CAUSES, ANALYSIS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Fact-Finding Commission was tasked to inquire into the who (participants), why (causes), and how (events) of the December 1989 coup attempt and to make recommendations to prevent its recurrence. The narration of events is contained in Chapter V and the Commission’s findings on participants in Chapter VI. This Chapter completes the Commission’s mandated task.
A. The Causes
Invariably, those who openly admitted participating in the coup or are implicated in it offered the following reasons on why the coup occurred, which is another way of expressing why they joined the coup:
1. Failure of the government to deliver basic services especially in the rural areas;1
2. Graft and corruption;2
3. Too much politics and grandstanding of politicians, and unfair criticism, even humiliation, at the hands of politicians,3
4. Bureaucratic inefficiency which exacerbates the alienation and poverty of the people;4
5. Poor and non-responsive military leadership which is manifested by a tayo-tayo system, factionalism, and inadequate financial and logistical support for the soldier in the field;5
6. Lack of genuine reconciliation;6
7. Uneven treatment of human rights violations committed by the military and the CPP-NPA;7
8. Absence of good government;8
9. Softness on the CPP-NPA and left-leaning elements;9 and
10. Failure of the civilian leadership to effectively address economic problems.10
The implication of their answers is that the governing body or junta to be established by the coup d’etat would correct or solve all these deficiencies in the present government.
The rebel witnesses, however, when pressed for a program of government were unable to answer exactly how reforms were going to be achieved or to name the persons who would implement it.
A review of the issues raised by the coup plotters in the previous six attempts against the Aquino administration also reveals an interesting pattern of similar answers with emphasis on the current issues of the day. For example, for the Manila Hotel and the “God Save The Queen” attempts, the emphasis was softness against communists; in the GMA-7 incident, the lack of genuine reconciliation, as exemplified by the government refusal to allow Marcos to come home; in August 1987, the bickerings in the Cabinet; and in December 1989, graft and corruption and congressional shenanigans.
On the other hand, when officers who fought for the government were asked what they thought were the causes of the coup attempt, they repeated many of those advanced by the coup participants11 and, in addition, cited:
1. Obsession with the power which they thought they had won but handed over to Corazon C. Aquino in February 1986;
2. A desire by coup leaders to regain privileges enjoyed during the Marcos administration and the prospect of possible power or financial gain in the process;12
3. Personal grievances and perceived “dead end” in career path;
4. Strong fraternal or personal ties, with origins dating back to PMA days;13
5. Naive idealism, particularly on the part of younger officers;14
6. A messianic complex.15
Despite the attempts of the coup plotters and their sympathizers (wittingly or unwittingly) to project themselves as real reformers, the rebels had their own hidden agenda even as they rode on valid grievances.
Many of the grievances cited by the rebels as their reasons for joining were, unfortunately, objective realities and, hence, real for those who were successfully recruited by reason of their sincere desire, however misguided, to help effect reforms in the military establishment and the government. That the core group of rebels managed to mask their own agenda by invoking these grievances validates the reality of many of the shortcomings in the military and the government, and the need to address them decisively if future coup attempts are to be deterred.
There were also coup participants who were impelled by personal motives, and others by institutional factors. There were, in effect, several levels of motivation. The Commission classifies the rebels according to motives with examples which, however, are not exhaustive:
1. For the inner circle of the RAM splinter group or RAM-HF and its recruits (since the original composition and tendencies have changed) — a continuation of their original plan in 1986 to take power for themselves which evolved from a desire for reform initially within the military (i.e., Honasan, Batac, Kapunan, Turingan, Lucas, Legaspi, Malajacan, Aguinaldo, Purugganan);
2. For the Marcos-Ver Loyalist forces (Loyalist) — to regain the power and privileges enjoyed during the Marcos regime or to repay past favors (utang na loob) by honoring a “commitment” to help when called upon (i.e., Zumel, Tecson, Oliveros, Pizarro, Gojo);
3. For high ranking military officials — ambition which cannot be realized within the existing chain of command (i.e., Comendador, Abenina, Calajate);
4. For some senior officers and many junior officers — deference to peers, superiors, or “mistahs”, and pakikisama (de la Pefia, Calimag, Panelo); the attraction and excitement of a conspiracy that promises windfall gains in power and career opportunities (Fusilero); career “insurance” in the light of the perception after the EDSA Revolt that, regardless of who wins, the military establishment will continue as before with no apparent stake in the form or structure of government Thus, maintaining the network of camaraderie is more important to a career than taking a definitive stand against the coup; and
5. Misguided idealism or an expression of sympathy for “valid” causes (i.e. Gregory Ramos, Tomas, Ong).
Why did the December 1989 coup attempt happen?
Filipinos want change — some to the extent of “any change” in the belief that it can only be better than the present, at least for themselves. This pervading sentiment in Philippine society can easily be mistaken for support by the impatient or the ambitious. In the case of the military, as discussed in Chapters II and III, crossing the dividing line between being politicalized (awareness of societal problems) and politicized (taking power for themselves) can easily be rationalized, especially by the well-meaning.
This clamor for change is not solely a product of the EDSA Revolt. That would be an incomplete perspective of history. The EDSA Revolt is a convenient point of reference because it was a dramatic event that capsulized a long struggle for a new order of morality, economic progress, social justice, and enlightened leadership.
In this context, the shortcomings of the Aquino government cannot be the root cause of the coup. As pointed out in Chapter III, the political achievements and economic performance of the Aquino government, at least up to the December 1989 attempt, compare favorably with past regimes in the country and those of other countries in the region. However, the Aquino government could be faulted for failing to live up to the promise of its glorious beginnings.
Despite the genuine achievements of the EDSA Revolt and of the three years prior to December 1989, the country continued to experience structural tensions in the social fabric that called for more than piecemeal solutions.
Thus, the December 1989 attempt, as well as the other six attempts against the Aquino administration, happened as a result of a propitious conjuncture of motive, circumstance, and perceived opportunity.
1. There was a group of officers which enjoyed high credibility within the ranks of the military because of their service records and their cultivated reputation as reformists even during the Marcos regime, and the perception within the military that they caused the Aquino government to improve the lot of the soldier.
2. This group of officers, highly politicized by the transformation, in general, of the military over the years (see Chapter II) and the group’s special status during the Marcos regime, decided to grab power for themselves, representing that they could do better than civilians in governing the country.
3. They thought that it was a good time to launch the coup because of the declining popularity of the Aquino government and the reality of many of the issues being raised by media and various interest groups, and because the country was undergoing the difficult process of transition to a newly-restored democracy with structural and institutional weaknesses and a complex set of difficult problems.
The question may well be asked, if the clamor for change is so strong and the elements for success appeared to be present, why did the December attempt fail and turn out to be unpopular?
Because the people were not disposed to it, as they were for the EDSA Revolt. The December 1989 coup attempt was perceived as an attack on democracy, the EDSA Revolt as a return to it. Surveys showed that the unpopularity of the December 1989 attempt is not as much a reflection of high satisfaction at the performance of government as a natural aversion against violent and illegitimate means to effect change. The Filipino is essentially conservative and patient, and considers electoral change as a valid democratic exercise despite its imperfections. Furthermore, the motives of the coup participants were suspect. After all, they themselves acknowledged the electoral victory of President Aquino in 1986. The tactical alliance between the RAM-HF and the Loyalists that became public knowledge for the first time during the coup, although traceable to earlier signs of collaboration, contributed to the distrust. Finally, the economic indicators by December 1989 were positive compared to the severe recession prior to February 1986.
However, popular support is not a precondition for the success of a coup, only for the sustainability of the resulting dispensation. Sometimes, not even for that purpose, if the military regime is willing to resort to the indiscriminate use of force and violence to maintain itself. That the December 1989 attempt turned out to be unpopular was not the reason for its failure. Its failure was a combination of genuine heroism on the part of some government forces, tactical mistakes by the coup plotters and the hesitancy of key rebel figures (i.e., Blando), timely intervention of military-civilian forces particularly at gateway roads to Metro Manila, and failure of the rebels to elicit a bandwagon effect from major military units in the country.
B.1. The Context
Transitions are never easy. Political transitions from dictatorship to democracy are especially difficult because democratic processes are usually slow, cumbersome and diverted by the noisy. They involve competing interests of diverse groups, unequal in influence, which have to be harmonized for policy to emerge. There is also the resistance, if not deliberate obstruction, by vested interests and well-entrenched power blocs to any change that would reduce their privileged positions in the system.
Favored business elites, political leaders of the old regime, and military groups that propped it up and were handsomely rewarded in exchange are the natural opponents of democratization. Unfortunately, the weakness of political institutions inherent in the transition process limits their capacity to neutralize these opponents of desirable change.
If the dictatorship left a path of plunder and economic devastation, the problems of transition become exacerbated. Inherited economic problems cannot be solved overnight. Democratic space can become an open arena for unbridled, even violent political contestation where government is expected to uphold individual democratic rights, while it fights for its very survival. Among the poor and hungry, democracy provides a weak rallying point for political unity with and support for A political leadership. In the face of perceived government weaknesses, Public alienation, or even indifference, those who wish to recapture their lost positions of privilege may engage in military adventurism.
The series of coup attempts against the Aquino government can be seen in this light.
B.2. Reaping the Whirlwind
The destruction of political institutions and processes during the Marcos dictatorship and the resulting military role expansion beyond defense and security and law and order provided the environment for the Politicization of a significant number of officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The supremacy of civilian authority over the military, secured by various institutional controls, was transformed into one secured primarily by the person of Marcos.
Even that control was breached and weakened by the political rivalry between the Ver (former Chief of Staff Gen Fabian Ver) and Enrile (former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile) factions within the military during the last few years of the dictatorship. The failed coup attempt of February 1986 which was overtaken by the EDSA Revolt was the logical consequence of that rivalry. And because civilian control over the military was personal, when Marcos was removed, it exposed the political system to the peril of autonomous military adventurism, since institutionalized civilian control would take time to rebuild.
The ascension of a woman Commander-in-Chief for the first time in the country’s history must have required a major adjustment in the operational and psychological world of the military, particularly since her style of leadership is a marked contrast to that of Marcos. The military’s perception of a woman leader is graphically portrayed in a remark made by a retired officer when asked by the Commission whether a woman Secretary of National Defense would be acceptable to the AFP. He said the reaction of the military would probably be: “What? Another woman again?”16 But apart from being a woman, the military only knew her as the wife of Ninoy Aquino, a political prisoner who was later assassinated while under military custody. Perhaps the military could not believe that she could forgive and forget her husband’s assassination for which members of the military were under prosecution, some of whom have been recently convicted. Somehow this background must have been a hindrance in forging an easier or more comfortable relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and the military she led.
The institutionalization of non-military functions for the AFP, seriously begun in 1966, facilitated the politicalization of officers as they acquired non-military skills from civilian graduate schools and exposed them to wider civilian public and socio-economic-political situations. In some cases, military officers became wielders of tremendous economic and political power, in addition to their original organized armed power.
The exigencies of dictatorial rule led to the erosion of the professional values of achievement and merit in promotions and assignments. They were replaced by the primary criterion of personal loyalty to the civilian and military leadership especially as popular dissent grew. Initially, this criterion seemed to have been a major consideration in the post-EDSA period for the simple reason that the military President Aquino inherited was the same military that Marcos used in order to maintain his rule and which he coddled in return. Given the persistent coup attempts since July 1986, the officers’ loyalty not only to the Constitution but also to the duly constituted authority was necessary if the constitutional order were to have a chance of surviving. Unfortunately, this had been perceived as a return to the old system. Hence, the complaint about the tayo-tayo and bata-bata systems by rebel military officers.
The persistence of this tendency is part of the Marcos legacy to the military, one that will take time to repair. The failed December 1989 coup indicated that even personal pledges of loyalty given to superior officers are no guarantee against participation in a coup. The case of BGen Marcelo Blando is one classic example. He pledged loyalty to AFP Chief of Staff Gen Renato de Villa even as the coup attempt was already underway. In the end, his commitment to the coup plotters prevailed, although his hesitation, presumably because of de Villa’s repeated calls, might have been a fatal setback for the rebels since several units appeared to have been half-hearted while waiting for him to order or lead them.
The objective socio-economic-political environment was merely an excuse for military adventurism. As noted in Chapter III, the performance of the economy was positive and various indicators suggested some improvements in welfare. Even the soldier’s pay and other benefits have been significantly improved since 198617 The military also continued to have a significant share in policy-making in areas related to its role. Even if there was a perception of weakness in the political leadership, this was not a sufficient reason for launching a coup. The failed coup attempt in December 1989, and even previous ones, was greatly influenced by the misperception among politicized officers that President Aquino owed her position to the original Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) of which ex-Lt Col Gregorio Honasan’s faction (RAM-HF) is a splinter. This misperception was reinforced by media adulation after the EDSA Revolt, painting Honasan and his group as larger-than-life heroes, thereby muting the unseemly aspects of their careers.
The Commission received testimony that during their heyday at the Ministry of National Defense (MND), Honasan would call senior officers to his office, in obvious disregard of seniority and hierarchy norms. The fact that it was people power that installed President Aquino is a reality yet to be accepted by the RAM-HF and their civilian supporters. As former Undersecretary of National Defense Jose M. Crisol said, they have to be disabused of this misperception. Crisol added that “Cory was the soul and spirit of the EDS A Revolution,” and that even if Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Ramon Felipe was right in saying that there was no evidence she won the elections, the overwhelming ratification of the 1987 Constitution legitimized her rule.18
Supremacy of civilian authority over the military is the overriding principle governing the relations between the civilian government and the military under the new Constitution. The contraction of the military’s role aimed at returning the soldier s to the barracks has not been possible after February 1986 because of the persistence of the twin communist and Muslim insurgencies which, though unsolvable through military means, nevertheless require a response with a strong and large military component. In some areas of the countryside, the weakness of the civilian bureaucracy and local governments continues to devolve civilian responsibilities to the military. Thus, the AFFs socio-economic functions continue to be discharged by soldiers, even in the stages of the counter-insurgency program assigned to the civilian government. Young rebel officers decry this situation as it forces them to spread their scarce resources too thinly. It is also unwise to use the military for this purpose as their extended exposure to local conditions tends to politicize them.
From the RAM side, it appears that their misperception about the EDSA Revolt led some of them to assume a role of guardian of the national interest, the country’s gatekeeper to Malacafiang as it were, in their mistaken belief that they are the arbiters of issues on legitimacy. This is reflected in their somewhat naive but presumptuous question, “Why was it right then and wrong now?,” referring to the EDSA Revolt and their post-EDSA coup attempts. Because they mistakenly thought that their failed coup attempt against Marcos succeeded in the wake of people power, they expected an equal sharing of power with President Aquino. Thus, they objected to the release of political prisoners, the ceasefire and peace talks with communist and Muslim insurgents, and complained about what they believed were left-leaning members of the Cabinet. Military socialization into the ideology of anti-communism did not help ease their perception that President Aquino was too soft on the communists,
An unfortunate post-EDSA development was the ascendance to power of persons who faced the military across the barricades or who defended victims of political and military repression during the dictatorship. They brought with them anti-military sentiments and biases which, given the factors discussed above, probably foreclosed any possibility of early reconciliation between the new government and specific sectors in the military.
