2 Marcos Commanders Revolt Backed By Troops, Holed Up At Ministry

Posted: February 23, 1986

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the acting armed forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, yesterday rebelled against President Ferdinand E. Marcos, asked the armed forces to support their revolt and called on cabinet members to resign.

Sequestered at Camp Aguinaldo and the adjacent Camp Crame with hundreds of troops protecting them, their call for rebellion brought Marcos' government to the brink of collapse.

But the mood today was cheerful outside the camps. A jubilant crowd gave support to the revolt, and cars festooned with the yellow ribbons that symbolize opposition to Marcos jammed the roads nearby.

Marcos, in an hour-long news conference from Malacanang Palace at noon today, reiterated his accusation that Enrile and Ramos were the leaders of an aborted coup d'etat and attempted assassination against the president and his wife, Imelda. He suggested again that they might have had the backing of the United States and opposition leader Corazon C. Aquino in the attempt.

Marcos said that armed forces units loyal to him had surrounded the two military camps.

Outside the two camps where Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos were holed up, however, there was no immediate sign of pro- Marcos soldiers.

As Marcos spoke, Enrile and Ramos remained at the military bases about four miles from the presidential palace. Ramos, who was staying at his headquarters at Camp Crame, said today that the Philippine Constabulary commanders in 90 percent of the country's 74 provinces "strongly declared their support to us."

He also claimed support of the "very key metropolitan district commands" near the large U.S. installations in the Philippines, at Olongapo, home of Subic Bay Naval Base, and Angeles, next to Clark Air Base.

At least 100 soldiers loyal to Ramos were deployed outside his home in the suburb of Alabang to protect his family. Neighbors called on Alabang residents to join the armed soldiers in a security cordon around the house.

Marcos, in response to a reporter's question, said he would consider the prospect of an opposition provisional government part of a plot to overthrow him. However, in response to another question, he denied that he would arrest Aquino. "That never entered my mind," he said, laughing.

The president emphasized, again, that under no circumstances would he resign.

In a previous news conference yesterday, Marcos said that troops under the control of the outgoing armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fabian C. Ver, would surround the Defense Ministry but not attack the building before this morning. He threatened to use artillery and cannon against the occupied ministry.

But by mid-morning today, there were no signs of the threatened assault.

"If they are going to hit us, this country will explode in a bloody confrontation," Enrile, 62, said after hearing Marcos' threat. Addressing

himself directly to Marcos, he said: "I hope you realize you cannot cow us anymore. Enough is enough. Your time has come."

Ramos, 57, early today said army, navy and air force officers from throughout the nation had contacted him to voice their support. He said he asked them to disobey any orders "to inflict violence on our people, on unarmed civilians."

"Let us reject tyranny and uphold people's power for the restoration of democracy in the Philippines," Ramos said.

At dawn today, a tired but happy crowd of thousands of Filipinos controlled the entrance to Camp Aguinaldo and the entrance to Camp Crame, a military base across the street that is Ramos' headquarters.

At the perimeter of the bases, ordinary people - not military men - ran the checkpoints, smiling and waving at the heavy traffic that jammed the highway straddling the two camps.

In his statement yesterday, Ramos said, "I am pledged to serve the duly constituted authorities in our country. We do not consider President Ferdinand E. Marcos, as of now, as being a duly constituted authority."

Enrile and Ramos said that Marcos had won re-election through fraud and that they could not support his continued rule. Enrile, who led Marcos' campaign in one of the Philippines' 13 political regions, said that he knew of 350,000 votes stolen in that region alone.

"The president did not win the elections. He should respect the people," said Enrile, a Harvard-educated lawyer who has served Marcos since he took office in 1965 and has been defense minister since 1970.

"We realize the gravity of the situation," Enrile said. "If we have to lose our lives, we will do it. But it's our duty that the sovereign will of the people expressed through the ballot box is respected.

"I believe that the mandate of the people does not belong to the present regime," Enrile said. "I searched my conscience and I felt that I could not

serve a government that is not expressive of the sovereign will."

"We appeal to the world to help us in this situation," Enrile said. "We can no longer appeal to reason amongst our leaders. I think world public opinion must be brought to bear to resolve the problems of our land. And if we should succumb in this fateful undertaking, then let history judge us."

