secretary Joker P. Arroyo.
(113) “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., p. 13.
(114) Final Report, op. cit.
(117) “Mutiny Crushed,” Manila Chronicle, 19 April 1987, p. 6.
(118) “Black Flag Marks Black Saturday Rebellion,” Manila Chronicle, 19 April 1987, p. 6.
(119) “Mutiny Crushed,” op. cit., p. 6.
(120) “Mutiny Part of Bigger Plot,” Philippine Star, 20 April 1987, p. 1.
(121) The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., p. 14.
(122) “Mutiny Crushed,” op. cit., p. 6.
(123) Final Report, op. cit.
(124) Jerry Esplanada, “FM’s ‘Invasion’ Plot Thwarted,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 July 1987, p. 8.
(125) “Reagan Urged: Jail FM,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 July 1987, p. 1.
(126) “Ex-Ruler Admits Planning Invasion,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 July 1987, pp. 1 and 9.
(127) Cesar M. Espino, “Cory Pleased; Military Cool,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 July 1987, p. 8.
(128) Dave Veridiano and Cesar Espino, “AFP Links 20 Officers to FM Plot,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 July 1987, p. 9.
(129) Report Re: 28 August 1987 Coup Attempt from BGen Pedro G. Sistoza, CG CSG, to Chief, PC, dated 1 September 1987, Exh. “RRRRR-2” – Commission.
(130) Veridiano and Espino, op. cit., p. 9.
(131) Cesar Espino and Dave Veridiano, “Six Officers Held on Coup Plot,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 July 1987, pp. 1 and 9.
(132) Ibid., p. 9.
(133) Prom PTI Report of Lt Col Rodolfo G. Munar JAGS to CSAFP on Maj Manuel Divina PC, Maj Romeo Elefante PN (M), Capt Reynaldo Regacho PN (M), and Capt Chris Mesias PAF, dated 25 August 1987.
(134) Francisco Nemenzo, “Military Insurgency: Reflection on Gringo’s Adventure,” Kasarinlan (Philippine Quarterly of UP Third World Studies Center), Vol. 3, No. 2 (4th Quarter 1987), p. 8.
(135) Report Re: 28 August 1987 Coup Attempt from BGen Pedro G. Sistoza, op. cit.
(137) Soriano Testimony, op. cit.
(138) “Cory Orders Probe of Killing,” Philippine Star. 7 November 1987, p. 3.
(139) Memo Re: Case against Col Antonio Q. Romero PA, et al in connection with the 28 August 1987 Failed Coup from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 16 December 1987, Exh. “OOO-5”-Commission.
(140) Memo Re: Case of Col Gregorio Honasan, et al for Alleged Violations of AW 67and 96 from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 16 October 1987, Exh. “OOO-5”- Commission.
(142) Memo Re: Case against Lt Col Jerry Albano, et al (Alleged Involvement in the 28 August 1987 Failed Coup Attempt) from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 22 October 1987, Exh. “OOO-5”- Commission.
(143) Memo Re: Case of Capt Rex C. Robles PN from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 25 April 1988, Exh. “000-5”- Commission.
(144) Frankie Tuyay and Alden M. Alag, “Pilot in Gringo Getaway Captured.” Philippine Star, 24 November 1987, pp. 1 and 7. See also Lito Mangaser and Maning Silva, “Gringo Flown to Baguio, Hunt On,” Manila Chronicle, 30 August 1987, p. 1.
(145) Memo Re: BGen Federico Pasion, et al for Violation of AW 67, 68, 96 and 97 from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 9 October 1987, Exh. “OOO-2-D”- Commission.
(146) Post Operations Report of August 1987 Attempted Coup submitted by BGen Loven C. Abadia, PAF Vice Commander and WC, 205 HW, dated 3 August 1990.
(147) “Rebels Control Olivas, Cebu,” Manila Chronicle, 29 August 1987, p. 8.
(148) Memo Re: Case against BGen Edgardo Abenina, et al for Violation of AW 67, 96, and 97 and Article 139, Revised Penal Code, from the AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 28 November 1987, Exh. “OOO-4” – Commission.
(150) Memo Re: Alleged Mutinous Activity of the Elements of the 3 LAB at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City on 28 August 1987, from the AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 21 December 1987, Exh. “OOO-5-C”- Commission.
(151) Memo Re: Alleged Illegal and Unauthorized Activities of Officers and Cadets of PMA, dated 8 October 1987.
(153) Memo Re: Involvement of Lt Col Eduardo Kapunan PA and Lt Col Eslao in the Unauthorized Operations of PMA Cadets in Connection with the 28 August 1987 Attempt in Metro Manila from AFP Board of Officers to CSAFP, dated 30 October 1987, Exh. “OOO-2-A”- Commission.
(154) “The Philippine Experience,” op. cit., p. 16.
(155) According to a report of the GHQ Survey Board dated 6 January 1988, the total value lost in the GHQ fire was about P30 to P40 million. However, according to the camp engineer’s report on 14 September 1987, the value of the GHQ building alone was over P41 million, plus other property damage of over P200,000.
(156) Jess Diaz, “Enrile Urges Gringo to Yield,” Philippine Star, 31 August 1987, pp. 1 and 8.
(157) Amando Doronila, “Crisis Makes the Military Stronger,” Manila Chronicle, 30 August 1987, p. 5.
(158) Ding Marcelo, “Crucial Palace Moves Recalled,” Manila Bulletin, 31 August 1987, pp. 1 and 4.
(159) Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, “AFP Disloyalists: ‘Guns To Our Heads,’” Philippine Free Press, 20 January 1990, pp. 3 and 47.
(160) Testimony given before the FFC in Executive Session.
(161) McCoy, op. cit., p. 4.
(162) Almonte Testimony, op. cit.
(163) R. M. De Joya, Jr. national chairman of the GBI in 1987, claimed that their organization represented about 80 to 85 percent of the total AFP manpower; see “Guardians’ Expel, Disown Honasan,” Manila Times, 24 September 1987.
(165) Ramos Testimony, op. cit.
(166) “RAM Officer Talks on February 1986 Mutiny,” op. cit., pp. 1 and 8. See also Arillo, op. cit., p. 20.
(167) Sworn Testimony of MGen Ramon Montano before the FFC 25 January 1990.
(168) Ramos Testimony, op. cit.
(169) Montano Testimony, op. cit.