B.3. If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Enrile and the RAM-HF apparently did not give up their original coup intentions even after the EDSA Revolt and President Aquino had assumed office. He formed an elite group, a battalion purportedly organized to counter hijacking and other terrorist activities, in his capacity as chairman of the National Committee on Anti-Hijacking (NACAH). Honasan headed the group. Although it aroused the suspicion of several high-ranking officers, nothing was done about it until after November 1986. He also recommended to the newly-installed President Aquino the designation of his trusted aide, Col Tirso Gador, to head the Presidential Security Command (PSC).
At first glance, the RAM-HF and the Loyalists seemed to be natural enemies whose coming together could materialize only out of desperation. However, contrary to this view, the December 1989 coup attempt may have been simply the culmination of a reconciliation process which started soon after the EDSA Revolt. The Manila Hotel incident of July 1986, perpetrated by Loyalists in and out of the military, was allegedly known to some members of the RAM-HF before it actually took place but the information was not passed on to the government or the AFP leadership. As noted in Chapter IV, Lt Col Eduardo Kapunan Jr reportedly informed a correspondent about it at least six hours before the event. In fact, both President Aquino and the then Chief of Staff, Gen Fidel Ramos flew to Cagayan de Oro City, leaving the Executive Secretary (Joker Arroyo) and the Vice Chief of Staff (Lt Gen Salvador Mison) in charge of Malacañang and the AFP, respectively.
Having known of it in advance, it might be surmised that the RAM-HF intentionally kept the information to itself and could have welcomed it as a barometer of popular sentiment, i.e., if enough people rallied around the incident and a critical mass reached, they would have taken it over, come out on top, and subsequently obtained control of the government. The RAM-HF was also in the thick of negotiations between the Loyalists and the government during the incident. Its two leaders Honasan and Kapunan, extricated loyalist officers like Cols Rolando Abadilla and Dictador Arquiza, and Maj Reynaldo Cabauatan from the Manila Hotel on 8 July one hour ahead of the evacuation schedule. Defense Minister Enrile pre-empted both President Aquino and Ramos in negotiating a settlement of the incident with the loyalist rebels even before the two returned from Cagayan de Oro City to Manila. Enrile came out looking good in the eyes of the Loyalists for the leniency with which they were treated.
Such leniency set the tone for government handling of subsequent coup attempts. The rationale that the rebels did not fire a single shot and that there were no casualties from the incident became the standard yardstick for determining the extent of punishment for military adventurism. Leniency, however, tended to encourage, rather than deter, participation in subsequent coup attempts. As the military is socialized into its own system of reward and punishment to instill discipline, leniency only encourages undisciplined behavior among officers. A related question is one of amnesty for the rebel military. The gravity of their act lies in the fact that they are armed by the state and have taken a solemn oath to defend the Constitution and duly constituted authority. A coup attempt is nothing short of treason and the principals involved should not be treated lightly.
The “God Save The Queen” plot of November 1986 was potentially the most dangerous because, as narrated in Chapter IV, it could have been a chain-of-command coup and, in all probability, would have succeeded if Gen Ramos and his major service commanders had agreed to the coup overtures of the RAM-HF and Enrile. Despite the adroit management of the situation by Gen Ramos and the major service commanders, Army Commanding General Canieso, Air Force Chief Sotelo, Naval Chief Jardiniano, and Constabulary Chief de Villa, and their refusal to join, the RAM-HF nevertheless attempted to launch the “God Save The Queen” plot and to wrest power from President Aquino. Interestingly, Marcos’s KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) politicians were to have cooperated in the attempt by taking over the Batasang Pambansa and convening a rebel parliament, while RAM-HF took control of strategic targets. The attempt fizzled out without any shot being fired and without any casualty but for Enrile whom President Aquino unequivocally and decisively removed from the Cabinet. Unfortunately, Honasan and company were allowed to go free and none of them was even formally investigated. While subsequent coup attempts after November 1986 and before August 1987 had Loyalist forces as the main plotters and participants, the involvement of Honasan Guardians, who constitute a small segment of the total membership, suggests that a collaboration between the RAM-HF and the Loyalist forces must have already been taking shape. Moreover, Honasan interceded with Gen Ramos on behalf of the loyalist rebels who took over GMA-7 in January 1987 on the pretext that any drastic action would divide the AFP. On hindsight, it is likely that he was even then protecting potential allies. Honasan signed as witness to the Articles of Incorporation of the Guardian Brotherhood, Inc. (GBI) and was the principal incorporator of the Guardian Centre Foundation, Inc. (GCFI). The latter was supposed to be a civilian-military group aimed at supporting the AFP.
In the Black Saturday mutiny of April 1987, both Loyalist forces and the Guardians were again involved. A collaboration may have also been arranged for the August 1987 coup attempt which is generally thought to be a RAM-HF conspiracy. Maj Cabauatan, who was one of the leaders of the Manila Hotel incident, the January 1987, and April 1987 coup attempts, was reportedly at the rebels’ staging point at the Valle Verde Lodge in San Fernando, Pampanga during the attempt.
From the above, it may be concluded that the RAM-HF and the Loyalists, as the two principal military rebel groups continuously plotting against the Aquino government, must have started to develop collaborative ties as early as July 1986 which culminated in their joint launching of the December 1989 coup attempt. The same principals appear again and again as far back as February 1986: Enrile and the RAM-HF, primarily Honasan, Kapunan, Lt Col Victor Batac, ex-Navy Capt Felix Turingan, ex-Lt Col Oscar Legaspi, ex-LCdr Jaime Lucas, among others; and the Loyalists led by Zumel with Cabauatan, Abadilla, and others. The latter two were absent in the December 1989 failed coup. Cabauatan was in jail, while Abadilla had become the Vice Governor of Ilocos Norte.
The December 1989 coup attempt was the biggest as both factions were able to activate old ties and loyalties, as well as draft new recruits from disgruntled or idealistic officers. It appears from data in Chapter VI that the bulk of the rebel officers came from the PMA, in spite of the fact that from 75 to 80 percent of the AFP officer corps are non-PMA sourced. Old ties forged at the PMA appear to have been activated for the December 1989 failed coup. They might also have called in all their “chips” in the process and seriously depleted their resources. Among the disgruntled or idealistic officers could be the Young Officers Union (YOU), which could be a genuine splinter of the RAM-HF. In the same way that generational and leadership gaps gave birth to the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples’ Army) within the old communist movement and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) sprang from the original Mindanao Independence Movement (not Canoy’s), controlled by older Muslim politicians, YOU could be an attempt to distance younger generation officers from their elders, many of whom could have been tainted by close association with powerful politicians in the previous regime. Seeking change possibly for reasons different from their elders, these idealistic officers became easy recruits into the plot.
It must also be pointed out that factionalism exists in the AFP. As long as this is denied, it cannot be addressed. As the resources and the time of the Commission are limited, it could not look into this problem as thoroughly as required to recommend remedial measures. Together with grievances like the bata–bata system, anomalies in procurement and supplies, graft and corruption of senior officers, inadequate attention to the needs of the soldiers in the field, and others, factionalism must be studied in order to find their solutions. By doing so, the military, especially its politicalized members would realize that government is not insensitive to their grievances, that government cares enough to attend to the legitimate causes of the virus that has led some of them to conspire against the government, and that it is sympathetic to meaningful reforms.
B.4. A Fatal Miscalculation
Some people find what they hope to see in a situation. The rebels saw a psychomilieu they thought favorable to their interventionist enterprise, The polls indicated a decline of government popularity particularly that of President Aquino who started her presidency with an exceptionally high popularity rating. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, already scoring low, scored even lower in the polls immediately preceding the December 1989 coup attempt. The rebels must have interpreted this as a propitious time to unseat President Aquino, expecting if not the support of the population at least their indifference or neutrality. They failed to understand that popular dissatisfaction is one thing, supporting an unconstitutional means of changing political leaders is another.
The scandals splashed in media involving government officials or institutions such as the much-publicized Garchitorena landscam, car and gun importations by members of Congress, gun smuggling by one Congressman, the “sexcapades” in the Senate, to name a few, were focal points for government critics and the opposition to attack the government. This influenced the perceptions of the rebels. While they often complain about graft and corruption, very few were able to cite specific cases. Instead, they name the media as their source of information.19 The scandals provided the rebels with an excuse to intervene in political affairs purportedly to put a halt to these perceived anomalies w government. They provided the proverbial fuel for the fires of rebellion already ignited by rebel leaders and recruiters.
Metro Manila’s problems of power outages and inadequate public transport on its congested and pock-marked roads must have been generalized for the entire country and compounded their knowledge of the breakdown of the delivery of basic services in the countryside. The polls also indicated reduced optimism as to the people’s perceptions about their economic prospects.20
In addition, perceived unjustified attacks against some officers by politicians, especially relating to the confirmation of promotions and the PCPNP bill, provided another source of grievance among some members of the military. In Cebu, the December 1989 coup attempt was preceded by discussions against the PC-PNP bill and could have been used as a venue for proselytization by Lt Col Tiburcio Fusilero. It may be recalled that several military officers based there behaved suspiciously before and during the coup attempt. They have been recommended for further investigation by the Commission in its Resolution No. 059 dated 17 April 1990 and are so classified in Chapter VI of this Report.
The plotters must have been hoping to see another EDSA Revolt in subsequent plots. This is evidenced by their attempts to organize a civilian component to shield the military rebels from government troops. The civilian Marcos loyalists provided this function during the Manila Hotel incident and the GMA 7 takeover. They must have seen the potential for mass civilian support against the government in the reduced satisfaction ratings for government, alleged anomalies in government as widely publicized by media, and the reported failure to deliver basic services not only in the countryside but also in Metro Manila. Their miscalculation was fatal as Filipinos overwhelmingly rejected the coup attempt in various polls conducted nationwide after the failed coup. About 82 percent did not approve of the coup even as 30 percent agreed with many of the rebels’ grievances.21
In fact, many civilians did more than just condemn the coup in opinion surveys. Despite the generally poor communication between the central and local government,22 civilians coordinated in their communities with the military in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Muntinlupa, Quezon City, Camarines Sur, and other places to stop rebel troops while allowing those considered friendly to pass through. Special mention must also be made of the management and technicians of ABS-CBN, PTV-4, and GMA-7, who had the presence of mind and the courage to disable the broadcast facilities and thereby prevent the rebels from using TV and radio for propaganda. And, of course, the Philippine Red Cross volunteers wrote their own passages of heroism in the nation’s history. Filipinos unquestionably wanted to give democracy and the Constitution a chance.
B.5. Financing the Coup Attempt
In accordance with Sec (d) of RA No. 6832 and the Commission’s Rules and Regulations (Resolution No. 004), the Commission applied with the Monetary Board of the Central Bank to inspect the bank accounts of several civilian and military persons, including the much publicized US$ 100,000 allegedly deposited by the wife of a high ranking rebel officer, to determine whether there were any evidence that these individuals either financed or received money in connection with the failed 1989 December coup. The Commission in the course of its investigation examined accounts in no less than eight commercial banks. In each instance, the Commission found no evidence directly linking the accounts with the attempted coup.
Moreover, Central Bank Governor Jose L. Cuisia, by letter, confirmed to the Commission that there were no unusual withdrawals from foreign currency deposits during the period immediately preceding the coup attempt.
On the other hand, the Commission is not surprised by its findings regarding the possible use of bank accounts in the last attempted coup. It is reasonable to suppose that the conspirators and supporters of the attempted coup would not be so reckless as to use the commercial banking system to funnel funds to the rebels, and thus create an audit trail government prosecutors can trace. Also, it should be noted that the rebels utilized equipment, arms, vehicles, aircrafts, armor and, of course, personnel supplied by and paid for by the government. There is also no conclusive evidence that large amounts of money of the magnitudes initially talked about (up to $50 million or P1 billion) was a major factor or consideration in launching the coup.
Nevertheless, the Commission is of the opinion that some money was distributed which was generated for the rebels mainly from local sources, particularly from those individuals and firms in whose interest it is to destabilize the government.
There is some evidence of money being held or distributed by the coup plotters. The nocturnal activities of Col Alexander Noble, Lt Col Victor Batac, and ex-Lt Col Billy Bibit in Heroes Hills, Quezon City and in Room 1701 of Holiday Inn, those of Lt Col Tiburcio Fusilero in Cebu City, the undocumented source of some P200,000 deposited by LtCol Arsenio Tecson’s wife on 5 December 1989 at a Cubao branch of a bank and the Galido expose on Luis Tabuena and Cherry Cobarrubias indicate that cash may have been provided to the coup conspirators. BGenJose Comendador was reportedly overheard requesting over the telephone a cash donation allegedly from a company in Cebu City, in order to avoid being accosted at the government checkpoints.23 Customs Commissioner Mison also said that he heard about a high ranking officer’s wife supposedly receiving a check for P500,000, some company commanders being offered P20,000 and some generals between P1 million and P2 million if they would join the plot. 24 Offers of private contribution, such as the one made to Navy Capt Rex Robles by a Chinese businessman, or solicitation by some Makati-based professionals, must have also been one source of the attempted coup’s funding.
Based on the testimonies it received, the Commission also believes that suspected coup plotters had their own “independent” sources of income. Capt Leovic Dioneda’s family reportedly controlled jueteng operations in Sorsogon. Maj Abraham Purugganan allegedly had an independent source of income from gold-panning operations in Mt Diwalwal in Davao when he was assigned there.25 Col Noble is known to have been in the payroll of loggers. According to businessman Cesar Magsaysay, a friend of Fusilero, Noble receives “allowances” from Agusan loggers. In fact, among the documents recovered from his get-away car at the checkpoint in Sta Rita, Samar was a receipt for P5,000.00 by Noble from one Bernie Manpatila. The latter is a brother of the deceased leader of the Higaonon tribe who was Noble’s friend. Magsaysay, however, denies that his own Butuan Logs gives Noble a similar “allowance”. Bibit’s sources of independent income was the Bureau of Customs whose reputation as a lucrative source of graft money is well-known. However, among the alleged plotters, Rodolfo Aguinaldo’s sources of such income are perhaps the biggest — he allegedly controlled illegal logging, illegal gambling, and the Small Town Lottery (STL) in Cagayan. Thus, he was able to buy, it is said, the loyalty of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) and even military officers based in that province.26
Cash was used to pay for the fishing vessel chartered by the mysterious Artemio Tan who allegedly claimed to be a businessman from Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The vessel, Lady Vi-T-1, brought Lt Col Arsenio Tecson’s 68 IB and Maj Alfredo Oliveros’s 24 IB from Bataan to Sangley and back. It is owned by Odessa Fishing and Trading Corporation of Navotas, Metro Manila. Curiously, Odessa’s Board Chairman, Rufino Tiangco, admitted being a close friend of Romeo (Romy) Rivera and a business associate of Honasan’s brother, Don.
Almost from the beginning of the Commission’s investigation, this vessel has been a major object of interest for the simple reason that nobody at Bataan, Sangley or Naval District II (NDII) seemed to have been able to either take a good look at it to be able to describe it, or to have found it after it ferried the rebel troops back to Bataan. Yet it reportedly carried about 800 troops. The Commission’s finding the vessel was nothing short of serendipitous. In the process, another possible connection between conspirators was unearthed. The main actors in the charter of this vessel are linked through Honasan.