The role of the U.S. government in the crisis, if any, was unclear last night. But Enrile said he had notified U.S. Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth of his intentions, and a U.S. Embassy official tipped reporters that they should go to Camp Aguinaldo about 4 p.m. yesterday (3 a.m. yesterday in Philadelphia). One hour later, a helicopter landed near the Defense Ministry building and soldiers carrying sacks filled with automatic weapons emerged. They ringed the building and took up positions on the roof.

"We will stay here until we are all killed," Enrile vowed.

Ramos appealed to Marcos, who is scheduled to be inaugurated Tuesday, "to

allow us to peacefully negotiate."

At 10 p.m., the government-owned television station went silent and the following words appeared on the screen: "The government is in full control of the situation and continues to discharge its functions normally." Shortly thereafter, Marcos, seated at his desk at the presidential study in Malacanang Palace and facing a handful of reporters from government-backed news organizations, addressed the nation.

Marcos said his "former defense minister and former vice chief of staff" were at the heart of "a conspiracy to attack Malacanang Palace and eliminate the president and the first lady." He said Enrile and Ramos were backed by officers who had just been arrested.

"Three battalions were prepared to attack," Marcos said. "They would have been massacred in the effort to enter Malacanang Palace and they would not have had the force to penetrate our defenses, so they aborted the attack, and this was followed by this hiding out of the former minister of defense and former vice chief of staff."

"I cannot believe that former Minister of Defense Enrile was involved in this plot. I cannot believe that former Vice Chief of Staff Ramos was involved in this plot. I cannot understand how they were convinced to commit this crime. . . . Why are they engaged in this conspiracy?" the president wondered aloud.

After watching Marcos on television, Ramos said, "The president's story . . . is full of lies. I was only responding to long pent-up feelings about the need for reform in the Philippine government."

To support his contention about a plot, Marcos produced a man he identified as Capt. Ricardo Morales, who read what he said was a signed confession that he was involved in an aborted attempt to storm the palace.

"This plot was to be initiated tonight," he said. He named five men as co-conspirators, including Col. Red Kapunan, a leader among reform-minded military officers. He is the husband of Linda Kapunan, who was among the government computer programmers who walked out of the government-controlled

Commission on Elections' tally of presidential votes two weeks ago, charging that the count was being manipulated.

"I have told all our officers . . . not to move toward Fort Aguinaldo," Marcos said. "We are guarding the entrance to prevent any movement of any troops, whether out or in."

Ever since he declared martial law in 1972, Marcos increasingly has regarded the armed forces of the Philippines as his private army. But as he enhanced the army's status as a political force, the armed forces became more and more factionalized.

The military's decision on whether to side with or stand up against Marcos rests largely with younger, lower-ranking officers who command local military units. At least three major units are believed to be loyal to Marcos - the Presidential Security Command, consisting of about 16,000 troops with more than a dozen tanks and two marine battalions; the Army Reserve Command, led by Brig. Gen. Edon Yap, who is Marcos' brother-in-law; and the 2d Infantry Division, stationed just south of Manila, commanded by Brig. Gen. Roland

Pattugalan, whose wife is Marcos' first cousin.

For two years, Enrile and Ramos had quietly backed a growing movement of reform-minded officers within the 200,000-member armed forces. The strength of that reform group could determine whether the Marcos government now stands or falls.

The Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) - which at least one-third of the army's 15,000 officers support - took root after the 1983 assassination of Benigno Aquino, and grew with the indictment and acquittal of Ver on charges of conspiring in the murder. To no avail, Enrile and Ramos had pressed Marcos to revamp the army and retire Ver.

Ramos, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, first served as acting chief of staff from October 1984, when Ver was indicted, until

December 1985, when Ver was acquitted and reinstated. Ramos currently commands the 70,000-strong Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police.

Ver is 66, past the mandatory retirement age. He is Marcos' third cousin and confidant. The president had twice promised in the last two months to retire Ver and, last Sunday, announced that Ver was leaving his post as chief of staff but remaining as a consultant. He said Ramos was being promoted to chief of staff. But Ver continued to command the armed forces.

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