It will be recalled that Rivera was already implicated in the failed December coup. Arms, ammunition, and communications equipment were found by the military in his house after the coup attempt Rivera is the incumbent President of the Philippine Rifle and Shotgun Association where Jackie Enrile is chairman. A friend of Honasan’s since 1979, Rivera is the godfather of one of Honasan’s children. In turn, Honasan is godfather to one of Rivera’s children.27 According to Tiangco, Rivera introduced him to Honasan and his brother, Don, at a stag party Rivera tendered in Don’s honor three years ago. Since then Tiangco and Don had been engaged in business, with Don supplying Odessa’s cement needs.
The suspicious nature of the charter, the equally suspicious behavior of Odessa’s owners, and their personal relationship with the Honasans and persons close to them as described in Chapter V, may lead one to conclude that the said charter was fictitious and that the fishing vessel could very well be Tiangco’s contribution to Don’s brother’s adventurism. Don was allegedly also involved in the “God Save the Queen” plot. His car was intercepted in Camp Aguinaldo by Commo Virgilio Marcelo filled with firearms which the latter confiscated. They included (Jalil and Ultimax weapons loaded in three Land Cruisers in addition to Don’s car. They were later released presumably to Honasan.28 A person who closely resembles Don Honasan was also seen on television tape among the rebels in the vicinity of the Domestic Airport during the December 1989 coup attempt by a CIS (Constabulary Intelligence Service) agent in the presence of one of the members of the Commission.
Cash was similarly used to pay for another mysterious charter, this time of an aircraft, by one Roberto Huang some ten days before the failed coup of December 1989. Curiously, the aircraft belongs to the Executive and Tourist Aviation owned by Chemical Industries of the Philippine Inc., one of whose owners is known to have had close links with Marcos. The funds were allegedly sent by couriers from one Oliver Ker of Kota Kinabalu to Huang who paid the charter in cash and kept the remainder. Ker was connected with Jayapuri Brunei, Ltd.29
As discussed in Chapter V, this mysterious charter, it seems, was timed to have been in Davao when Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco, Jr reportedly took off from a private airstrip at Malita, Davao del Sur using another aircraft. Had they wanted to, it would have been possible, according to Capt Adriano Morales, for the chartered aircraft to have flown into Malita from Kota Kinabalu and then proceeded to Davao City Airport to formally record its re-entry into the Philippines with Immigration and Customs authorities.
The use of the aircraft and the fishing vessel could represent contributions of their owners to the coup plotters. One need not contribute funds to support the coup attempt. There were testimonies received by the Commission that civilians sent food to the rebels holed out in various buildings in Makati during the siege there. In fact, the rebels themselves agreed to take food and other supplies from Rustan Commercial Corporation in the Makati Commercial Center allegedly in exchange for sparing the building from being used as a machine gun nest.30
In the end, it is apparent that most of the resources used by the coup plotters were from the government. Arms, ammunition, equipment, and supplies such as those issued to the units that moved against the government, those raided from government armories, and goods from the warehouse of the Bureau of Customs were among the principal resources from the government employed against its duly constituted authority by those who were supposed to defend it. The cash allegedly found on wounded rebels could have been their month’s end salary received on 29 November since 30 November was a holiday. Even the initial reports about long lines of soldiers making big deposits in Makati banks turned out to be unsubstantiated.
B.6. Spreading the Coup Virus
In retrospect, the assignment of politicized officers, some of whom were already implicated in previous coup attempts, to sensitive positions like operations, intelligence, training, and logistics, was a serious mistake. This was demonstrated in the August 1987 coup attempt when those implicated in the November 1986 “God Save The Queen” plot were simply reassigned instead of being tried and, if found guilty, punished. Thus, they were able to spread with impunity the coup virus in critical “nits to which they were sent.
Honasan assumed command over the Special Operations School (SOS) of the PA Training Command (PATRACOM) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. The instructors under him included Lt Edmundo Malabanjot, Capts Dominador Lina, and Fidel Legiralde. These turned against the government on 28 August 1987 bringing with them their trainees. The timing of the coup attempt is significant, not only because of the restive political environment, but also because Honasan was supposed to appear before the AFP Anti-Graft Board on 30 August 1987 to account for a substantive number of firearms, radios, vehicles, and aboutP2 million for the purchase of equipment charged to him while he was commander of the elite anti-terrorist battalion at the Defense Ministry.
Kapunan was reassigned to the PMA after November 1986. Also at the PMA were Maj Wilhelm Doronal and Capt Gregorio Catapang, RAM members of long-standing. The latter tried to move to Manila with PMA cadets during the August 1987 coup attempt. He was implicated but subsequently cleared. Lake Honasan, they were able to influence officers at the PMA into sympathizing with their movement allegedly against anomalies in the military and the government. PMA classes 1988 to 1991 were infected with the virus and stated their support for the rebels during this coup attempt.
Prior to the December 1989 coup attempt, politicized officers were again in control of sensitive positions where they could gather intelligence, order troop mobilization and deployment, train military personnel whom they would bring with them in unauthorized troop movements, or control logistics and supplies. Lt Col Romelino Gojo and Capt Danilo Lim were their units’ operations officers while Cmdr Proceso Maligalig and Commo Domingo Calajate were in logistics and supplies. Purugganan was commandant of the Officers Candidates School (OCS). They were able to operate within their areas of responsibility for the rebel cause without inviting suspicion until the crucial hour of the coup attempt’s launching. Chapter VI discusses the rebel network.
The dispersal of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) after the December 1989 coup attempt may not have been a wise decision as it may only spread the coup virus to a wider area. Units that may not be coup prone could be infected by politicized Scout Rangers. It may have been more prudent to have put the regiment under a respected commanding officer who could reorient the men. Their dispersal could even exacerbate anti-government sentiments as Rangers are a very tightly-knit group and take pride in their distinction as an effective elite force. Their dispersal may be perceived as an unacceptable indignity to their unit.
B.7. Recruitment and Mobilization Factors
An important recruitment factor seems to be “old boy” networks in the AFP. Among older generation officers implicated in the failed December 1989 coup, a look at their service records tend to show their previous long association with either former Defense Minister Enrile or General Ver. Many occupied positions in the Jacinto group of companies managed by active-duty officers close to Enrile or were with the Presidential Security Command/National Intelligence Security Agency (PSC/NISA) under Ver. Among the latter are those who were attached to embassies or consulates abroad, either as defense attaches or intelligence officers with innocuous titles not normally found in embassy or consulate lists of personnel. These ties were apparently activated for the December 1989 coup attempt as we saw officers who were not involved in previous coups moving against the government together with well-known “repeaters” such as Honasan, Kapunan, Turingan, Batac, Abenina, and Zumel.
Gojo was described as Ver’s “side-kick,”31 having spent more time with Ver at the PSC than with the Marines.32 He is also Honasan’s third cousin. He reportedly held a grudge against the Aquino government for having pulled his younger brother, a pilot, from Manila after the EDSA Revolt. His brother was assigned to Mindanao where his aircraft crashed. Hisbody was never found. Gojo is said to support his deceased brother’s family.33 In Gojo’s case, both old ties and personal grudge against the government must have led him to join the failed December 1989 coup.
Younger officers, not previously implicated surfaced for the first time. Lt Emil Ong seems to represent the young idealistic officer, indignant over broad social issues like poverty, privileges of the wealthy, and injustice of the system. He believes in the goals of reform and wished a hastening of the coup plot in order to quickly accomplish the implementation of reforms in the military and in the government.34 Other young officers like Capt Gregory Ramos and Lt Oscar Singson moved out of their barracks to show their sympathy for the rebels.35 Still others who may not have been originally sympathetic to the rebels were indignant for what they perceived to be US intervention in Philippine domestic affairs. These included the 25 officers who dialogued with BGen Mariano Baccay, Jr in Davao City, as well as the 40 who met with BGen Rogelio Villanueva in Cagayan de Oro City (See Chapter V and VI). Disillusionment with the system, affected by what they perceive as continuing problems of poverty and the breakdown of basic services in the countryside, graft and corruption in the corridors of power, insurgencies that do not go away, and foreign dependence, among others, must have been compelling reasons for young idealistic officers either to join the plot or to show sympathy for the plotters.
Among the known recruiters who called on their classmates and friends were Fusilero and Bibit. Fusilero used his motorcycle gang, the Cyclones (short for Cycling Lunatics), as his cover in recruiting allies during their trips throughout the country. Bibit undertook his recruitment in the Visayas where he comes from, with the gun club, and through his Custom’s connections. He was reported by BGen Galileo Kintanar of ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the AFP) to Commissioner Salvador Mison, Bibit’s superior at the Bureau of Customs. Col Carlos Tanep also called Mison’s attention about Bibit’s recruitment activities. Unfortunately, Mison did not take a personal interest in the matter, much less attempt to neutralize him, because Mison felt his “primary responsibility is to collect revenues for the government. “. . . I feel that the job of . . . going after these people fighting the government rests solely in the hands of the AFP.” Mison did ask his chief of intelligence to watch Bibit.36
Recruitment seems to have been done rather obliquely, as officers said, “pakiramdaman lang muna.” This is why it may be difficult for officers to categorically state that they had been approached for recruitment into a conspiracy. Overtures usually begin by talking about the ills of society and when the recruiter senses that the object of recruitment is vulnerable, i.e., dissatisfied with the military and/or civilian government, desires change or is predisposed towards a coup, further discussions are arranged until the object becomes a recruit.
An effective mobilization factor is the political inclination of the units’ commanding officer. BGen Blando’s units were mobilized in large numbers, i.e., Tecson’s 68 IB, Oliveros’s 24 IB, Lt Col Levy Zamora’s 56 IB, Lt Col Rolen Erasmo’s 73 IB, Maj Pedro Gutierrez’s 71 IB and the company from the Scout Ranger Training Center under Capt Herbert Avinante. Blando appeared to be the key factor behind these troop movements as their division commander. Although not directly under him, the rebel Rangers such as the FSRRHQ, 4 SRB under Lt Col Galvez, and 3 SRB under Capt Flores, appeared to look up to him for leadership. , Because he was expected to fly by helicopter into Fort Bonifacio by the Scout Rangers who held that camp, he initially appeared not to join the troops of Erasmo, Gutierrez, and Avinante whom he ordered to proceed to Camp Aguinaldo. The Sikorsky helicopter flown by Lt Gregor Mendel Panelo which landed in the vicinity of Fort Magsay say at about 1:00 p.m of 1 December must have been the aircraft assigned to bring Blando to Fort Bonifacio. When Gen de Villa once more urged him to bring troops to Camp Aguinaldo to reinforce it from rebel soldiers, Blando was overheard asking if GHQ (General Headquarters) could provide them with air cover. When de Villa answered in the affirmative, Blando must have realized that the rebel air assets had been destroyed and decided to go to Manila with the above-cited troops by land. He led the convoy from Fort Magsaysay not to Camp Aguinaldo but to a “neutral place” — Greenhills Commercial Center—where he established his post contrary to de Villa’s orders.
There is reason to believe that Tecson and Zamora moved on Blando’s orders. Tecson asked to be allowed to return to Bataan and refused a diversion of his mission to secure Sangley when this was lost to the government troops led by Lt Col Edgar Aglipay, Laguna Provincial Commander and Lt Col Nicetas Katigbak, Cavite Provincial Commander. He said this was the extent of his “commitment” and did not proceed to attack the Headquarters of the Western Police District (HWPD) to which he was allegedly directed.37 Zamora, on the other hand, insisted on moving towards Manila allegedly on Blando’s orders. He agreed to return to his post only after learning that Blando had already been compromised. It is also possible that the superior force of his classmate, Lt Col Efren Fernandez, Pampanga Provincial Commander, made him rethink his position.
The participation of officers closely associated with Ver, like Gojo and Navy Capt Danilo Pizarro, seems to have been a function of their long association at the PSC/NISA. To some extent, this may similarly apply to Tecson and Galvez (4 SRB) who were at the PSC during the last 14 years of Marcos’s rule, some of which were spent abroad.
The deployment of some 26 prison guards and four civilians at the instance of Rodolfo Morit, Jr, an incorporator of GCFI, to fight on the rebel side is a mobilization through fraternal ties. Guardians have been in nearly each coup attempt since July 1986. Morit and Job Gavino, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Police Station Commander, were allegedly the contact persons of this group when it was fetched from the New Bilibid Prisons in the evening of 30 November for Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).38 Interestingly, Gavino was present at the PPA office when rebel soldiers took it over and enticed GCFI members from Baguio City to join the coup attempt.39 Gavino denied participation in it.
Deception may have also been a mobilization factor. Members of the GCFI led by Baguio Assistant City Prosecutor Elmer Sagsago were told to converge at the North Harbor on 30 November for an alleged GCFI meeting. It turned out that the North Harbor PPA office was used as a rebel recruitment and mobilization post. The GCFI members were invited to join the coup attempt but Sagsago said they instead quietly slipped out of the area in two’s and three’s to escape rebel detection.40
When the MBLT 4 moved out of Fort Bonifacio into Villamor Air Base (VAB), they were told to “follow the tanks” without being told that, the tanks were going to be used against the government. The 221st PC Company under Capt Nestor Bernardino was allegedly brought from Taytay on the pretext of going to a counterinsurgency (COIN) operation in Binangonan but ended up at the vicinity of PTV-4 on the rebel side.41 A similar claim was made by Pfc Victor Samonte, for the Bravo Company 16 IB based in Mauban, Quezon who was reportedly ordered by Lt Gener del Rosario to go to Magallanes Commercial Center with six others. They ended up at VAB where they found their gear and the rest of their company. There, del Rosario pointed to their uniforms and guns and told them: “Wala na tayong pangamba dahil nakuha na natin ang Villamor”. They subsequently attacked Camp Aguinaldo.42
In spite of the real possibility that enlisted men and others could have been deceived into joining the coup attempt, the Commission believes that they should have disengaged when they realized the deception, instead of remaining on the rebel side. While it is hard to distinguish between those who were genuinely deceived, of which there were some, and those who claim being deceived, of which there are many, deception could be the easiest excuse for joining a misadventure that failed.
B.8. The State of Government Readiness
The issue of failure of intelligence has been raised in relation to the last failed coup. Gen de Villa appeared on television’s late news on 30 November announcing the discovery of the sabotage of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Repeater Station in Tagaytay City. He said the saboteurs had been taken into custody and while the act was related to a planned coup,theplothadbeenneutralized. Ironically, however, within the hour the rebel Marines moved out of their cantonment area in Fort Bonifacio and took over VAB.
The Commission received evidence that tends to support the view that one cause of the government troops’ apparent unpreparedness may be due to their having become inured to coup rumors and to red alerts which, until 1 December 1989, turned out to be unwarranted. As a consequence, there was a decline in the times the troops went on red alert from 1 September 1987 to 1 December 1989. It is reasonable to assume that their psychological readiness necessarily also declined. Dramatic declines in red alerts as percentage of days in both the headquarters of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Marines are evidently clear. In the Navy, red alerts were called 70 days out of 131 (53.4 percent) in 1987, 60.04 out of 366 (16.4 percent) in 1988, and only 16.875 out of 333 (5.07 percent) in 1989. The Marines were on red alert 67 days out of 122 (55 percent) in 1987, 70.9 out of 366 (19.4 percent) in 1988, and 45.4 out of 333 (13.6 percent) in 1989. A less dramatic decline is also evident in the PAF Headquarters. They went on red alert 47 days out of 122 (38.5 percent) in 1987,113 out of 366 (30.9 percent) in 1988, and 70 out of 333 (21 percent) in 1989.
The soldiers could have become alert-fatigued due to continuing, although declining, red alert days. During this time they have to be in camp without exception. This must be very difficult for them and their families. Persistence of coup rumors that remained rumors must have put them in the same psychological state as the victims of “the boy who cried wolf.” When the coup plotters finally struck, they appeared unprepared.
There appears to have been failure of intelligence information being passed on to the appropriate commander or unit. This is what happened in the case of the failure of the Chief of Staff of Regional Command (RECOM) 7 to pass on to his superior the information he obtained at around 10:00 a.m. of 30 November about a coup taking place at 2200 H of the same day. The details were not transmitted to the Headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary (HPC) whose highest ranking officer then was BGen Victor Natividad. This must have been the case, too, of the message simul-patched by the Flag Officer in Commahd(FOIC) that a vessel full of rebel soldiers from Bataan was bound not for Manila as alleged by NDII43 but for Sangley. Lt Cmdr Damian Carlos claimed that the message transmitted by FOIC at 10:30 a.m., 30 November was received by him only at 3:00 p.m. since he was then at his quarters.44 If it were simul-patched, the staff intelligence officers of all units should have received and transmitted it to the commanders of NDII, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Naval Base Cavite (NBC), and Philippine Fleet (PHP). The fact that the vessel reached and left Sangley unmolested indicates the failure to either pass the intelligence on to the appropriate officers or to use the intelligence properly.
The failure to use intelligence information properly is best illustrated V the inaction by the AFP on the report of Maj Alphonsus Crucero of the Negros Island Command (NICOM) about the recruitment activities of Bibit and Fusilero.
It also appears that Malacañang was not being properly informed about intelligence relating to coup attempts. It was left out in the July 1986 Manila Hotel incident; according to testimony received in Executive Session, Malacañang found out about it from a reporter calling in to verify the incident. Malacañang resorted to buying information from those present around Manila Hotel in order to be updated on the incident. In the November 1986 “God Save The Queen” plot, Malacañang obtained information from non-military sources and delicately leaked it to the press in a manner not traceable to Malacañang in order to alert whoever in the AFP and defense leadership may have been part of the plot that Malacañang was aware of it. More than three years after the event, Malacañang continued to be unaware of its details.45
Because of the experience in July 1986, the Bengzon investigating committee organized to look into the Manila Hotel incident recommended an independent civilian source of intelligence gathering for the Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately, the recommendation was not totally acted upon. Little came out of the creation of a Crisis Committee tasked with the responsibility of dealing more effectively with situations like a coup attempt. Such a body, in coordination with the Presidents own intelligence agency, could have been the appropriate conduit for adequate and accurate information both to the President and the public. In the absence of such information, the public becomes manipulable by misinformation and disinformation unwittingly or deliberately passed on by radio and other media.
The strong camaraderie developed among officers may have been a hindrance in securing credible intelligence on coup attempts. Some soldiers may not be inclined to pass on information regarding their friends or classmates. In fact, some of them testified that it would be very difficult for them to arrest classmates or friends like Honasan. They would rather that the task is assigned to somebody else.46 Moreover, their socialization into anti-communism taught them that the enemies are the communists. Consequently, there has been much better intelligence on the CPP/NPA than on the rebel military, according to testimony received in Executive Session. Better military and government preparedness is necessary to deter future coup attempts or reduce further the probability of a successful coup.
B.9. Role of the USAF Phantom Jets
The capability of the AFP to cope with the rebel assault was put to a test when rebel air assets from Sangley attacked Malacafiang and government installations in Metro Manila. However, by the time the United States Air Force (USAF) jets flew over Metro Manila at 2:04 p.m. of 1 December, PAF planes flown by Maj Danilo Atienza, Capt Ariel Quijano, and Lt Antonio Avaricio had already destroyed the rebel air assets and the fuel dump at Sangley. The Commission’s Interim Report No. 2 dated 12 May 1990 dealt exhaustively with the chronology of events with respect to the USAF jets.
The Commission concluded that the USAF jets did not destroy the rebel air assets nor were they instrumental in keeping the rebel planes on the ground to be destroyed by the PAF jets. That issue being settled, the Commission also wanted to know the military or political value of the so-called persuasion flights, both from hindsight and from the point of view of those making the military decisions at the time.
Gen de Villa contends that, since the tide of battle had started to turn before noon of 1 December with the arrival of more than sufficient reinforcements at Camp Aguinaldo and since the rebel air assets had already been destroyed, the flight of the Phantoms served no real military value for or against the government forces. This view appears to be supported by evidence that several units which intended to support the rebels were not deterred from still moving, even after wide publicity was given to the flight of the Phantoms, e.g. the 56 IB from Aurora, the column of Blando from Fort Magsaysay, the attack by rebel Marines on Camp Aguinaldo in the early morning of 3 December.
On the other hand, the 68 IB and 24 IB that secured Sangley may have decided to return to Bataan not only because the rebel air assets had already been destroyed but because the persuasion flights were made directly over them.
The Phantoms had a reverse effect on the 25 officers in Davao and the 40 in Cagayan de Oro City. They used the flights to express sympathy for the rebels and faulted the government for allowing foreign interference into a strictly “domestic” affair.
Ramos’ view qualified de Villa’s. He said that hindsight tells us that foe persuasion flights did occur after the government had already gained the upper hand. However, at the time of the flight, the AFP command was not fully certain about the capability of the rebels to launch air strikes from Mactan Air Base (MAB) or to bring reinforcements from Mindanao and Palawan to Manila. It was not until afterwards that the government knew about the refusal of all the pilots to go along with Comendador.
The political value of the flights to the government is questionable. The immediate effect to the public was probably one of relief at the thought that the US was firmly on the government side, particularly after the initial reports of rebel gains. On the other hand, the flights served to give the opposition, at least initially, a platform to put the government on the defensive, some young officers an occasion to express support for the rebels, and the US and its press a propaganda leverage for the bases negotiations. On hindsight, the government would have been better off not calling on the persuasion flights. But 20-20 vision was not available when the flights were first agreed upon at about 11:00a.m. of 1 December, when a favorable outcome was not yet clearly in sight and a judgment call had to be made. That judgment, which paid immediate tribute to the US and a belated, but eventually fitting, credit to the PAF pilots, may have been the most rational under the circumstances. But its net after-effect is a political setback for the government. It brings home the lesson that there is no substitute for self-reliance and the removal of all vestiges of overdependence on a foreign patron.
B.10. Outnumbered But Not Outfought
Although an officer testified that Commo Domingo Calajate’s turn to serve as Senior Command Duty Officer at Camp Aguinaldo on .30 November could not have been anticipated,47 the coincidence remains rather suspicious. Infiltration from inside Camp Aguinaldo by LOGGOM officers, one of whom was the Duty Officer for the day, worked in the rebels’ favor. The LOGCOM compound occupying two thirds of the camp made it easier for Calajate to position his men and to house a Marine company from the MBLT 1 as well as a Marine guard company to escort supplies for Subic Naval Base from LOGCOM in the evening of 30 November without inviting suspicion.
Inside Camp Aguinaldo, the government side was clearly at a disadvantage during the first several hours of the coup attempt. BGen Rodolfo Biazon, CGNational Capital Region Defense Command (NCRDC) said “there were not many government troops in Aguinaldo” during this time.48 The troops normally available to him as a maneuver battalion were the ones that bolted out of their cantonment area at Fort Bonifacio and occupied VAB.
Fort Bonifacio was quickly overrun by Scout Rangers who had filtered earlier into the camp from various points in Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon. They took over strategic targets in the camp as the MBLT 4 quickly took over VAB. With the same ease, rebels led by ex-Lt Col O scar Legaspi, ex -Navy Capt Felix Turingan, and ex-LCdr Jaime Lucas occupied Sangley, took over the PAF air assets there, neutralized the officers, and operated the aircraft against government targets. Their task was made easier by conspiring with officers already inside Sangley like Navy Capt Pizarro of the Philippine Fleet and Navy Capt Jesus Durian, the Naval Base Commander. Durian denied being a rebel. Even PTV-4 was easily taken over by the rebels, again because defenders were greatly outnumbered.
The failure of the rebels to launch a massive and sustained attack against the government forces particularly at Camp Aguinaldo during the early hours of the coup enabled reinforcements from the latter side to get themselves organized and to reach the various camps in time to repel the main rebel attacks. Failure to gain success within the day sealed the fate of the rebels.49 This was facilitated by the loyalty of officers who refused to use strategic assets on behalf of the rebels. The pilots at VAB as well as those at MAB, who refused to fly any aircraft for BGen Comendador, crippled the rebels’ capability to bring reinforcement troops from Mindanao and to attack government targets. Hence, Comendador had the aircraft but could not fly them. Consequently, the troops from Mindanao brought to MAB apparently for transshipment to Manila to reinforce rebels could not be flown out of Mactan.
Perhaps the rebels’ failure to mount a serious attack against government troops and installations and the reluctance of government troops to fire at the rebels could have been a function of their strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie. Soldiers detest fighting against fellow soldiers because the organization’s unity, so essential to remaining an effective fighting force, would be breached. This could lead to the destruction of the army itself. Thus, as discussed in the Commission’s Interim Report No. 2, the government pilots appeared unwilling to shoot at the rebel-controlled Tora-Toras (T-28) and Sikorskys, equipment that make them an effective fighting unit. Instead they fired warning shots at them, strafed the coasts along the Sangley runway, and only hit them when it became absolutely necessary.50 This underlines the merit of the suggestion by MGen (Ret) Ramon Montano and BGen Loven Abadia that government troops should be commanded to fire immediately rather than talk to the other side to ensure their commitment.
B.11. The Sorry State of Military Equipment
Another reason for the pilots’ hesitance to destroy the rebel aircraft is the inadequacy of equipment available to the AFP. This is the reason given by one of the F-5 pilots from Basa Air Base on why they exercised maximum tolerance when they first engaged the rebel T-28s. The country’s long security relationship with the US has not only led to the neglect of its external defense capability but has also hindered it from modernizing its armed forces. The sorry state of its equipment was driven home to the Commission when it found out that intelligence messages could not be readily transmitted, resulting in the escape of rebel forces or in disadvantages to government forces.
There was a marked difference between the arms allegedly used by the coup leaders, their vehicles, and communications equipment, and those available to government forces. Although the rank and file used government-issued firearms and other supplies, the coup leaders had Uzis, Galils, and Ultimax guns, radio and telephone systems superiorto those used by government troops. It will be recalled that Honasan remains accountable for arms, ammunition, and communications equipment issued to him as the commander of the MND elite battalion. After the August 1987 coup attempt, four carloads of M-16s, Galils, and Uzis were presumably returned to him by Commo Marcelo.51 Bibits Customs connections could have given him access to sophisticated arms smuggled into the country. The Armburst anti-tank weapon issued to Noble through Sgt Asterio Dejarme came from a parked van at the South Harbor.
Pajeros, L-300 vans, and Land Cruisers appeared to be standard vehicles used by the coup plotters. In contrast, Col Clemente Mariano had to commandeer private trucks, including fish and fruit vendor’s trucks, in order to ferry SOLCOM troops to Manila.52
The lamentable state of military equipment has also been cited by military personnel, both rebel and government, as a source of grievance. Inadequate medical facilities and supplies in the field had led soldiers to describe these facilities as Mona Lisa hospitals where “they just lie there and they die there.”53 They also complain about politicians who use the military’s scarce helicopters in their provincial sorties thereby competing with military purposes such as evacuating the wounded and transporting troops and critical supplies where and when they are most needed. This practice fans their dissatisfaction with politicians whom they think spend more time “politicking” than doing their job in Congress.
B.12. Will There Be Another Coup?
When asked that question, the military’s usual answer is that the rebel groups may have the capability for mischief, de-stabilization, or terroristic activities but they do not have the organic forces, critical mass, or covert network in the military establishment to launch an attempt anywhere near the magnitude of the one of December 1989.
Part of the reason is that the rebels may have committed almost all or most of their resources last December, and need some time to remobilize. Despite the impression that they have a large armory which had its origin as far back as the Marcos regime, they still engage in arms’ raids under risky conditions.
Secondly, the measures being taken by the government and the military after the December 1989 are better than those after earlier coup attempts. According to the military, the “cavalier” attitude toward coup participants is no longer practiced, to the extent that detainees are now protesting the “inhuman conditions” in military detention centers. A counter-intelligence unit has been organized directly under the CSAFP to address the problem of military mutinies. Loyalty to the Constitution is a major criterion for promotion and assignment to sensitive and command positions. And the benefits to soldiers continue to be improved despite the budgetary problems of the government, although the difficult economic situation will increasingly be felt by the military and their dependents.
Thirdly, the communication program of the government to mobilize public opinion against coups and any kind of violent change has improved considerably.
The Commission agrees with the military that the likelihood of a successful coup is remote. But, at this difficult economic period with more problems lurking around the corner, even the bombings that happen with disturbing regularity could push the country closer to a crisis, and the logical question is — do the rebels have the capability to make an attempt of sufficient magnitude and international impact, however ultimately unsuccessful, that would bring the country to crisis?
The Commission believes that if the measures recommended in this Report are adopted and the processes are sustained for solidarity and Peace, first among the political parties, and next among all sectors, the rebel groups can be pre-empted from making such an attempt. At the moment, they appear to have lost some momentum in the war of nerves with government forces. If the government continues to press the initiative and manages to capture more of the core group, including Honasan, the pre-emption can be permanent.
What about the possibility of a CPP-NPA tie-up with the RAM-HF or the YOU? As the December 1989 events demonstrated, even forces such as the RAM-HF and Loyalists, which may appear to be “oil and water”, may have their own catalyzing element, at least for the short-run, in the overriding quest for power. That they will probably end up fighting among themselves over the “spoils”, as indicated by attempts at one-upmanship last December, will not deter them from making tactical linkages. After all, they use a common language in representing themselves as real reformers, are able to rationalize the use of violence to attain their ends, and have very little chance of winning in the electoral process. Thus, the 1992 election is not a feasible alternative to them, only an opportunity to radicalize the people if the process is flawed. Should other opportunities present themselves earlier, such as a severe economic crisis, they could get together as a matter of expediency.
While the possibility exists, the strong anti-communist culture of the military, which the rebels adhere to and publicly espouse, is a strong deterrent against such an alliance. It would represent more of a contradiction than the RAM-HF-Loyalist coalition and could divide the rebel ranks. They must surely also realize that it would alienate whatever sympathy they may have among the disillusioned but law-abiding mainstream of society.
B.13. Conduct Expected of Public Officials
Sec 1, Article XI of the Constitution requires public officers to “be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and . . . act with patriotism and justice” Moreover, elective and appointive officials take a solemn oath not only to “defend” but also to “preserve” the Constitution. Thus, they are duty bound as provided by Article 137 of the Revised Penal Code “to resist a rebellion by all means in their power.”
As against these standards of conduct prescribed for all public officials, the Commission makes of record the evidence it received regarding the activities and behavior of several opposition politicians, some of whom are elective officials, during the coup attempt.
Since Vice President Salvador Laurel is the constitutional successor to the President, his actuations during the period of the attempted coup take on added importance. He was abroad when the coup occurred. During his stopover in Hongkong, he gave a telephone interview conducted by John Eidinow on 3 December 1989 for British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC).54 He refused at that time to condemn the coup which is all the more puzzling since the government forces were clearly in the ascendancy by then. Portions of the interview are quoted below for the reader’s own consideration.
“There has been upheaval too in the Philippines. But it has involved armed conflict, deaths, and injuries as President Aquino who has put off six attempted coups and since the people power propelled her into office in 1986. The attempted coup has been declared crushed according to the Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos with early mopping up operations going on. The situation remains confusing but President Aquino calls on the rebels thrice: surrender or die. A short while ago, I called Mrs Aquino’s Vice-President but also an opposition leader, Salvador Laurel who’s stranded in Hongkong to ask him for his attitude to the attempted coup and to the rebels.
It’s something that should not have happened. It’s very painful to see Filipinos fighting and killing brother Filipinos. And I think the situation was exacerbated by the intervention of the United States in this affair.
But I don’t hear you condemning the rebels. [Emphasis supplied]
Well I don’t want to pre-judge them, I condemn the method. But I cannot condemn the cause because they have been quoted as fighting for good government. How can you be against good government? But I do not believe in the use of force and violence. I believe in constitutional and democratic processes. [Emphasis supplied]
I’m surprised as far as the government’s handling of the uprising is concerned. Do you think that Mrs Aquino’s call to the rebels to surrender or die was the right course?
I do not think that that was the right thing to say or do. You do not say that to people who are armed and ready to fight and die. I think, you know that’s like waving a red flag at a bull. So I think she has not taken a more conciliatory position. I think we should have explored other avenues that could lead to an amicable settlement of the dispute.
So although you condemn the course taken by the rebels, you still think that Mrs Aquino should have negotiated with them, but negotiate about what?
Well, what are the gripes, what are the issues, what are the grievances that should be addressed. I see four immediate and major failures on the part of the Aquino government. The first is the failure to unite the nation, failure to adopt a policy of national reconciliation. Second is failure to enforce them. The President is the one principally tasked with the responsibility of enforcing and executing the laws, the laws primarily on graft and corruption have not been enforced. Third, is the failure to deliver basic services to the people. And this is a big disappointment especially because of the promises that have been made and not fulfilled. Finally, the fourth and the last, is the failure to provide direction and leadership. I think there should be a reasonable dialogue before we resort to the last recourse.
And given the answers of the dialogue, do you think Mrs Aquino now should consider stopping down? [Emphasis supplied]
Well, if it is the only way to avert a bloodshed or to avert a civil war, I think she should consider that as a cheap price to pay. I would be willing to step down with her if that is the only way we can avert bloodshed and civil war. [Emphasis supplied]
But I mentioned you would also be willing to put your self forward if called to take her place? [Emphasis supplied]
Well, that is the constitutional requirement. As Vice-President I am required under the Constitution to succeed in specific instances. [Emphasis supplied]
Where do you think this leaves the Philippines now assuming that the rebellion is in fact crushed? Where do you think this leaves your country?
I think it hurts the country very badly. The economy will surely be affected very adversely. And the investment climate will suffer. We try to get people to come to the Philippines to invest and it will take sometime before we can convince people to come to the Philippines again but I am confident that our people are a resilient people. We are used to adversity and I know we will bounce back especially under a good leadership, an effective and strong leadership.
The Vice-President of the Philippines, Salvador Laurel, speaking from Hongkong…”
The opposition Nacionalista Party (NP), as discussed in Chapter V, had a press conference at the Intercon which started at about 3:00 p.m. of 2 December and lasted for an hour. Intercon was not the original venue of this meeting. According to Bias Ople, Executive Vice President of the NP, at about 10:00 a.m. of 1 December, a member of the staff of Sen Juan Ponce Enrile, calling on behalf of the Senator, invited him to drop by the latter’s residence at Dasmarinas Village, Makati, to informally discuss the future courses of action for the Party.55 He arrived at the Enrile residence at about 1:30 p.m. Present on that occasion were Messrs Rene Espina, Bobby Brillantes, Geronimo Velasco, Ike Gutierrez (as representative of Vice-President Laurel), Dr & Mrs Rebecco Panlilio, and others he did not recognize. During their informal discussion, they saw the need to convene the Central Committee (CENCOM) of the Party because there were “members all over the country [who] were in the dark, and probably would appreciate some guidance from the Party on what was going on”.
Enrile suggested his residence as the venue for the meeting but Ople pointed out that such a venue is not proper because the meeting ought to be in a public place”. Since the Hotel Intercontinental was a place most familiar to the members of the Central Committee”, Ople suggested it and requested Gutierrez to arrange for the Dasmarinas Room of the Intercon for the meeting on the following day, at 1:30 p.m. to be followed by a Dress conference at. 3:00 p.m.56
The decision to hold the press conference was made in the afternoon of 1 December. Purugganan, who was apparently the contact person to the RAM-HF command, moved elements of the FSRR to the Makati commercial district in the morning of 2 December after there was apparent agreement with government forces for the rebels to lay down their arms. By the time of the Nacionalista Party press conference, the rebels had full control of the vicinity of the Intercon.
Ople claimed he left the Enrile residence at 4:00 p.m. on 1 December “before the waiters [who were to subsequently execute affidavits that they saw Honasan in the house] could arrive in the residence of Senator Enrile”.57
When asked who were present during the CENCOM Meeting cum press conference, Ople testified before the Commission
If you want me to help identify to the best of my ability those who were there, I think, I remember that Sen Arturo Tolentino was there, Vic Rabaya, Frisco San Juan, Isidro Rodriguez, Dominador Aytona, Rene Espina, Mabungkay Reonto [Alonto], Atty Regalado Maambong and there is one not listed here who was also there, Speaker, former Speaker Jose P. Laurel, Jr. Those are the names that I recall, who were among those present. And yes, Sen Enrile was there.”58
The CENCOM Meeting was characterized by what Ople called “spirited exchanges among members of the Central Committee”. And instead of what was originally intended (i.e., to provide guidance to party members who were in the dark and would have appreciated guidance from the party on what was going on), “primarily the meeting of the Central Committee dealt with a proposed position or statement concerning the emergency that was taking place at the time.” 59 The proposed statement, which was admitted to have been drafted by Ople, was strongly critical of what the NP then considered “intervention of the United States through the Phantom Jets.” 60
The Ople draft underwent several changes in the course of the “spirited exchange”. The first involved a change in the object of the statement’s condemnation. Ople narrated
You will note that in the third paragraph, in the fourth paragraph of page two. The statement says The Nacionalista Party does not countenance violence and stands by the Constitution of the Republic’ In the original, it continued: “it deplores the military rebellion and the government’s incapacity to contain it more quickly, more effectively, . . . a situation reflecting directly on the adequacy, competence and sustainability of the highest defense of military leadership’ In the corrected version however, it comes out as: ‘it deplores however the government’s giving cause to the military rebellion and its incapacity to contain it more quickly, more effectively’ . . . etc. So that is an example on how the original draft underwent certain changes in the course of the open deliberation . . .61
Thus, while the original draft was explicitly against the attempted coup as it “deplore[d] the military rebellion,” the revision made by the CENCOM withdrew said condemnation and instead deplored “the government’s giving cause to the military rebellion.” Both Ople and Maambong, NP Deputy Secretary General in charge of research, agreed that the revision “entirely changed the whole meaning” of the condemnation.62
The only other change in the Ople draft consisted of an amendment of the first sentence of the second paragraph of page 1 of the statement. In its original form, the sentence read as follows
President Aquino, having lost the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines requested for the US military rescue and President George Bush of the United States ordered that the necessary force be committed.63
As given to the media, the phrase “shamelessly and without regard to national honor and dignity” was inserted on the second line between the words “Philippines” and “requested.”
Unaltered during the discussions were allegations in the Ople draft that the US “fighter craft apparently unmarked to disguise its origin, shot rockets that killed innocent Filipino civilians”; that President Aquino “lost the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines”; and that the “brazen act of intervention belies President Aquino’s claims that her government is in full control of her military forces and that she enjoys broad popular support.”
When asked about the inconsistency of the above-statements with his own testimony before the Commission deploring the politics of hate and vengeance and espousing reconciliation and unity, and when confronted with the inaccuracy of the statement’s purported factual assertions, Ople asked the Commission to understand the NP statement in the light of “the atmosphere that prevailed at that time.” He admitted that “if there is an opportunity to rewrite this statement, it would sound better and more balanced” and that it was actually “the very strong resentment of the American intervention . . . at the time that strongly colored the language.”64
The press statement of the Central Committee of the Nacionalista Party on 2 December with the corrections65 is attached to this Report as to Appendix.
During the press conference, individual members of the CENCOM gave statements of their own, among them Enrile, Abdul Khayr Alonto, Espina and Aytona. When asked by the Commission, Ople categorically denied that he made a statement asking President Aquino to resign. Such a statement, said Ople, “would be inappropriate.”66
However, the Commission has a videotape67 of portions of the press conference in which Ople said
There is a preponderant feeling which this statement has not captured in the ranks of the opposition that the constitutional legitimacy of President Aquino has been impaired by her own reckless renunciation of the sovereignty of the nation in order to, well, by seeking American support in order to prop herself up in power and this can constitute a very serious impairment of their own constitutional legitimacy. That is the reason there is a sentiment that she should consider stepping down and giving way to a government of national unity. But as I said, the text of this statement does not capture that sentiment and I’m saying this on my individual behalf rather than on behalf of the Central Committee of the Nacionalista Party. [Emphasis supplied]
The press conference ended by 4:00 p.m. Ople proceeded to the Peninsula Coffee Shop since he “wanted some privacy with my (his) coffee.”
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s personal comments during the press conference are equally revealing. He took pains to characterize the rebels as “antagonistic forces,” “contending forces,” or “challenging military elements,” and when referring to the coup, he used such terms as “the situation,” “this problem,” or “military action against the Aquino government.”
His assessment of the ongoing coup attempt indicated a bias in favor of the rebels as he recounted, “I was told over the radio” that Camp Aguinaldo was surrounded by “the group challenging the government. . . in a perimeter around Greenhills, . . . at the back of Camp Aguinaldo and . . . at the White Plains side of Aguinaldo.” [Emphasis supplied] He, moreover, said that based on “what I hear over the radioand what I have read in the papers,” [Emphasis supplied] the rebels controlled Legaspi Airport and they had reinforcement troops presumably coming from Negros Occidental and Iloilo, troops which were intercepted in Camarines Norte, and those coming from SOLCOM although in the case of the latter, it was not clear if
they are with the side of the government or on the side of the challenging military elements. They claim that they are here for a peacekeeping purpose to serve as a neutral element. If this is the situation, then this presents to you a spectacle of a government that has no command over the bulk of its own forces.68
After collating testimonies and after-battle reports, the Commission found Enrile’s information about rebel troop movements accurate. His assessment of the action of government forces must have been based on his own perception of the events of February 1986, which he appears to continue to think was a successful coup against Marcos, instead of the triumph of people power. He said
If they have 5,000 troops at their disposal at this point, then they should by now be able to mount a counter-attack and the longer this thing will last, I think it will become more difficult for the government to contain it. You see, from my own experience, one of the main errors of the former regime was to give us time in our favor. Had they taken the initiative at the outset of the conflict, that was on Saturday, 22nd of February, especially during the night of Saturday and on Sunday morning, then maybe the situation would have been different . . .69 [Emphasis supplied].
The above assessment indicates Enrile’s optimism about the rebels’ chances of succeeding in their attempt. Ople, on the other hand, testified to a contrary view. When asked what the evaluation of the Nacionalista Party was of the rebellion at the time of its CENCOM meeting, particularly on which side was winning, he said
. . . there are those like myself who thought that the issue of this confrontation had become clear, that the rebellion has been lost. Now. I’m sure there were others who wanted to stretch the boundaries of their optimism.70 [Emphasis supplied]
Insofar as the portions of the videotape with the Commission shows, not only did Enrile blame the government for the coup attempt, but like Laurel, he failed to condemn the coup participants or call upon them to lay down their arms.
Laurel and Ople even suggested that President Aquino consider stepping down. Rather than close ranks to defend the Constitution and the duly constituted authority, as required of public officers, both Laurel and Enrile took turns heckling the beleaguered government and thus contributed to the instability of the situation. They sounded as if President Aquino, and not the rebels, was the lawbreaker.
B.14 The Role of Media in Crisis Situations
The December 1989 coup attempt served to highlight the issues of the role of media in a newly-restored democracy with weak political institutions in a Third World setting, and a well-developed media sector along the lines of First World countries. The result is a continuous dilemma within media itself and tension between government regulatory agencies and media which are all heightened in times of crisis, such as an attempted coup.
The role of media is the dissemination of information.71 It is an indispensible institution in a free society based on the fundamental right of the people to relevant, adequate, and accurate information.72 When there is an ongoing coup, media play a difficult balancing act, more so for radio and television which have the capacity for live coverage. Media have to contend not only with physical danger, while grappling with the demands of their code of ethics on specific unfolding events, but also with regulatory officials with strong protective instincts for a government in real danger of being overthrown.73
This dilemma was present in the “play-by-play” radio broadcast of DZRH during the critical hours of the coup when the outcome was in doubt, the attempt by rebel leaders to appear on television and radio to propagandize their cause, and the inclusion in news reports of the gore and violence of the fighting.
How is the dilemma to be resolved? During a coup attempt, as the media have the duty to inform the citizens, so has a government under siege the duty and the right to protect itself. Where the government leaves a vacuum, as it did in December, and the people need to be informed, media step into that vacuum. It is, therefore, part of the responsibility of government in reconciling the respective roles of government and media, to provide fast and accurate information during crisis, to use, if necessary, the government’s own media resources to advance its interests, and, according to some communications practitioners and experts, even place embargoes on certain information or close down media establishments in situations of extreme danger.74 On the other hand, it is the right of media to protest and question such moves at the earliest opportunity and thereby enable society, through judicial or administrative rulings, to build up the jurisprudence and traditions that it considers appropriate.75
Ultimately, the most effective deterrent against inaccurate reporting that can amount to irresponsibility under extreme circumstances, is the self-discipline of a profession and its refusal to compromise itself with conflict of interest situations.
An obvious conflict of interest situation arises when a journalist also engages in public relations. Then, the public may become the victim of inaccurate or baseless information for which nobody really takes responsibility. During the December 1989 events, several press releases of the rebels found their way into media through a person, Joan Orendain, who claimed that she was doing it as a journalist, but at the same admitted that she did not verify its authenticity before passing them on to her editor. She alleged that the releases were delivered to her apartment by unknown persons and she surmised that the rebels may have sought her out because she was a friend of a former RAM member (Robles) for which she was doing a personal favor because the person was being unjustly incriminated in the coup. In her testimony, Orendain constantly changed hats, between journalist and public relations, to explain her actions. The most charitable assessment for journalists of that genre is that they are confused about their responsibilities and their constituences and should resolve their confusion for the sake of the entire profession.
The issue of accurate reporting has its own solutions. According to the members of media, accuracy can be developed through adequate training and preparation, a system of apprenticeship, the inculcation of a culture of thoroughness, and the realization that a media person is first and foremost a citizen with a social responsibility.76 It is better to rely on the self-discipline of the profession and err on the side of accommodation than to engage in repression, since drastic measures do not necessarily lead to improved professionalism and ethical standards, but perhaps even to the opposite, as the martial law era demonstrated.77
Pursuant to its mandate under Republic Act No. 6832, and recognizing that the ultimate responsibility for preventing coups rests with all the citizens, the Commission adopted Resolution No. 066 which sought from various organizations and/or sectors their suggestions towards this objective and the role they should play in attaining it.
A number of organizations and individuals submitted position papers to the Commission, the names of which are listed in Appendix L to this report. The Commission is grateful for the cooperation of those who responded and acknowledges the suggestions which have been incorporated in its report. However, the Commission takes full responsibility for its recommendations in compliance with the requirement of RA No. 6832.
The recommendations of the Commission are based on its analysis of the events, causes, environment, and lessons of the December 1989 coup attempt. As previously explained, however, the Commission also examined the previous coup attempts since they are all inextricably linked, in order to fully understand the context and dynamics of the December 1989 events.
The recommendations are divided into three parts:
1. “damage control” and short-term prescriptions to address the immediate problem of another coup attempt;
2. an agenda for the remaining term of the Aquino administration; and
3. recommendations over the long-term.
The recommendations are further classified, where appropriate, by sector or area of responsibility. The principal theme of these recommendations is justice — firmly, fairly, and consistently administered— as a basic principle of governance. People can bear poverty, but they cannot bear injustice. In fact, the accumulation of injustices, personally experienced or generally perceived, was the principal factor in the people’s alienation from the Marcos administration, and to the eventual loss of its legitimacy.
However, it should also be pointed out that if there is failure in the administration of justice in a society, government alone is not usually to blame. It is because there is a breakdown in the norms of conduct in the society itself. Thus, some recommendations are directed towards other sectors, e.g., the legal opposition, the business sector, educational institutions, and media.
In the final analysis, the guarantee against coups, as well as other aberrant behavior, is the creation of a just, humane, and progressive society, the elements of which are set out in the Constitution.
C.1. “Damage Control” and Short-Term Prescriptions to Address the Immediate Problem of Preventing Another Coup Attempt
Since a coup d’etat is primarily a military operation which does not depend on mass civilian support for its success, immediate prescriptions should be directed at immobilizing, isolating, and capturing military rebels, both known or covert, before they can plan, recruit, or launch a coup.
Addressing the immediate problem of another coup requires a set of prescriptions that fully recognizes the complex interaction of internal factors and external factors and the different degrees of participation and motive, and hence culpability.
The Commission reiterates its recommendations in Interim Reports No. 1 (system of military justice) and No. 3 (needed legislation), and further recommends:
a. Administering a justice and rehabilitation program to military participants as follows:
i. Continuous trial for those already charged.
ii. Speedy process for those under investigation a3 well as those recommended for prosecution, investigation, or reinvestigation by the Commission in Chapter VI, e.g., some members of the Cebu PC and Air Force commands, members of the Guardian Centre Foundation Inc involved in the Bibit operation at the North and South Harbors and at the Domestic Airport.
iii. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all benefits, in valid instances allowing the attachment of their properties, and punishment to the full extent of the law for those found guilty as principals. Those with lesser offenses should be meted graduated punishment.
iv. Strict enforcement of AW 68 for failure to report contacts, solicitations, and attempted recruitment to participate in coups.
v. Immediate release of those against whom there is insufficient evidence for prosecution, without prejudice to a reopening of the cases, if warranted.
vi. The restoration to the lineal roster of all those already cleared as well as those released for insufficient evidence.
vii. An amnesty program for young officers (majors and below) who are not principals and who have exceptional service records, provided they sincerely renounce all coups, pledge not to have any kind of involvement in any recruitment or planning for any coup, and agree to resign from the armed forces. This is without prejudice to their re-commissioning after two-three years without loss of seniority for those who express such intention at the time they apply for amnesty and engage in community and/or public service approved by the government during the “rehabilitation” period.
viii. An early retirement program which is available to all but primarily directed at those lagging behind in the promotional ladder for reasons of non-performance, those who believe they are being discriminated upon for being identified with the Marcos-Ver or Enrile groups, and those implicated with or suspected to be sympathetic to the rebels but against whom evidence may not be sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The objective is not to invite the retirement of those officers the AFP wants to retain, but to give reasonable benefits to those who cannot meet the rigid requirements of a smaller officer corps and to provide an exit opportunity to those who believe that their careers have been impaired by their associations. It is the condition of such benefits that they not be found guilty subsequently of any crime against national security and public order. Otherwise, they are liable for the return of all the benefits plus interest.
In the Commission’s view, the amnesty and retirement programs are necessary to allow officers, whose opportunities in the military may be limited, to leave without any stigma. It will also totally purge the AFP of officers vulnerable to using their position to recruit for or participate in a coup, without driving them to desperate behavior for lack of livelihood. The dilemma of the military is how to handle the loyal but dishonest or ineffective officer, or the honest and loyal but ineffective, or the effective and loyal but dishonest. While this is obviously a difficult decision, there is really only one answer if the military is to be restored to an honest, loyal, and effective force. Anyone who does not possess all three qualifications should be removed. But, they should be encouraged and helped to find a useful career in civilian life. By depriving coup-prone officers of an institutional base, the program would reduce considerably the risk of another coup. It would constitute the first stage in the strengthening of a post-insurgency military that is smaller, more professional, and fully modernized. The program would also offer a second chance to young officers genuinely interested in resuming their military careers but who need to be totally expunged of any coup “virus” and to have the cloud over them permanently removed. Finally, the program would answer the military rebels’ accusation of selective justice by the government, with the case of former NPA Victor Corpus as well as the amnesty program for NPA insurgents being mentioned as examples.
However, the granting of amnesty should be only one component of a calibrated response and should be judiciously applied. The government should not allow itself to be stampeded into a generalized program to “start with a clean slate”, since that argument was used as a ploy in past coup attempts to merely preempt prosecution of incorrigible rebels. It should be emphasized that an amnesty may cure the symptom but not the disease (i.e., injustice, poverty).
In conducting a “peace dialogue” with rightist rebels, the government should exercise utmost caution in choosing who to talk to. The government is advised not to start with the hardcore RAM-HF officers who have been involved in several coup attempts and are likely to exploit the process to advance their own agenda.
b. The strengthening of security measures on those under detention, especially where there may be sympathetic guards. i.e., Muntinlupa.
The escapes of Honasan and Bibit who successfully co-opted or outwitted their guards should not be forgotten by the government. Nothing hurts the government’s image more or frustrates those who made the capture, than to see maximum security suspects escape with ease and impunity.
c. The intensification of efforts to capture key renegade soldiers with a special unit of trusted officers directly responsible to the CSAFP.
Honasan, Kapunan, Turingan, Batac, Bibit, Purugganan, and other central figures in the coup attempts should be specially targeted for capture. Despite the wide publicity given to the YOU and other military renegades as the potential source of new coups, the rebel cause would be set back considerably by thecaptureoftheRAM-HFleaders. Furthermore, the public perception is that these renegades cannot be captured because they are protected by elements within the military itself. Their capture would be a clear signal that the military is unequivocally committed to enforce the law, as repeatedly stated by the Commander-in-Chief herself after each coup attempt. While several key rebels have been captured, the ability of the core group to elude capture after such tough talk tends to demoralize those who abide by the law and undermines the system of reward and punishment in the larger society itself.
d. A reinvestigation of the “God Save The Queen” plot and prosecution of all those implicated in it.
There appears to be sufficient basis for the military to conduct a formal investigation of the incident, and for the government to cause the prosecution of everyone found to have been involved. The original excuses for not conducting an investigation are not, nor were they ever, valid, i.e., no overt action, the risk of dividing the military, the independent character of the DND security force from the normal chain of command, the hope that those implicated can still be reformed, if not prosecuted. If there is to be a total approach to the problem of coups, it is important to close the book on the incident.
e. A review of the subsequent actuations of those involved in the Manila Hotel incident, both military and civilian, who pledged never to engage in similar adventurism again, if spared from prosecution.
Those who are implicated or suspected with respect to the December 1989 or any other coup attempts and are found to have violated their pledge should also be prosecuted for the Manila Hotel incident.
f. An intensive follow-up investigation by government police agencies and the Justice Department of civilians implicated in the December 1989 attempt.
If the renegade soldiers are to be cut off from their support systems, the message to actual or potential civilian supporters must be clearly spelled out — there is no margin for tolerance when the survival of democracy is at stake. The Commission believes, based on selective cases (i.e., identifying the vessel that ferried the rebel troops from Bataan to Sangley, identifying the civilian network of Fusilero, examining the connection of the coup plotters with personalities in the Mindanao Freedom Movement, fund-raising activities from business, the Hawaii connection of certain civilians) that the investigation of civilians tends to concentrate on national figures. Thus, it is likely that the lower profile civilian support network for the rebels is still intact. This could include persons on which the Commission’s investigation has not been completed because, in its judgment, the incremental information that might be secured would not be justified by the cost. The investigation could be done by the DOJ in the course of its normal activities. This matter is covered by a formal resolution of the Commission to the DOJ.
g. Speedy action on appeals over decisions of AFPCourts-martial.
This has already been mentioned in the Commission’s Interim Report No. 1. Related to this are the cases which are not being acted upon or are suffering undue delays. Actions on decisions on courts-martial which are subject to mandatory appelate review or which may eventually reach the President for confirmation should be speedily resolved.
h. The early passage of a comprehensive law on the establishment of the National Police.
Implementing the Constitutional provision would remove the anxiety and insecurity of those likely to be affected by the new law. Furthermore, the sooner such a law is enacted, the earlier could programs be implemented to separately strengthen the police and military organizations and resolve the confusion of overlapping jurisdictions.
i. The immediate implementation of a comprehensive program to provide timely rescue and medical assistance to troops wounded in combat.
The rebels have tried to claim credit for improving the benefits of soldiers. Unfortunately, the timing of such improvements (many have been instituted after coup attempts) have lent some credibility to these claims. The government is aware of the complaints about the inadequacy of medical and hospitalization benefits particularly of soldiers in combat. A comprehensive initiative of the government to help wounded soldiers would highlight its continuing concern, lift troop morale, and direct credit to where it belongs.
j A review by the military of its decision to disband the Scout Ranger Regiment.
While the coup culture may have been implanted by Honasan and his group in some officers of the FSRR, it is not clear that it is Permanently ingrained in the troops. It is also true that the military hierarchy may have unwittingly allowed it to happen and are, therefore, Perceived to be arbitrary and unduly harsh. The FSRR may be one of the most effective units against the communist insurgency and should not end up being bitter and ineffective. Besides, attaching the Rangers to other units without first making sure they are rid of the coup “virus” would only facilitate the spread of the affliction. What makes the Rogers an elite unit, other than their training, is the spirit of oneness and collective pride. It is a spirit that must be harnessed rather than dispersed. The solution should be the assignment of officers who command the respect of the soldiers and who are themselves absolutely committed to democracy.
k. An immediate audit of the value formation program of the military and, with the help of civilian experts, the formulation of an intensive program (essentially constructive indoctrination), and the training of field commanders to carry it out.
The Commission received conflicting testimony on the effectiveness of the present program and noted that the military is reluctant to extensively use civilian expertise presumably in the belief that civilians cannot fully understand the military mind. The result, as played up also by newspaper reports, is a traditional, repetitive, and unimaginative approach such as that used with and ridiculed by some of the Scout Rangers. Thus, the results of the program in specific units is quite uneven, depending on the individual skill of its commander.
l. The immediate removal or reassignment of officers of less than 100 percent lovalty from sensitive positions in the military hierarchy, i.e.. intelligence, operations, logistics, functions.
Consistent with the policy of not taking any risks at this time, and of forging a military with unquestioning loyalty to the Constitution, those with any taint of the coup should first be tested in less sensitive positions (assuming they do not retire early) before being given choice assignments.
m. The immediate dishandment of GCFI and all other organizations not authorized by the military.
Such organizations encourage factionalism and give opportunities for those with hidden agendas to exploit and manipulate them.
n. The observance of a systematic selection process for the new Chief of Staff that generates the least controversy about the choice.
The possibility of deep selection should not be foreclosed. An important criteria should be an impeccable record and reputation for non-partisanship, since the 1992 elections will be a critical test for democratic and peaceful change.
o. Just as in the civilian government, a crackdown by the military on some “big fish” corrupt officers.
There are apparently officers known within the military establishment to be corrupt and are perceived to be protected for personal or political reasons. The value of example cannot be underestimated to restore the confidence of those alienated by reason of their own knowledge or experience of corruption in the military. In particular, those in “syndicates” engaged in illegal gambling should be dealt with uncompromisingly.
p. An immediate stop to unfair and/or humiliating treatment and criticism of military officers by Congress and other public officials, especially those before the Commission on Appointments.
Political “grandstanding” is especially grating to the troops in the field, who feel that they are risking their lives for the wrong people.
q. Speedy and firm disciplinary action and/or prosecution against members of the military involved in human rights violations as well as of civilian law enforcement personnel involved in victimizing military personnel.
There should be no “sacred cows” when it comes to dispensation of justice.
r. The purchase or charter by Congress of its own transportation facilities and a prohibition on their use of military aircraft.
Another common complaint of both rebel and government military officers is the use by members of Congress of military equipment, particularly aircraft, for their own purposes. On the one hand, such assets are perceived to be badly needed to support the troops in the field. On the other hand, the legitimate function of the legislature to appropriate funds, monitor the use of public money, and enact measures, would not be fully served if it did not have access to field observations and dialogues with such an important sector as the military. The Commission, therefore, suggests that Congress be allowed to purchase or charter a pool of transportation equipment, including airplanes, that can be utilized for official purposes, such as field inspections of military operations, provincial consultations, monitoring of the use of funds in emergency operations and calamities, and other similar purposes. In the long run, such arrangements will prove to be the most economical, efficient, and practical way of dealing with the issue.
s. The expansion of the government’s public information program which has considerably and commendably improved since December 1989, with more participation by local government officials.
One of the most common complaints of the rebel soldiers is the absence of local officials particularly in insurgency areas. The local officials are the frontliners in the delivery of government services. They should be required to be in the field and their activities duly recorded for dissemination through the government’s public information program. Systematizing the flow of information between the executive and local government officials should also prove useful for other purposes, i.e., calamities, rebel troop movements.
t. The provision of sufficient resources and support to the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military
The filling up of this position is consistent with the findings of the Commission. He must be given the resources to do his job since the appointment has raised expectations within the military that their grievances will be heard. In organizing the staff of the office, care should be taken not to appoint those with “scores to settle” and worn-out ideas. It is time for young blood with fresh ideas, if the problems of the military are to be resolved.
C.2. An Agenda for the Remaining Twenty-One Months of the Aquino Administration
The constitutional term of the present administration is 76 months. There are only 21 months left of that term to complete the successful transition of the country from a dictatorship to a full-fledged democracy. That task is not that of the President alone, or of the government, but of the entire society itself.
Despite the installation of the formal structures and the advances in democratic processes, the EDSA Revolt that installed Corazon C. Aquino as President did not result in the far-reaching revolution many people had hoped for. Most of these expectations were embodied in the new Constitution, but have largely remained unfulfilled. Therefore, stated simply, the job to be done in the next 21 months is to galvanize the people behind a national vision based on the agenda ratified by the people.
a. On the part of the Executive Department, a review of key policies and programs in the light of results, an acceptance of shortcomings where these exist, and a performance review of appointive officials.
Chapter III of this report describes how the “rainbow coalition” of 1986 quickly unraveled because there was no organic unity in the first place, only a common goal of removing a dictator. Yet, the disunity is not necessarily an affliction of the grassroots. All the social surveys indicate a discernible consensus of the people on major issues, some of them considered as controversial, i.e., agrarian reform, foreign debt, US military facilities, coup d’etat. Unfortunately, these are often obscured by the posturings of politicians and extremist groups, and the indecision of the Executive Department.
The first step, therefore, in putting the country back on track is to galvanize national unity.
As part of the process of self-reflection, the Executive Department must review existing policies and programs and establish clear directions for the next 21 months, particularly in the area of basic services. Government officials who have not performed or are responsible for failed programs have to be replaced. The economic situation and shortfalls in performance relative to targets cannot all be blamed on external factors and inherited problems. Furthermore, much can still be accomplished in 21 months. That is approximately the difference between the first term of a reelectable president under the 1935 Constition and the six-year term of a non-reelectable president under the new Constitution. The expectation is a president will act as a statesman during that period rather than as a politician seeking another term. However, the appointment of new people would only make sense if the correct policies and programs are in place. Two major revamps occurred after coup attempts and were perceived to have been a reaction to the coups rather than a genuine effort to address issues of substance. Subsequent events tended to validate this perception. What is being asked of the Executive Department is to enforce the same principle of accountability being required of the military.
While there is understandably a reluctance by President Aquino to exercise power in a manner that might be compared with former President Marcos, a democracy in a crisis of transition calls for a firmer and more direct hand at the helm. People understand that a ship is never always on course. But the ship that arrives safely at its destination is the one which constantly checks its bearings, corrects itself on time, and accelerates its speed when it is firmly on course.
The leader who transcends himself will be followed by his crew, even those who may believe that there is a shorter and safer route. It is the vision and the decisiveness that count.
b. On the part of the President, a categorical declaration of her position with respect to the issue of re-election.
In view of the unsettled constitutional issue of her right to seek reelection in 1992 and the continuing speculation on her intent to run despite her past pronouncements to the contrary, an unambiguous declaration on her part would be timely and would be perceived as an act of statesmanship rather than a politician’s ploy.
c. On the part of the President, the immediate convening of the National Security Council and an initiative to political parties to enter into a compact, to which peoples organizations and citizen groups would also subscribe, and preserve our democracy, abiure the use of force and violence, to effect change, commit, to the holding of free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections in 1992, and arrive at solutions to our national problems through an honest and open debate of issues and programs;
on the part, of the political opposition, a positive response to the call for a united front against unconstitutional means to change the government and for upholding democratic processes.
The ruling coalition and the opposition must agree on a constructive relationship to save and strengthen democracy. Both must learn the distinction between political debate on the basis of issues and the exigencies of political maneuvering to take or keep power. The climate of distrust, extra-constitutional tendencies, and the politics of personalities must somehow be changed. In the case of Vice President Laurel, the government must decide either to file charges or carry out an initiative to provide him with a role befitting an official elected by the people to the second highest position of government.
The President can take the initiative in creating a new climate of “unity in diversity” by immediately convening the National Security Council. Then, she can issue a call for all political parties to sign a solemn compact before the people to uphold democracy, to resist with all the resources at their command any attempt to subvert or destroy it, and to participate fully in the elections in 1992.
The political opposition must be willing to respond positively to this initiative, following the example of their counterparts in such countries as Venezuela and Argentina where they actualized a vow to set aside their differences when democracy is threatened by military adventurism. One does not have to be in power to contribute to nation-building.
The Nacionalista Party led by Bias Ople and Senator Enrile missed a historic opportunity to put into practice what it preaches by way of reconciliation and commitment to democracy. Its press conference on 2 December 1989 turned out to be an opportunistic attempt to play up to the rebels and gain political points at a time of great peril for democracy. Vice President Laurel likewise fumbled his own opportunity for statesmanship while in Hongkong at the time. There is, however, no reason, given the shifting tide of politics, why the opposition cannot recover from the widespread disapproval of the people of its behavior during the December 1989 coup attempt, if it is perceived to be unequivocal about its commitment to democratic processes.
The solidarity of the political leadership is a giant step in addressing the issue of a military that is isolated from the society it is supposed to protect.
d. On the part, of the Legislative Department, and the President, the establishment of a special full-time commission to implement a post-insurgency program for the military that will modernize, professionalize, and bring it within the mainstream of national life.
Since the insurgency problem appears to be close to a solution, the government must design a post-insurgency program for the military, within the framework of the Constitution. The establishment of a commission of respected civilian and military experts appointed by the President, with full powers and a budget to carry out its task, would deliver a strong message to the military that the government cares about their future, recognizes the existence of deep-seated and complex Problems, and is determined to solve them. The program itself should evoke a resolve in the military to perform better in the field and thus hasten the victory over both the communist and Muslim insurgencies. A total component of the program is its thorough modernization and the termination of its dependency on the US for its weaponry. Another component is a reformulation of the education system and training of officers. This would include a review of the program at the PMA and the establishment of other service academies. Although no direct correlation has been established between the PMA curriculum and the disposition of officers to engage in coups, testimonies of senior military officers call attention to the need to:
i. Intensively inculcate civilian values among the military;
ii. Cultivate a peer relationship between officers and civilians starting at the college level by examining the desirability of making the military academies the last two years of a college degree or of requiring the cadet to spend his junior year in a civilian university;
iii. Institute measures to further democratize access to military academies and to discourage the emergence of an elitist military class that isolates the officers from the rest of society and negates the constitutional concept of a citizen army. Related to this is the problem of factionalism that is exacerbated by the dominance of PMA graduates in leadership and key positions in the military;
iv. Upgrade the status of the teaching function in military academies to the level of combat command with financial incentives, performance credits, and promotional advantages, and invite more civilian instructors to handle non-military subjects,78 and
v. Temper the overly idealistic orientation at the PMA, and emphasize love of country as the most desirable value in an officer.79
The Commission considered other options than the appointment off a new independent body in order to avoid any incremental burden on the budget. Among the alternatives considered were (a) a task force under the Department of Defense, (b) a special unit under the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military, (c) a composite committee under the Office of the President to be supervised by the Executive Secretary, (d)the National Security Council, and (e) a special commission under the Office of the Vice-President.
A special commission under the DND, the NSC, or the Executive Secretary would have the handicap of having to use people who have other responsibilities and who might not be able to impart the sense of importance and urgency to the task at hand. In any case, the core of a new staff has to be appointed. With respect to the Office of the Vice President, the same staffing requirement would apply with the additional handicap that the office is an elective one and the task of the special commission is unlikely to be finished by mid-1992. The Deputy Ombudsman has a fixed tenure. However, his office would also need to recruit new staff. In the ultimate analysis, the same incremental cost for staffing would be incurred for all the alternatives, with the only difference being the additional cost of the commissioners who will oversee the program on a full-time basis, with respect to this Report’s recommendations.
More importantly, a new task-oriented commission, possibly with a fixed term, would provide the necessary continuity, urgency, and sense of priority, that may well prove to be more economical than the cost in lives, money, and lost opportunities of military adventurism.
For having made this suggestion, members of the Fact-Finding Commission should not be considered for appointment to this commission.
e. On the part of the Legislative Department, the immediate enactment of laws to ensure the demoncratization of the electoral process and the validity and public acceptance of its results, with particular reference to the critical 1992 synchronized election.
The 1992 elections will be a critical test of democracy since the electoral process is often perceived as a way to legitimize the continued political domination of a few.
Both the Executive and the Legislative Departments should make urgent decisions regarding the synchronization in 1992 of elections as mandated by the Constitution. A lead time of two years is necessary for planning and for the procedures, equipment, selective computerization, and organization to be firmly in place on time. The legislation and budget for such preparations should already be enacted. Since elections is a Process, procedures partake of the substance of the right to vote.
In addition, legislation to implement the constitutional mandate to democratize political power, as part of the social justice program, should be enacted before the elections in 1992 to pre-empt the rationalization of rebel soldiers and the CPP/NPA for political intervention because of what they will describe as elitist and, therefore, meaningless results of elections.
Specifically, Congress should enact laws on the empowerment of independent people’s organizations, the party-list system of representation, anti-dynasty, equal access to media time and space, subsidy program for poor but deserving candidates or their watchers, and procedures to enable the disabled and the illiterate to participate fully in the process.
f. The supremacy of civilian authority over the military should be established by the appointment, as soon as practicable, of civilians with the capability, integrity, and leadership to head the Department of National Defense (DND), the National Security Council (NSC), and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA). The NICA should have its own intelligence capability that can complement as well as validate military intelligence information.
This recommendation does not detract from the outstanding and loyal service of Secretary Fidel Ramos in defending the government against attacks from both leftist and rightist extremists. The policy of appointing a civilian as head of DND should be adopted not only by this government but subsequent ones in compliance with the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitutional principle of the supremacy of civilian authority. Establishing the policy would integrate the military into the civilian government and induce a continuous supply of knowlegeable career civilians with the authority of expertise in military affairs. Eventually, military resentment about alleged “interference” of civilians would be muted.
The need for an independent and civilian-controlled intelligence network responsible directly to the President is highlighted by the fact that the Office of the President is totally dependent on the military for intelligence and in several instances appeared to be less than fully informed of developments. No matter how well-meaning the military intelligence community may be, the idea of sharing “top secret” information with a civilian does not appear to be accepted practice, even if that civilian happens to carry the title of Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C).
Secondly, J2 or the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (AFP) reports to the Chief of Staff who, in practice, does not really function as “staff” to the C-in-C. The common perception within the military and, for that matter, among the public, is that the responsibility for military decisions ends at the desk of the CSAFP. This has less to do with the fact that the present C-in-C is a woman than the presumption that the man in uniform knows best on such matters, and the culture of enduring fraternal ties within the military.
g. The institutionalization of necessary improvements in the military in the areas of promotion and assignments, purchasing and auditing, educational benefits abroad, and compulsory attendance at military command schools.
The Commission’s recommendations cannot be exhaustive. These improvements would be part of the terms of reference of the proposed special full-time commission to define the role of the military in the post-insurgency period. Examples, however, would be a review of the policy of merely rotating incompetent officers rather than weeding them out, instituting measures to decongest the “bunching” of middle level officers as a result of the accelerated expansion of the military in the mid-1970’s on the one hand and the relative shortage of junior field officers on the other, the laxity in allowing Lt Cols to avoid going to the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) where their fitness for promotion or separation from the service is determined.
With respect to purchasing and audit procedures, the military and the Commission on Audit (COA) must work out a practical solution to the problem of “conversion”, i.e., spending the money for other than the budgeted purpose not necessarily because of graft and corruption but because of the needs in the field and the bureaucratic tape involved in complying with all the technicalities of disbursement. The Commission suggests that the military and the COA agree on a standard method by which the principle of transparency is practiced all the way down to the smallest unit by providing all the information about its budget to the soldiers. Although this is already being practiced in many units, much still needs to be done particularly in the matter of “conversion”. The philosophy should be to challenge the military to perform better through a system of decentralization, transparency, and an appeal to the traditional military values of integrity and discipline, and relying on formal and informal sanctions for enforcement.
With respect to availments of educational benefits and rotational assignments abroad, special efforts must be made to eliminate the tayo-tayo system and to use the reward system to broaden the linkages of the military and reduce its dependence on the US, and recognize performance and loyalty to the Constitution.
h. The President and the Commission on Appointments must work out a system by which recommendations for promotions can be categorized in practice to avoid the exploitation of the confirmation process for political purposes.
The appointments to the Chief of Staff position and the top positions in the major service commands have a political dimension which requires the exhaustive inquiry of the Commission on Appointments in the proper exercise of the principle of checks and balances. However, other appointments might merit a progressively different treatment based on institutional courtesy.
i. If justice is going to be a living principle of governance, the budgets of the Judiciary and the Department of Justice (DOJ) must be increased in order to upgrade the physical facilities, recording, investigative and prosecutive capability, and staffing of the system.
The budget of the Judiciary amounts to 1.08 % of the 1990 national budget. It is a grossly inadequate amount and should be increased in view of its critical role and the national scale of its responsibility as the conscience of the nation.
The Commission recommends the same approach with respect to the budget of the DOJ. The existence of honest judges and efficient courts would not result in a better administration of justice without a corresponding improvement in the investigative and prosecutorial capability of the DOJ. The courts can only decide on the evidence before it. If that evidence is inadequate and its presentation flawed and incompetent, the wheels of justice will not turn efficiently. The DOJ’s budget for 1990 is only .5% (one-half of 1%) of the national budget. A significant increase in its budget should be considered to modernize facilities and equipment, provide funding for proper investigation and preparation of cases, and keep and attract the best people for the job.
j. The business sector as the engine of growth of the economy, is the key sector, in addition to the government in avoiding a severe economic crisis that could invite military adventurism. This is the time to stake its resources for democracy as the only political system under which it can survive and thrive, and thereby help others overcome their poverty.
The business sector is not a homogeneous group — a set of economic policies that favors one industry can hurt another — and engages in a broad range of partisan political activity. But its long-term interest is in strengthening democracy regardless of partisan politics or of any temporary advantage to business that authoritarianism may appear to offer. Authoritarianism in the Philippine experience eventually means arbitrary interference in private business, and lack of progress. This is the painful lesson we have learned, the same lesson which is being validated by the experience of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe today. Therefore, business should act as one—to help restore confidence in the economy by keeping and investing its resources in the country, to deny support to military rebels, to resist the temptation to subvert the electoral process to advance business interests, to pay correct taxes, and to keep honest rather than corrupt the bureaucracy. Beyond that, business must be willing to transcend itself by supporting rather than obstructing policies that dismantle the economic privileges of a few and diffuse the fruits of progress to the greatest number. In an economic slowdown, its social responsibility is to protect the jobs of its employees and to relieve them, as much as possible, from the burden of adjustment to adverse business conditions.
k. The non-governmental and peoples organizations are intermidiating institutions which can help unify a factionalized society. By mobilizing communities and resources to improve the lives of the poor, they help the grassroots create a stake in democracy.
The task of such organizations in deterring coups is to strengthen the bond of nationhood and propagate by deeds the values of pagkakaisa at pagmamalasakit, self-reliance, and participation in fair and clean electoral exercises.80 The role of peoples organizations is spelled out in the Constitution, and should be exercised by the people themselves without waiting for the formality of legislation. On the other hand, while the NGOs have a role to play in people empowerment, they should take care not to become the bureaucracy of the private sector by accumulating power rather than facilitating its transfer to the basic sectors. In a truly participatory democracy, these sectors must speak with their own voice in the formation of national consensus.
l. The church occupies a unique position in Philippine society, acting as an arbitrer on moral issues even in the realm of politics., the condemnation of the election fraud by the Marcos administration in February 1986, although inhibited by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, the boundaries of which may shift from time to time.
The biblical passages condemning rebellion, the exhortation against contributing to it, the moral duty to uphold duly-constituted authority, provide the church with a strong moral suasion to deter rebels and to unite people behind democracy. Its influence should also be brought to bear on solving the problems of gambling, graft and corruption, and structural poverty. In the more immediate future, the role of the church is to catalyze the peace process and to progressively expand it, regardless of the obstacles placed in its path. The success of the peace process would heal the festering wounds of the nation and also pave the way to a meaningful electoral process and democratic change in 1992.
m. The resolution of the dilemma faced by media in crisis reporting lies more in the media itself rather than government regulations.
While government should take whatever measures it considers appropriate to defend itself, such measures, when perceived to impair press freedom, should be immediately questioned, until a body of jurisprudence and tradition is accumulated. Because the preferred option is self-regulation and self-discipline, media should proceed with their initiatives in formalizing their own ethical standards, strictly enforce them, and inform the public of such efforts. It is also incumbent on media to define the bounderies of their profession not only during crisis but also in conflict of interest situations. Media should accept the responsibility to discipline erring members, to provide training and guidance to its apprentices, and to establish linkages with responsible counterparts abroad to broaden their experience and perspective.
C.3 Recommendations Over the Long-Term
A crisis does not develop overnight. It passes through symptomatic, acute, and chronic stages with progressive indicators on the severity of the situation. The task of leadership is to read the signals early enough so that the acute and chronic stages are bypassed and the problems resolved even before the crisis is reached.81
A coup d’etat does not happen overnight. Neither does a revolution or popular uprising of the citizenry itself. The responsibility of the political leadership is to build a national consensus on what must be done to address the underlying problems indicated by the symptoms. Since many of the problems of the country are structural in character, there are no quick solutions, although one can resort to “damage control” and short-term alleviation to buy time. The longer-term solutions, however, must start today.
C.3 a. Love of Country as the Highest Value.
On the premise that the soldier is first a citizen before he becomes a military man and officers do not enter military school until after high school, it follows that our system of education has not been successful in transmitting the proper values to our students. The extent of the overhaul of the educational system is a matter for legislation, but the greater responsibility is in the entire education sector, public and private, for it does appear that it must do a better job at value formation, with love of country as the highest value. This will take time and will need to be reinforced by the family and the church. In addition, something must be done about public school teachers. How can they impart correct values when they themselves are demoralized, badly trained, and lack dedication and discipline? The Executive and the Legislative Departments have a joint responsibility to formulate a long-term and properly funded program to improve the educational system.
C.3.b. Social Justice
The full implementation of the social justice provisions of the Constitution. Until the gross inequalities of wealth and power are corrected, the ferment for change and the vulnerability of the men-at-arms to political intervention will continue. For the great majority of the military belong to the underprivileged class as well.
C.3.c. Citizen Army
The full implementation of the citizen army concept and the designated role of a small, modernized, and professional military in a democratic society. The de-linking of the military from the US on weaponry, its assumption of the external defense responsibility, and the immediate phaseout of the US facilities in Philippine bases and removal of all the vestiges of its colonialism would constitute the basic military-related steps toward becoming a truly sovereign and independent nation.
The decentralization of the national government as a precondition for the efficient delivery of government services. The devolution of power to local communities would bring the government closer to the people and reduce the isolation of rural communities whose poverty tends to politicize officers in the field.
C3.e. The Constitution
After an appropriate period, to give the present Constitution an opportunity to be tested, formal consultations should be conducted at the grassroots on the desirability of constitutional amendments and of the specific proposals advanced by the different sectors. A rush to amend the Constitution, including the basic structure of government, to suit contemporary problems is not always the answer. The people must be prepared to make amendments if it is clear that the fundamental law has proven to be irrelevant or inapplicable to the times. But the best way to test the relevance of the Constitution is not by speculative theories but the implementation of its key provisions, particularly on the diffusion of wealth and political power (social justice), and on economic progress with equity.
D. Choosing Democracy
If a coup d’etat starts in the minds of men, then it is the collective will of a unified people that can prevent and overcome it.
The people must choose democracy.
To flourish, democracy must become the living mortar that binds us. To work, it must come from a people that have willed their own liberation from poverty, dependency, and disunity. For it has truly been said that “democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”82
When there are forces that would destroy democracy, only the strength that comes from such a people can protect and uphold it. And the irreducible minimum to peaceful and orderly change, both societal and political, is for all the contenders in the political arena to agree to use the ballot and forego the bullet—for the path of peace is the path to progress, social justice, and nationhood.
THE FACT-FINDING COMMISSION
Pursuant to Republic Act No. 6832
Makati, Metro Manila
(Sgd.) HILARIO G. FAVIDE, JR.
(Sgd.) RICARDO J. ROMULO
(Sgd.) DELFIN L. LAZARO
(Sgd.) CAROLINA G. HERNANDEZ
(Sgd.) CHRISTIAN S. MONSOD
(1) Sworn Testimonies before the Fact-Finding Commission (FFC) of Lt Col Arsenio Tecson, 1 March 1990;f Lt Col Ericson Aurelio, 10 March 1990; Lt Col Oscar Legaspi, 12 March 1990; and BGen Edgardo Abenina, 5 March 1990. Tecson, Aurelio and Abenina recounted their experiences in the field where they saw the lack of basic service’s even in areas near Manila. For Legaspi, the government’s non-delivery of basic services, in spite of the tax raise, is one of the causes not only of the December 1989 coup attempt, but also that of August 1987.
(2) See the Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Lt Jose Rene Jarque, 22 March 1990; Lt Rolando Cal, 21 March 1990; Lt Augusto Marquez, Jr, 28 March 1990; Maj Rolando Irizari, 29 March 1990; Capt Gregory Ramos, 27 March 1990; Capt Proceso Maligalig, 12 March 1990; BGen Edgardo Abenina, op. cit: and BGen Jose Comendador, 5 February 1990. According to these officers, graft and corruption is one of the alleged major causes of the coup. It exists not only in the civilian government but also in the military establishment as well. According to Lt Cal, even officers with fine records joined the coup because of discontent over widespread graft and corruption. For Maj Irizari, it is the number one problem in the country. In the military, according to Cmdr Maligalig, corruption exists in the form of the over-pricing of military uniforms and supplies, “conversion deals”, and usurious loans. “Conversion deals” are those which involve the creation of artificial allocations in the budget for the purpose of circumventing the rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit Corruption also exists in the administration of benefits. Lt Cal testifies that junior officers do not complain even if they have knowledge of the corrupt practices because when they confront senior officers about them, they are just brushed aside.
(3) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Tecson, op. cit.; Col Rafael Galvez, 27 February 1990; and Inzari, op. cit. Tecson suggests that Congress should act more and talk less.
(4) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Tecson, op. cit.; Marquez, and Comendador, 27 December 1989. Tecson distinguishes between the law and its implementation. Oftentimes, there is a proposal but it never gets to be implemented. As a result, poverty, especially in the countryside, is appalling, he said. Marquez comments that poverty and the sufferings of the people are the battlecries of the coup plotters. For Comendador, poverty is one of the causes not only of coups but of the communist insurgency as well.
(5) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Cal. op. cit.; Capt Ramos, op. cit: Capt Danilo Pizarro, 7 March 1990; Legaspi, op. cit.; Maligalig, 17 April 1990; Lt Col Levy Zamora, 20March 1990; and Col Renato Motus, 1 March 1990.The tayo-tayo system was brought about by factionalism in the military. Maligalig says that any superior officer appointed to a key position almost always brings in his team. Although this is natural, what is perceived as wrong is that preferential treatment results out of this practice, especially in housing, promotions, and schooling. The military leadership was also considered as unresponsive particularly when it comes to financial and logistical support for soldiers in the field. Legaspi laments the fact that while the military leadership procures expensive jets, soldiers in the field remain barefoot. Cal says that the men in the field are given supplies and equipment of inferior quality. They also complain that the pay and allowances that soldiers get are not commensurate with the responsibility given to them.
(6) Legaspi Testimony, op. cit. For Legaspi, the government’s reconciliation policy is selective. He views it as pro-Left.
(7) Ibid. He said that justice is unequally dispensed. In terms of investigating human rights violations, the AFP is the only target. He also said that while the CPP/NPA are charged with simple rebellion, rightists and some members of the AFP are charged with rebellion complexed with murder.
(8) Abenina and Tecson Testimonies, op. cit.
9) Cal and Tecson Testimonies, op. cit. They cite their experiences during counter- insurgency campaigns. After clearing the area of NPA influence, they try to provide livelihood for the people. But in their experience, there has been no corresponding support from the government especially in terms of the provision of basic services.
(10) Sworn Testimony of Lt Jose Rene Jarque before the FFC, 22 March 1990; See also Abenina, Tecson, and Cal Testimonies, op. cit.
(11) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of BGen Rodolfo Biazon, 20 December 1989; BGen Tereso Isleta, 29 January 1990; Col Hector Tarrazona, 12 March 1990; BGen Alexander Aguirre, 15 January 1990; MGen Rodolfo Canieso, 24 February 1990; Cmdr Bernardo Patino, 15 June 1990; BGen Artemio Tadiar, 15 June 1990; and Lt Col Salvador Limsiaco, 13 February 1990.
(12) See Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of BGen Aguirre, op. cit.;BGen Mariano Baccay, Jr, 29 March 1990; and Lt Gen Antonio Sotelo, 19 June 1990. BGen Aguirre believes that the coup plotters have vested personal interests. He cited the examples of Honasan and the RAM-HF core officers, who once enjoyed power under MND but lost it under the present dispensation.
(13) Isleta and Biazon Testimonies, op. cit. BGen Isleta implied the existence of factions among the officer corps belonging to the PMA alumni, integrees and reservists. BGen Biazon considers the RAM, the loyalists, and the Young Officers Union (YOU) as the factions in the military.
(14) Aguirre Testimony, op. cit.
(16) Sworn Testimony of Rear Admiral Tagumpay Jardiniano (Ret) before the FFC, 27 June 1990.
(17) See the financial improvements currently enjoyed by the military in Vittorio Hernandez, “Low Pay No Reason to Go Up in Arms, Businessworld, 27 July 1990, pp. 25-26.
(18) Sworn Testimony of BGen Jose M. Crisol (Ret) before the FFC, 24 August 1990.
(19) Abenina, Maligalig, 12 March 1990, Legaspi and Aurelio Testimonies, op. cit., Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of ex-LCdr Jaime Lucas and Lt Col Crucero Sua, 14 June 1990.
(20) Dennis Arroyo, “Self-Rated Poverty and Poverty Threshold”, Social Weather Stations Bulletin, 89-3 (February 1989).
(21) Social Weather Stations, Survey of Public Opinion on the December 1, 1989 Coup Attempt.
(22) Sworn Testimony of Gov Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur before the FFC, 24 April 1990.
(23) Sworn Testimony of AM Luis Manalo given before the FFC 16 March 1990.
(24) Sworn Testimony of Customs Commissioner Salvador Mison before the FFC, 22 February 1990.
(25) Sworn Testimony of Col Voltaire Gazmin before the FFC, 17 February 1990.
(26) Sworn Testimony of Gov Melvin Vargas of Cagayan Valley before the FFC, 17 April 1990.
(27) Sworn Testimony of Romeo Rivera before the FFC, 24 April 1990.
(28) Sworn Testimony of Commo Virgilio Marcelo before the FFC, 4 May 1990.
(29) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Capt Adriano Morales, 10 August 1990; Capt Loreto Vergeire, 22 August 1990; and Roberto Huang, 7 August 1990.
(30) Sworn Testimony of Col Virgilio G. Pobleto before the FFC, 13 June 1990.
(31) Biazon Testimony, op. cit.
(32) Sworn Testimony of BGen Eduardo Cabanlig before the FFC, 20 December 1989.
(34) Sworn Testimony of Lt Emil Ong before the FFC, 22 March 1990.
(35) Gregory Ramos Testimony, op. cit.
(36) Mison Testimony, op. cit.
(37) Sworn Testimony of 2Lt Siegfred Mison before the FFC, 16 March 1990.
(38) Sworn Testimony of Director Meliton Goyena, Bureau of Corrections, before the FFC, 25 June 1990.
(39) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of of Atty Galilul Salialam, 21 May 1990 and P/Capt Job Gavino, 31 May 1990.
(40) Sworn Testimony of Assistant City Prosecutor Elmer Sagsago, Baguio City before the FFC, 5 May 1990.
(41) Sworn Testimony of C1C Elpidio Lazaga before the FFC, 5 January 1990.
(42) Sworn Testimony of Pfc Victor Samonte before the FFC, 2January 1990.
(43) Sworn Testimony of Commo Antonio Empedrad before the FFC, 26 March 1990.
(44) Sworn Testimony of LCdr Damian Carlos before the FFC 27 March 1990.
(45) Testimony received in Executive Session.
(46) Sworn Testimonies before the FFC of Navy Capt Rex Robles, 7 March 1990; and Lt Col Teodorico Viduya, 23 March 1990.
(47) Maligalig Testimony, 17 April 1990, op. cit.
(48) Sworn Testimony of BGen Rodolfo Biazon before the FFC, 21 December 1990.
(49) Gregor Ferguson in his book COUP D’ETAT; A Practical Manual (Dorset: Arms and Armour Press Limited, 1987), pp. 88-89, describes a coup d’etat as having three phases: Assault, Continuation, and Consolidation. The most critical stage of the operation within two to six hours will spell doom for the attempt.
(50) Sworn Testimony of Lt Antonio Avaricio before the FFC, 19 March 1990.
(51) Marcelo Testimony, op. cit.
(52) Sworn Testimony of Col Clemente Mariano before the FFC, 22 December 1989.
(53) Sworn Testimony of BGen Rogelio Villanueva before the FFC, 26 February 1990.
(54) Transcription of the taped telephone interview of Vice President Salvador Laurel by John Eidinow on 3 December 1989 and broadcast over BBC World Service, Exh-“KKKKKK-2”-Commission.
(55) Sworn Testimony of Bias Ople, Member, 1986 Constitutional Commission, before the FFC, 7 May 1990.
(62) Sworn Testimony of Atty Regalado Maambong before the FFC, 30 April 1990.
(63) Copy of the Statement of the Nacionalista Party (NP) allegedly drafted by NP Vice President Bias Ople at the meeting of the Party officials on 2 December 1989 at the Intercontinental Manila, Exh. “C-Maambong”, hereinafter referred to as NP Statement.
(64) Ople Testimony, op. cit.
(65) NP Statement, on. cit.
(66) Ople Testimony, op. cit.
(67) Video Recording of the Press Conference of the Nacionalista Party on 2 December 1989 at Hotel Intercontinental Manila dubbed by Cable News Network, Exh. “YYYYYY”-Commission.
(68) Transcription of the CNN video recording of the Press Conference of the Nacionalista Party held on 2 December 1989. Exh. YYYYYY-2″-Commission.
(70) Ople Testimony, op. cit.
(71) Sworn Testimony of Melinda Quintos de Jesus before the FFC, 9 July 1990.
(72) Perfecto Fernandez, “Safeguarding the Public Rightin Broadcast Media,” Philippine Journalism Review (April 1990), p. 7.
(73) See Testimony Monzon Palma before the FFC, 9 July 1990.
(74) Sworn Testimony of Dr. Florangel R. Braid, before the FFC, 11 July 1990; Monzon Palma, op. cit.
(75) Quintos de Jesus Testimony, op. cit.
(76) Monzon Palma Testimony, op. cit.
(77) Sworn Testimony of Georgina Encanto, Dean, University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications, before the FFC, 11 July 1990.
(78) Sworn Testimony of BGen Arturo Enrile, Superintendent, Philippine Military Academy before the FFC, 5 March 1990.
(79) Jardiniano Testimony, op. cit.
(80) Ricardo J. Romulo, “Let Us Make This Land Safe for Democracy.” Speech delivered at the graduation exercises of the De La Salle University, 2 June 1990. Published in Business World, 11 June 1990, pp. 4 and 5.
(81) Kilusan ng mga Nagmamahal ng Bayan, “The Coup Crisis and the Future,” Kilusan Paper No. 5, December 1989.
(82) Quoted from Harry Emerson Fosdick.